Age of Marriage Under Islamic Law
marriage of immature girls in islam
islamic law (shari’ah) allows for a marriage contract (nikah) to be drafted years before the marriage itself is actually enacted. in other words, the marriage contract is drawn up, but the contract is not executed until a later date. so even though the marriage contract can be drafted, the girl will not be “handed over” to the husband until many years afterwards. in other words, a father can marry his immature daughter off to a man before she comes of age, but the husband may not consummate the marriage until after she attains maturity.
under islamic law, there are certain shuroot an-nifaadh (conditions required for the execution of the contract): for consummation of marriage, one of these conditions is that both parties are mature enough for marriage. if this condition is not met, then the marriage contract remains mauqoof (suspended) and has no actual practical effect, i.e. the consummation of marriage is delayed until the girl becomes mature enough for that. in the example of prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) and aisha (peace be upon her), the marriage contract was signed when she was immature, but only took effect until after she attained maturity. this is why aisha (peace be upon her) remained in her father’s house for three years after the marriage contract was drafted.
shaykh salih al-munajjid said:
the fact that it is permissible to marry a young girl does not mean that it is permissible to have intercourse with her; rather that should not be done until she is able for it. for this reason, the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah) delayed the consummation of his marriage to ‘aa’ishah…al-dawoodi said: ‘aa’ishah (may allaah be pleased with her) had reached physical maturity (at the time when her marriage was consummated). [sharh muslim, 9/206]
islamic legal terminology is what confuses many non-muslims; they hear that abu bakr (peace be upon him) married his daughter aisha (peace be upon her) to prophet
muhammad (peace be upon him) when she was only six or seven years old; at that time, she was an immature girl. however, the marriage was not consummated until years afterwards. therefore, the reality is that the prophet (peace be upon him) was just betrothed to aisha (peace be upon her) when she was an immature girl, but the marriage was only consummated once she became a mature adult.
under islamic law, there is a concept called khiyar al-buloogh, which means “the option of puberty”. it means that while an immature daughter’s marriage can be arranged by an elder, she has the right to annul the marriage at the age of puberty if she is not compatible with her husband. ustadh ayman bin khaled stated:
[according to] tuhfat al-muhtaj and al–umm…the father has the right to have his daughter—who is pre-pubertal—married without her permission. however, in case this man is incompatible [with her], then she has the right to annul this marriage. [the] hanafi madhab, for example, says she has the choice [to annul the marriage] when she reaches puberty [khiyar al-buloogh].
(ustadh ayman bin khaled, admin of multaqa ahl al-hadeeth)
annulment via khiyar al-buloogh is limited to the age of puberty. however, khula is always an option available to a female of any age, and this is a right given to women in the quran itself. the scholars differ on whether or not khula is a separation [i.e.
revocation of a marriage as if it never happened] or a divorce. maulana muhammad yousaf taibi wrote:
the scholars have also differed on the matter whether khula is a divorce or cancellation of nikah (marriage). but the fact is, whatever name you give it, its commands will remain the same.