Setting minimum age for marriage not against Islam: Federal Shariat Court

Published October 29, 2021
A file view of the Federal Shariat Court building in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan
A file view of the Federal Shariat Court building in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Fede­ral Shariat Court (FSC) held on Thursday that setting the minimum age limit at 16 years for a girl’s marriage under the Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) 1929 would help girls get at least a basic education.

The observation came while the FSC dismissed a petition and categorically declared that setting any minimum age limit for girls’ marriage by an Islamic state was not against Islam.

A three-judge FSC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Noor Meskan­zai, had taken up the petition moved by Farooq Omar Bhoja challenging Sections 4, 5, 6 of the CMRA.

“After examining the petition, we are of the considerate view that the petition is misconceived, hence, it is dismissed in limine,” ruled the judgement authored by Justice Dr Syed Mohammad Anwer.

In the 10-page verdict, the FSC held that the sections in which the minimum age limit was prescribed by the act for both girls and boys for marriage was not un-Islamic.

The section 4 of the CMRA prescribes punishment for marrying a child to a simple imprisonment which may extend to six months and a fine of Rs50,000. Whereas Section 5 and 6 explain the punishment for solemnising nikkah of a child and permitting or promoting child marriage.

The judgement explains that the importance of education is self-explanatory and the need for education is equally important for everybody irrespective of gender. That is why Islam has made the acquisition of education mandatory for every Muslim as mentioned in a Hadith stating “Acquisition of knowledge is mandatory upon every Muslim”, the verdict says.

“The use of such language by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) accentuates the farziat of education in a Muslim society and for every Muslim in all and any circumstances. Hence education is one of the fundamental factors for personality development of every and any human person,” the verdict explains.

For a healthy marriage, it says, not only physical health and economic stability etc are necessary factors but mental health and intellectual development are also equally important, which are achievable through education.

Education is fundamental for women empowerment as it is the key for development of an individual and consequently for the future generation of any nation, it says. One of the purposes of marriage in Islam is protection and promotion of genealogy and generation of a person, the verdict observes, adding that this concept comes under the topic of Hifz-un-Nasal, which is one of the goals of Shariat according to the concept of Maqasid-us-Shariah as narrated by Ibrahim Bin Musa Bin Mohammad Shatbi.

At a personal level, the judgment explains, for a girl or for anybody irrespective of gender, the factor of getting education comes under the concept of Hifz-ul-Aql i.e. protection and promotion of intellect, also one of the basic goals of Shariat.

According to the teaching of Islam, giving best education to a girl child or a daughter is one of the best deeds a person can do and it guarantees Jannat.

Due to its importance, Imam Bukhari created an entire chapter of his famous Hadith book, Jamia Al-Bukhari Sharif, on the importance of education of girls almost in the beginning of his book, the judgment says.

There are many Islamic countries where such type of law exists wherein minimum age for marriage for male and female is fixed, like in Jordan, Malaysia, Egypt and Tunisia, etc, the verdict points out.

However, in those countries according to their laws if in a specific or special case there is an unavoidable circumstance or situation to solemnise a marriage before the age as set by the law then the family of that girl and boy must approach a specific authority appointed by the government to allow or disallowing such permission, it says.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2021

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