Worldwide underage boys as well as girls are given in marriage by elders for a wide variety of reasons. Though the claim is made from certain quarters that child marriages are exclusively an ‘Islamic’ problem, statistics show that they are widespread in many cultures, including in ‘advanced’ countries such as the United States of America, where in one state it is even legal for a girl as young as 12 and a boy as young as 14 to get married with ‘parental consent’. Child marriages inhibit the development of children, causes pain and misery and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation as they are not ready for it physically and mentally. After marriage children are not able to continue their education. Young girls are particularly vulnerable to oppression. There is a high risk of death due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth; infants of such young mothers are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.
QUR’ANIC EVIDENCE TO REFUTE CHILD MARRIAGES
Given that Islam and Muslims are under the fire for this vile practice, it is expedient that directives from Islam’s holy book, be brought to light to determine its stance.
(1) Verse 4:19 “O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will.” rules out marriage of minor girls as due to their young age they are vulnerable to duress.
(2) Verse 4:21 “…and they (your wives) have Taken from you a solemn covenant (Arabic: Meethaq)..” amplifies that marriage is a ‘covenant’ (Arabic: Meesaq), and covenants are entered into by the free will of consenting adults and never by minors.
(3) Verse 4:3 “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four…” is addressed to adult male believers and makes it clear they are to marry females of their choice, and not the choice of their parents or guardians. Given their undeveloped physique, minor children are incapable of plural marriages.
(4) Verse 4:6 “Make trial of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then ye find sound judgment (Arabic: “Rushd”) in them, release their property to them..” identifies an age for marriage thus refuting the notion that one can be married at any age, even as a child.
(5) Also to be noted that it is when one possesses Rushd that one should be given property and not as a minor. While verse 4:24 “.. ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property..” makes possession of property a prerequisite for marriage, thus as a child does not possess Rushd and Maal (property) is disqualified for marriage.
(6) Verse 40:67 “It is He Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop, then from a leech-like clot; then does he get you out (into the light) as a child: then lets you (grow and) reach your age of full strength (Arabic: Ashuda); then lets you become old..” identifies the period after childhood to be ‘the age of full strength’ or Ashuda, and it is this time when one is capable of marriage.
(7) Verse 2:221 “Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe…” is addressed to an adult and not a child for the latter is not in a position to determine the imaan (belief) of a prospective spouse.
(8) Verse 4:3 identifies that marriage is to be contracted with Nisa or “women”, while verse 2:221 “..So keep away from women (Arabic: Nisa) in their courses,…” identifies that a female becomes Nisa when she has her periods, thus disqualifying young pre pubescent girls for marriage.
(9) The usage of the Arabic word Harath or “tilth” for Nisa in verse 2:223 “Your wives (Arabic: “Nisa”) are as a tilth (Arabic: Harath) unto you;” further indicates that one becomes Nisa when she is able to procreate, thus making child marriages invalid.
Look at the Qur’an from any angle and we discover a refutation for child marriages in it. Muslims should uphold the Book of Allah, raise awareness about its tenets, educate people and pass legislation that coincides with divine directives in order to eradicate this social ill.