KARACHI: The Federal Shariat Court on Monday dismissed a petition challenging the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act of 2013, saying that the law was not against the injunctions of Islam.

It observed that the legislature’s move to fix a minimum age for marriage was in accordance with injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

The two-judge bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Dr Syed Muhammad Anwer and Justice Khadim Hussain M. Shaikh, further noted that some questions raised in the petitions related to social norms while some aspects demand deliberation by elected representatives.

The petition was filed by Ali Azhar, who had contracted marriage with an underage Christian girl in 2020 after she allegedly converted to Islam. The Sindh High Court had ruled that it was not possible for the girl to enter into a legally valid marriage as her consent had no legal value because she was a minor. The court directed the police to proceed against her alleged husband for violating the law.

The law in question prohibits the marriage of any child under the age of 18 years in Sindh and lays down penalties for a male contracting party, the person who solemnises the marriage as well as the parents or guardian concerned.

While relying upon some verses of the Holy Quran and Hadith, the lawyer for Nizar Tanoli, the petitioner, contended that setting the age of 18 years as the minimum legal marriage age, for both men and women, was against the injunctions of Islam.

But Sagheer Ahmed Abbasi, an assistant advocate general for Sindh, argued that the SHC had already dismissed an identical petition last year in the case of Farooq Omar Bhoja versus the State filed against the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. The petitioner had prayed to the court to set 16 years as the minimum marriageable age for girls.

The bench, in its judgement, noted that puberty was only one factor necessary for marriage under Islamic law. Other considerations were financial well-being, health and mental maturity.

“Setting a minimum age for marriage, i.e. an act which is ‘mobah’ (permissible) and not absolutely mandatory (farz) like marriage is in accordance with the injunctions of Islam, because such fixation of minimum age limit provides a reasonable time to girls to complete basic education, which normally helps in developing mental maturity (rushd) in a person,” it added.

The order further stated that as per Islamic law, a wife was supposed to protect the rights, property and honour of her husband while a husband was also bound to do so.

It added: “In the light of principles of goals of Shariah, or Maqasid al Shariah, according to which protection of physical health as well as the mental health of a citizen is the duty of a Muslim state, firstly, under the goal of protection of life of its citizens and, secondly, under the goal of protection of intellect of its citizens. Likewise, to block the means of harm or evil that may be attached to child marriage under the concept of Islamic law called Saad al Dara”.

According to the principle, the state can take steps and set certain minimum thresholds for undertaking an act to protect that person or category of persons, it added. About a contention of the petitioner’s counsel that some aged or poor parents marry off their underage daughters for their well-being, the bench noted that this point can be considered as relevant in some exceptional situations only.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Price bombs
17 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

THERE was a time not too long ago when the faces we see sitting in government today would cry themselves hoarse over...
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
17 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

IT is no secret that visa applications to the UK and Schengen countries come at a high cost. But recent published...
After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...