By Arzu Kaya Uranli
June 18, 2014
A friend of mine, sent me a ‘A Daily Beats’ piece claims “A new law would approve marriage to girls as young as nine in a bid to appease the nation’s conservatives ahead of parliamentary elections in the Iraqi parliament in the last days before the April 30 election.” and asked what I think about it as a Muslim mother who has a beautiful daughter!
My answer is simple: Both trying to make a new law to let the girls marry as young as nine and claim that it’s Islamic are not really acceptable.
Marriage and family institute has a very important place in Islam. In the Quran 30:21, marriage is described as combination of peace, comfort, tranquility and fulfillment of a natural instinct. The text explains that an important purpose of marriage is to achieve psychological, emotional, and spiritual companionship. So to accomplish this type of companionship level, parties should be equal in a way of access to marriage and compatible in marriage. Thus, child marriages cannot be considered as Islamic because to perform the marriage according to Islamic principals both parties should reach the age of maturity and physically, emotionally, and mentally to be able to consent independently. Islam clearly insists that marrying off a girl without her consent is not acceptable.
Yet, nowadays, a faithful Muslim man should not think of getting married to an under aged girl with an excuse of ‘honoring Sunnah’ , a normative behavior of the Prophet Muhammad because early aged marriages harm the name of the religion. Without any doubt in Prophet Muhammad’s life, one of the most arguable matters is the age of his wife, Aisha when they got married. There are different views from Muslim world on this issue. Some scholars have insisted that Aisha was six years old when she was married to Prophet Muhammad and she was nine years old when she was consummated, and some has declared that Aisha (R.A.) was older. Whatever, Aisha’s age was, it would be a big mistake to universalize a particular action of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) without analyzing the circumstances of his era.
Yet again, these men purposely misapprehended the Sunnah of marriage. Prophet Muhammad did marry nine times, and except Aisha (R.A.), all of his wives were previously married and they were quite old. His first wife, Khadijah (R.A.) was 15 years older than him: He was 25, she was 40 when they got married. Their marriage lasted for over 25 years, by the time she passed away. Also, their marriage was monogamous, even thought the regularity of polygamy at that time. This marriage should also be considered as a standard of Sunnah marriage because this marriage was the longest for the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.).
Before holding any religion responsible for any social issue we should remember the importance of culture. The minimum age decreed in marriage laws in the USA are dependent on cultural background in some way, and they change remarkably from state to state. For instance, in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, individuals can get married with parental consent at the young ages of thirteen and twelve respectively. Thus, if a person could get married as young as at the age of twelve in one of the most developed countries in the 21st century, then it is unfair to criticize Islam as a suspect! Early marriages occur not because Islam allows them to, but they occur mostly because women are powerless to stop them and men allow the marriages to take place. In many communities, the fathers, village chiefs, and religious leaders, who have the privilege to make these decisions, are males.
Maybe marriages at an early age are meant to protect girls' lives, yet instead they ruin their lives. 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.
Empowering girls through education is a must to stop child marriages. Helping girls become aware of their rights by including gender equality in school curricula is crucial yet not only do girls need to be educated, but also men of the societies have to be educated to change their mindset. Governments, NGO’s, local authorities, teachers, school directors, doctors, nurses and religious leaders have to work together to make it happen. In the local level, mutual efforts should be performed with some prominent members of community. Child marriages are a form of modern day slavery, and they have to end.