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Articles Section > Determining Marriageable Age - An Opinion by Ashraf Ali
Marriageable Age - An Opinion:
Islamic law does not specify any particular age for marriage, but the Quran does speak of an age of marriage which it identifies with the age of majority: And test the orphans until they reach the age of majority: Then if you find in them maturity of intellect, make over to them their property, and consume it not hastily, against their growing up (4:6).
Some commentators have equated the age of majority and maturity of intellect with puberty. Puberty, however, can occur as early as 10 years of age in females and as late as fifteen. Let us therefore look more closely at what constitutes the age of majority and maturity of intellect in the context of the Quranic verse.
The verse refers the responsibility of a guardian to hand over an orphans property, when that orphan acquires the requisite capability for management. In this context, one would hardly expect a child under the age of 16 to have such capability. Indeed in our own circumstances it may be suggested that girls are more likely to achieve this capability around the age of eighteen.
The argument for maintaining the minimum age of twelve often revolves around the marriage of Hazrat Aishah [Read an article which shows that Hazrat Aishah was 19 years old, and not a minor, when she married the Holy Prophet Muhammad.]. It should be noted, however, that this marriage was contracted in Mecca before directions were given concerning orphans in chapter 4, verse 6 of the Quran (already referred to). This later prescription therefore supersedes previous practice as guidance in this matter.
There are other considerations as well to take into account in arriving at a marriageable age. The Quran views marriage as a covenant between husband and wife (4:21) and this implies a level of maturity in both individuals which allow for understanding the terms of this covenant. Mutual consent of husband and wife is a requirement for a Muslim marriage. Both parties must be able to understand and appreciate each others rights and responsibilities. The marriage sermon, which forms part of the marriage ceremony, is meant to ensure that each party knows its position in the union with respect to the rights and responsibilities. The role of a wife begins immediately with the signing of the marriage contract - there is no training period. The wife, as well as the husband, must already be capable of meeting the responsibilities of marriage, including the role of parenthood, as soon as that event occurs.
The role of the wife and mother is becoming more challenging and complicated given the rate at which our societies are evolving. The wife has always been mother, friend and educator to her children, but the changing demands of her role as friend and educator places great emphasis on her own preparation. It is therefore in our interest as a community that we recognise these changes and prepare our future mothers for these challenges. Girls who start marriage at the age of puberty will not only be deprived of their individual development, but will also put their future family unit in jeopardy in this rapidly changing world.