What Does Islam REALLY Say About Child Brides?
We asked Dr. Jamal Badawi for the insight regarding so-called "child-bride" and "arranged marriges" according to Islamic Law. Here is what he says...
(from Status of Woman in Islam by Dr. Jamal A. Badawi)
The Social Aspect
a) As a child and an adolescent
Despite the social acceptance of female infanticide among some Arabian tribes (in the time prior to Islam), the Qur'an forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like any other murder.
"And when the female (infant) buried alive - is questioned, for what crime she was killed." (Qur'an 81:8-9).
Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children, the Qur'an states:
When news is brought to one of them, of (the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur'an 16: 58-59).
Far from saving the girl's life so that she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam requires kind and just treatment for her. Among the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (P.) in this regard are the following:
Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise. (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).
Whosoever supports two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together).
A similar Hadeeth deals in like manner with one who supports two sisters. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 2104).
The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from that of males.
Prophet Muhammad (P.) said:
"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim". (AlBayhaqi). Muslim as used here including both males and females.
b) As a wife:
The Qur'an clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, beside perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy.
Among the most impressive verses in the Qur'an about marriage is the following.
"And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect." (Qur'an 30:2 1).
According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.
Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice . . . (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). (Ibn Hanbal No. 2469). In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)" (Ibn Maja, No. 1873).
Besides all other provisions for her protection at the time of marriage, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her Mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. The concept of Mahr in Islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection.
The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological
make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.
The Qur'an thus states:
"And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are stronger than them." (Qur'an 2:228).
Such degree is Quiwama (maintenance and protection). This refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet, man's role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband's dictatorship over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur'an gives us an example:
"...If they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them..." (Qur'an 2:233).
Over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the Qur'an and is strongly recommended by the Prophet; kind treatment and companionship.
The Qur'an states:
"...But deal with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein God has placed much good."
(Qur'an 4: l9).
Prophet Muhammad, said:
The best of you is the best to his family and I am the best among you to my family.
The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives. (Ibn Hanbal, No. 7396)
Observe, many women came to Muhammad's wives complaining against their husbands (because they beat them) - - those (husbands) are not the best of you.
As the woman's right to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is recognized. To provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce.
Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. Like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that.
More specifically, some aspects of Islamic Law concerning marriage and divorce are interesting and are worthy of separate treatment.21
When the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it.
The Qur'an states about such cases:
When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits). (Qur'an 2:231). (See also Qur'an 2:229 and 33:49).
c) As a mother:
Islam considered kindness to parents next to the worship of God.
"And we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears him in weakness upon weakness..." (Qur'an 31:14) (See also Qur'an 46:15, 29:8).
Moreover, the Qur'an has a special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers:
"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to your parents. . ." (Qur'an 17:23).
A man came to Prophet Muhammad (P) asking:
O Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company? The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man said then who else: The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man asked, Then who else? Only then did the Prophet (P) say, Your father. (Al Bukhari and Muslim).
A famous saying of The Prophet is "Paradise is at the feet of mothers." (In Al Nisa'i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad).
"It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them."
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