CAIRO – A court ruling that allowed Muslim girls to marry at the age of 15 is sparking a heated debate across India, with some Muslims view the verdict as running against Islamic teachings.
"We welcome the verdict," Kamal Faruki of the All Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), told CNN-IBN.
The Delhi High Court has earlier upheld the marriage of a 15-year-old Muslim girl despite parental opposition.
The court said that a Muslim girl can marry a person of her choice at the age of 15 if she has attained puberty.
“This is a correct interpretation of Muslim personal law,” AR Qureishi of AIMPLB said.
“However, since social realities have changed, most Muslim girls marry at a much later age.”
Marriage in Islam is of utmost importance as it is upon the lawful union of a man and a woman that society grows strong and that moral is preserved.
In Islam it is not permissible for the guardian to compel the one under his guardianship to marry someone she does not desire to marry.
Rather, it is necessary to seek her consent and permission.
Law of Land
But many Muslims and activists warn that the ruling runs counter to the basic Islamic teachings.
"Hadith says Muslim girls need consent of their parents. That's a precondition. If that's not there then the married is invalid," says Maulana Wahiduddin.
Activists say that the law of land should be respected in terms of the marriage age.
"At 17 you complete school, at 18 you get voting rights,” said 26-year-old Islamic Studies student Sadia Khan.
“In case of marriage, irrespective of the religion, the law of the land should prevail. A minor is a minor at 15.”
Some activists argue that the verdict would allow wealthy people to “purchase” young girls for marriage.
“In India, we face child marriage all over the country,” human rights and women’s advocate Sunitra Chendrapati told Bikyamasr.com in Delhi.
“And this ruling will only heighten the fears that young women, especially Muslim girls, could be ‘purchased’ by wealthy people without the girls’ choice, even though the court says it is the girls choice.”
Thousands of girls are married off in India before the age of 18 every year.
Activists have long blamed the government for not doing enough to crackdown on the growing underage marriages across the country.
“We are struggling between societal pressures and those of the government,” said Chendrapati.“This ruling will only make the gulf wider and more difficult to bridge now.”