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 ?
Infants or young children can not be married 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 clearly not be in the age of maturity. Let us see in the verses what kind of capabilities a mature person must have:
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 in them maturity (rushd = رُشد), 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)
And other verses about the orphans are:
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)
The 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.
The 6th verse at the beginning 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.
The verse 6:152 also commands the guardians to manage the orphans’ wealth in the best way, until they are given to them:
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)
Keeping this in mind, let us proceed to a verse about the legal share of bride in marriage. According to the Quran, a legal right of woman that automatically arises upon marriage is the right of receiving “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 that will marry must receive the properties from her husband and must have the abilitiy 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 a wealth according to verse 4:6 mentioned above.
Evaluating the 2nd and 6th verses of chapter An-Nisa together with the verse above concludes 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 the puberty.
Maturity period starts after puberty, but its time may vary from person to person. For example; the person “A” may have reached the age of puberty, at the same time as “age of maturity” but the 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 guardian and also declares null and void these kinds of marriages.
Another issue to bear in mind is:
It is compulsory according to the Quran that the spouses-to-be are chaste. The words muhsan = “مُحْصَن” and muhsana = “مُحْصَنَات” are used to refer to chaste men and women. In verse 25 of Surah an-Nisa, the word “al-muhsanat = chaste women” is mentioned to refer to chaste free women, and the men who can not afford to marry a free chaste women is encouraged to marry a captive chaste woman who has not committed fornication or had secret affairs. As we all know, chastity, fornication or secret affairs are notions that are far from children.
Consequently, children 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 Hz. Aisha (r.a.) please read the following: