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Ese: Child marriage is about culture, not Islam (2)

By Haroon Balogun

Continued from last week

ISLAMIC maturity age: For those who want to be anachronistic about Aisha’s, (r.a) marriage to the Prophet, she did not live with him until she reached the customary and Islamic maturity age and in accordance with the norms of the society at that time. Nobody complained, not even the enemies of Islam at that time because that was the norm.

According to Imam Ahmad Assawiy in his commentary (Tafsir Jalalain) on Suratul Mariam verses 15-27, Mariam the mother of Isa, one of the four women revered in Islam who Prophet Muhammad described as women of paradise gave birth to Isa at the age of 13. In fact he stated that there was an account which puts her age at 10.

 Freed Ese Oruru at Police Headquarters, Abuja, yesterday.
14-year-old Ese Oruru

It will be wrong to compare these special creatures of God with todays being, it is a great sin to also vilify them. In the recent century however, it was the practice for young girls of age 10-15 to be married. Today, in some countries, young girls of similar age go into marriage. If it is the culture in one environment, that is not about Islam, it is about culture.

Age of puberty

The Prophet did not rule that every Muslim must marry a nine-year-old girl. It is cultural, hence there is no clear age set in Islam for a girl to marry. Maturity changes according to different societies, period and environment.

They are free to determine marriageable age, based on maturity and other social factors of that environment, but it must not be lower than the age of puberty which Islam has set.

Even at that, the desire to protect young people is a genuine desire; young girls who have not attained maturity cannot decide for themselves and so should stay with their parents until they attain maturity to consent to the marriage in order to cope with marriage and motherhood.

This is not something that should be looked at in the negative light.

Qur‘anic Teachings on Child Marriage: The Quran equates marriageable age with the ability to make mature and sound judgments:

“Test the orphans until they reach the age of marriage ; if you then find sound judgment in them, release their property to them… When you release their property to them, take witnesses in their presence.” (Quran, 4:6)

According to this verse, there is affinity between marriageable age and the age of mature intellect. It shows that children cannot take possesion responsibly, which also means marriageable age is equated with sound judgment.

To enter into such an immense, life-changing responsibility such as marriage, Islam recognises that it requires the ability to make sound judgment. The verse also talk about witnessses which is required in any marriage in Islam because the institution of marriage is contractual in nature.

The Quran forbids forcing women to marry:
“O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! It is not lawful for you to force women into marrying or holding on to them in marriage against their will.” (Quran, 4:19)

The immense responsibility of marriage is one that children do not possess the intellectual capacity to grasp thoroughly. Therefore, children only entertain the idea of marriage if they are heavily influenced by their parents, which, as stated above in the Qur‘an, is severely discouraged.

The scholars agree that if marriage of a young girl will serve some very real interest for her, then her guardian may arrange a marriage for her, but if no real interest will be served for her by that, then he does not have the right to arrange a marriage when she is still a minor, until she can choose for herself and give consent. The caveat is that during the period between her betrothal and the consummation of her marriage, the young bride would reside with her parents until she is fully grown and able to cope with marriage and motherhood.

She must have the physical ability to be able to bear and nurture children. Again, when she is fully grown and she declines, she has the right to annul the marriage.


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