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According to Tafsir Al-Jalalayn of verse 4.6:

Try test well the orphans before reaching maturity with regard the duties of religion and before they can legally manage their own affairs until they reach the age of marrying that is until they have become eligible for it through puberty or legal age which according to al-Shāfi‘ī is the completion of fifteen years; then if you perceive in them maturity that is right judgement in matters of religion and their property deliver their property to them; consume it not O guardians wastefully without due merit and in haste that is hastening to expend it fearing lest they should grow up and become mature at which time you will be obliged to hand it over to them.

If any man who is a guardian is rich let him be abstinent that is let him abstain from the orphan’s property and refrain from consuming it; if he is poor let him consume of it honourably that is in line with the wage for his work. And when you deliver to them the orphans their property take witnesses over them that they have received it and that you are absolved of the obligation so that if any dispute occurs you are able to refer to a clear proof this is a command intended for guidance. God suffices as a reckoner as a guardian of His creatures’ deeds and as a reckoner of these deeds the bā’ in bi’Llāhi is extra.

I Googled to find if it is the official position of Shafi fiqh but didn't find any authoritative reference. Is it the official opinion of Shafi madhab?

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    My answer here has relevant references. – G. Bach Feb 15 '17 at 2:02
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Summary: The tafsir is consistent with the technical age of puberty, but Shafi'i sources describe prepubescent marriage of a girl as legal when agreed to by her father of paternal grandfather.


The place to look is The Reliance of the Traveller, The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law 'Umdat al-Salik, by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller). One Shafi'i fatwa says: It stands, without equal or competitor, as the primary Sunni manual of Islam in English.

The aforementioned tafsir says:

... become eligible for it through puberty or legal age which according to al-Shāfi‘ī is the completion of fifteen years

This is consistent with The Reliance's definition of puberty:

k13.8 Puberty applies to a person after the first wet dream, or upon becoming fifteen (O: lunar) years old, or when a girl has her first menstrual period or pregnancy.

Here, "O:" indicates an "excerpt from the commentary of Sheikh 'Umar Barakat".

However, I didn't find this definition of "puberty" as a precondition for marriage. In fact, The Reliance discusses the legalities of prepubescent marriage:

m3.9 Whenever a free woman asks to marry a suitor who is a suitable match (def: m4) (O: by telling her guardian, "Marry me to him"), the guardian must marry her to him (O: whether she is a virgin or nonvirgin, and whether prepubescent or not).

m3.13 ... 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.

m8.2 A guardian may not marry his prepubescent daughter to someone for less than the amount typically received as marriage payment by similar brides, nor marry his prepubescent son to a female who is given more than the amount typically received. If he does either of these, the amount stipulated is void and the amount typically received is paid instead (O: in both these cases, as a necessary condition for the validity of the marriage contract).

(The conditions of m4 are not relevant to the question.)

This is likewise reflected in Islam Q&A fatawa 22442 and 146882 which reference al-Shaafa’i.

Mahdi Zahraa (1996), The Legal Capacity of Women in Islamic Law, 11 Arab Law Quarterly (JStor) likewise describes the situation (p.259) as:

Compulsory guardianship (wilayat al-ijbar) is designed to enable young males and females to conclude a marriage contract at an earlier age than maturity. The guardian, who is exclusively supposed to be the natural father or grandfather, can conclude a marriage contract on behalf of his son or daughter if he/she is under the age of maturity, and the concluded marriage contract is sound and valid.

  • Its probably also relevant that the verse is about orphans, i.e. those who do not have a natural guardian like father or grandfather. Marrying off orphans before puberty is not allowed. – UmH Mar 17 '18 at 17:13

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