The issue of Aisha is the check mate against orthodox Islam.
No it isn't.
The arguments to explain it are as follows and my corresponding retort is as follows.
1. The hadith are incorrect.
Well Islam places a high value on what the prophet did. Everything from what foot to use to enter the washroom, to growing a beard, to wearing the niqab, to the 5 pillars, to stoning single mothers... If the sources could not record an age correctly, why should we treat the rest of the hadith with such solidity? It might be theoretically good to think Mo was the perfect man to be used as an example of all time, but if you have no trust worthy record of how he lived... it's a pretty fruitless exercise of everyone just doing what they think mo did.
The hadith are correct because the chains of narration are almost certainly authentic. In addition, Aisha's age, or marriage, for that matter, is mentioned in all 6 collections (or four of them, at the very least). I'd consult sunnah.com but I can't muster the motivation to use their terribly inefficient interface at 5 AM.
2. It was common back then. This point sounds convincing to many. Times were different. It was common to wed young girls.
Well if that is true... then why are other things not 'different now'. Maybe back then it was okay for women to wear niqab/hijab, but it is not needed today. Maybe back then, it was okay to do islamic inheritance, grow bears, pray 5 times a day, not drink alcohol... but today, it is okay.
More importantly, this make mo sound more like a common man than someone wishing to be an example to everyone for all time.
If the message with respect to marriage was to marry a mature women based on her own choice, then he should have set the example, but picking wives of reasonable age who had the choice to marry him. Instead he chose children and captured women
You're looking at this from a post-christian sex angle. I agree with you, but the issue is moot for any serious muslim scholar or jurist because sex isn't seen as a corrupting, dominant or immoral act — I'd go so far as to say that an ideal orthodox muslim would approve of sex education as early as possible for young children. Also remember that islam is psychologically predicated on a kind of desire to access the feminine, an envy, if you wish. The woman is angelic, and she must remain that way. And I am her vessel to the upholding of divine perfection.
3. Mo/Aisha was special.
Again, this goes back to the problem of using mo as an example for all of man kind forever. How are we to know which actions mo was doing because he was special and which we should follow his example on? There is nothing in the hadiths to show he thought this marriage to aisha was special or only to be sanctioned to him.
See previous point re: femininity.
4. Mo was not a perfect man.
Well good... then why the hell should I follow much of what he did in the hadith. This is the end of sunni islam.
This gets complicated. We have to start defining perfect morality. I am not going to reify abstracts again. You can troll through my posts if you so wish.