The Age of Marriage, is there a Contradiction?
By Sami Zaatari
Missionary Sam Shamoun has asserted (http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/marriage_age.html) that the Quran contradicts itself on the age of marriage writing:
The Quran, in at least one passage, presupposes that there is an age which a girl must attain before she can be considered marriageable:
And try orphans (as regards their intelligence) until they reach the age of marriage; if then you find sound judgement in them, release their property to them, but consume it not wastefully, and hastily fearing that they should grow up, and whoever amongst guardians is rich, he should take no wages, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable (according to his work). And when you release their property to them, take witness in their presence; and Allah is All Sufficient in taking account. S. 4:6 Hilali-Khan
Shamoun is correct; the verse is referring to a suitable age of marriage, which is basically when the girl reaches puberty. However so Shamoun claims there is a contradiction:
And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death]. And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is until they deliver (their burdens), and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him. S. 65:4 Hilali-Khan
Those who haven't menstruated yet are girls who haven't attained maidenhood or puberty. The Quran says that there is no waiting period (iddah) for those women whose marriages have not been consummated:
O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of 'Iddat have ye to count in respect of them: so give them a present. And set them free in a handsome manner. S. 33:49 Hilali-Khan
What this means is that Q. 65:4 is referring to young prepubertal girls (girls who haven't attained sexual maturation) who got married and were divorced sometime after the consummation of their marriages!
So as you can see Shamoun now claims there is a contradiction, however so is there a contradiction? Or is that Shamoun once again demonstrates his lack of knowledge on Islam and Islamic Fiqh?
Let us first summarize his arguments to make things easier for people to understand:
1- The Quran claims the age of marriage with a girl is when she reaches puberty
2- The Quran also says we can marry girls before they begin their puberty
Now that may seem as a contradiction, but in fact it is not. To begin with the context of Surah 4:3 which gives the age of marriage the context is clear, it is referring to someone who is planning to get married, and having a wife to live with her to till death does them part (unless they get a divorce for marriage problems). However so even with that said, a man in Islam may still get married to a girl even before she reaches puberty, HOWEVER SO the man is not allowed to have sex with her, and she doesn't go and live with him, rather she waits till she reaches puberty and then the marriage becomes final. The best example of this is the prophet Muhammad, he married Aisha when she was 6 when she had yet reached puberty, however so when she was 9 she had reached puberty and the marriage was complete:
Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 58, Number 236:
Narrated Hisham's father:
Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old.
So therefore it is pretty simple and easy to understand, you can marry a girl before she reaches puberty, but the marriage is not complete, it becomes complete when she does reach puberty. So you see Sam, do you see your ignorance of Islamic Fiqh and Islam as a whole? In fact here is what one sheikh writes concerning this matter:
Marriage to a young girl before she reaches puberty is permissible according to sharee'ah, and it was narrated that there was scholarly consensus on this point.
1 - Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ?Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubt (about their periods), is three months; and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their ?Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise"
In this verse we see that Allaah states that for those who do not menstruate - because they are young and have not yet reached the age of puberty - the ?iddah in the case of divorce is three months. This clearly indicates that it is permissible for a young girl who has not started her periods to marry.
Al-Tabari (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The interpretation of the verse "And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ?Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubt (about their periods), is three months; and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their ?Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise". He said: The same applies to the ?idaah for girls who do not menstruate because they are too young, if their husbands divorce them after consummating the marriage with them.
Tafseer al-Tabari, 14/142
2 - It was narrated from ?Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) married her when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage with her when she was nine, and she stayed with him for nine years.
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4840; Muslim, 1422.
Ibn ?Abd al-Barr said:
The scholars are unanimously agreed that a father may marry off his young daughter without consulting her. The Messenger of Allaah married ?Aa'ishah bint Abi Bakr when she was young, six or seven years old, when her father married her to him.
The fact that it is permissible to marry a minor girl does not imply that it is permissible to have intercourse with her, rather the husband should not have intercourse with her until she becomes able for that. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) delayed consummating the marriage to ?Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her).
And Allaah knows best. (http://islamqa.com/index.php?ref=12708&ln=eng)
So as you can see marrying a girl before she reaches puberty is not a complete marriage, it becomes complete when she does eventually reach puberty and then she can live with you and you can make love like any other married couple does. In fact what makes this more interesting is that when the girl does eventually reach puberty she can decide as to whether she wants to complete the marriage or not.
With that said we have refuted Shamoun's claim of a Quranic contradiction.
And Allah Knows Best!