I recently attended a lecture by Shaiyk Hamza Yusuf in California in which he detailed that all four major Madhabs in the Sunni sect allow provisions for compelling marriages on minors. This came as a shock to me, however, Shaiyk Hamza said that this is part of our tradition and we have to believe in it. He had cited that the early marriage of Hadhrat Ayesha (RA) had taken place precisely under this provision of Shari`ah. He had also cited the various positions that each Madhab takes on the compulsion of marriage of minor boys and girls by their parents. He cited the 12th book of Ihya of Imam Al-Ghazzali as one of the sources of this knowledge. I would like to ask if you subscribe to this view of our traditional madhabs? If yes, can you quote the Qur’an and the Ahadith, which support such view. I know that there exist a hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) annulled the marriage of a women as it was done without her permission. I do not know of any hadith in which marriages were forced on children by their parents. If you do not support the view of forced child marriages then please provide reasons as to why you differ from the traditional madhabs in this perspective?
In his concise work on the compilation of Islamic Fiqh (“Bidayah al-Mujtahid“), Ibn Rushd (Averroes) has mentioned that Muslim scholars, generally, allow that a father can marry his minor son/daughter, without the consent or even without consulting the minor (Kitaab al-Nikaah, Al-Baab al-Thaaniy). Ibn Rushd has also mentioned the basis of this opinion of the Muslim jurists. It should come as no surprise, that the basis of this opinion of the Muslim jurists, as given by Ibn Rushd is the marriage of the Prophet (pbuh) with Hadhrat Ayesha (ra), while she was a minor. I have already explained my reservations in accepting the narrative that relates the referred incident of the Prophet (pbuh)’s marriage, in one of my previous responses1. If my reservations carry any weight, then the very incident, which provides the basis of the opinion of the Muslim jurists, becomes questionable. We are then left with no basis of ascribing to that opinion.
Another point generally held as a basis for holding the opinion that Islam allows marriage of a minor child is a particular interpretation of Al-Nisaa 4: 3 – 6. I have also commented on this interpretation of the referred verses and have tried to clarify their correct meaning of these verses in one of my previous responses2.
Thus, it should remain clear that the matter of ‘compelling marriage on minors’ is not a part of the Islamic Shari`ah. However, it should remain clear that the Islamic Shari`ah does not disallow a father or a guardian of a minor boy or a girl to marry3 the child that is in his custody. Nevertheless, the child in question shall have the option of upholding or rejecting this decision of the father (or the guardian), at the time of attaining the age of majority. This option of the child, at the time of attaining the age of majority, is termed as ‘Khiyaar al-Buloogh‘ (literally meaning: “exercising choice at the time of attaining majority”). Although, it may be of some interest to note that the Muslim jurists are, generally, of the opinion that a child does not have this option of upholding or rejecting a marriage, if such marriage has been carried-out by their real fathers. However, this opinion of the jurists is not supported by any clear directive of the Islamic Shari`ah.
24th April 2000
- For details, please refer to “What was Ayesha (ra)’s Age at the Time of Her Marriage”. [↩]
- Please refer to “Islamic Stance on Marriage With Minors“. [↩]
- It may be mentioned here that such marriage would, practically, only be a contract. Conjugal relations shall be delayed till the time that both the boy and the girl attain the age of maturity (Al-Nisaa 4: 6). [↩]