As regard the question, we’d like to make it clear in the very beginning that Prophet’s ( peace and blessings be upon him) marriage to `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) the Mother of the Faithful, has always been a subject of attack and criticism by the enemies of Islam. First of all, we want to clarify to people who view this marriage as some sort of brutal act and child abuse that they should try to understand the main purpose of this marriage and the condition of the Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) before the marriage.
As for the purpose of this marriage, it was purely for sociopolitical reason. The Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) main concern was the future of Islam. He was interested in strengthening the Muslims by all bonds. This also explains the reason why he married the daughter of `Umar, his second successor. It was by his marriage to Juwayriyyah that he gained the support for Islam of the whole clan of Bani Al-Mustaliq and their allied tribes. It was through his marriage to Safiyyah that he neutralized a great section of the hostile Jews of Arabia. By accepting Mariyah, the Copt from Egypt, as his wife, he formed a political alliance with a king of great magnitude. So his marriage to `A’ishah could never be of anything save cementing his relation with Abu Bakr, `A’ishah’s father.
As for the Prophet’s ( peace and blessings be upon him) condition before this marriage, it clearly explained what we’ve said that it was a purely sublime aim and purpose that motivated him to marry `A’ishah. That’s why the marriage was not consummated until sometime after the emigration to Madinah, when she had reached maturity. The motives of this marriage can be understood to be anything except passion and physical attraction. However, he lived with her, in addition to Sawdah, for five to six years, when he was 56 years of age, without taking any other wife.
One important point we have to clarify here is that the Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) when proposing to `A’ishah, was not the first suitor, for, according to many historians, Jubair ibn Mut`am proposed to her before the Prophet, peace and blessings for him. This gives an indication that `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, was mature enough for marriage at that age.
Giving more details on this issue, Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states the following:
“Firstly, Prophet’s proposal to `A’ishah came through a suggestion made by Khawalh bint Hakim as a sign of strengthening the relation with his Companion Abu Bakr and confirming his love for him.
Secondly, the fact that `A’ishah, before the Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) proposed to her, was being pursued by Jubair ibn Mut`am, indicates that she was mature enough for marriage, according to the prevailing tradition at that time, if not, the Quraish people, who would never waste any chance to insult the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would have found this marriage as a golden opportunity to pour on him rain of insults. Rather they found nothing wrong in this engagement, and they received the news of the Prophet’s proposal for `A’ishah as something usual, and even, expected.
`A’ishah was not the first case, for many girls married at her same age to men who were at their fathers’ age. Hala, the cousin of Amina bint Wahb was married to Abdul-Muttalib on the same day his son `Abdullah married Aminah bint Wahb who was at Hala’s same age. Also, the Companion `Umar ibn Al-Khattab married the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah honor his face, while he was at her grandpa’s age.
After the passage of many centuries, we find now some Orientalists who try to strike a comparison between the conditions of our present time and what was existing 1400 years ago. They are trying to apply the criterions of the Western society to that society that existed in the Arabian Peninsula very long ago.
It should be noted that in the hot regions, it’s normal for a girl to attain maturity at a very early age. Thus the case is totally different from that which does exist in the cold regions where a girl does not attain puberty before 21 [Physicians maintain that the age of puberty in the hot regions normally ranges from 9 to 16]. At all rates, it should be stressed that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on marrying `A’ishah, never aimed at fulfilling a lust or satisfying a desire; rather, his aim was to strengthen his relation with the most beloved Companion of his.
Had it been true that the Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) aimed at fulfilling a lust or satisfying a desire, he would have done this while still in his youth when he was still free from the responsibilities of delivering Allah’s call. At his early age, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, accepted to marry Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, who was 15 years older than him. He also never married a new wife until after her death. Even after her passing away, his new wife Sawdah bint Zam`ah was an old-aged widow who possessed no particular appealing qualities. This adds to our certainty that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had many great lofty aims behind his marriages. Also, when Khawlah bint Hakim suggested to him to marry`A’ishah, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, thought thoroughly whether to accept or to refuse. He took into consideration his relation with Abu Bakr.
When `A’ishah reached the Prophet’s ( peace and blessings be upon him) house, Sawdah gave her the first place and took care of her till her death.. Afterwards, `A’ishah remained a faithful wife to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him; her 10 years of marriage were of the life of a fully dedicated disciple, trainee and scholarly student in the noble Prophetic school. She was the source of knowledge for almost every Companion. She was of the main sources for revealing knowledge and information of the private life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. She was a big celebrity in politics and the best example of generosity.
The Prophet’s ( peace and blessings be upon him) love for `A’ishah was a sign of his love for her father. On being asked about the dearest person to his heart, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned `A’ishah. Then, on being asked about the dearest man to him and he, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned her father, Abu Bakr.”
In addition to what the sheikh said and with regard to the issue of her being young and your being confused about that, you should note that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) grew up in a hot country, the Arabian Peninsula. Usually in hot countries maturity comes early and people marry early. This is how the people of Arabia were until recently. Moreover, women vary greatly in their physical and mental development and their readiness for marriage.