Q65.4: The verse of child marriage

It is unlikely that you will find a verse in the Quran as controversial as Q65:4, the reason for this will be extremely unsurprising as I shall lay out in this article.

Q65:4 is the third verse regarding the issue of waiting period after a divorce. These periods are called “idda” العدة and basically means that there is a time period where a woman cannot remarry until this allotted time has expired. Islamqa for those curious, explains the reason that there are such waiting periods after divorce:

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1) making sure that she is not pregnant, so that there would be no confusion on who the father of the child is if the woman were to remarry and get pregnant right away;

2) to help couples, families, and communities understand the gravity and sanctity of marriage;

3) in cases of divorce, the waiting period provides time for reconciliation and reconsideration, particularly if the divorce took place on the insistence of the husband;

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The first verse regarding waiting periods is found in chapter 33 verse 49. In this verse it states that if no sexual intercourse occurred during marriage then there is no need for any waiting period:

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ياايها الذين امنوا اذا نكحتم المؤمنات ثم طلقتموهن من قبل ان تمسوهن فمالكم عليهن من عدة تعتدونها فمتعوهن وسرحوهن سراحا جميلا

O believers, when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you touch them, you have no period to reckon against them; so make provision for them and set them free with kindliness.

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Crystal clear and also logical as there is no point in making sure that she is or isn’t pregnant so there is no confusion about who the father is seeing as sex never even happened.

Then is chapter 2 verse 228 this time, the Quran regulated the periods for women who have had vaginal sex:

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وَٱلْمُطَلَّقَٰتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَٰثَةَ قُرُوٓءٍ ۚ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ ٱللَّهُ فِىٓ أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ ۚ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوٓا۟ إِصْلَٰحًا ۚ وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

Divorced women shall wait by themselves for three periods; and it is not lawful for them to hide what God has created in their wombs; if they believe in God and the Last Day. In such time their mates have better right to restore them, if they desire to set things right. Women have such honourable rights as obligations, but their men have a degree above them; God is All-mighty, All-wise.

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The final verse is from chapter 65 verse 4, and this is where it gets tricky for many modern Muslims to accept. In this verse it regulates the idda for the women who don’t menstruate but have had sex:

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وَٱلَّٰٓـِٔى يَئِسْنَ مِنَ ٱلْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَآئِكُمْ إِنِ ٱرْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَٰثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ واللائي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ ۚ وَأُو۟لَٰتُ ٱلْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ ۚ وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مِنْ أَمْرِهِۦ يُسْرًا

As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months; and those who have not menstruated as yet. And those who are with child, their term is when they bring forth their burden. Whoso fears God, God will appoint for him, of His command, easiness.

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The first word used here is واللائي “wa Al-ayyi” which simply means “and those who”. The next word is لم “Lam” means that something hasn’t happened yet but it could happen in the future. While يحضن means “menstruate”. The Arabic is clear here, so the correct translation is “and those who have not menstruated yet”.

So we see here that it regulates the idda for the elderly, the pregnant and those who have not yet menstrated. Now my opinion when reading this, and I think is the obvious and literal opinion is that it refers to pre-Pubescent girls. This also appears as the reason in the context of this verses revelation as found in many Muslim sources such as Tafsir Al-Tabari.

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حدثنا أبو كُرَيب وأبو السائب، قالا: ثنا ابن إدريس، قال: أخبرنا مطرف، عن عمرو بن سالم، قال: قال أبيّ بن كعب: يا رسول الله إن عِدداً من عِدد النساء لم تذكر في الكتاب الصغار والكبار، وأولات الأحمال، فأنزل الله: { وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ المَحيضِ مِنْ نِسائِكُمْ إنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلاثَةُ أشْهُرٍ واللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ وأُولاتُ الأحْمالِ أجَلُهُنَّ أنْ يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ

Abu Qurayb AND Abu Al-Sa’ib <– Ibn Idris <– Mutrif <– Omar bin Salem <– Ubai Bin Ka’b: O Messenger of God, that the waiting periods of the young and adult women were not mentioned in the book, so then Allah revealed: {and those who despaired of menstruation amongst your women , and if you’re doubtful, their waiting period is three months , and those who have not menstruated yet and those who are pregnant, their period is until they deliver their burdens}

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Al-Wahidis (d.487) Asbab Al-Nuzul also records this:

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أخبرنا أبو إسحاق المقرىء، أخبرنا محمد بن عبد الله حَمْدُون، أخبرنا مكي بن عَبْدان، حدَّثنا أبو الأزهر، حدَّثنا أسباط بن محمد، عن مُطّرِّف، عن أبي عثمان عمرو بن سالم قال: لما نزلت عِدَّةُ النساء -في سورة البقرة – في المطّلقة والمتوفَّى عنها زوجُها – قال أبيُّ بن كعب: يا رسول الله، إن نساءً من أهل المدينة يقلْن: قد بقي من النساء من لم يُذكرْ فيها شيءٌ؟ قال: وما هو؟ قال: الصِّغار، والكِبار، وذواتُ الحَمْلِ. فنزلت هذه الآية: {وَٱللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ} إلى آخرها.

Abu Ishaq al-Muqri <– Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun <– Makki ibn ‘Abdan <– Abu’l-Azhar <– Asbat ibn Muhammad <– Mutarrif <– Abu ‘Uthman ‘Amr ibn Salim: “When the waiting period for divorced and widowed women was mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, some women of Medina are saying: there are other women who have not been mentioned!’ He asked him: ‘And who are they?’ He said: ‘The young and old and the pregnant’. And so this verse {And for such of your women as despair of menstruation} was revealed”.

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Muslim commentators

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So the Quran in a literal reading as well as the context of the verse itself agrees that this refers to children. However for some this may possibly not be enough, and so here I am going to quote the opinions of dozens of Muslim scholars throughout the centuries to see what they thought the verse meant

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Mujahid Ibn Jabr (d.103)

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أَنبا عبد الرحمن، قال: ثنا إِبراهيم، قال: ثنا آدم، قال: ثنا ورقاءُ عن ابن أَبي نجيح، عن مجاهد في قوله: { إِنِ ٱرْتَبْتُمْ }. يقول: إِن لم تعلموا أَتحيض أَم لا تحيض فالتي قعدت عن المحيض، والتي لم تحضر بعد، فعدتها ثلاثة أَشهر

Abd Al-Rahman <– Abraham <– Adam <– Warqa <– Ibn Abi Najih <– Mujahid: {If you doubt}. He says: If you do not know whether she menstruated or not, then the woman who has stopped menstruating, and the one who has not yet, their waiting period is three months.

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The obvious implication here is that it is a young girl

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Ad-Dhahaak b. Muzahim Al-Balkhi (d.105)

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حُدثت عن الحسين، قال: سمعت أبا معاذ يقول: ثنا عبيد، قال: سمعت الضحاك يقول في قوله: { وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ المَحِيضِ… } ​الآية، قال: القواعد من النساء { واللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ }: لم يبلغن المحيض، وقد مُسِسْن، عدتهنّ ثلاثة.

On the authority of Al-Husayn b. Al-Faraj Al-Baghdadi Al-Ishabani (d.298) <– Abu Muadh Al-Fadl b. Khalid Al-Marwazi (d.211) <– Ubayd b. Sulayman Al-Bahili Al-Marwazi (2nd century) <– Ad-Dhahaak b. Muzahim Al-Balkhi (d.105): {And those who despaired of menstruation amongst your women}. The rules regarding women {and those who have not menstruated yet}. They are not old enough (not reached puberty). And was touched ( consummated) Their waiting period is three months.

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Qatadah b. Diamah Al-Basri (60-117)

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حدثنا بشر، قال: ثنا يزيد، قال: ثنا سعيد، عن قتادة، قوله: ​{ وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ المَحيضِ مِنْ نِسائِكُمْ } وهنّ اللواتي قعدن من المحيض فلا يحضن، واللائي لم يحضن هنّ الأبكار التي لم يحضن، فعدتهنّ ثلاثة أشهر.

Ahmad bin Bishr Al-Basri (d.270) <– Yazid bin Zari bin Yazid Al-Basri (101-182) <– Sayd Ibn Arubah Al-Basri (d.156) <– Qatadah b. Di’amah Al-Basri (60-117): {And those who despaired of menstruation amongst your women} and they are those who have not yet menstruated, and those who stopped menstruating are the old ones . Their waiting period is three months

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Ismail b. Abd Al-Rahman Al Suddi (d.128)

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حدثنا محمد، قال: ثنا أسباط، عن السديّ في قوله: { وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ المَحيضِ مِنْ نِسائِكُمْ } يقول: التي قد ارتفع حيضها، فعدتها ثلاثة أشهر { واللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } قال: الجواري.

Hassan bin Muhammad bin Al-Baghdadi (d.259-262) <– Asbat b. Nasr Al-Hamdani Al-Kufi (d.160-170) <– Ismail b. Abd Al-Rahman Al Suddi Al-Kufi (d.128) in his saying: {And the one who despaired  of menstruation among your women} He says: The one whose menstruation stoped, her period is three months {and those who have not menstruated yet} he said: maids/Young Girls .

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Muqatil Ibn Sulayman (80-150)

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ثم قال: { وَٱللاَّتِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } فكذلك أيضاً يعني عدة الجواري اللاتي لم يبلغن الحيض، وقد نكحن، ثم طلقن، فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر

Then he said: {and those who have not menstruated yet} This also means the waiting period of the young girls who did not menstruate yet and they had intercourse, then were divorced, so their waiting period is three months.

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Abd Al-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam (d.182)

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حدثنا يونس ، قال : أخبرنا ابن وهب ، قال : قال ابن زيد في قوله : ( واللائي يئسن من المحيض من نسائكم إن ارتبتم فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر ) قال : إن ارتبت أنها لا تحيض وقد ارتفعت حيضتها ، أو ارتاب الرجال ، أو قالت هي :تركتني الحيضة ، فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر إن ارتاب ، فلو كان الحمل انتظر الحمل حتى تنقضي تسعة أشهر ، فخاف وارتاب هو ، وهي أن تكون الحيضة قد انقطعت ، فلا ينبغي لمسلمة أن تحبس ، فاعتدت ثلاثة أشهر ، وجعل الله جل ثناؤه أيضا للتي لم تحض – الصغيرة – ثلاثة أشهر

Yunus <– Ibn Wahb <– Ibn Zayd: {As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months}. He said: If you doubt that she does not menstruate anymore and her menstruation has stopped, or when she said: I do not menstruate anymore , then their waiting period is three months if he doubts. If she is  pregnant wait until nine months had passed, if he feared and is doubtful that the menstruation had stopped, then a Muslim woman should not be imprisoned, so her waiting period is  three months, and God made his mercy also on the one who did not menstruate – the young girl- Three months

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Al-Bukhari (d.256)

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Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (d.310)

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تأويل الآية :  واللائي يئسن من المحيض … فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر واللائي لم يحضن  يقول : وكذلك عدة اللائي لم يحضن من الجواري لصغرهن إذا طلقهن أزواجهن بعد الدخول

The interpretation of the verse {As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months; and those who have not menstruated yet}. 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.

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Ibn Masud Al-Maturidi (D.333)

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ثبت أن المراد: إن ارتبتم في عدة الآيسات والصغائر، فهي ثلاثة أشهر، والله أعلم

It is proven that what is meant is: If you doubt the waiting period in the menopause and the young, then it is three months, and Allah knows best

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Al-Tabarani (d.360)

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وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ معناهُ: واللاَّتي في حالِ الصِّغَرِ

{and those who have not menstruated yet} means: and those who are young.

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Abu Al-Layth Al-Samarqandi (d.375)

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قال معاذ بن جبل يا رسول الله لو كانت المرأة آيسة لا تحيض كيف تعتد فنزل { وَٱللاَّئِى يَئِسْنَ مِنَ ٱلْمَحِيضِ مِن نّسَائِكُمْ } والآية أن تبلغ ستين سنة ويقال خمسين { إِنِ ٱرْتَبْتُمْ } إن شككتم في عدتهن { فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَـٰثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ } فقام رجل آخر فقال: لو كانت صغيرة كيف عدتها وقام آخر وقال لو كانت حاملاً كيف عدتها فنزل { وَٱللاَّئِى لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } يعني: المرأة التي لم تحض فعدتها ثلاثة أشهر مثل عدة الآيسة { وَأُوْلَـٰتُ ٱلأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ } يعني عدتهن.

Muadh bin Jabal said, ”  O Messenger of Allah, if a woman is in her menopause and does not menstruate what is her waiting period? {And the ones who did not menstruate amongst your women} meaning: That she reached 60 years old . And he said , 50 years old { if you doubt } if you aren’t sure about their waiting period do { their waiting period is three months } and another man said : if she is young do what’s her waiting period ? And another said : if she was pregnant, so what is her waiting period ?  { and those who have not menstruated yet } it means  woman who did not menstruate, her waiting period is three months like the waiting period of the menopause’s waiting period{And the pregrant women  were given their term} meaning their waiting period.

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Al-Thalabi (d.427)

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و{وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ} يعني بهنّ الصّغار

{and those who have not menstruated yet} meaning the young girls

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Al-Mawardi (d.450)

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واللائي لم يَحِضْنَ } يعني كذلك عدتهن ثلاثة أشهر، فجعل لكل قرء شهراً، لأنها تجمع في الأغلب حيضاً وطهراً

{and those who have not menstruated yet} meaning, their waiting period is three months. So he made for every menstruation a month. Because it generally joins menstruation and purification.

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Baghawi (d.516)

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وَٱللَّـٰئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ} ، يعني الصغار اللائي لم يحضن فعدتهن أيضاً ثلاثة أشهر

{and those who have not menstruated yet}, meaning the young ones who did not menstruate, so their waiting period is also three months

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Al-Zamakshari (d.538)

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ه{ وَٱلَّٰۤئى لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } هن الصغائر.

{and those who have not menstruated yet} They are the young ones

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Abu Bakr Ibn Al-Arabi Al-Maliki (d.543)

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His saying {and those who have not menstruated yet} is evidence that a man can arrange the marriage of his young child as Allah has appointed the iddah of the one who has not yet menstruated from the women to be three months, and there is no iddah upon her except in the case of marriage.

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Al-Tabarasi (d.548)

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واللآئي لم يحضن تقديره واللآئي لم يحضن إن ارتبتم فعدتهن أيضاً ثلاثة أشهر وحذف لدلالة الكلام الأول عليه وهن اللواتي لم يبلغن المحيض ومثلهن تحيض على ما مرَّ بيانه.

{and those who have not menstruated yet} he meant: those who didn’t get their menstruation, if you’re doubtful their waiting period is also three months. As well as those who didn’t reach puberty yet.

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Al-Razi (d.606)

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قام رجل فقال: يا رسول الله فما عدة الصغيرة التي لم تحض؟ فنزل: { وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } أي هي بمنزلة الكبيرة التي قد يئست عدتها ثلاثة أشهر

A man got up and said: O Messenger of God, what is the waiting period for a young girl who did not menstruate yet? {and those who have not menstruated yet} that is, it is like an older woman who has despaired of her menstruation ( menopause ). Her waiting period for three months.

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Abd Al-Razzaq al-Ras’ani al-Hanbali (d. 661)

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وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ يعني: الصغار.

{and those who have not menstruated yet} Means: the young

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Al-Qurtubi (d.671)

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قوله تعالى: { وَٱللاَّتِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ } ـ يعني الصغيرة ـ فعدّتهن ثلاثة أشهر فأضمر الخبر. وإنما كانت عدّتها بالأشهر لعدم الأقراء فيها عادة، والأحكام إنما أجراها الله تعالى على العادات فهي تعتدّ بالأشهر.

The almighty said: {and those who have not menstruated yet} meaning the young. their waiting period is three months. The waiting period was only for months, because the rulings were only made by God Almighty according to the customs, so it is counted for the months.

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Abdullah b. Ahmad Al-Nasafi (d.710)

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وَٱللَّـٰئِي لَمْ يَحِضْن هن الصغائر

{and those who have not menstruated yet} are the young ones

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Al-Jilani (d.713)

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ٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ بعد؛ لصغر سنهن أو مرض

{and those who have not menstruated yet} due to young age or sickness

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Ali Ibn Muhammad Al-Khazin (d.725)

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واللائي لم يحضن يعني الصغائر اللاتي لم يحضن

and those who have not menstruated yet, meaning the young ones who didn’t menstruate.

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Abu Hayyan (d.754)

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واللائي لم يحضن يشمل من لم يحض لصغر

{And Those who have not menstruated yet} denotes those not menstruated because of being young.

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Ibn Kathir (d.771)

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يقول تعالى مبيناً لعدة الآيسة، وهي التي انقطع عنها المحيض لكبرها، أنها ثلاثة أشهر عوضاً عن الثلاثة قروء في حق من تحيض كما دلت على ذلك آية البقرة، وكذا الصغار اللائي لم يبلغن سن الحيض أن عدتهن كعدة الآيسة ثلاثة أشهر،

Allah the Exalted clarifies the waiting period of the woman in menopause. And that is the one whose menstruation has stopped due to her older age. Her `Iddah is three months instead of the three monthly cycles for those who menstruate, which is based upon the Ayah in (Surat) Al-Baqarah. The same for the young, who have not reached the years of menstruation. Their waiting period is three months

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Fayrooz Abadi (d.817)

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وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْ من الصغر فعدتهن أيضاً ثلاثة ​أشهر

{and those who have not menstruated yet} From being young, their waiting period is three months.

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Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani (d.852)

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واللائي لم يحضن , فجعل عدتها ثلاثة أشهر قبل البلوغ ‏ ‏أي فدل على أن نكاحها قبل البلوغ جائز”

{and those who have not menstruated yet}:, He made the waiting period three months [for those who] haven’t hit puberty yet, which indicates that giving her into nikah before puberty is permissible.

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Al-Maḥalli (d.864) and Al-Suyuti (d.911)

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وَٱلَّٰئِى لَمْ يَحِضْنَ لصغرهنّ فعدّتهنّ ثلاثة أشهر

And for those who have not yet menstruated because of their young age their period shall also be three months

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Al-Kazaruni (d.923)

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وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ لصغرهن

{and those who have not menstruated yet} Their young age

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Abu Suud Al-Imadi Al-Hanafi (d.982)

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{and those who have not menstruated yet} because of young age

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Ishmael Ibn Mustafa Al-Hanafi (D.1127)

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لم يحضن اى ما رأين الدم لصغرهن

{Not menstruated yet} that is, they have not observed blood due to their young age

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Al-Shawkani (d.1250)

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فوَٱللاَّئِى لَمْ يَحِضْنَ لصغرهن، وعدم بلوغهن سن المحيض، أي فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر

and those who have not menstruated yet are young girls who have not reached the age of menstruation.

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Muhammad Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (d. 1332)

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أي: من الجواري لصغرهن إذا طلقهن أزواجهن بعد الدخول، فعدتهن ثلاثة أشه

That is: for the young girls when, because of their young age, if their husbands divorced them after consummation, then their waiting period is three months.

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Al-Sa‘di (d.1376):

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{وَٱللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ} أي: الصغار اللائي لم يأتهن الحيض بَعْدُ، و البالغات اللاتي لم يأتهن حيض بالكلية، فإنهن كالآيسات، عدتهن ثلاثة أشهر

{And Those who have not menstruated yet} means the young who have not yet started to menstruate. Adult women who have never menstruated at all are like those who despair of menstruation”; their ‘iddah is three months.

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Sayyid ibn Qutub (d.1386):

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These verses specify the length of the waiting period for women who do not have a monthly cycle and for pregnant women. It includes women who are past the menopause and those who do not as yet have a menstrual cycle

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Ahmad Khan Al-Hanafi Al-Nayimi (d.1391)

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Due to childhood their iddah is three months

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Muhammad Shafi Deobandi (d.1396)

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… and in the terminology of Shari’ah the term ‘‘iddah means the waiting period prescribed for a divorced woman before she can marry another man … Women who do not menstruate, because they have not yet attained puberty, or because they have attained menopausal age, … This procedure applies in the case of the women whose ‘‘iddah is calculated by menstrual cycles or clean cycles. It does not apply to women for whom waiting-period is not compulsory, as in the case of a woman who did not have privacy with her husband. If a man and a woman got married but they did not get together in privacy, ‘‘iddah is not necessary for her at all when she is divorced. Therefore, it is permissible to divorce such women during their monthly courses. Likewise, ‘‘iddah for a woman who does not menstruate on account of minority of age, or because she has attained menopausal age, is computed on monthly basis. Their ‘‘iddah is three months.

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Maududi (D.1399)

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Here, one should bear in mind the fact that according to the explanations given in the Quran the question of the waiting period arises in respect of the women with whom marriage may have been consummated, for there is no waiting-period in case divorce is pronounced before the consummation of marriage. (Al-Ahzab: 49). Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for the girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl in marriage at this age but it is also permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Quran has held as permissible.

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Ibn Uthaymeen (d.1421)

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If a woman does not menstruate, either because she is very young or old and past menopause, then her ‘iddah is three months, because Allah says: “And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if you have doubt, is three months; and for those who have no courses their prescribed period is three months likewise.

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Sources:

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Mujahid Ibn Jabr (d.103)
Ad-Dhahaak b. Muzahim Al-Balkhi (d.105)
Qatadah b. Diamah Al-Basri (60-117)
Ismail b. Abd Al-Rahman Al Suddi (d.128)

Muqatil Ibn Sulayman (80-150)
Abd Al-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam (d.182)
Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (d.310)
Ibn Masud Al-Maturidi (D.333)
Al-Tabarani (d.360)
Abu Al-Layth Al-Samarqandi (d.375)
Al-Thalabi (d.427)
Al-Mawardi (d.450)
Baghawi (d.516)
Al-Zamakshari (d.538)
Abu Bakr Ibn Al-Arabi Al-Maliki (d.543)
Al-Tabarasi (d.548)
Al-Razi (d.606)
Abd Al-Razzaq al-Ras’ani al-Hanbali (d. 661)
Al-Qurtubi (d.671)
Abdullah b. Ahmad Al-Nasafi (d.710)
Al-Jilani (d.713)
Ali Ibn Muhammad Al-Khazin (d.725)
Abu Hayyan (d.754)
Ibn Kathir (d.771)
Fayrooz Abadi (d.817)
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani (d.852)
Al-Maḥalli (d.864) and Al-Suyuti (d.911)
Al-Kazaruni (d.923)
Abu Suud Al-Imadi Al-Hanafi (d.982)
Ishmael Ibn Mustafa Al-Hanafi (D.1127)
Al-Shawkani (d.1250)
Muhammad Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (d. 1332)
Al-Sa‘di (d.1376)
Sayyid ibn Qutub (d.1386)
Ahmad Khan Al-Hanafi Al-Nayimi (d.1391)
Muhammad Shafi Deobandi (d.1396)
Maududi (D.1399)
Ibn Uthaymeen (d.1421)

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For a summary of all this, the Qur’an in verse 33:49 states that no waiting period is prescribed for a woman who has not had penetrative sex with her husband, but says the waiting period for pre-pubescent girls in verse 65:4 is three months, meaning that this group has had to have sex with their husbands. This means that the Quran supports marrying and having sex with prepubescent girls. See the commentaries of Muhammad Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (d. 1332), Maududi (d.1399), Muqatil Ibn Sulayman (80-150), Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (d.310) above to see this in explicit terms.

So what did the legal schools say about child marriage? For a brief summary of what I mean by this, the Sunni follow any one of four major schools on jurisprudence founded by the 4 imams: ibn Hanbal, abu Hanifa, Malik, and Al-Shafi. These schools, referred to respectively as the Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi. Here is their geography:

All four schools on jurisprudence agree that pre-pubescent virgin daughters may be forced into marriage against their will by their fathers, and use Q65:4 as evidence. This can be found for instance in Ibn Qudamahs Al-Mughni:

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أما البكر الصغيرة ، فلا خلاف فيها . قال ابن المنذر أجمع كل من نحفظ عنه من أهل العلم ، أن نكاح الأب ابنته البكر الصغيرة جائز ، إذا زوجها من كفء ، ويجوز له تزويجها مع كراهيتها وامتناعها . وقد دل على جواز تزويج الصغيرة قول الله تعالى : { واللائي يئسن من المحيض من نسائكم إن ارتبتم فعدتهن ثلاثة أشهر واللائي لم يحضن } فجعل للائي لم يحضن عدة ثلاثة أشهر ، ولا تكون العدة ثلاثة أشهر إلا من طلاق في نكاح أو فسخ ، فدل ذلك على أنها تزوج وتطلق ، ولا إذن لها فيعتبر

As for the young virgin, there is no difference regarding it. Ibn Al-Mundhir stated: “All we learned from among the people of knowledge formed consensus that it is permissible for the father to perform the nikah of his young virgin daughter when he married he married her to a man who is of equal or higher status than her, and it is permissible to get her married along with her disapproval and refusal. Indeed the saying of Allah proves the permissablity of marrying a young girl: {As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months; and those who have not menstruated as yet}. Thus he made the appointed period of those who had not yet had menstruation three months except due to divorce by the husband in a marriage or a dissolution of marriage. Therefore this proves she can be married and divorced, and there is no consent she can give that is to be taken into consideration.

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This consensus was transmitted by many prominent scholars:

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نُقل الإجماع على جواز تزويج الأب البكر الصغيرة – على الأقل إجماع الصحابة – وممن نقل الإجماع: الإمام أحمد في ” المسائل ” – رواية صالح – (3/ 129) والمروزي في ” اختلاف العلماء ” (ص 125)، وابن المنذر في ” الإجماع ” (ص91) وابن عبد البر في ” التمهيد “، والبغوي في ” شرح السنة ” (9/ 37) والنووي في ” شرح مسلم ” (9/ 206) وابن حجر في” الفتح ” (12/ 27)، والباجي في ” المنتقى ” (3/ 272)، وابن العربي في ” عارضة الأحوذي ” (5/ 25)، والشنقيطي في ” مواهب الجليل ” (3/ 27).

The consensus was transmitted on the permissibility of a father marrying off the young Virgin girl – at least the consensus of the Companions – and among those who transmitted the consensus were: Imam Ahmad in “Al-Masseel” – riwayat salih – (3/129) and Al-Marwazi in “aikhtilaf al-ulama” (p. 125), and Ibn Al-Mundhir in “al-ijma” (p. 91) and Ibn Abd al-Barr in “Al-Tamheed”, al-Baghawi in “Sharh al-Sunnah” (9/37), al-Nawawi in “Sharh Muslim” (9/206), Ibn Hajar in “Al-Fath” (12/27), and al-Baji in “Al-Muntaqa” (3/272), Ibn al-Arabi in “Ardah al-Ahwadhi” (5/25), and al-Shinqiti in “Mawahib al-Jaleel” (3/27).

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For an official English translation, We see this explained by Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer:

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They arrived at the consensus that the father can force a pre-Pubescent virgin and that he cannot force a divorced post-pubescent woman…

The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer Vol 2 p. 5, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee

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The official translation uses the words “non Baligh” which means not post-pubescent. Seeing as this discussion is about the pre-pubescent children I changed it accordingly to make it easier for the reader. This however is where uninformed consensus ended.

Now this is where it links back to Q65:4 a bit more. I discussed it’s meaning that pre-pubescents had to have sex with their husbands in order to have a waiting period after divorce, well the schools of law discussed the rights the father has to marry a non-virgin pre-pubescent daughters, and they disagreed. Some, like Malik bin Anas and Abu Hanifa said that she may be forced, while others, like Imam Shafi’i, said that she should not be forced:

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Malik and Abu Hanifa said about the pre-pubescent deflowered woman that the father can force her to marry, while al-Shafi’i said that he is not to force her. The later Malikites said that there are three views about her in the school.

The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer Vol 2 p. 5, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee

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In Mukhtasar Al Quduri, a famous manual of Hanafi fiqh, we find that a prepubescent child forced into marriage by her father/grandfather does NOT have the option to annul the marriage when he/she reaches puberty. If the child is forced into marriage by someone other than the father/grandfather, then the child can annul the marriage when she reaches puberty:

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If the father, or grandfather, marries them off, then there is no option for them after attaining the age of majority, but if someone other than the father or the grandfather marries them off, then each one of the two has an option:

If he/she wants, he/she may remain in the marriage, or

If he/she wants, he/she may repudiate [it].

Mukhtasar Al Quduri Chapter 32 (Nikah), translated by Tahir Mahmood Kiani

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Al-Hidayah, another book describing Hanafi law in more detail, also says that a prepubescent child forced into marriage by her father/grandfather does NOT have the option to annul the marriage upon reaching puberty:

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He said: If they are married away by the father or the grandfather, that is, the minor boy and the minor girl, they have no option, after they attain puberty. The reason is that these two (relatives) possess an informed opinion and abundant affection, therefore, the contract will become binding if it is concluded by them. It is just as if it was concluded with their consent after they had attained puberty.

Al-Hidayah Vol 1 p. 496, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee

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Ahmad bin Hanbal states that daughters who are younger than seven can be forced into marriage by their fathers:

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He said, “Her walī should consult her. Then if she grants permission, he can give her in marriage.” I said, “But if she does not grant it?” He said, “If her father is [her walī], and she has not reached seven years of age, then her father’s giving her in marriage is valid, and she has no option. But if she has reached her ninth year, neither her father nor anyone else should give her in marriage without her permission.

Chapters on Marriage and Divorce Chapter 3 (Abdullah) §7, translated by Susan Spectorsky

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Ahmad also agrees with the Hanafis that if a father forces his pre-pubescent daughter into marriage, she has no option to annul the marriage when she reaches puberty:

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I asked my father about a man who gives his underage daughter in marriage. “Can she opt [to turn down the marriage] when she is of age?” He said, “She cannot exercise this option if her father gave her in marriage. If she could, then ʿĀʾisha could have with regard to the Prophet, because the Prophet married her when she was six or seven years old, had intercourse with her when she was nine, and died when she was eighteen.”

Chapters on Marriage and Divorce Chapter 3 (Abdullah) §18, translated by Susan Spectorsky

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Regarding sex: if the father and husband agree on something that “will not cause harm” to the child, then sex can occur. If they can’t agree Shafi, Maliki and Hanafi say that the marriage may be consummated when the girl is able for intercourse, which varies from one girl to another, so no age limit can be set. The Hanbali and Abu Ubayd said that the husband can have sex with her without her consent at age 9:

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وأما وقت زفاف الصغيرة المزوجة والدخول بها : فإن اتفق الزوج والولي على شيء لا ضرر فيه على الصغيرة : عُمل به ، وإن اختلفا : فقال أحمد وأبو عبيد : تجبر على ذلك بنت تسع سنين دون غيرها ، وقال مالك والشافعي وأبو حنيفة : حدُّ ذلك أن تطيق الجماع ، ويختلف ذلك باختلافهن ، ولا يضبط بسنٍّ ، وهذا هو الصحيح ، وليس في حديث عائشة تحديد ولا المنع من ذلك فيمن أطاقته قبل تسع ولا الإذن فيمن لم تطقه وقد بلغت تسعا ، قال الداودي : وكانت عائشة قد شبَّت شباباً حسناً رضى الله عنها

With regard to the wedding-party of a young married girl at the time of consummating the marriage, if the husband and the guardian of the girl agree upon something that will not cause harm to the young girl, then that may be done. If they disagree, then Ahmad and Abu ‘Ubayd say that once a girl reaches the age of nine then the marriage may be consummated even without her consent, but that does not apply in the case of who is younger. Malik, al-Shafi’i and Abu Hanifa said: the marriage may be consummated when the girl is able for intercourse, which varies from one girl to another, so no age limit can be set. There is nothing in the hadith of ‘Aisha to set an age limit, or to forbid that in the case of a girl who is able for it before the age of nine, or to allow it in the case of a girl who is not able for it and has reached the age of nine. Al-Dawudi said: ‘Aisha reached physical maturity. 

Sharh Muslim Volume 9 page 206

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Ultimately these schools of law are aware and understanding of the Quran verse and make their laws around it, however because it didn’t go into perfect detail they disagreed on a few things.

In this article already there has been a mention of the marriage of a girl called Aisha to prophet Muhammad. This was an area that caused the disagreement above about whether a man can have sex with his 9 year old wife without her consent. The Hanbalis and Abu Ubayd said yes because Aisha was 9 when Muhammad had sex with her, whilst the others believed that this event is not evidence for a sex age cap.

Regardless of this, many hadith report this marriage such as this one from Sahih-Bukhari:

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حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يُوسُفَ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم تَزَوَّجَهَا وَهْىَ بِنْتُ سِتِّ سِنِينَ، وَأُدْخِلَتْ عَلَيْهِ وَهْىَ بِنْتُ تِسْعٍ، وَمَكَثَتْ عِنْدَهُ تِسْعًا‏

Muhammad bin Yusuf <– Sufyan <– Hisham <– his father <– Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years.

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Interesting to note is that it is unclear whether she hit puberty at 9 years of age. Ibn Hajar Asqalanis quote that I quoted above in the commentaries for Q65:4 was said just after he quoted this narration, implying that he believed her to be pre-Pubescent when Muhammad had sex with her. This is evidenced further by this hadith in Bukhari 6130 from Aisha:

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“I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah’s Messenger used to enter they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me”

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Sahih-Muslim 2440a makes it clear this used to happen in Muhammads house, which she went to after he had sex with her as stated in Sahih-Muslim 1422c. Thus some believed that Aisha was pre-pubescent at the time of sex. This was the view of Ibn Hajar Asqalani and Al-Khattabi:

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Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i have narrated from Aisha that she said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ returned from the campaign to Tabuk, or Khaibar…” Here she mentioned the hadith in which the curtain attached to her door was lifted away. She said, “Then the side of the curtain over the dolls of Aisha was uncovered. He said, ‘What is this, O Aisha?’ She said, ‘My dolls.’ She then said, ‘Then he saw amongst them a winged horse that was tied up.’ He said, ‘What is this?’ I said, ‘A horse.’ He said, ‘A horse with two wings?’ I said, ‘Didn’t you hear that Solomon had horses with wings?’ Then he laughed.” Al-Khattabi said: From this hadith it is understood that playing with dolls is unlike the amusement from other images concerning which the threat of punishment is mentioned. The only reason why permission in this case was given to Aisha is because she had not yet reached the age of puberty. I (Ibn Hajar) say: As to whether this was the case, it is not certain, but it is possible, because Aisha was a fourteen year old girl at the time of the Battle of Khaibar–either having reached that age or passed it or approaching it. As for the campaign to Tabuk (age 16-17), she had by then definitely reached the age of puberty. Therefore, the strongest view is that of those who said it was in Khaibar, thus harmonizing with what al-Khattabi said, as that is superior to inconsonance.
Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari 10/527

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This was also the view of the Hanbali, shafi and some of the high ranking Hanafis:

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“what al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said about ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reaching puberty at the age of fifteen is the view of the Shaafa‘is and Hanbalis, and of two senior scholars of the Hanafi madhhab”
Islamqa Question 175405

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Badr Ad-deen Al-Ayni said she was pre-pubescent:

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Aa’ishah had not yet reached puberty, so this was a concession granted to her. However, it [playing with dolls] is still disliked for those who have reached puberty
Islamqa Question 175405

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As did Al-Nawawi:

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Imam an-Nawawi’s view that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was still young and had not yet reached puberty at that time.
Islamqa Question 175405

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I understand that there is no concrete evidence 100% for Aishas pubescence or pre-Pubescence, however this clearly shows it was a very mainstream and accepted opinion that Muhammad had sex with a child over 5 years before she hit puberty. If he did do so, this would be perfectly acceptable as per the Quran anyway.

Another example of child marriage from the earliest generation can be found in the Hanafi book “Hujjah ala Ahl Al-Madina” by Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani (131-189). His books are primary source material for the hanafi school of law:

A trustworthy narrator from our companions <– Hisham Ibn Urwah <– his father who said: “Zubayr entered upon Qudamah Ibn Mazuun to visit him in his illness. Zubayr was given the news of the birth of a baby girl whilst he was with him and so Qudamah said to him “marry me to her”. Zubayr said to him: “And what would you do with a minor girl while you are in this condition”?! So he said: “if I live she is the daughter of Zubayr, and if I die she will be the most beloved of my heirs”. Thus, he married her to him.

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This also appears in Sayd bin Mansurs Sunan:

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حدثنا سعيد قال : حدثنا أبو معاوية حدثنا هشام بن عروة عن أبيه قال : دخل الزبير بن العوام على قدامة بن مظعون يعوده فبشر زبير بجارية وهو عنده فقال له قدامة : زوجنيها فقال له الزبير بن العوام ما تصنع بجارية صغيرة وأنت على هذه الحال ؟ قال : بلى إن عشت فابنة الزبير وإن مت فأحب من ورثني قال : فزوجها إياه

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These two companions agreed to marry a child on the first day of its life. And as we read already, this was allowed by scholarly consensus.

Another such marriage occurred in the year 16 or 17ah when caliph Umar Khattab married Ali Talibs daughter umm khulthum as stated from Sahih-Bukhari among many other authentic sources:

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Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA) distributed some garments amongst the women of Al-Madina. One good garment remained, and one of those present with him said, “O chief of the believers! Give this garment to your wife, the (grand) daughter of Allah’s Messenger (SAW).” They meant Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Ali. Umar said, Umm Salit has more right (to have it).” Umm Salit was amongst those Ansari women who had given the Baia (pledge) to Allah’s Messenger (SAW).’ Umar said, “She (i.e. Umm Salit) used to carry the water skins to provide us water on the day of Uhud.”

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Shaykh Gibril Haddad after analysing the narrations as well as biographical accounts concludes:

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Ibn Kathir’s Tarikh states the year 16 for the marriage of `Umar with Umm Kulthum; so she was between 10 and 12 since her date of birth is mentioned by al-Dhahabi in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ as around the 6th year after the Hijra.

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Summary/conclusion

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Just over a year ago I remember a discussion on twitter that people were having with Farid responds about this issue. During this discussion he said the following in a now deleted tweet

People criticised him heavily for this because his position was viewed as immoral and downright evil. However, his position is by no means fringe in the slightest, it goes back all the way to the companions who married off a now born and the consensus of the scholars who said that a father may marry off a pre-pubescent without their consent and the majority opinion that sex occurs if the father and husband agrees it’s okay. Farids position would thus be considered very acceptable and obvious

Regarding the Quran, it is evident that not only did Muslim scholars understand this verse to be revealed regarding pre-pubescent girls but is also evidence that it is permitted for them to be married and to have sex with pre-pubescent girls. This is also the understanding from the context of the revelation and the reading as it stands in its own.

The Sunnah also shows that it is permissible to marry a pre-pubescent girl and the companions also did so. This was the practice of Muhammad who married a pre-pubescent and had sex with one according to the majority opinion. Zubayr married his newborn to Qudamah and Umar Khattab married a young girl too.

Thus, there is no doubt about the permissibility of marriage and sex with a pre-pubescent girl in the Quran, Sunnah, and the consensus of the 4 schools of jurisprudence.

6 thoughts on “Q65.4: The verse of child marriage

  1. Brilliant article! It’s amusing to see how you are using actual credible and reliable sources while Muslims heavily rely on modern interpretation and only quote small bits of classical scholars to save Islam.

    On a side note, are you ever going to write an article about Noahs flood? A lot of muslims and prominent Apologists going around claiming it was local when scholars like Tabari, Ibn Kathir and Suyuti etc. do not support this position. It’s strange how critics never bring this forth when it’s, IMO, one of the strongest proofs against Islam. If you ever going to write on it, you can use my post for it: https://www.reddit.com/r/exmuslim/comments/ppg3z1/proving_that_the_quranic_account_of_noahs_flood/

    Like

  2. Absolutely love your articles my dude!
    I have some topics that I would love to see you cover:
    1) False prophecies of Muhammad
    2) The Quran Challenge and what scholars have said about it.
    3) The Bizarre Tribe of Gog & Magog.

    Like

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