Is child marriage and forced marriage part of Islamic social norms?
On March 1, 2020 The News out of Pakistan published an article on child marriage in the country. In the article an 11 year old is basically sold to a man who is 60 years old. The young girl finds herself married and is soon violated and nearly dies from the encounter. The News reminds its readers that Child Marriage is illegal in Pakistan.The News also attests that Child Marriage is indeed a forced marriage in that children are not able to make adult decisions. The News also communicates the sad truth that Child Marriages laws are rarely enforced in Pakistan for a variety of reasons, among them a lack of birth records attesting to a female’s age.
Is there another reason for the lack of enforcement? Is Child Marriage and/or forced marriage an Islamic social norm?
Child marriage is endorsed by Islam because Muhammad married a girl at the age of 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9. Aisha herself is recorded as having stated she was 9 years old. This is in lunar years not solar years, so Aisha may have still been 8 solar years old. It is one thing to hear that Muhammad had sex with a child bride who was 9 lunar years old, but when you start to look at the evidence for it in the Hadiths you learn that it is Aisha herself who says she was 9 years old.
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old. (Sahih Muslim Book 16, Hadith 83)
that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that `Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death). (Sahih al-Bukhari 5134)
The fact that dolls were with Aisha tells that us she had not yet entered puberty. In Islamic culture, girls were allowed to play with dolls until they entered puberty. Girls Health.gov states that girls begin puberty between the age of 8 and 12. So it is entirely possible that she had entered puberty. But the fact that she was still playing with dolls calls this into question.
According to Bukhari, Muhammad exhorted his followers to marry young virgin girls as he did. The following hadith has Muhammad talking about playing with them.
Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah:
When I got married, Allah’s Messenger said to me, “What type of lady have you married?” I replied, “I have married a matron’ He said, “Why, don’t you have a liking for the virgins and for fondling them?” Jabir also said: Allah’s Messenger said, “Why didn’t you marry a young girl so that you might play with her and she with you?’ (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 17)
Keep in mind that devote Muslims require more than the Quran in order to copy what Muhammad did. This imitation aspect of Islam is complete from the exact copying of the movements and words said in prayer to every aspect of his life.
Attempts to outlaw the behavior of marrying prepubescent girls and consummating the marriage have been tried in Islamic countries like Pakistan. In 2016, the country attempted to raise the minimum age for marrying to 16. “A representative from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had dubbed the amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 as “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous” during the committee meeting.”
In the Philippines, the marriage age is codified in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, which was originally written in 1977. A Primer on the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines states:
Any Muslim male at least fifteen years of age and any Muslim female of the age of puberty or upwards and not suffering from any impediment under the provisions of this Code may contract marriage. A female is presumed to have attained puberty upon reaching the age of fifteen. (Art. 16.1)
This looks like marriage is something equally agreed to by both the male and female. However, that is not entirely true. It is also not true that a female must have started puberty. The Primer proposes two questions that address this.
CAN A FEMALE BELOW FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE CONTRACT MARRIAGE?
Yes. The Shari’a District Court may, upon petition of a proper wali, order the solemnization of the marriage of a female who, though less than fifteen but not below twelve years of age, has attained puberty. (Art. 16.2)
IF ANY OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES IS BELOW THE PRESCRIBED AGE, WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MARRIAGE?
Marriage through a wali by a minor below the prescribed age shall be regarded as betrothal. It may be annulled upon the petition of either party within four years after attaining the age of puberty, provided no voluntary cohabitation has taken place and the wali who contracted the marriage was other than the father or paternal grandfather. (Art. 16.3)
A Wali is a guardian. The male parent/guardian may arrange a marriage of a child bride after she is 12. It is stated that the bride may annul the marriage four years after, provided there has been no cohabitation.
In Reliance of the Traveller, which is shariah in English, we learn that marriage AND consummation of the marriage to prepubescent girls are permissible:
e10.3 When a woman who has been made love to performs the purificatory bath, and the male’s sperm afterwards leaves her vagina, then she must repeat the ghusl if two conditions exist:
(a) that she is not a child. but rather old enough to have sexual gratification (A: as it might otherwise be solely her husband;s sperm);
It must be said that Islamists have the only religion that defends child marriage. It is not the only culture to have child marriages. It is only a few years ago that Tennessee outlawed child marriage.
What about other forms of forced marriage? While doing research on this topic, on Google, the terms “forced marriage” and Islam were entered. The most prominent result took me to Discover-the-truth.com, where Kaleef K Karim had written a brief piece alleging that Islam requires consent of both the woman and the man. He began by giving a passage from the Quran 4:19, showing that women are considered property and can be inherited.
O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.
But in this sense, women as property must consent to being married. This speaks of women, not child brides. Kaleef considers this strong enough evidence to state: “So the above passage from the Quran is crystal clear that men cannot inherit women against their will. This passage alone is enough evidence that Islam forbids it, but we will go further.” Sadly, Kaleef misses that this passages is specifically talking about inheritance, which basically equates women with property.
The next passage Kaleef offers is indeed troublesome.
Abu Hurairah narrated that:
The Prophet said: “A matron should not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a virgin should not be given in marriage until her permission is sought, and her silence is her permission.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1107)
Equating silence with consent is problematic! What if the bride to be is scared for her life? What if she has been told if she says no, her family will be killed? But in Islam this is OK? Silence equals consent? It becomes twice as problematic when the Islamic marriage ceremony is looked at. Unlike, Judaism and Christianity, in Islam, consent is measured in a contract signed by four witnesses, two for the bride and two for the groom. If the bride is pressured to sign and the witnesses are provided by the groom, a forced marriage can occur easily. Remember here that silence of the bride to be is seen as consent. Kaleef did not address other passages which refer to marrying a slave. Slaves do not get choices.
‘If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (the captives) that your right hands possess. (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 2)
Narrated Abu Burda’s father:
Allah’s Messenger said, any man who has a slave girl whom he educates properly, teaches good manners, manumits and marries her, will get a double reward (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 20)
This allows Muslim men to take a captive woman as a slave and marry her. Of course, she must convert to Islam first. Historically, Islam has forced conversions through threats during conquests.
Muhammad himself presided over a marriage where the woman was given no chance to consent. In fact she offered her consent in marriage to Muhammad not to someone else!
Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d As-Sa`idi:
A woman came to Allah’s Messenger () and said, “O Allah’s Messenger ()! I have come to give you myself in marriage (without Mahr).” Allah’s Messenger () looked at her. He looked at her carefully and fixed his glance on her and then lowered his head. When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man from his companions got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger ()! If you are not in need of her, then marry her to me.” The Prophet () said, “Have you got anything to offer?” The man said, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger ()!” The Prophet () said (to him), “Go to your family and see if you have something.” The man went and returned, saying, “No, by Allah, I have not found anything.” Allah’s Apostle said, “(Go again) and look for something, even if it is an iron ring.” He went again and returned, saying, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger ()! I could not find even an iron ring, but this is my Izar (waist sheet).” He had no rida. He added, “I give half of it to her.” Allah’s Messenger () said, “What will she do with your Izar? If you wear it, she will be naked, and if she wears it, you will be naked.” So that man sat down for a long while and then got up (to depart). When Allah’s Messenger () saw him going, he ordered that he be called back. When he came, the Prophet () said, “How much of the Qur’an do you know?” He said, “I know such Sura and such Sura,” counting them. The Prophet () said, “Do you know them by heart?” He replied, “Yes.” The Prophet () said, “Go, I marry her to you for that much of the Qur’an which you have.“ (Sahih al Bukhari Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 24)
If Muhammad required no consent in a marriage he performed how many Imam’s who are eager to copy him, will require consent? These passages explain some of the forced marriages that are now monthly making the news.