‘I was 13 years old’ says Aishah, ‘when my father informed me that he had organised a trip to Pakistan. Little did I know at the time that this trip involved marriage to a man that I did not know into a union that I did not desire. It made me question whether it was my faith that led my father to determine my marital fate, or a backward custom born from a promise he had made to his relatives only a few weeks after I came into this world. It took me many more years and an inclination to study my religion further to realise that it was surely the latter’.
Aishah is not the only British Muslim woman to be whisked away for an untimely, ill-advised and ill-suited union for the sake of a misplaced sense of honour and an even more mis-guided understanding of the Islamic concept of marriage. Many Britons have been subject to this and although not every case is enforced upon the young Muslim and some choose to enter into the marriage willingly, the corrupt customs and out dated traditions that are totally contrary to the teachings of Islam are the reason for why Muslim girls like Aishah are not given a choice. The Prophet of Islam, the mercy for mankind - Muhammad, peace be upon Him, came to do away with such customs which equated women to commodities that may be brought, sold and inherited against their will.
In the Noble Quran, our Lord warns us thus, ‘O you who have faith! It is unlawful for you to inherit women forcibly’. (Quran 4:19)
The earliest exegete of the Quran, Abdullah Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated the following regarding this verse, ‘’When a man died, his relatives had more right to his wife then her own guardian. If any one of them wanted to marry her, he did so; or they married her (to some other person), and if they did not want to marry her, they did so. So this verse was revealed about that matter.’’ (Sunan Abu Dawud, the book of Marriage, Book 11, Hadith Number 2084)
In one of the most clearest condemnations of forced marriage from an Islamic viewpoint, a woman by the name of Khansa bint Khidam once approached the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and complained, ‘My father has married me off to his nephew, and I do not like this match’. Being a man of great foresight, the Prophet of Islam (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) advised her to ‘accept what your father has arranged’. She replied informing the Prophet that she cannot and will not approve. Upon hearing this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) compassionately (in her case) and robustly (in the case of her father) declared ‘then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomsoever you wish’. Khansa then stated ‘O Messenger of Allah, I have duly accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s mat-ters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them)’. (Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Ibn Majah, Book of marriage)
Marriage is the cornerstone of Muslim society. The Holy Quran refers to this sacred bond between man and woman in the most eloquent and moving terms as ‘mithaaqan ghaliza’, a solemn pledge or covenant. The solemnness of such a covenant will be fictional if both parties are not able to enter into it willingly. Therefore, it is imperative that we educate our-selves and our communities in order to correctly understand the Islamic perspective and the prophetic viewpoint when it comes to marital affairs. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy for the oppressed and downtrodden. He was a shining light in times of total darkness and if it is his way that some Muslims claim to follow when they enforce a marriage upon their child then they are evidently misguided. If the Holy Prophet (peace and salutations be upon him) was among us today, he would ensure that the sanc-tity of marriage remains intact always, and anyone who violated this sacred bond or brought it into disrepute would be sternly reproved for their unjust actions.
Shaykh Rizwan Hussain al-Azhari.
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