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Child Marriage in Islam

When you read criticisms of Islam, one argument that commonly springs up is the issue of child marriage. Critics accuse that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (P.B.U.H)* had a preference for minors.
I do not subscribe to such beliefs, and I think this is an exaggeration. However, I also cannot deny (in the light of evidence) that Islam allows marriage with minors. Here is the verse from the Holy Qur’an:
Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same): for those who carry (life within their wombs), their period is until they deliver their burdens: and for those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy. Sura 65:4

In simple terms, girls who haven’t started menstruating cannot only be married, but also divorced and remarried. But the issue is further escalated when you read another verse:
O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of 'Iddat have ye to count in respect of them: so give them a present. And set them free in a handsome manner. Sura 33:49

This means that if a person divorces a bride with whom he did not perform intercourse, there is no ‘Iddat’, i.e. waiting period. But in the earlier verse (65:4), we read that the girls who have not yet menstruated (meaning they have not reached puberty) do have a waiting period after divorce.
The conclusion: The Qur’an allows men to consummate marriages with minors.

This is what their Holy Book is telling us. Not the Hadith or a commentary, but the Qur’an itself. Consider the implications in an Islamic country like Pakistan. An underage marriage (and subsequent intercourse) destroys female health. There are more or less 5000 cases of obstetric fistula. This is a preventable medical condition where urinary or faecal incontinence is caused by prolonged labor. The baby's head puts pressure on the lining of the birth canal and eventually rips through the wall of the rectum and bladder.

The government of Pakistan has outlawed child marriages, but the practice still goes on and has the approval of the clergy. Even religious scholars that deny the allowance of child marriage do not engage in discussions on 65:4.    

See what the late Maududi, a leading Islamic scholar, had to say on this issue:
Here, one should bear in mind the fact that according to the explanations given in the Qur'an the question of the waiting period arises in respect of the women with whom marriage may have been consummated, for there is no waiting-period in case divorce is pronounced before the consummation of marriage. (Al-Ahzab: 49). Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for the girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl in marriage at this age but it is also permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur'an has held as permissible.
Here are some usual Muslim responses:

  • The Qur’an is not talking about minors who haven’t started menstruating, but girls who have amenorrhea (a disorder where a women doesn’t have periods even in her reproductive age). However, this explanation betrays the logical flow of the verse. The verse starts with women who have passed the age of menstruation, which makes perfect sense to interpret the second group as girls who haven’t yet reached the age of menstruation.
  • The Bible doesn’t prohibit child marriage. Agreed, but it also doesn’t command it! If I see rising cases of obstetric fistula, I as a Christian can prohibit child marriage. You as a Muslim cannot.
  • When Mary wed Joseph, she was 12 and he was 90. This is just a myth with no historical evidence. Even if this was true, this will prove the Qur’an wrong which doesn’t talk about the marriage of Mary.  

Dr. Zakir Naik and several Muslim apologists challenge the world to find something in their religion that goes against reason, logic, and humanity. Here is one example. Please give us an answer.
God Bless You.

*I always use respectful titles for religious figures, even those whom I don’t believe in. This is to prove that I am not promoting hatred against a religion, but only engaging in meaningful discussion.

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