KARACHI – A ruling by a prestigious religious council describing laws banning underage marriage in Pakistan as un-Islamic has divided the country’s scholars and activists over the Islamic ruling and changing economic conditions surrounding the widespread practice.
“Terming the underage marriage completely invalid and illegal is not the right thing,” Maulana Wali Razi, a Karachi-based religious scholar, and a former state minister for religious affairs , told OnIslam.net.
“There are examples of underage marriages even in the Islamic history , including that of noble Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon Him) with Umm-ul-Momineen ( Mother of Muslims), Syeda Ayesha Siddiqa (RA),” he added.
Maulana Razi was commenting on the ruling of the country’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) issued on Tuesday which sparked contradicting reactions.
The CII, a constitutional body responsible for giving legal advice to the government on Islamic issues, announced that laws setting age for marriage are un-Islamic and that Muslim children can get married at any age once they attain puberty.
Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, a former senator, who is serving as the CII chairman for the second term, ruled that the laws are unfair as no age could be set for marriage, and Nikkah of even minors can be solemnized but only with the consent of their guardians.
However, the wife and the husband could only be allowed to live together once they reach puberty.
According to current laws, the minimum age for a girl to marry is 16, and for a boy is 18. However, the said laws are practically not followed, especially in rural Pakistan.
Islam highly appreciates marriage and gives it due care stating detailed rules and ruling in every single and small matter.
Islam doesn’t impose a specific age for eligibility for marriage and leaves it for the legal authorities to decide the proper age for marriage in order to maintain interests of both husbands and wives.
This, of course, changes from one country or community to anther depending on many considerable factors.
In Islam also 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.
Though Maulana Razi agreed that there is no age limit set for marriage, he asserted that underage marriages can create a host of social and economic problems not only for the couple, but for their families as well.
“Things have completely changed. Every era has its own demands and conditions,” Maulana Razi told OnIslam.net.
“Today’s children are not that mature. In my opinion, they (underage couples) are not able to cope with the tough terrain of marriage”.
“Nowadays, personal liking and disliking are very important. The children may bow to their parents at the time of wedding no matter they like each other or not, but after marriage, their life will be in deep trouble,” he maintained.
Economic issue plays an equally vital role in regard to underage marriage, Razi opines.
“It’s not the old era when necessities of life were limited, and people could survive with minimum means. It’s the era when economy prevails,” he thought.
“If the husband is a minor and totally dependent on his parents, how would he cope with his and his wife’s economic needs,” Maulana Razi asked.
“It (dependence) will create an animosity within the family”
Moreover, he said, the underage couple will more be involved in handling the domestic affairs rather than their education.
“Therefore, in my opinion, once a boy is economically and socially settled, then he should get married. No doubt as soon as possible,” he added.
“But, let me make it clear again, there is no age limit for marriage in Shari’ah,” he maintained.
Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, the chairman of moon-sighting committee, agrees.
“The guardians have the authority to marry their children on the pretext that being parents they would take all decisions for the betterment of their children,” Mufti Muneeb told OnIslam.net.
“But, if it is proved that parents have misused this right for vested interest, then the state has the authority to take action,” he clarified.
Mussarrat Jabeen, a women rights activist and a columnist, however opposes the CII ruling.
“Underage marriage means, you are snatching their childhood,” she told OnISlam.net.
“It is a proven fact that even if a child skips one year through double promotion in school, he or she misses the entire environment that he or she should have experienced during that one year,” she opined.
The women rights activist, however, agreed with Maulana Razi that the mental immaturity can cause various social issues for the underage couple.
“Marriage requires mental maturity and sanity. And if this is not there, the marriage will turn out to be a total mess,” Jabeen contended.
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