Child and forced marriages are forbidden in Islam because intellectual and physical maturity are required for a woman’s consent to be valid, which is considered vital for a legitimate marriage. There are various instances where the Prophet protected a woman’s right to choose her own spouse and even nullified an agreement if she was forced against her will. For example, once a woman came to the Prophet and said that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Prophet gave her the choice of accepting the marriage or invalidating it (Ibn Abbas). This exemplifies that women should never forcibly enter a marriage, and that they have the ultimate and final decision in terms of who they marry.
“And test the orphans [in your charge] until they reach a marriageable age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind/sound in judgment, hand over to them their possessions…” (Quran, 4:6)
“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 Prophet’s Sayings
“A matron should not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a virgin should not be given in marriage until her permission is sought, and her silence is her permission.” (Prophet Muhammad, Narrated by Abu Hurairah, Jami` at-Tirmidhi Volume 2, Book 6, Hadith 1107)
Proponents of child and forced marriages cite that the Prophet married Aisha when she was 9 years old, but scholars question the authenticity of this claim. In fact, a majority of scholars assert that Aisha could not have been younger than the age of 20 because she was married 12 years after Islam was revealed, and could not have been a child when she accepted Islam. Citing the Qur’an, scholars also argue that since marriage should only occur consensually between physically mature people, child marriage is rendered impermissible.
Unfortunately, countries such as Niger and Mali poorly enforce laws against child and forced marriages. As such, parents forcefully marry daughters to older men to settle disputes and seek economic security. Contrary to the prevalent belief that early marriages provide financial stability, studies have shown that married girls remain poor due to lack of education and early-onset illnesses associated with pre-teen and teen pregnancies. In addition to exacerbating poverty, child and forced marriages often result in dysfunctional and abusive tendencies.
The Qur’an’s assertion that a marriage is only valid if both parties have consented should be upheld. Therefore, no woman, under Islam, should be forced into a marriage. Women who marry should be consenting, as well as mature in age and nature, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Women and girls have the right to actualize their minds through education, which should not be cut short due to marriage.
Past approaches to empowering Muslim women typically employ a distinctly Western framework for understanding the problem, relying exclusively on measurements of economic status, educational level, health care or political participation. WISE approaches change from a holistic perspective that addresses the many interrelated factors that contribute to gender-based inequality and disempowerment.
Francois-Cerrah, Myriam. “The truth about Muhammad and Aisha.” The Guardian. 17 Sept. 2012. Web.