One of the biggest misconceptions about Islam is that it permits child marriage and pedophilia. Therefore, it is looked down upon as medieval, oppressive and illogical by non-Muslims.
Shockingly, some Muslims in complete ignorance of the Qur’an ctually defend and support this point of view.
A wrong methodology lead to error concerning the age at which marriage is permissible in Islam. Here is the verse that shows Allah has ‘permitted’ marriage with a girl even before she reaches the age of puberty:
And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease. [Qur’an, 65:4]
The above verse deals with the law of divorce in Islam which prescribes a waiting period after a pronouncement of divorce, before the divorce takes effect. That waiting period is three menstrual periods of the wife who is being divorced.
In the event that the wife has reached the age of menopause, the law prescribes instead, a waiting period of three months. It then explains that the same waiting period of three months will apply for wives who otherwise have no menstrual periods.
A woman who does not have her normal monthly menstrual period can either be one who has not yet reached the age of puberty – a child – or a woman who suffers from an abnormal state of no menstruation. Which of the two is the Qur’an referring to in the above verse?
Here, they would have you believe that “those who did not menstruate” refers to prepubescent girls who have not yet attained puberty, thereby concluding that Islam permits child marriage.
The very clear answer emerges when a study of the rest of the Qur’an declares that marriage is always with women, and never with a child. In one verse of the Qur’an, it has referred to women as a field which is ploughed so that seeds can be planted with the hope that they will fertilize and grow and produce a crop:
Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers. [Qur’an, 2:223]
In order for a girl to become a woman and eligible for sexual intercourse with men, she must reach the age of puberty, since it is only at this age that her womb can qualify as a field which can be cultivated. Prior to that age her womb cannot be cultivated since no seed can ever be fertilized and grow.
Obviously then, “those who did not menstruate” is from the context of adult women who are supposed to menstruate, but did not do so. This medical condition is called amenorrhea where a woman does not have menstrual periods. The waiting period for such women, then, is the same – 3 months.
There is also another verse where Allah directed attention to the collective responsibility of the community of Muslims for maintenance of an abnormally high number of widows and orphans in the wake of two wars which had taken place (i.e., the battle of Badr and of Uhud). His first response was to advise a means of resolving the problem of maintenance of orphan girls (since they are His first priority) as follows:
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. [Qur’an, 4:3] (NOTE: When you have the resources to do so, you should then marry such slave women, so they would then become wives).
The above verse makes it abundantly clear that the orphan girls can be married only when they are women.
The Qur’an equates marriageable age to a mature and sound judgement: And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them. [Qur’an, 4:6]
Marriageable age is equated to sound judgment; an age in which a person can responsibly handle their possessions. For heaven’s sake, are you really trying to tell me that a person is sound in judgment at the tender age of, say, 6?!
The Qur’an also forbids forcing women to marry by compulsion: O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion… [Qur’an, 4:19]
As the Qur’an is the primary source of guidance in Islam, secondary sources can only be accepted if and only they do not contradict the Qur’an. It is clear that child marriage is something God never authorised.