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Definition(s)

Child marriage: An Adult Man getting Married to a Prepubescent Girl.


Question

Does this saying of Allah:

And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. [ S.I Qur’an 4.6 ]

prohibit a child from getting married?


Research Effort

Mahalli&Suyuti commented upon 4:6

that is, until they have become eligible for it through puberty or [legal] age, which, according to Al-Shafi, is the completion of fifteen years
[ Tafsir Jalalyn ]

Ibn Kathir commented on 4:6

(the age of marriage), the age of puberty, according to Mujahid.
[ Tafsir Ibn Kathir l ]

So this verse and these commentaries caused me to think there exists an age of marriage, before which it is not halal to marry, and this age is either Puberty or the Legal Age.

But those same commentators have affirmed Child marriage, and intercourse with premenstrual wives by prescribing an iddah for such wives:

Mahalli&Suyuti said about 65:4

those who have not yet menstruated, because of their young age, their period shall [also] be three months
[ Tafsir Jalalyn ]

And it is known the Prophet married a child of six years:

Narrated Aisha: that the Prophet (ﷺ) married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years
[ Bukhari ]

Al-Wahidi records a Hadith which says that 65:4 was a response to the question of a premenstrual girl’s iddah.

Abu Ishaq al-Muqri informed us > Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun > Makki ibn Abdan> Abu’l-Azhar> Asbat ibn Muhammad> Mutarrif> Abu Uthman Amr ibn Salim who said:
When the waiting period for divorced and widowed women was mentioned in Surah Baqarah, Ubayy ibn Kab said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, some women of Medina are saying: there are other women who have not been mentioned!’ He asked him: ‘And who are they?’ He said: ’Those who are too young, those who are too old and those who are pregnant’. And so this verse was revealed”
[ Asbab ul nuzul ]

I don’t know how to make sense of this. Any help is appreciated. Jazakallah

2
  • How would 4:6 prohibit anything about marriage when it is a verse about when orphans should be given money?
    – The Z
    Dec 2 '21 at 3:29
  • @TheZ i thought cuz it mention marrigable age
    – Hisham
    Dec 2 '21 at 9:29
1

This is a matter on which there is at least some difference of opinion.

The view of the vast majority of the jurists is that the marriage of a child can be arranged by his/her father provided that some conditions are met. Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Nawawi etc. have even cited that there is virtually a consensus on the matter.

However according to one report, Ibn Shubrumah is said to have held the view that it was not permitted based on verse 4:6, and it is said that he explained the marriage of Aisha as something that was specifically permitted for the Prophet ﷺ and not for the Ummah. Uthman al-Batti and Abu Bakr Al-Asamm (a Muʽtazilite) are also reported to have adopted similar stances. Refer to Fath al-Bari , and Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu.

The explanation of the majority to the verse is already covered in @TheZ's answer. "Age of marriage" does not mean an age at which marriage becomes permissible, rather it means the age at which marriage is customarily done. Marriage is usually done at puberty, but that does not mean that it is forbidden before puberty. This explanation reconciles the verse with 65:4, and with the marriage of the Prophet ﷺ with Aisha, and with the reports that the sahaba sometimes married off their children before puberty.

It should also be noted that verse 4:6 is talking about orphans. While the stance of the majority is regarding the marriage of non-orphans when it is arranged by their biological father. Indeed a majority of the jurists do not permit a guardian to arrange the marriage of an orphan before puberty: فجمهور أهل العلم على أن اليتيمة لا يجوز تزويجها قبل أن تبلغ وتستأذن (islamweb).

1
  • Thx. Is the hadith i quoted from wahidi’s asbab ul nuzool authentic?
    – Hisham
    Dec 2 '21 at 11:43
1

The verse 4:6 is about the inheritance of orphans and when they should be given their wealth.

Allah says:

And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them. [...] (4:6)

The phrase here "إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ" translates to "until they reach marriage" but the meaning is "until they reach puberty."

Tabari comments:

As for his statement "إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ," it means: until they reach puberty.

[And he quotes narrations from Mujahid, Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Zaid saying this]

The question arises: Why does Allah use the word "marriage" to refer to puberty? Does that mean marriage can only be after puberty?

Not exactly. The question of whether marriage can only be after puberty is already asked in other places of the site. See: Does Islam support pedophilia or child marriages? and How can a child marriage be anything but forced?

So, why does Allah use marriage to mean puberty if it is not the minimum age?

Two reasons may be given.

  1. In simple terms, because that was something common. When a boy or girl reached puberty, the Arabs would start looking for marriage for them. So, reaching marriage simply means reaching the age you look for marriage or the age marriage is common. (I found Ibn Ashur mentioning this explanation of the phrase.)

  2. Nikah also means intercourse. A person reaching puberty is what makes him able to do that. Hence, Nikah is used to refer to puberty. (I found Razi mentioning this explanation of the phrase.)

Those are some linguistic reasons why the phrase "until they reach marriage" is used by Allah to mean "until they reach puberty."

You will notice that none of them say that it is forbidden to marry before puberty. That is because the verse has nothing to do with prohibitions about marriage specifically.

​I have heard the argument made my modern apologists that this verse proves marriage is only after some minimum age or after puberty. I have not come across scholars using this verse to claim that before. Perhaps because of my ignorance.

Marriage in Islam is allowed whenever a person is unharmed by it, because harm is forbidden.

And Allah knows best.

4
  • U said none of them say its forbidden to marry before puberty, but mahalli&suyuti wrote they become eligible for “it” (marriage?) through puberty or [legal] age
    – Hisham
    Dec 2 '21 at 9:32
  • Can u tell me if the hadith in asbab nuzool is authentic thx
    – Hisham
    Dec 2 '21 at 9:32
  • @Hisham That's probably a mistranslation or misinterpretation of what Suyuti says. What he means is probably the reason 1 I gave; that this is the age where marriage is common.
    – The Z
    Dec 2 '21 at 9:38
  • ok thanks for the answer. Can u tell me if the chain of the asbab ul nuzool hadith is sahih or if a more authentic version exists.
    – Hisham
    Dec 3 '21 at 15:41

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