Child Brides and the Quran – Dispelling the Misconceptions on International Women’s Day

It demands no introduction that many people, including Muslims, believe that Islam permits child marriage. As a result, Islam is often dismissed as a highly misogynistic religion by some non-Muslims, who believe it should have no place in our post-enlightenment era. “A medieval religion with medieval laws”, they say.

To be honest, growing up as a Muslim, I never really understood how Islam could permit child marriage. It wasn’t that I was particularly religious back then; in fact quite to the contrary, as is the norm. But, for some reason, this question kept me intrigued for many years. I never asked, because it felt somewhat taboo a subject, especially in the urban environment I was raised in.

Among other things, perhaps this was one of the sparks that lead me to pick up the Quran when I was about 18. And, to my surprise (read: delight), instead of condoning child marriages, the Quran actually seemed to condemn it! However, this, again, was a puzzling scenario. How could other Muslims not see what I was seeing? Now, that question still fascinates me to this day.

A detailed historical analysis of whether Mohammad (may peace be upon him) married Ayesha (may peace be upon her) when she was 9 is beyond the scope of this essay. Some Muslims maintain that she seems to have been at least 19 years old at the time of marriage, for which the historical evidence seems very convincing (you can find some information here, here & here). Rather, this essay will purely focus on the question of whether Quran, which is supposed to be the primary source of Islamic law, permits child marriages or not.

 

Qur‘anic Teachings on Child Marriage

 

1] In discussing 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)

In this passage, marriageable age is equated with sound judgment–an age at which a person can responsibly handle his or her wealth & possessions. Common sense, then, would dictate that a person has not reached marriageable age until adulthood, since children could hardly be expected to look after their possessions responsibly.

After all, during these years, the child shapes his or her whole personality by exploring different opportunities and adopting various paradigms. To enter into such an immense, life-changing responsibility such as marriage greatly affects the child psychologically since he or she is deprived of the chance to discover who he or she is.

What is also worth noting is that in the passage above, the mention of witnesses in their presence clearly implies a discharge of responsibility and contractual in nature. There is no indication that any of these could be accomplished with a child.

 

2] The Quran advises Muslims to marry monotheists:

“Do not marry the females who set up partners until they acknowledge. An acknowledging servant is better than one who sets up partners, even if she attracts you. Similarly, do not marry the males who set up partners until they acknowledge. An acknowledging servant is better than one who sets up partners even if he attracts you.” (Quran, 2:221)

The Quran acknowledges that a healthy relationship is based, among other things, on a similarity of belief systems. If Muslims accept this principle, how can those who defend child marriage expect children to understand Islamic theology when they are developmentally incapable of doing so?

Children tend to unquestioningly adhere to the beliefs of their parents, but blind faith is severely discouraged in the Qur‘an on many occasions (2:170, 5:104, 7:70). Therefore, parents must give their children space to explore religion & spirituality and formulate their own views before they even consider marriage.

 

3] The Qur‘an regards marriage as a solemn oath:

 “And how could you take it away (marital gift) after you have given yourselves to one another, and she has received a most solemn pledge from you?” (Quran, 4:21)

Marriage is no child’s play. It demands great responsibility from both individuals, something children are not ready for.  Therefore, the Quran does not compromise on this issue, terming marriage a “most solemn pledge.” It requires no stretch of imagination to conclude that a child cannot truly commit to such a solemn contract with someone else before forming their very own personality!

 

4] 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)

Would a child, unbidden, entertain the idea of marriage? 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.

Furthermore, child marriage is de facto child rape since children have not developed adequate sexual maturity to comprehend the implications of sex. A heartbreaking reality is that traditional cultural teachings more often encourage the marriage of an older man to a younger girl, an arrangement that reinforces a man’s sexual imposition on a girl with his psychological and physiological superiority. Unable to challenge the man physically or intellectually, the girl is subject to the emotionally—and often, physically—scarring reality of child marriage with few, if any, avenues for liberation.

 

Conclusion

The Quran clarifies that child marriage is something that God never authorized. The practice of child marriage is detrimental to the overall well-being of children, and is, in reality, a form of slavery. Not only is it a violation of human rights and keeps girls from receiving an education, but is also a significant factor in long-term health complications.

 

Underage brides are very vulnerable and they can suffer irreparable damage, if not death, after bearing children when their bodies are not fully prepared for pregnancy. Logic identifies child marriage as an oppressive practice that has been justified through the misunderstanding and manipulation of Islam by pseudo-scholars to incorporate cruel cultural practices, most often to the expense of women.

 

However, when we examine what the Quran actually says about marriage, a very different picture emerges.

 

Happy Women’s Day!

 

[Picture Credit: Stephanie Sinclair]


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Moby Inayet

    Excellent analysis Ro and well articulated. No need for some to bend over backwards to justify child marriage in the name of culture. There is a reason the Quran calls itself “The Criterion!”

  • Marra Nathar

    Mohammed’s own family tribe managed the Kaaba and it was a good source of income for them. Mohammed was initially bleating on about worshiping only Allah out of the pantheon of 360 idols but they wouldn’t have it because it would cut down their revenue.

    When he wouldn’t shut up and became a risk to their livelihoods they sent him packing.

    He returned while he was residing in Medina to do the hajj. That he didn’t care that he circumambulated around the Kaaba with the idols inside was interesting, and alongside his brethren who were all pagan arabs. It made no difference.

    The only problem the Meccan pagans had with Mohammed is that:
    1) he said HE was the prophet of Allah – one of their own gods.
    2) He said that Allah was the only god.
    3) He relented for a bit and agreed they could worship the 3 daughters of Allah, but then when challenged by his own men, he recanted and said, “The devil made me do it.”
    You can read all of this in the Hadith. Makes for a better story than the Koran.

  • mike3

    ok.

  • Marra Nathar

    Why is it that Muslims bypass the chapter on divorce??

    And the fact that Allah calls for all people to emulate the prophet in everything.

    Which is why child brides continue to the detriment of the children, even in the West.

    It is very enlightening to realise the extent Islam will go to, to avoid the truth about the issue of Child brides in the West when it is openly discussed in the M.E.

    And if Allah is indeed the author of the Koran, then he does indeed condone child marriage. (see surah below)

    Not to mention that he condoned Mohammed’s marriage to 6 year old Aisha in a dream supposedly given to Mohammed. That he didn’t consummate it until she was 9 years of age and he 54 was probably because she had been ill and her hair fell out. In any case she was a pre-pubescent girl as she was still allowed to play with dolls – not allowed one who had reached puberty.

    Sahih International (about the waiting period before divorce is finalised to determine a possible pregnancy)
    Surah 65:4
    And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated.

    Well if you add the Hadith where men ask Mohammed what is meant by “not menstruated” to which Mohammed explains “due to their young age.” then you can know exactly what this verse means.

    Also my own Koran says categorically in the footnotes “On account of their young age.”

    So here we have a married pre-pubescent girl who wants a divorce (??) but she has to wait for 3 months to see if she is pregnant or not.

    Remember that Aisha was already engaged to someone else before Mohammed asked her father for her. So Abu Bakr had to break the engagement.

    What does this mean?

    1) She has been either used for masturbation which is allowed

    2) She has been penetrated and used for sex as a wife

    3) She may become fertile before her first period – hence the waiting period.

    4) God does not chastise the male – just says she must wait 3 months.

    A child!!! Yes Allah does condone Child Marriage. This author did not look far enough. Maybe she did not want to. Pity. There are many Muslim women around the world campaining against child marriage. We need journalists to speak up for the rights of these small children.

    Then of course you have the leader of Iran and 78 million Shia Muslims who says: Quote: “One of the blessings of man is to have his daughter experience her first period not in her father’s house, but in that of her husband.”
    and:
    “If a woman who has not reached her ninth birthday or who has not entered menopause gets temporarily married, she must, at the end of the contract or when the husband has released her from part of it, wait two menstrual periods or forty-five days before marrying again.”

    So the pre-pubescent girl who is married in a temporary arrangement (like married prostitution) has been abused because she must also wait to see if she is pregnant from the consummation or masturbation. The latter is used if the child is physically too small. There are rules if he damages the child through sex. He loses his right to access her. But it is too late when they are dead.

    Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
    In summary, then, it is permitted to contract marriage with a young girl and to hand her over to her husband to stay with him before she reaches adolescence. As for consummating the marriage, this does not happen until she is physically able for it. Thus the matter becomes quite clear. Do you see anything wrong with a man living with his young wife in one house, bringing her up and teaching her, but delaying consummation until she is ready for it? We ask Allaah to show us truth and falsehood and to make each clear.
    And Allaah knows best.
    Islam
    Q&A

    And we are to trust the husband of that young girl to do the right thing???
    Not likely.
    Yes – Child marriage is condoned by:
    1) Allah
    2) The Koran
    3) Mohammed
    4) The rightly guided Caliphs (Aisha’s Father was the first)
    5) The authentic Hadith
    6) The Ummah (the body of Muslims)
    Sad isn’t it?

  • Marra Nathar

    ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said:
    “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) married me when I
    was six years old. Then we came to Madeenah and stayed in Bani al-Haarith ibn
    Khazraj. I fell ill and my hair started to fall out (due to the illness; then
    it grew back thick again). My mother Umm Roomaan came to me whilst I was on a
    swing and my friends were with me. She shouted for me and I came to her, not
    knowing what she wanted. She took me by the hand and led me to the door of the
    house. I was out of breath and we waited until I had calmed down, then she took
    some water and wiped my face and head, then took me inside. There were some
    women of the Ansaar in the house, and they said: ” ‘Alaa al-khayri
    wa’l-baraka wa ‘ala khayri taa’ir (blessings, best wishes, etc).” My
    mother handed me over to them and they tidied me up, then suddenly the
    Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was there. It
    was mid-morning, and they handed me over to him. At that time I was nine years
    old.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 3605).

    Note Aisha did not know what her mother expected of her – that she would go in and have sex with her husband. She hopped off the swing where she was playing – at the age of 9 – and went in so her husband of 54 years old could have intercourse with her.

    This is the supreme leader of Islam – known to be the perfect man, husband and prophet.

  • Marra Nathar

    The conquest of Mecca

    2 major Offensive wars occurred before they hit Mecca only 2 years into a 10
    year Treaty. And I believe they were strategic for Mohammed.

    627 AD – The genocide of the Jewish tribe: Beni Qurayza. They were
    accused by Mohammed of betraying him – which evidence denies. So he besieged them
    until they surrendered. On surrender he beheaded all of the men and boys -who
    had pubic hair. 800 in total. In one day. More than Isis have managed so far.
    All Women and children were taken as slaves and sold for weapons and horses.

    628 AD – Mohammed made a treaty with the Meccans to last for 10 years.

    628 AD – Muhammad and the Muslims besiege the Khaybar oasis. The combatants
    killed, and the women and children allotted as booty. The Jewish leader,
    Kinana, is tortured and beheaded, and his young widow, Safiyah, is taken by
    Muhammad for himself.

    630 AD – Mohammed breaks the treaty and conquers Mecca without bloodshed.

    Why without bloodshed?

    Because in the last 3 years he had beheaded around 1000 people who were said to be against him. And took ALL the women and children captives and sold them on the slave market.
    With that level of terror – the Meccans – family to most of the Muslims, including Mohammed…voted to settle in peace. I think personally this was Mohammed’s intention by dealing harshly with the Jews. Maybe he wondered if his Muslims would go ahead and kill their families and send the rest into slavery. He might have had dissent.

    630 AD – The Muslims
    prevail in the Battle of Hunayn against the Bedouin tribe of Hawazin and
    conquer Ta’if. In doing so, they capture huge spoils, consisting of 6,000 women
    and children and 24,000 camels. Muhammad is now the ruler of Arabia.

    They then proceeded to decimate the Byzantine Empire and take land all the way to Spain, India and the gates of Vienna – only to be finally stopped on what date: 9/11. That is
    why Osama chose that date.

    Muslims say they only fight defensively.

    How do you conquer half the world defensively I ask???

  • METAL GEAR

    This is a lie here is the truth in this video you can married with a child https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO3gRrKNjwo

  • Michelle Ramos

    And those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time shall be three months, and of those too who have not had their courses; and the pregnant women, their prescribed time is that they lay down their burden; and whoever is careful of Allah He will make easy for him his affair. QURAN 65:4. The Quran confirms it is permissible to marry a female who has not had her course, cemented by the action of Muhammad when he married a 6 year old girl and raped her when she was 9 (the ages 6 for marriage and 9 for rape are from many sahih hadith sources so it’s disingenuous to use non-sahih sources, accepted by most Islamic schools, and Muslims worldwide while the age you mentioned in your post is only speculative), and ensured by Sharia law in several Muslim countries allowing prepubescent age for females to be married and sexualized. Your take on this is incredibly dishonest. It does not reflect the truth about child marriage in Islam.