Bill introduced in parliament that would allow a girl to be married as young as 10 years old


This is no surprise. Islamic tradition records that Muhammad consummated his marriage with (i.e., raped) Aisha when she was nine, and the resultant fact that child marriage is accepted in wide swaths of the Islamic world. Child marriage has abundant attestation in Islamic tradition and law.

Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs (Diyanet) said in January 2018 that under Islamic law, girls as young as nine can marry.

“Islam has no age barrier in marriage and Muslims have no apology for those who refuse to accept this” — Ishaq Akintola, professor of Islamic Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Nigeria

“There is no minimum marriage age for either men or women in Islamic law. The law in many countries permits girls to marry only from the age of 18. This is arbitrary legislation, not Islamic law.” — Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-‘Ubeidi, Iraqi expert on Islamic law

There is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.” — Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council

“Islam does not forbid marriage of young children.” — Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology

Hadiths that Muslims consider authentic record that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage:

“The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)” (Bukhari 7.62.88).

Another tradition has Aisha herself recount the scene:

The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Bukhari 5.58.234).

Muhammad was at this time fifty-four years old.

Marrying young girls was not all that unusual for its time, but because in Islam Muhammad is the supreme example of conduct (cf. Qur’an 33:21), he is considered exemplary in this unto today. And so in April 2011, the Bangladesh Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini declared that those trying to pass a law banning child marriage in that country were putting Muhammad in a bad light: “Banning child marriage will cause challenging the marriage of the holy prophet of Islam, [putting] the moral character of the prophet into controversy and challenge.” He added a threat: “Islam permits child marriage and it will not be tolerated if any ruler will ever try to touch this issue in the name of giving more rights to women.” The Mufti said that 200,000 jihadists were ready to sacrifice their lives for any law restricting child marriage.

Likewise the influential website Islamonline.com in December 2010 justified child marriage by invoking not only Muhammad’s example, but the Qur’an as well:

The Noble Qur’an has also mentioned the waiting period [i.e. for a divorced wife to remarry] for the wife who has not yet menstruated, saying: “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” [Qur’an 65:4]. Since this is not negated later, we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl. The Qur’an is not like the books of jurisprudence which mention what the implications of things are, even if they are prohibited. It is true that the prophet entered into a marriage contract with A’isha when she was six years old, however he did not have sex with her until she was nine years old, according to al-Bukhari.

Other countries make Muhammad’s example the basis of their laws regarding the legal marriageable age for girls. Article 1041 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that girls can be engaged before the age of nine, and married at nine: “Marriage before puberty (nine full lunar years for girls) is prohibited. Marriage contracted before reaching puberty with the permission of the guardian is valid provided that the interests of the ward are duly observed.”

According to Amir Taheri in The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (pp. 90-91), Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini himself married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl “a divine blessing,” and advised the faithful to give their own daughters away accordingly: “Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house.” When he took power in Iran, he lowered the legal marriageable age of girls to nine, in accord with Muhammad’s example.

“‘A race against time’: the new law putting Somalia’s children at risk of marriage,” by Moulid Hujale, Guardian, September 3, 2020 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):

Fardowsa Salat Mohamed was 15 when her cousin asked her parents for her hand in marriage. Her father did not hesitate to say yes. When Mohamed objected, her father asked her to choose between “a curse and a blessing”.

“That was not a choice for me, I was basically forced,” she says. “No girl would ever choose to be cursed by her parents so I had to accept the marriage,”

Mohamed, who is from the town of Baidoa in south-central Somalia, was at school, dreaming of becoming a doctor. She had to drop everything and become a wife. Three years later, Mohamed was divorced with two children. She is now back living at her parents’ house.

According to the latest government figures, 34% of Somali girls are married before they reach 18, and 16% of them before their 15th birthday.

While children are married off for different reasons, such as the economic benefit of a dowry, and an increase in child marriage cases has been reported during the coronavirus pandemic, early marriage is rooted in Somali culture. An old Somali saying goes: “Gabadh ama god hakaaga jirto ama gunti rag,” which loosely translates as “a girl should either be married or in a grave”.

Marriage under 18 is not illegal, although Somalia’s constitution prohibits it and the country is signed up to several international treaties promising to tackle it. In July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020. But in August, the Somali parliament tabled a controversial bill that would allow a child to be married once they reached puberty, which can mean 10 years old. The sexual intercourse related crimes bill would also allow marriage if parents consented. The UN has called the bill “deeply flawed”.

The new bill has been fiercely criticised after MPs realised that it was different from a sexual offences bill unanimously adopted in 2018 by ministers but not enacted, which sought to prevent child marriage, and effectively criminalise a wide range of sexual offences.

Last year, the speaker of the house returned the draft bill, which has been in development since 2013, to the cabinet requesting changes. It remained dormant until two weeks ago when a new version was introduced under a new name: the sexual intercourse related crimes bill….

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