Question: What is the minimum marriageable age of a girl? In some Sharia governed countries, they legislate new legal regulations to reduce the marriage age limit to 9 years old. Is it allowed to marry with a little girl in 9 years old ?
Infant or child marriages are not permissible according to the Qur’an. It is not enough to reach the age of puberty but the age of maturity (mental development – rushd) for marriage. Marriageable age varies from person to person, because maturity may vary regionally and by era. However, a child who is 9 years old would not be at the age of maturity.
Let us see in the verses what kind of capabilities a marriageable person must have according to the Quran:
1. THE ABILITY TO MANAGE WEALTH
Though it may seem irrelevant while reading the first verse, we will learn about an important qualification of a marriageable person after reading the verses below:
In verse 152 of Surah al-An’am, Allah commands the guardians to manage the orphans’ wealth in the best way, until they attain maturity:
وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا مَالَ الْيَتِيمِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ حَتَّى يَبْلُغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَأَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَالْمِيزَانَ بِالْقِسْطِ لَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا وَإِذَا قُلْتُمْ فَاعْدِلُوا وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَى وَبِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ أَوْفُوا ذَلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“And do not approach the orphan’s property except in a way that is best (intending improvement) until he attains maturity (mental development). Measure and weigh precisely in justice. We do not impose upon anybody a duty beyond their capability. And when you speak be just, even if (it concerns) a near kin. And the covenant of God, you must fulfill. This is what He has charged you with so that you use your knowledge.” (Al-An’am/The Cattle 6:152)
That means a guardian is responsible for managing an orphan’s wealth until he/she attains maturity.
In the 6th verse of Surah An-Nisa, the Glorified Allah commands:
وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَى حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ فَإِنْ آَنَسْتُمْ مِنْهُمْ رُشْدًا فَادْفَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوهَا إِسْرَافًا وَبِدَارًا أَنْ يَكْبَرُوا وَمَنْ كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ وَمَنْ كَانَ فَقِيرًا فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيبًا
“Test the orphans until they reach marriageable age. Then, if you perceive maturity (rushd رُشد) in them, release their property to them. Do not consume their property excessively and quickly (thinking) that they will grow up and take it back. And (the guardian) who is rich should behave honestly (by not spending their wealth), and who is poor should spend only as much as is fair. Then when you release their property to them, bring witnesses upon them. Allah is sufficient to call to account.” (An-Nisa/ The Women 4:6)
This verse commands the guardians to test the orphans until they reach the marriageable age and release their property to them when the guardians observe maturity (sound judgment/rushd) in the orphans. That means an orphan who has attained maturity should be able to manage his/her own wealth, and we can only then say that he/she is at a marriageable age.
Here are other verses about the orphans and the marriageable women:
وَآَتُوا الْيَتَامَى أَمْوَالَهُمْ وَلَا تَتَبَدَّلُوا الْخَبِيثَ بِالطَّيِّبِ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلَى أَمْوَالِكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حُوبًا كَبِيرًا .
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانْكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلَّا تَعُولُوا
“And give orphans their properties, and do not substitute the bad for the good. Do not consume their properties by combining them with yours, for that would be a serious sin.
If you fear that you might not treat the orphans (under your guardianship) justly, then marry the women you like: two, or three, or four. If you fear that you will not be able to treat them justly, then marry (only) one, or marry from among those (captives) under your control. This will make it more likely that you will avoid injustice.” (An-Nisa/ The Women 4:2-3)
Verse 2 commands the guardians to release their property to the orphans. The 3rd verse shows that the orphans that are subject to marriage are those very orphans who received their properties. According to verses 6:152 and 4:6 explained above, these orphans must be mature enough to be able to manage their own wealth.
THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE MEHR UPON MARRIAGE
According to the Quran, a legal right of a woman that automatically arises upon marriage is the right to receive “mehr”, which may be some property or money received directly by the wife. The husband must give “mehr” in the way and amount it is settled between the spouses during the act of wedding:
وَآَتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً فَإِنْ طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ مِنْهُ نَفْسًا فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئًا مَرِيئًا
“And give the women (on marriage) their mehr (properties/gifts) generously.” (An-Nisa/The Women 4:4)
So, the girl who will marry must receive the properties from her husband herself and must have the ability to manage them which will be a part of her wealth. That means, the girl to marry must have gained maturity (rushd), which is the condition of managing wealth according to verse 4:6 mentioned above.
CONCLUSION ABOUT MATURITY (RUSHD)
Evaluating the verses of Surah an-Nisa, and al-An’am together, we conclude that the orphans who are at the marriageable age must be able to receive and manage their properties on their own. That is, they must have matured; i.e. mentally developed. So, having attained maturity is compulsory for marriage besides having reached puberty.
The maturity period starts after puberty, but its time may vary from person to person. For example; person “A” may have reached the age of puberty, at the same time as the “age of maturity” but person “B” may have not reached the “age of maturity” although a few years had passed after puberty. The parents or the guardian will decide whether the person is at a marriageable age or not. Therefore our religion declares that it is not allowed to marry without the permission of a guardian and also declares null and void these kinds of marriages.
2. THE CONDITION OF BEING CHASTE
It is compulsory according to the Quran that the spouses-to-be are chaste. The words “muhsan (مُحْصَن)” and “muhsanat (مُحْصَنَات) are used to refer to chaste men and women:
“As for those who cannot afford to marry chaste believing women, they can marry the believing captives under your control. God knows your faith best. You are all from one another. Marry them (the captive women) upon the approval of their families and give their fees (the legal share of bride – mehr) in compliance with the norms if they are chaste -avoiding fornication and staying away from secret affairs. If you show patience it is better for you. God is forgiving and gracious.” (An-Nisa/The Women 4:25)
In this verse, the word “al-muhsanat = chaste women” is mentioned to refer to chaste free women, and the man who can not afford to marry a free chaste woman is encouraged to marry a captive chaste woman who does not commit fornication or have secret affairs. As we all know, chastity, fornication or secret affairs are concepts that are far from children.
3. THE ABILITY TO TAKE PART IN A BINDING CONTRACT
Marriage is a “solemn covenant” that women take from men. Women receive “mehr” upon marriage, and that is also written in the marriage contract. So, it is a binding contract according to the Quran:
“How can you take it (the Mehr you had given her) back when you have had intercourse with each other, and they (the women) have taken a solemn covenant from you?” (An-Nisa/The Women 4:21)
The wife takes a solemn covenant from the husband when they get married. That means, the wife herself is able to take part in a binding contract, which would be impossible for an immature girl.
Consequently, child marriages are beyond the realms of possibility when all the information in the Quran is utilized and analyzed.
For a very frequently asked question about the marriage of Aisha (r.a.) please read the following: