May 5, 2014 By O Abdulla

‘Sanctions need not be enforced’

Amidst the controversy over the age for marriage, I was forced to remember a young wife of an old man who asked him and his elder brother to fetch her a young groom. When I was living in Gulf, the security guard of our office-a frail, old man-used to ask me to translate the Urdu letter of his Hyderabadi would-be, into Arabic. Once, with the hope that he would be an energetic young man, she requested him to send her a photograph! Those unfortunate girls, who are toiling under the cruel practice of child marriage, are many in number. In Malappuram, Kerala, pregnant girls can be seen walking to maternity hospitals, often encountering on the way members of their peerage with school bag and lunch box! When I was in a college, I asked a friend of mine, who had just married a ten year old girl, how he was enticing his girl. ‘I go to my wife house with a pack of toffees,’ he said.
It is true that Islam has not fixed a particular age for marriage. Age for marriage differs according to the changing ethos and mores of societies and nations. The standard is not uniform all across the world. God has given us discretion to fix the age according to the changes in societies and cultures. So the Quran has not fixed a particular age. While admonishing about the handing over of the control and ownership of property to orphans, the Quran goes beyond mentioning that it should be done at the age of marriage. The text emphasizes maturity (rushd).

There are many palpable benefits for the community out of the present standard age, which is fixed as 18. Many Muslim colleges are full of girls at least in Kerala, their number overtaking that of boys in most of these institutions. It is in the context of this healthy state of affairs all across the state, that some Muslim groups applied sudden break to stop it midway and take the cab backwards. Not only do they argue that the standard of age fixed as 18 contravenes the freedom of religion sanctioned by the Constitution of India, but they say that it violates the safeguards in the personal law. They have all set for approaching the Supreme Court with the demand. Initially all Muslim organizations jumped on the bandwagon. But some of them backtracked when opposition surged. They cite Prophet’s marriage with Ayesha as evidence to support their claim. But they don’t consider the social and political context in which Prophet married Ayesha reportedly at the age of nine, about which there is no consensus among scholars. They say that there is particular situation for bringing the age down to 16, without explaining what that situation was. Were the parents of girls killed in war, rendering them as orphans at the mercy of a husband?

There are, of course, sanctions aplenty in the religion. But all sanctions need not be enforced. The Quran says that game-hunting is permissible after a pilgrim relieves himself/herself from the ihram of hajj. But that does not mean that all pilgrims must go to mecca with shotguns and bullet cartridges. If at all some pilgrims go with the arms and customs officers block them, can it be interpreted as meddling in the affairs of the shareeat?

To defer marriage of girls till the minimum age when they reach maturity is not the violation of the Islamic law, while in the very early years of Islam, the much-recognized proclamations of the text were set aside for the common good and welfare of the society.

Posted in: Debate