Habib 'Ali al-Jifri on the Need for a Minimum Marriage Age for Women

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is from the Egyptian show, Bi al-Ikhtiswar, on the al-Mihwar channel, 25th March, 2014.  The host, Dr. Mu’taz, interviewed Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri and asked him regarding a fatwa that was issued by a scholar in which he rejected the idea that there be a minimum legal age for marriage.

Habib ‘Ali replied, “First, I want to state that someone invested with the authority to create law in a land, and that may be the ruler or a legislature or legislative assembly or of the like, is given the right by shari’ah to make laws that permit and prohibit something which the shari’ah has not made obligatory nor prohibitory as long as it is verified that doing so will serve the best interests of the citizenry.

For example, shari’ah does not state that it is forbidden to disregard traffic lights.  In fact, the shari’ah considers the act of travelling as merely mubah.  However, a head of state has the right to issue a law that makes it an offence to disregard the instructions of traffic lights because there is a benefit in doing that.  Likewise, there may be some people who think that it is mubah for a female to be married off at a young age even if it the law of the land stipulates a minimum age.  Why do they accept the head of state passing a law which forbids disregard of traffic lights but reject him passing a law on a minimum marriageable age?

We have crises on our hands with what is happening to our young daughters.  Young girls are being enslaved.  Young girls are being sold as though they are objects.  In Yemen, a man who was over 80 years old married a girl who was 8 years old.  She died on the first night.  Examples like these are replete.

This is why I have called upon all Muslim countries to make laws which determine a minimum marriageable age for females.  This is no longer a secondary issue.  In the shari’ah we have a principle known as ‘blocking of the means to harm’, sadd adz-dzara’i, which has been used by certain jurists and scholars to prohibit an exaggerated number of things.  This principle was used to prohibit women from driving and used to prohibit many other things - except the marriage of young girls.  Do they not see that this is a harm that must be blocked as well?  People in states of extreme poverty are selling their daughters to relieve their conditions but what we hear from some representatives of the religious discourse is that the reasons for their poverty must be addressed and rectified first!  Yes, it must, but the issue of young girls being married off is a reality occurring before our very eyes and it must be treated.”


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