JEDDAH – Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mane’, a member of the Board of Senior Ulema and an Advisor to the Royal Court, has said that Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) marriage to Ayesha when she was nine years old cannot be used as justification for child marriage today due to the “different circumstances” of the time.
According to Sheikh Al-Mane’, when Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) was contemplating marrying off his daughter he was unable to find anyone better than the Prophet (pbuh).
“It is impossible to use the marriage of Ayesha, the Mother of Believers (May Allah be pleased with her) as a measure for child marriage because of the incompatibility of the conditions and circumstances,” Sheikh Al-Mane’ said.
Child marriage is an issue that has come to the fore in recent months following reports in the local media of aged men marrying young girls, the most recent being the marriage of a 12-year-old to a man in his eighties in Buraidah.
A court in Qassim is scheduled to look into the case on Monday, while the Human
Rights Commission has also set up a Shariah specialist team to investigate and meet with the marriage official who conducted the marriage rites.
The Human Rights Commission is also waiting for the Board of Senior Ulema to set the age of minors after having contacted the board concerning the issue over two years ago.
Sheikh Al-Mane’ also urged scholars and preachers to take responsibility in making parents aware of the social and mental damage caused by the marriage of minors. “It is a grave error to burden a child with responsibilities beyond her years,” the Sheikh said. “Marriage should be put off until the wife is of a mentally and physically mature age and can care for both herself and her family,” he said.
“We need a law banning and preventing the marriage of under-18s,” said Mufleh Al-Qahtani, Chairman of the National Society for Human Rights, which has taken part in drawing up a law to protect children and is pushing for its legal approval.
“The law rules that anyone under 18 is to be treated on the same legal terms as would a fetus during pregnancy, making any legal procedures unbinding for them,” Al-Qahtani said. “To be added to this are the rules mentioned in the Islamic Shariah for the protection of children from all types of abuse and negligence, and a draft law that is with the Shoura Council concerning child issues.”
Sheikh Al-Mane’ voice is now added to those of other senior figures. Saudi Gazette reported last Friday comments by Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, also an Advisor at the Royal Court, who made similar appeals for a law setting the legal age of marriage at 18.
Sheikh Al-Obaikan said that the marriage of girls under 18 should be made illegal, with exceptions granted only by judges or on royal approval, and appealed to parents to “fear Allah and not marry their daughters by force to persons they don’t want to.”
“It is for judges to annul marriages if it transpires that a girl has been forced into marriage,” Al-Obaikan added.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets the age of maturity at 18. – Okaz/SG