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Missed Opportunity: The Politics of Police Reform in Egypt and Tunisia
Fatwas: Part Forty-Five
The Marriage of Female Minors

 

 The Marriage of Female Minors

Was published in Arabic in November 18, 2015

Translated by Ahmed Fathy

He said to me: The Egyptian Salafist sheikh Borhami asserts that a man can marry a female child, is that true in Islam?

I said to him: This is a falsehood under the name of Islam.

He said: But this Salafist sheikh relies on the story that Prophet Muhammad married Aisha his wife while she was still a minor.

I said: This is a scandalous falsehood, as well. The same 'sanctified' and 'holy' Sunnite tomes inherited from ancestors assert that Aisha was betrothed to someone else before she got married to Muhammad. This indicates that she has reached the mature age of marriage.

He said: What if the story of her marrying the Prophet while she was a child appears to be true eventually?

I said: Islamic legislations should be formulated exclusively from the Quran, not based on historical accounts and the so-called hadiths (sayings) that are certainly ascribed falsely to the Prophet two centuries after his death. Such sayings are pure human fabrications, fashioned with evil intentions by so many people in many eras.

He said: What about the Quranic stories? Could we use them as a basis for legislations?

I said: Islamic legislations cannot be possible based on Quranic stories.

He said: Why? They are part of the Quranic discourse and message, right?

I said: Quranic stories are for us to draw useful lessons and to contemplate them. They are not intended to base certain legislations. Let me exemplify this point: in 12:100, Joseph's family prostrated before him. This by no means indicates that humans should kneel and prostrate before any other humans. This is historical narration in the Quranic text; we deduct that prostration was a sort of salutation and greetings at that time. Islamic legislations in the Quran come in the form of commands and orders for us in acts of worship, faith notions, and moral issues.

He said: Can you then refute the views of Borhami about marrying minor girls?

I said: Marriage in our religious culture indicates the contract of such unions itself. We assert that marrying minor girls is illicit and illegal, and so are its consummation and all any other results.

He said: But the Salafist sheikh cites this Quranic verse to support his views: "As for those of your women who have reached menopause, if you have any doubts, their term shall be three months-and also for those who have not menstruated. As for those who are pregnant, their term shall be until they have delivered..." (65:4). He sees that the phrase ''those who have not menstruated'' indicates female children who have not yet reach puberty.

I said: This is a grave error. This verse tackles the waiting period after divorce in relation to stages of menstruation. There are women whose periods come regularly on a monthly basis; some others do not have periods for physiological reasons. Some women are so old that they no longer have periods. Divorced women are to have the waiting period of three months before they can remarry: "Divorced women shall wait by themselves for three periods…" (2:228). The waiting period is ordered here to make sure if she is pregnant or not. That is why in 65:4, pregnant women's waiting period before they can remarry is until they deliver their babies. Hence, menstruation and its relation to pregnancy, divorce, marriage, widowhood, etc. has nothing to do with female minors who have not reached puberty yet. That is why female children cannot marry, as per the Quran.

He said: But Borhami sees that the phrase "…those who have not menstruated…" in (65:4) refers to female children before puberty. Can you refute him and cite evidence to support your own opinion?

I said: Tackling menstruation and its relation to divorce, marriage, copulation, etc. in the Quran refers to womanhood in the adult stage, not to female childhood at all.  For instance: "And they ask you about menstruation: say, "It is harmful, so keep away from women during menstruation. And do not approach them until they have become pure. Once they have become pure, approach them in the way God has directed you." God loves the repentant, and He loves those who keep clean." Your women are cultivation for you; so approach your cultivation whenever you like, and send ahead for yourselves. And fear God, and know that you will meet Him. And give good news to the believers." (2:222-223). This has nothing to do with female children whatsoever. The same applies to the following verse: "O you who believe! When you marry believing women, but then divorce them before you have touched them, there is no waiting period for you to observe in respect to them; but compensate them, and release them in a graceful manner." (33:49). Hence, there is no waiting period for women who have not consummated their marriages. Waiting periods are meant for making sure the womb does not carry any babies. Female children cannot possibly conceive inside their wombs.

He said: You have not given me clear proof to support your opinion.

I said: God says in the Quran: "Test the orphans until they reach the age of marriage. If you find them to be mature enough, hand over their properties to them…" (4:6). Is that not clear enough?

He said: This is concerned with orphans' money and maturity in mind in money dealings. This has nothing to do with marriage of female minors.

I said: Orphans in this verse are both male and female, do you remember that?

He said: Yes, but about their inheritance of money, not their marriage.

I said: You overlook the phrase "…until they reach the age of marriage..." in 4:6, which indicates the mature age when females menstruate and when males ejaculate semen. This shows the eligible age of marriage. Children, male and female, before attaining puberty cannot possible be able to marry.

He said: Please further explain your point.

I said: Reaching the age of marriage indicated in 4:6 means that a human being is eligible for marriage in terms of having sex and in terms of bearing the responsibility of raising children, care, pregnancy, etc. It is impossible for a female minor to carry a child inside her and raise it while she is still a child herself. One cannot possible marry before reaching maturity: remember this verse: "When he reached his maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. We thus reward the righteous." (12:22). Here, we see that the Potiphar's wife raised Joseph as a child, but when he was a mature man, she tried to seduce him. She did not seduce him when he was a child, of course. If a man raised a female orphan that was not his offspring, and then he wanted to marry her when she becomes an adult, this is permissible. He cannot marry her when she was a child! Remember the verse about Moses: "And when he reached his maturity, and became established, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. Thus We reward the virtuous." (28:14).

He said: Do you mean to tell me that maturity is reaching the age of bearing responsibilities, which include marriage as well?

I said: Certainly. Orphans cannot reach the age of marriage and managing their money before they are mature enough: "And do not come near the property of the orphan, except with the best intentions, until he reaches maturity…" (6:152) and (17:34). Orphans are to reach mature age to be able to bear responsibility for their inheritance and their deeds: "And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphaned boys in the town. Beneath it was a treasure that belonged to them. Their father was a righteous man. Your Lord wanted them to reach their maturity, and then extract their treasure-as a mercy from your Lord. I did not do it of my own accord. This is the interpretation of what you were unable to endure."" (18:82). Hence, reaching maturity includes the ability, physical and psychological, to marry. Children, female and male, cannot possible marry within such terms indicated in the Quran.

He said: Do you mean to tell me that childhood stage differs from adulthood and marriage stage?

I said: Exactly, and this is asserted in the Quran many times: "O people! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection-We created you from dust, then from a small drop, then from a clinging clot, then from a lump of flesh, partly developed and partly undeveloped. In order to clarify things for you. And We settle in the wombs whatever We will for a designated term, and then We bring you out as infants, until you reach your full strength. And some of you will pass away, and some of you will be returned to the vilest age, so that he may not know, after having known.…" (22:5). This indicates that after childhood stage, one reaches maturity as the second stage of life, then senility, as the third stage. Let us quote another verse: "It is He who created you from dust, then from a seed, then from an embryo, then He brings you out as an infant, then He lets you reach your maturity, then you become elderly-although some of you die sooner-so that you may reach a predetermined age, so that you may understand." (40:67). Hence, childhood is a stage of weakness, whereas maturity is a stage of power and ability to get married, followed by the stage of senility, weakness, and old age. "God is He Who created you weak, then after weakness gave you strength, then after strength gave you weakness and gray hair. He creates whatever He wills. He is the Omniscient, the Omnipotent." (30:54). Hence, childhood is a stage that precedes the stage of eligibility for marriage.

He said: The point is clear enough indeed. Yet, there is no verse to forbid the marriage of female and male minors.

I said: Based on the following verse: "Be tolerant, and command decency, and avoid the ignorant." (7:199), we assert that decency includes what is acceptable and deemed as justice in all matters, including marriages, divorces, etc. That is why a man in the past had to pay a dowry when about to marry his female slave: "…and give them their recompense fairly…" (4:25). As for the marriage of the widow after her waiting period, we find: "…When they have reached their term, there is no blame on you regarding what they might honorably do with themselves…" (2:234). The Quran forbids the notion of stopping the divorced women from remarriage: "When you divorce women, and they have reached their term, do not prevent them from marrying their husbands, provided they agree on fair terms…" (2:232).

He said: Are these fair terms related to forbidding the marriage of female and male minors?

I said: This means that marrying minors was not known at the times of the Quranic revelation. That is why it is not tackled in the Quranic text. The Quran is a compact and precise book: see 86:13-14.

He said: The Quran then corrects bad notions in marriage that used to be at the time of its revelation, right?

I said: Certainly; especially women whom cannot a man marry and the necessity of a man paying a dowry to the betrothed woman; see 4:22-24. There are many verses concerning the rights of the divorced women, the waiting period, the custody of children, etc. Let me cite this example. God says about mature female orphans under the custody of a man who wants to marry her after she reached the age of maturity: "They ask you for a ruling about women. Say, "God gives you a ruling about them, and so does what is stated to you in the Book about widowed women from whom you withhold what is decreed for them, yet you desire to marry them, and about helpless children: that you should treat the orphans fairly." Whatever good you do, God knows it." (4:127). Here, we find the divine command to do justice with orphans, male and female. It is a grave wrong to marry a minor female child in any case.

He said: But in 4:22-24, minor females are not mentioned at all; why cannot men marry them, then?

I said: You have overlooked something important in these verses; "…Permitted for you are those that lie outside these limits, provided you seek them in legal marriage, with gifts from your property, seeking wedlock, not prostitution…" (4:24). This means one cannot marry a prostitute who gets paid for sex. This has nothing to do with minor females. The Quranic order that forbids a male marrying an adulteress and a woman to marry an adulterer is for adults, not for children; they cannot possible commit adultery as they have not reached maturity and puberty. "The adulterer shall marry none but an adulteress or an idolatress; and the adulteress shall marry none but an adulterer or an idolater. That has been prohibited for the believers." (24:3). This sheds light on 4:24, right?

He said: Yes, but are there any special legislations for female and male children who have not attained puberty?

I said: Yes; they have to ask permission before entering the rooms of adults: "O you who believe! Permission must be requested by your servants and those of you who have not reached puberty. On three occasions: before the Dawn Prayer, and at noon when you change your clothes, and after the Evening Prayer. These are three occasions of privacy for you. At other times, it is not wrong for you or them to intermingle with one another. God thus clarifies the revelations for you. God is Knowledgeable and Wise." (24:58). After reaching puberty, asking permission continues for men and women; this rule is for protecting the innocence of children. "When the children among you reach puberty, they must ask permission, as those before them asked permission. God thus clarifies His revelations for you. God is Knowledgeable and Wise." (24:59).

He said: Do you have anything more to add?

I said: Yes, please reflect and contemplate the verses 4:3-7, and you will see that the Quran encourages the marrying of widows to care for her children there is a parallel with the widow and her children here in 4:3. As for 4:4, it tackles the dowry for women. As for 4:5, it shows clearly that we cannot give money to the immature. As for 4:7, it indicates that we are to test female and male orphans who reached maturity before giving them their money to bear its responsibility. Here we see the difference between maturity and childhood concerning marriages. Women eligible for marriage in the context of these verses are juxtaposed with children of widows who need proper care from the widows' new husbands.

He said: One last question: why Salafist clergymen issue such fatwas (edicts) that are so repugnant and against reason? Why they are obsessed with sex and women?

I said: Salafists are sex maniacs and misogynists at the same time; they curse women and desire their bodies simultaneously. Women for them are bed tools or sex toys, not human beings. Their views and fatwas reflect their abnormality and lack of morals. Their views are repeated in Arabic via the internet about sex jihad, allowing incest, breastfeeding adults, circumcision of females, as well as the myth of Prophet Muhammad marrying a female child! Clergymen of Salafism, i.e. Wahabism, in our age have reached unprecedented degree of degeneration and backwardness in comparison to the Middle Ages! It is painful to ascribe their views to Islam!

He said: How can we deal with such clergymen?

I said: Ignore them totally; for they ought to be put into a madhouse! 


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