Western cultural extremism has no bounds. They have been cultural supremacists by practice since the start of colonialism. However demonization of Islam started since crusades. This trend continues to this day. Child marriage is such an issue which gullible people have fallen victim to by Western media propaganda. Child here means anyone below the civil law age of marriage where as in Islam the age is a differentiating factor for sexual intercourse only and not actual contract of marriage. So for example if a child bride is unable to have sexual intercourse then marriage contract will stipulate such condition of intercourse avoidance till mature.
West generalizes it to be a practice of barbarian culture forgetting that any law can be abused and that even in America child marriage is still legal and rampant. Marriage in itself is something good and beneficial specially Islamic marriage which is based on high standards and values. Islam recognizes child marriage as marriage as long as it undergoes the proper legal injunctions and protocols. Islam has ordained every necessary law to deal with marriage in every level of its existence which primarily being pre-marital, marriage and post-marital.
Marriage in Islam is a divinely ordained social contract which opens an opportunity to harmonious and peaceful existence as a family. Islamic marriage does not necessarily translate to only sex.
“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.”[Quran 30:21]
A child may have sexual urges and desires specially in this day and age. To not help her achieve her sexual desire through lawful means would be a human right violation. In west child pregnancy is rampant. This shows children in west are too eager to have either or both companionship of opposite sex and sexual activities with their boyfriends and in the later case numerous girls become pregnant given that about 25% of young adults report “thinking a lot about sex” as 11–12 year olds (both boys and girls) (Larsson & Svedin, 2002). Based on reports of fourth- and fifth grade (ages 9–11 years) American boys and girls, 16% reported self-relevant sexual thoughts (Butler, Miller, Holtgrave, Forehand, & Long, 2006). In a sample of Spanish boys and girls, about 6% of 9–10 year old boys reported sexual fantasies, increasing to 66% among 13–14 year olds. Among girls, 15% of 13–14 year olds reported fantasies, with none reported by 9–10 and 11–12 year olds (Arnal & Llario, 2006). Among 511 American 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, 56% reported at least one current crush, with larger proportions of girls (61%) than boys (48%) (Bowker et al., 2012).
Child marriage in specific and marriage in general have both positive and negative aspects. Some scenarios are discussed below:
A marriage for a financially burdened girl from a financially burdened family with a righteous and well-established man who will assist the girl and her family. If the girl was studying he will assist her in doing so or if the girl was sick he will assist her in getting a cure. In the process love will flourish. Now if the girl was a child maybe she will not understand what marriage is and will come to accept her husband as a new friend of the family creating gradual attachments. If the child is not accepting the guardian of the girl and the husband will agree for a set time when the girl can come to the husband’s home once she achieves comprehension
Same scenario except the girl’s emotions are not respected, the girl’s rightful ambitions are destroyed and her sentiments are suppressed and the will of the husband enforced. This can happen to both a child and an adult girl. This has more to do with the culture of that girl rather than Islamic marriage itself. These negative aspects DO NOT FULLFILL the purpose of Quran 30:21.
It is often the case that the guardian of the girl is sympathetic to the girl’s well being and have her interests in mind. The uprightness and justness of the guardian is a consideration for the Islamic judiciary because the Islamic government ultimately is responsible for the well being of it’s subjects including the well being of a marriage. Islam has thus advised the guardian to consider carefully the well being of the girl:
The Prophet (SAWA) said, 'When someone comes to you with a proposal and you are well-pleased with his faith and his integrity then accept him in marriage, for if you do not, discord and corruption will prevail in the land.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 103, p. 372, no. 3]
Imam al-Hasan (AS) said to man who came to ask his advice about getting his daughter married, 'Marry her to a pious man, for if he loves her he will honour her, and if he comes to dislike her, at least he will not be unjust towards her.’[Makarim al-Akhlaq, v. 1, p. 446, no. 1534]
Hence marriage whether child or adult will be initiated after consideration first, of the match, whether the adult husband is suitable and just, whether he is of noble upbringing and whether he will guarantee the care and safety of the wife to be. This process should be followed for both adult and child and people often follow this process of thought when it comes to marrying their daughter or even son.
In Islam husband is the Qawwam (leader of the family) and it must be remembered that Islamically, a leader is one who serves, manages, provides and nourishes. So an Islamic husband must fulfil his duty towards her wife of being a leader. Such a leader is rewarded by God even for the smallest acts of love:
The Prophet (SAWA) said, 'If a man quenches his wife's thirst he is rewarded for it.’[Kanz al-`Ummal, no. 44435]
The Prophet (SAWA) said, 'Verily the man who lifts a morsel of food to his wife's mouth is well rewarded.’[al-Mahajjat al-Baydha, v. 3, p. 70]
In case a marriage is not working whether a girl or an adult woman Islam has laid down steps before divorce or annulment of marriage takes place. The first step in chaos is reconciliation. “And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things]”. [Quran 4:35]
Now west criticizes child marriage on the following grounds:
Harms the health of the child due to early pregnancy
Islam is a complete code to build not only the life but an entire civilization. Quran has clearly spelt it out that any deliberate self harm is prohibited:
And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. [Quran 2:195]In Islam all Divine commands are addressed to sane adult Muslim and hence this command is for the guardian of the child to obey. As I said before if a guardian does not consider the well being of his daughter then it is the problem of the guardian and not marriage. If he is not marrying her daughter he will perhaps use her body in unlawful way. So it is up to the guardian and also Islamic judiciary to assess the such exploitative marriages and early pregnancy issues before matrimonial contract and also after matrimonial contract through legally sanctioned abortion to prevent bodily harm of the girl.
Also, Islam has provided an age for sexual intercourse between husband and wife:
Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (PBUH) has stated: “If a man marries a young girl he should not enter her until the age of 9” [Wasail Al-Shia Vol 20 p 101]
Illiteracy and Poverty
Child marriage do not cause illiteracy and poverty in itself. It is how the guardian chooses to act for his daughter. A girl may stop studying due to sudden death of her father or due to any other socio-cultural constructs. In fact Islam has encouraged knowledge and pursuit of knowledge in countless number of verses in Quran and Hadith:
The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim… by virtue of it the Lord is obeyed and worshipped, consanguinal relations are maintained, and the lawful is distinguished from the prohibited. Knowledge leads to action and action follows it. The fortunate ones are inspired by it whereas the wretched ones are deprived of it.’[Amali al-Tusi, p. 488, no. 1069]
The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim. Indeed how Allah loves those who strive in their quest for knowledge.’[al-Kafi, v. 1, p. 30, no. 1]
Knowledge is a fundamental human right of a Muslim and no one can violate this God given right and it is the duty of the Islamic Judiciary to implement this right efficiently with ability.
Domestic violence is not confined to only child marriage but any adult marriage.
Children marrying do not hamper economy rather it improves it by extending distribution of economic income across families.
In conclusion marriage in Islam is well defined with rights of girls and women protected. A socio-cultural barbarism in no way defines the negativity of Islamic marriage but enforces the fact that Islam is needed more than ever to these barbaric societies from east to west. We humans are miserable, does not mean God’s laws are miserable.