Sheikh Abdallah Kamal: Defending the Indefensible?
"None so blind as he who will not see."
Sheikh Abdallah Kamal, an Egpytian cleric who is probably a Salafi but perhaps a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (is there truly any difference), and at any rate an Islamist, seems to raise questions that even trouble him about the hadith attributed to Imam Al-Bukhari concerning the Muslim prophet Muhammad's relationship to Aisha.
Noting that "the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was six years old, and had sexual intercourse with her when she was nine years old," he admits that some "might raise an eyebrow and ask how such a thing could be," which implies that his own eyebrow was raised, as well as the eyebrows of his Muslim audience, for he was speaking on a Muslim religious program presented by Safa TV on January 9, 2012. In his further remarks, he admits that this "hadith has been taken, by . . . even some Muslims[,] . . . [as] a falsehood . . . [passed along by] Imam Al-Bukhari." Such Muslims "denied that the Prophet Muhammad married Aisha . . . at such a young age." Kamal then acknowledges that some individuals have "accused the Prophet Muhammad of being a child rapist." His defense? "This [union] was decreed by Allah, and therefore, the Prophet Muhammad only married Aisha because of a decree by Allah." Implicitly, Kamal recognizes the outrage that would normally be roused by a report of sexual relations between a man in his fifties and a nine-year-old girl, else he wouldn't need to justify the act by referring to Allah's decree. But even so, Kamal still isn't satisfied with his own appeal to Allah's will, so he asserts that the "marriage of Aisha . . . was not her first marriage"! But he then weakens his own assertion in explaining that Aisha "was betrothed . . . to Jubayr ibn Mut'im," for he knows that a betrothal is not a marriage. Kamal's point, nevertheless, depends upon leading his Muslim audience to entertain the suspicion that Ibn Mut'im had sexual relations with Aisha even earlier than Muhammad! Otherwise, the point about Aisha being previously married is irrelevant. Kamal then goes further in his attempt to make the outrageous seem normal by claiming that the "environment differs from one place to another . . . [such that] a girl reaches puberty at the age of 8 or 9" in some places with hot climates. He may realize the unlikelihood of this 'fact' alone as persuasive and thus appeals to "religious scholars [who] have written . . . that a girl may menstruate and even give birth at the age of 9 years." By making this all seem so ordinary, Kamal's listeners might begin to wonder why anyone's eyebrow was ever raised at the report or why Allah felt the need to make a special decree for Muhammad's sexual relations with a child. But those points are now forgotten, for by turning an outrage into something normal, Kamal has reassured his Muslim audience that charges of "cruelty and barbarism" on Muhammad's part, or suspicions that "Muhammad only cared about his desire and his lust," are entirely wrong, for such things as a man's sexual relations with a nine-year-old child are entirely normal.
As a recently initiated member of the New Milton Critics group, I now see how useful the deconstruction of an argument can sometimes be in bringing us to perceive the ambiguities and incertitudes of problematic religious discourse, wherein the devout speaker inadvertently lets slip the suspicions that he himself holds and the doubts that he himself entertains.