This question is not on the morality of marrying or having intercourse with what we consider today a minor, as I have no issue with that especially when framed historically and geographically, rather my issue is that of the increased maternal mortality for adolescence and children.

We are well aware that women also commonly gave birth around that age;

Ash-Shaafa‘i also said: In San‘aa’ I saw a grandmother who was twenty-one years old; she reached puberty at the age of nine and gave birth at the age of ten, and her daughter reached puberty at the age of nine and gave birth at the age of ten. As-Sunan al-Kubra by al-Bayhaqi (1/319)

However today, we know that the maternal mortality rate for adolescent and child mothers is up to 2x larger in the case of 16-19 year olds and up to 4x larger in those younger.

mortality rates of children born to mothers aged <16 years, 16–17 years and 18–19 years at first birth were about 2–4 times, 1.5–2 times and 1.2–1.5 times higher, respectively, than among firstborn children of mothers aged 23–25 https://gh.bmj.com/content/7/5/e007681

This study was also conducted in sub-saharan Africa where we know that the age of puberty for women (8-13) is similar to the middle east now and during the prophetﷺ's time. The study also considers absolute mortality decreasing over time but says that the gradient between ages has remained the same so it is not related to past or new medical advances but rather the physical capability of the mother.

As such, why was intercourse allowed in consideration of a young person's higher chance of mortality? This is not to argue the morality of the age specifically but rather the effects of child birth on those women - as Allah is all-knowing would he not have banned or suggested coitus interruptus (or any other method) till later in the wife's life?

I don't mean that statement as a jab, of course, I was just wondering what the hikmah behind child marriages and young births was considering the risk involved. I've also heard of the average life expectancy argument however as far as I know, it was quite low due to a high infant mortality rate and that once an age threshold was reached, the life expectancy would increase to up to even 50+. Do correct me if I'm wrong though Jzk

  • Allah is Al-Muhyi, Al-Mumit. Your statistics are meaningless compared to that.
    – goldPseudo
    May 4 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


It is a common misconception that Islam somehow "allows" marriage at a young age, as if it's an explicit ruling that permits something that would otherwise be forbidden.

The truth is, the default state in most affairs in Islamic jurisprudence is that it's allowed, unless there's clear evidence to forbid it. The only significant restriction that Islam imposes in this case is that sexual activity is forbidden outside of marriage, a marriage being a contract between the potential husband and wife (and/or their legal guardians) which is entered willingly after weighing any potential risks. There are rulings of course to determine what is or is not an Islamically-acceptable marriage, but a minimum age such as you are asking for is not one of them.

So your request for the hikmah behind the ruling is misplaced, since what you're actually asking for is the hikmah for not making a ruling, for not explicitly defining a minimum age for marriage. If anything, the onus should be on the one proposing the ruling to show that it is just, not the other way around.

At which point I have to ask, why would there be such a ruling? You mention statistics, an increased chance of maternal mortality based on age. But to put this into perspective, the maternal mortality rate in third world countries can be hundreds of times higher than in developed countries, should then they also be forbidden to marry? A child is far more likely to survive when raised by rich parents, so should then the poor be forbidden to reproduce?

Islamic law was never about maximizing lifespan so much as about justice, about granting and protecting the rights of mankind. Regardless of age and circumstances, childbirth will always come with some risks to both the child and the mother. Despite this, Islam has never mandated chastity, and the legal exploration of ones own sexuality could be considered a fundamental human right.

Rather than allowing the husband and the wife the right to control their own marriage, to explore their own sexuality however they're most comfortable, you're suggesting that innumerable women should be forbidden from such because there's a chance that some of them might cause harm or be harmed. Where then is the hikmah in that?

  • I suppose you are right in that sense, however I had thought part of the reason Islam was praised by scientist etc was due to things like the promotion of cleanliness which improved the lifespan, hence why I was unsure about pregnancies. Your argument also seems to go against the ruling for being allowed intercourse with a young girl only when she can handle it - why must that be forbidden for those same innumerous girls? However, alhamdullilah, I found another article contradicting what I said and I made such a key oversight that I'll have to answer my own Q, jzk for the response though.
    – Almond
    May 4 at 5:14
  • @Almond There are rulings against knowingly causing harm to others, but that's not what you're asking about here. Statistics just show potential chances of future outcomes based on aggregate data, but people are individuals, not aggregates.
    – goldPseudo
    May 4 at 5:26
  • my argument/question was indeed wrong but it was partially due to your argument and partially not. No matter how much you argue about the data alone, we are well aware that the pregnancy considering the development of a woman at that age is indeed an impediment and harm to her hence that would be knowingly perhaps increasing the mortality rate to phrase it as you are putting it. Yes people are individuals and for that reason which I'll delve into with my own self rebuttal, you are still indeed right in the aspect of not restricting child birth just for the harm principle. Shukran.
    – Almond
    May 4 at 5:30

Salaam brothers and sisters,

I am responding to my own question since it seems I was far too short sighted and emotional when posting it. A good night's sleep was enough for me to realise how it was quite easy to refute.

As I had used facts and data to back up my question, simply countering that is enough. For some reason I was hung up on the statistics for young women when I neglected that for women from the ages of 30 onwards are exponentially more likely to be affected by maternal mortality at the same rate or even a greater rate than the optimal ages of 20-24.

Blind sightedness may come from the fact that many articles and research papers continually compared adolescent and child mortality rates only with the standard group of 20-24 year olds as opposed to those more aged. When we look at the difference in ages from 9-24 it's 15 years. Now if we add 15 years in the other direction (24+15) we need to look at data for 39 year olds which is indeed about a 4 times higher maternal mortality rate than 24 year old mothers.

And as another brother/sister had answered, it does not make sense to restrict the rights of them to give birth at the ages accepted by Islam and in a sense biologically accepted. Why isn't giving birth at an older age banned then for that being an infringement on a woman's right and something that would potentially kill her? So the initial question was indeed only looking at one aspect and influenced by the western thought - which in this case the baton can be passed back to them in asking why young child birth is more evil that old child birth.

And just to sink the nail in the coffin even further, I found a newer report saying the difference in maternal mortality for adolescents is much lower than previously thought - and although it's lowest age range is 15 it still serves the purpose of understand the trend properly. So it is even safer to conclude that giving birth at an older age is more dangerous than as a young maiden.


However, in the principle of modern discussion I think it's fine with our technologies and the generally older age of consent (although it's gotten too old to the point that it's spread fitnah) that not allowing them in this day and age is still better in terms of keeping the mother medically safe and so this discussion is more on the inherent mortality and rationalities rather than trying to legalize it now.

I hope I haven't overlooked anything else 😅

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