Monday, 9 April 2012

Culture or Islam? Muslim Child Forced to Marry at 5 While Living in UK

The Mail Online featured an article recently about a Muslim woman in her 40s who was forced into marriage at the age of 5 in the UK.  She spoke out after revelations that Britain's Forced Marriage Unit had handled the case of another five-year-old girl in 2011.

As I was browsing over the recent comments posted there, one particular comment caught my eye. It was posted by "Amna" from Bristol, and with 112 "likes", it's fair to say that her comment was popular. She states:

For the record, forced marriage isn't a part of Islam, it is the asian culture that dictates it. I'm a non asian muslim and I have never personally met anyone who has had a forced marriage and I'm 100% sure that it's not even allowed in our religion.

How accurate is this statement? Is the "moderate" Muslim Amna correct, thereby it is really a cultural hangover from those "nasty Asians". Or is Amna a lying apologist who is helping to perpetuate the existence of an abhorrent and accepted part of orthodox mainstream Islam by deflecting criticism away from it?

Unfortunately, it's the latter. It may be at some level a cultural thing, but it's existence is justified and perpetuated by Islamic teachings that explicitly condone the practice.

In Islam, a bride's father or father's father may "compel their charge to marry... without her consent." In fact, Muslim scholars are "unanimously agreed that a father may marry off his young daughter without consulting her".Furthermore, "there is no age limit to be intimate with one's wife even if she is a minor (did not attain puberty)". It goes without saying that this is all based on the Qur'an and Muhammad's Sunnah.

"Marriage to a young girl before she reaches puberty is permissible according to sharee’ah, and it was narrated that there was scholarly consensus on this point. The scholars are unanimously agreed that a father may marry off his young daughter without consulting her. The Messenger of Allaah married ‘Aa’ishah bint Abi Bakr when she was young, six or seven years old, when her father married her to him." - Is it acceptable to marry a girl who has not yet startedher menses? - Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 12708
"According to the Shari'ah, if a girl is a minor (did not attain puberty), she may be given in marriage by her father. When she attains puberty, she has the right to maintain the marriage or discontinue the marriage. There is no age limit to be intimate with one's wife even if she is a minor." - I would like to marry a woman who is 12 years old, her father and she has also agreed. What is your advise? - Islamic Q & A Online with Mufti Ebrahim Desai, Ask-Imam, Question No. 6737
"m3.13 Guardians are of two types, those who may compel their female charges to marry someone, and those who may not. 1. The only guardians who may compel their charge to marry are a virgin bride's father or father's father, compel meaning to marry her to a suitable match (def: m4) without her consent. 2. Those who may not compel her are not entitled to marry her to someone unless she accepts and gives her permission. Whenever the bride is a virgin, the father or father's father may marry her to someone without her permission, though it is recommended to ask her permission if she has reached puberty. A virgin's silence is considered as permission." - Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law - Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller

The first fatwa is from Shaykh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, an extremely well-respected Saudi Islamic scholar, lecturer, and author. Where is the South Asian "cultural influence" to his ruling? Additionally, it is not simply "his" ruling. As he makes very clear, Islamic scholars are unanimously agreed on the subject.

This point is further reiterated by the third quote. Within mainstream Sunni Islam (up to 90% of all Muslims follow this form of Islam) there are four mainstream schools of thought which are accepted by one another. The third quote is from a book of Shafi'i Fiqh, Shafi'i being one of those four aforementioned schools.

What was it Amna was saying about  "Asian culture" and Islam?