In Part 1 of ‘Marriage under Sharia’, I explained the types of marriages which Sharia (Islamic law) permits: Nikah (‘permanent’ marriage), Nikah Mut’ah (temporary marriage) and Nikah Misyar (traveler’s marriage). I also explained the Mahr – the ‘marriage present’ or ‘bride price’ which is paid by the groom at the time of the marriage.
Here, I would like to look at who is and is not eligible to enter into a marriage contract well as the rules of divorce under Sharia.
3. Islamic Divorce (Koran, Chapter 65)
In Islam, divorce is not considered sinful, as it is in some forms of Christianity. To the contrary, it is perfectly acceptable and there are very specific rules under Sharia which regulate it: both the husband and the wife (through her guardian) can request a divorce.
In practice, it is much easier for the husband to obtain divorce than it is for the wife, as in some schools of Sharia, women are sometimes not allowed to address the court (and thus request divorce) without her husband accompanying her there. Other times, women may be allowed to go to court, but a a male relative intervene on their behalf or the divorce will not be granted against the husband’s wishes (this may be difficult, as in many cases, the husband is in full control of whom the wife may or may not contact – including her relatives). There are even cases where young married women are told they are too young to request a divorce: to come back when they ‘reach maturity’!
The wife must observe a ‘waiting period’ (iddah) of three menstrual cycles following the divorce, to see if pregnancy resulted from the marriage. (The ‘waiting period’ for a widow is 3 lunar months and 10 days.)
Special Case 1: Pregnancy
If the marriage resulted in pregnancy, the husband must support the wife for the duration of the pregnancy. Once the child is born, it is the father’s choice to either take custody of the infant right away, or to continue to support the mother (ex wife) while she nurses the child. Once the child is weaned (or a specific time period set by the father is up), the child will be handed over to the father and his obligations toward the mother will end. (This will also end any claim – legal (guardianship) or moral – that the mother has towards the child, including visitation rights.)
Special Case 2: Infertile wives
There is a special provision in Koran for divorce from women who are not fertile, because they are either too old or too young to have their ‘monthly courses’. Their ‘waiting period’ cannot be ‘three monthly courses’ – because they do not have them. Therefore, their ‘waiting period) is set at 3 months.
Special Case 3: Unconsummated Marriage
If the marriage has never been consummated (and this ‘consummation’ is up to the will of the husband – he has up to 1 lunar year to ‘consummate’ the marriage from the date of the marriage contract), the ‘waiting period’ following divorce is cut down to 1 lunar month.
4. Who may marry whom
There are very, very specific rules over who is – and who is not – allowed to marry whom.
A man may marry any female except those who are
- direct blood relatives: mother, sister or daughter
- direct ‘nursing’ relative: his wet-nurse (she is considered to be his ‘milk mother’)
- a female child who is a direct blood relative of his ‘milk mother’ (that is, anyone a woman who was nursed by his ‘milk mother’
- a female who is a ‘milk mother’ relative of (was nursed by) his wives or his mother
- not ‘of the book’ – that is, not Muslim, Christian or Jewish (all children resulting from this marriage MUST be Muslim) – this prohibition does not apply to female slaves.
In addition, a woman may never marry any man who is not a Muslim, because it is not permissible for a non-Muslim to be the ‘superior to’/’in the position of power over’ (in business, politics – or marriage, where the husband is the superior of the wife) a Muslim.
A man may re-marry his ex-wife, provided she had been married to another man in between the marriages to him.
In order to get married, the terms of the marriage must be negotiated by the groom and the bride’s guardian. The bride must then formally consent to the marriage – silence is considered to be ‘consent’. In practice, this ‘consent’ is often forced by threats – and if the bride refuses, the alternative is ‘honour killing’ or the ‘ever-growing-in-popularity’ honour suicide!
Islam does NOT set any age limits on the age of the bride or groom.
However, the Koran states that onlywomen are to be veiled: men and children (including female children, before they are ‘ready for marriage’). It is up to the father to decide when his daughter is ready for marriage. When he judges that she is available for an Islamic marriage, he signals that fact to the community by having her wear the veil (hijab) in public.
(If you take nothing else away from this post, please, understand this: when we see little girls, as young as 7 or 8, wearing hijabs to school, we are allowing their fathers to advertize that they are actively seeking a suitor for their daughters!)
There are many Islamic experts who assert that it is ‘not recommended’ that a female should ‘reach her first course [of menstruation] in her father’s house’, but rather that she should do so in her husband’s house!
There is no limit on how young a female should be upon marriage: the Ayatollah Khomeini unequivocally stated that a man may ‘enjoy’ a girl – a suckling – as young as 1 day old – he just should not ‘penetrate’ her ‘right away’…
Here is a YouTube video of an Islamic expert, being interviewed on the topic of Islamic marriage with ‘underage girls’:
What is more – Islam dictates that in order to live a righteous life, men must emulate the actions of Prophet Muhammad. He is well documented to have married his ‘only virgin wife’, Aisha, when she was 6 years old, and he consumated the marriage when she was 8 years old (sometimes reported as 9: this discrepancy is due to the use of Lunar callendar to measure age in Islam – as Allah is the name of the Arabic Lunar God, not the Arabic word for ‘God’ as it is often stated to – and the lunar and solar years do not line up perfectly).
Therefore, it is ‘pious’ for Muslim men to marry females who are as young as Aisha was when Muhammad consumated his marriage with her: 8 or 9 years old! And, a Muslim woman must submit to her husband’s sexual desires and preferences at his whim: there is no option for her to say ‘no’ to anything her husband may desire.
The Prophet Muhammad is even reported to advise one of his friends that it is better to marry a child-bride, rather than a grown woman, so he can ‘have sport with her’…
I suspect I have left out a lot that really ought to be said…but, it is a beginning at bringing about an understanding of what Marriage under Sharia truly means!