This evening (Wednesday 9th October 2013), ITV will air a programme entitled Exposure: Forced to Marry. In light of some of the details that have been made public, we would like to clarify marriage in Islam and some of the topics raised, such as forced marriages.
Are Forced Marriages Allowed in Islam?
Normative Islamic tradition, law and practice strictly forbid and prohibit any form of forced marriage. The evidence in the Islamic tradition abounds. For instance, the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) specifically stated that “No previously-married woman should be married off without being consulted.” [i] In another Prophetic tradition the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) said “and no virgin should be married off without asking her permission.” [ii] The acceptance or rejection of a proposal must be established in such a way that there is no ambiguity in her decision and to eliminate any possibility of being forced into a marriage.
There is a famous prophetic tradition where a divorced lady called Khansa bint Khizaam al-Ansaariyyah was married off without her permission. She went to the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) and he annulled the marriage. [iii] This also applies to previously unmarried women. A previously unmarried girl once went to the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) and told him that her father married her off despite her objections. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) gave her the choice to annul the marriage. [iv] In light of the above, iERA strongly condemns anyone who claims to represent Islam and carries out an Islamic marriage without the consent of any of the parties involved. This consent must be a valid one, meaning no coercion – whether physical or psychological – must have been used. A marriage based on coercion is invalid and immoral.
iERA has been working extremely hard with the Muslim and non-Muslim community to demystify Islam by engaging on a grass roots and intellectual level. iERA will continue to positively influence Muslim leaders and imams to evoke the true understanding of Islam and will continue to warmly and compassionately convey the true message of Islam to all peoples regardless of race, creed or colour.
Is Underage Marriage Permitted in Islam?
In Islamic law, a marriage contract is known as Nikah. Islamic law doesn’t stipulate an age for marriage, however, it does provide a range of principles that must be applied to assess if an individual case is valid for marital sexual intercourse. Contrast this with the absurd situation where a sexual consensual relationship would be valid in one secular country but invalid in another. For example, a consensual sexual relationship via marriage in the State of New York can be established at the age of 14 (with parental permission) [vii] however in India marriage is valid at 21 for males and 18 for females. [vi] Islam transcends this type of legal relativism (or some may argue moral relativism) due to the use of principles and not arbitrary figures. These principles include:
- Physical and biological fitness and readiness
- No psychological or physical harm will result
- Social acceptance
- Spiritual and mental fitness and readiness
- The capacity and ability to agree to a marriage
These principles are derived from a range of Islamic source texts, namely the Qur’an and prophetic traditions. Once applied, these principles, especially in a 21st century context, would produce a range of ages at which people are ready for marital sexual intercourse. If the above principles are met, then sexual intercourse via the Islamic marriage contract is permissible.
In Islam, it is not permissible for men and women to have relationships with the opposite sex outside marriage. The Islamic marriage contract or Nikah makes certain activities permissible for Muslim couples such as holding hands or going to a restaurant without a chaperone; it does not necessitate sexual contact.
In other words, there may be cases where a young couple have signed the Nikah contract but do not break the law in their country of residence by having sexual intercourse.
The Qur’an, the book of God revealed for humanity’s guidance, clearly explains that one of the objectives of marriage in Islam is to facilitate love and mercy:
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” [vii]
In view of the above, it is important to assert that iERA does not condone the breaking of the law of anyone’s country of residence and citizenship. iERA have been engaged with the Muslim and non-Muslim community for years in explaining the true teachings of Islam and motivating the Muslim community to positively engage with the wider society.
iERA’s work involves clarifying and demystifying Islam as a religion of almost a quarter of the world’s population to a non-Muslim audience. We hope this programme does not become a disservice to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is high time barriers of misunderstanding and ignorance are broken.
The Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) is an international organisation committed to educating and informing humanity about, and inviting to, the truth and noble message of Islam.
For further enquiries please contact us.
Footnotes:[i] Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4843; Muslim, 1419. [ii] Narrated by Muslim, 1419. [iii] Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4845 [iv] Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2096; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani. [v] http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/4210/ [vi] “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006” http://wcd.nic.in/cma2006.pdf [vii] Qur’an 30:21