Why did Prophet Muhammad marry lady 'Aisha when she was only 9 years old?
Lady 'Aisha was the noble daughter of the honorable companion, Abu Bakr who was loved the most by Prophet Muhammad among all of his companions. Abu Bakr was a sincere God fearing prestigious kind hearted man who was the first man to embrace Islam and was a source of continuous support for the prophet against the aggression and persecution of Quraysh with his wide financial means and sincere heart. The Prophet was grateful to Abu Bakr and used to say in this regard "the only one who I am indebted to and couldn’t fulfill his debt is Abu Bakr". The Prophet did not only mean the financial support by Abu Bakr but more importantly he meant his devotion to God and the sincerity of his heart.
The daughter of his beloved companion enjoyed a high status in the Prophet's heart in turn. The prophet was once asked by his companions about the most beloved person to him so he answered readily "Aisha" so they said "and from men?" and he replied "her father (Abu Bakr)".
The marriage of Prophet Muhammad to lady 'Aisha was based on a divine command as lady 'Aisha narrated that angel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad carrying a green silk cloth with her image on it and said "this is your wife in this world and in the hereafter" narrated by al Tirmidhi.
The story of the marriage of Lady 'Aisha started after the death of lady Khadeejah, the prophet's first wife and the mother of his children. One of the prophet's lady companions, Khawlah bint Hakim who was the wife of 'Uthman ibn Madhz'un, came over to Prophet Muhammad and suggested to him to marry lady 'Aisha and she described her as the daughter of the most beloved person to Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad in turn agreed and asked her to mention the prophet's marriage proposal to Abu Bakr and his wife, Um Ruman. Khawlah went over to Abu Bakr's house and said to Um Ruman "what do you think God has singled you out to bestow you with from his blessings and bounties?" so Um Ruman replied "and what would that be?", Khwlah said in response "the Messenger of God sent me over to offer you his marriage proposal to 'Aisha" so Khawlah asked her to wait till Abu Bakr comes over. When Abu Bakr heard about the Prophet's marriage proposal he said "and would she be lawful to him and he is my brother?" so Khawlah went back asking the Prophet and he replied "we are brothers in Islam and your daughter is lawful to me".
When Abu Bakr received an affirmative answer from the Prophet, he went over to Mut'am ibn 'Addey because he offered to marry his son to lady 'Aisha and she was about to betrothed to him. Abu Bakr was a man of his promise so he went over to Mut'am house asking him if he still wanted to marry off his son to 'Aisha. So the wife of Mut'am said " O Abu Bakr you might want to lead our son to your religion if he got married to your daughter". So Abu Bakr looked at Mut'am and asked him "Do you concur with what she says?" and Mut'am affirmed her opinion. Abu Bakr went out of Mut'am's house feeling comfortable about not breaking his promise and at ease that his daughter is free from any commitments of engagement to Mut'am's son.
There are some variations in the exact age of lady 'Aisha among historians. She was married to the prophet for nine years and five months and she was the only virgin he married. The story of the marriage of Prophet Muhammad to lady 'Aisha is one of love and mercy. Lady 'Aisha was the one who narrated the details of this love through numerous accounts in which the scent of love enveloped her words. She used to describe the tenderness of Prophet Muhammad to her and the sense of care that he showed her. She narrated that if she sipped from a cup, the Prophet would place his lips on the very same spot that she sipped from as a sign of attentiveness and care. She also used to race with the Prophet and she beated him the first time and then later they raced again and he beated her the second time so he smiled at her saying "this one is for that one". He meant that now they were both even. The Prophet was expressive of his love to his wife 'Aisha and he said to her "your love in my heart is like a tight knot" and she was very pleased with his love and she would ask him often about the status of his love knot and he would reply "same as ever".
The heinous accusation that was only raised by some ill intentioned orientalists regarding the young age of lady 'Aisha at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad was not raised by the vehement enemies of Islam like the Prophet's tribe, Quraysh, during the time of Prophet Muhammad nor later along the Islamic history. Even historians like Ibn Ishaq and many others who reported the story of the marriage of lady 'Aisha did not stop and wonder about her young age nor they had to justify the Prophet' position of marrying her because simply at that time girls were getting married at such young age. The fact that lady 'Aisha was about to be betrothed to another man before the prophet's proposal means that this was customary practice and not a source of shame or a denigration of morality. Prophet Muhammad since time immemorial was well known among his people of Quraysh to posses the highest moral characteristics and won the hearts of people through the perfection of his manners.
Islamic scholars and historians agreed that Lady 'Aisha had so many virtues as her intellectual discernment and excellent memory served her well in transmitting the large prophetic heritage and set her par excellence as one of the top religious scholars of her time. She happened to live for fifty years after the death of the Prophet and the companions used to seek her juristic opinion on issues which seemed intricate to them. Lady 'Aisha practiced Ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) and was singled out by her unique narrations of prophetic traditions that was not collected by other companions. The eminent scholar al Zmakhshari compiled all the prophetic traditions which lady 'Aisha solely narrated in a valuable book titled "al Ijabah fi Ma Istadrakathu 'Aisha 'ala al Sahabah" or the collection of what 'Aisha has added and was missing by the companions"
One of the unique incidents which shows the profundity of her religious scholarship is that the Ka'bah used to be covered with a white covering which was changed by the companions every year and replaced with a new one. The companions used to dig a hole to bury the old covering out of reverence to it. Lady 'Aisha was the only one among the companions who differed in her opinion in this matter and suggested that it would be more suitable to cut the old covering of the ka'bah into pieces and sell it and use the money to set up a fund for the benefit of the sacred house of God. The companions unanimously concurred with her insight and followed her scholarly opinion.
One of the Prophet's companions named, 'Attaa ibn Abi Rabah said "Aisha was the top of all jurists and the most knowledgeable among them and had the best opinion in public matters". Hisham ibn 'Urwa narrated that his father said about 'Aisha "I haven't seen any one more knowledgeable with jurisprudence or medicine or poetry than 'Aisha". The renowned historian Al Zuhri said that if all the knowledge of the Prophet's wives were measured along with the knowledge of all women, the knowledge of 'Aisha would weigh more. The virtues of lady 'Aisha reached its highest when God chose for his beloved Prophet to die within her arms as a commemoration of their love story.