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News from my home town reports of an Islamic child marriage:

A 34-year-old Melbourne man has cried in court while pleading guilty to illegally marrying a 14-year-old bride in an Islamic wedding last year.

The wedding was illegal and the marriage would not be recognized as valid in Australian law; see Getting married. However, this marriage likely meets the requirements of being a legitimate Islamic wedding (after all, it was performed by an imam, although he has since been "sacked"). Hence:

Question: Is a wedding which is illegal in the host country still Islamically valid?

If so, it would lead to a tangled web. However, a requirement for a Islamically valid marriage might be that it is legal under the host country's laws.

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  • This is difficult in practice even if there might be a legal rule.
    – Medi1Saif
    Apr 18, 2017 at 11:16
  • 1
    Relevant: "The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years." aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/age-consent-laws Apr 18, 2017 at 12:08
  • @MohammadSakibArifin How is that relevant?
    – G. Bach
    Apr 18, 2017 at 13:06
  • i think that this is being discussed in usul al fiqh and would be categorized as sadd al-dharai (i.e making a halal cinsidered forbidden),
    – Kilise
    Apr 18, 2017 at 15:42
  • 2
    Why do you put quotes around "child", as if it's somehow outlandish to call a 14 year old a child?
    – Alexander
    Apr 19, 2017 at 2:49

2 Answers 2

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The marriage should be religiously valid. This is because the religious validity of an act depends on Allah's law and not the laws made by people. This is similar to how, for example, a divorce effected by a non-Muslim court is not religiously valid (islamqa,2).

According to Islam, age is not a factor in the validity of a marriage - with certain exceptions such as the marriage of orphans or marriage that is done without the permission of their guardians. Even then what makes one a minor or adult is puberty and not necessarily a numerical age. A 14 years old girl could be considered an adult in Islam if she has reached puberty.

Marriage of minors is permissible and valid, with some conditions. Among the evidence of which is the Quranic verse:

واللائي يئسن من المحيض من نسائكم إن ارتبتم فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر واللائي لم يحضن

And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women - if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated.

Quran 65:4

As this verse talks about iddah of a girl who does not menstruate, and this includes one who does not menstruate because of being too young. Iddah is only applicable after marriage, so it implies that marriage of such a girl is permissible.

وأنكحوا الأيامى منكم

And marry the unmarried among you

Quran 24:32

As this verse is addressed to guardians and tells them to marry off those who are unmarried among their dependents. Both minors and adults are included in the literal meaning of أيامى (unmarried ones).

وأحل لكم ما وراء ذلكم

And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these

Quran 4:24

As this verse permits marriage to all women except the mahrams mentioned beforehand in its context. Since minors are not mentioned in the list of mahrams it can be deduced that marriage to them is permitted.

From the Sunnah we also have evidence for this, such as the marriage of Aisha to the Prophet ﷺ. And there are also examples of such marriages among the sahaba such as the marriage of Umar ibn al-Khatab to Umm Kulthum or the marriage of Qudama bin Maz'un to the daughter of Zubayr .

Further its permissibility is largely agreed upon:

وأجمعوا أن نكاح الأب ابنه الصغير جائز

There is consensus that it is valid for a father to marry off his minor daughter

Al-Ijma' - Ibn Mundhir

Regarding how this mess may be sorted out:

  • The husband may divorce the girl if he wishes.
  • The couple may emigrate back to their native lands if the marriage is acceptable there.
  • The couple might wait for the bride to reach the required age before resuming their relationship
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Assuming that all requirements (pillars and conditions) of an Islamic marriage were fulfilled, the marriage in question is Islamically valid. Neither a specific age of either bride or groom, nor consideration for public interest (regional legality in this case) are requirements of an Islamic marriage. Therefore Australian law may render the marriage legally void, but not Islamically void.

The corners or pillars (أركان) of marriage in Islam are:

  1. Qualification: Both parties should be qualified for marriage, with no prohibitions (e.g., no prohibition based on religion, relationship, etc.).
  2. Offer and proposal: The wali offers the bride in marriage to the groom.
  3. Acceptance: The groom accepts the marriage proposal.

All three pillars must be in place. The lack of any of these pillars renders the marriage invalid Islamically, and another marriage contract is required for the marriage to continue.

The four conditions of an Islamic marriage are:

  1. Both the bride and groom must be specified publicly.
  2. Both the bride and groom must be pleased with one another.
  3. A qualified wali conducts the marriage on behalf of the bride.
  4. The marriage contract must be public and witnessed by two qualified Muslim men.

If any condition is not fulfilled, this does not automatically invalidate the marriage contract. It is required at this stage to consult a scholar on how to rectify the situation, and to check if another marriage contract is required. For example, the lack of two witnesses may be offset by a publicly announced marriage (according to Malik, Al-Zuhri, and Ibn Taymiyyah).

Consideration of public interest or benefit, known as Maslahah Mursalah (المصلحة المرسلة), refers to worldly matters that are neither mandated (المصالح المعتبرة شرعا) nor forbidden (المصالح الملغاة شرعا) by the religion, and its practice brings benefit. It is permitted to follow considerations of public interest, but such considerations do not void what is Islamically valid. An example of Maslahah Mursalah is the registration of a marriage in court in some countries; since there is nothing in Islam that forbids doing so, it should be done for an Islamic marriage.

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