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FORCED MARRIAGES

Imam Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah

Fatwa from "Al-Masa'il ul-Mardiniyyah"

Translated by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad al-Jibali

May a father force his virgin daughter who attained puberty to marry? Two well-known
opinions in this regard are reported from Ahmad:

That he may compel her. This is the opinion of Malik, ash-Shafi`i, and others.

That he may not. This is the opinion of Abu Hanifah and others, and is the correct one.

Ulama have differed as to the reason permitting the compulsion: whether it is virginity, the
daughter being under-aged, or a combination of both. The closest opinion to the truth is her
being under-aged, whereas no one can compel a grown-up virgin in marriage. Abu Hurayrah
reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"A non-virgin woman may not be married without her command, and a virgin may not be
married without her permission; and enough permission for her is to remain silent (because of
her natural shyness)." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others]

Thus the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), prohibits forcing a virgin in marriage
without her permission, whether it be her father or someone else. Furthermore, Ayshah said
that she asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) "In the case of a young girl
whose parents marry her, should her permission be sought or not?" He replied, "Yes, she
must give her permission." She then said, "But a virgin will be shy, O Allah's Messenger." He
answered:

"Her silence is [considered as] her permission." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others]

This applies to the father as well as others. Furthermore, Islam does not give the father the
right to use any of her wealth without her permission, how then could he be allowed to
decide, without her permission, how her body (which is more important than her wealth) is to
be used, especially when she disagrees to that and is mature to decide for herself?

There is evidence and consensus in Islam to restrict an underage person's free control of his
wealth or person. However, to make virginity a reason for the restriction of rights contradicts
the Islamic basis.

As for the difference between the non-virgin and virgin in the hadith of the Prophet (peace
and blessings be upon him), it is not a differentiation between compulsion and non-
compulsion; the difference between the two cases is that (a) the former (divorced or widow)
gives her instructions for the marriage whereas the latter (virgin) gives permission, and that
(b) the virgin's silence from shyness counts as a permission. The reason for this is that a
virgin would be shy to discuss the matter of marriage, so she is not proposed to directly;
rather, her walee (guardian) is approached, so he meets her with the matter to take her
permission, and then she gives him the permission (if she likes it), not the command to marry
her.

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And as for a non-virgin, she would not have the shyness of virginity anymore; thus she can
discuss the matter of her marriage directly, she can be proposed to, and she gives the
command to her wali to perform the marriage, and he must obey her.

Thus the wali is command-executor in the case of the non-virgin, and is permission-seeker in
the case of the virgin. This is what the Prophet's words and actions indicate. As for
compelling her to marry despite her loathing to do so, this would contradict the fundamentals
and reason. Allah did not permit a wali to force her to sell or rent her property without her
permission. Neither did He permit him to force her to eat or drink or wear that which she
does not wish. How would He then oblige her to accompany and copulate with a person
whose company she hates - at the time when Allah has sent between the two spouses love and
mercy? If such company happens despite her hatred and repulsion, where is the love and
mercy?

FORCED MARRIAGE AND ISLAM

Statistics have shown that a large majority of victims are Muslim. However, Islam
teaches that consent from both man and woman is a must before a marriage can take
place. The Qur'an states O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women
by compulsion... (4:19). The Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the most revered sources of hadith
(Islamic practice) amongst Islamic scholars, reports the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon
Him) as saying: "The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until her order is
obtained, and the virgin girl shall not be married until her permission is obtained." (Bukhari,
67:42). The next chapter of the Sahih al-Bukhari states: "When a man gives his daughter in
marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be repudiated" (Bukhari, 67:43), with further
hadith providing examples of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) cancelling such
marriages in which the daughter's consent was not sought.

See: Al-Sahih al-Bukhari, by Abu 'Abdallah Muhammed, Ibn Isma'il al-Bukhari.

Therefore, a forced marriage is not an issue of religion, but it is a cultural practice that
violates your right as a woman and as a Muslim. The act of forcing someone to marry is in
fact an act that is against the practices and teachings of Islam.

The Free Consent of the Parties

The Quran [4:21] refers to marriage as a mithaq, i.e. a solemn covenant or agreement
between husband and wife, and enjoins that it be put down in writing. Since no agreement
can be reached between the parties unless they give their consent to it, marriage can be
contracted only with the free consent of the two parties. The Prophet (peace and blessings be
upon him) said,

"The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and
the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained." [Bukhari]

This aspect is greatly emphasized by Imam Bukhari. He, in fact, gave one of the chapters in
his Sahih the significant title:

"When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be
annulled." Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said
that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the right to
repudiate the marriage. [Abu Dawud]

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Divorced women are also given freedom to contract a second marriage. The Noble Quran
says,

"And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting period,
hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair
manner." [Noble Quran 2:232]

CAN A WOMAN BE FORCED INTO MARRIAGE IN ISLAM?

Absolutely not! Let us look at what Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said regarding
this issue:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon
him) as having said: "A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be
married until she is consulted, and a virgin must not be married until her permission is
sought. They asked the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him): How her (virgin's)
consent can be solicited? He (the Holy Prophet) said: That she keeps silence. (Translation of
Sahih Muslim, The Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 008, Number 3303)"

Allah Almighty said in the Noble Quran: "O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit
women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away
part of the dower [money given by the husband to the wife for the marriage contract] ye have
given them, except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with
them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike
a thing, and God brings about through it a great deal of good. (The Noble Quran, 4:19)"

The following Saying is an explanation to Noble Verse 4:19:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: "About the Qur'anic verse: 'It is not lawful for you forcibly to
inherit the woman (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon
them.'

When a man died, his relatives had more right to his wife than her own guardian. If any one
of them wanted to marry her, he did so; or they married her (to some other person), and if
they did not want to marry her, they did so. So this verse was revealed about the
matter. (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number
2084)" So according to Noble Verse 4:19, a woman cannot be forced into marriage by any
means.

Narrated AbuHurayrah: "The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: An orphan virgin girl


should be consulted about herself; if she says nothing that indicates her permission, but if she
refuses, the authority of the guardian cannot be exercised against her will. (Translation of
Sunan Abu-Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2088)"

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: "The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Consult women
about (the marriage of) their daughters. (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Marriage (Kitab
Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2090)"

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: "A virgin came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and
mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet
(peace_be_upon_him) allowed her to exercise her choice. (Translation of Sunan Abu-
Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2091)"

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Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: "The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: A guardian has no
concern with a woman previously married and has no husband, and an orphan girl (i.e. virgin)
must be consulted, her silence being her acceptance. (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud,
Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2095)"

The above Noble Verse 4:19 and the Sayings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be
upon him clearly explain that according to Islam, whether the woman is virgin or not, her
permission is a MUST. Her father or older brother cannot force her into marriage as the
Pagan Arabs and the Jews and Christians before Islam in the Middle East used to do; see
Deuteronomy 25:5 in the Bible to see how women are forced into marriage.

Can the woman divorce herself from a forced marriage upon her?

As we have seen above, it is clearly forbidden in Islam to force women into marriage. But in
case this ever should happen or have happened already to any woman, then Islam allows for
her to divorce herself from the man she was forced to marry. Let us read the following:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: "A virgin came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and
mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet
(peace_be_upon_him) allowed her to exercise her choice. (Translation of Sunan Abu-
Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2091)"

The choice that our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him gave to the woman is
she can either remain married to the man, or divorce herself from him.

QUESTION

In the Hanaf school of thought, what is the opinion of a woman marrying without parental
consent? Please state the Hanaf opinion. Some respected Hanaf scholars in our area have
permitted this under strict conditions.

Answered by

Sheikh Jaml `Atwah


The Hanaf school of thought has ruled that a woman may contract a marriage on her own
without the consent of her guardian. They maintain that her marriage contract will be valid as
long as she is of sound mind, mature and free (not a slave), and that her husband is of at least
equal status to her. It makes no difference whether or not she is a virgin.

Therefore, if she is a minor, mentally unfit, or a slave, then she may not contract a married
without her guardians consent. This consent must be presented upon the execution of the
marriage contract either by the guardian himself or by his appointed representative.

Hanaf scholars disagree regarding a woman who contracts a marriage on her own with
someone who is beneath her status. One of their sayings is that the contract is valid, but that
the father of the woman has the right to object on this marriage. They said that if he approved
it, the marriage would remain intact; otherwise it would be annulled. This is apparently the
opinion of Ab Hanfah himself and of both of his students Ab Ysuf and Muhammad al-
Shaybn.

The second opinion on this matter is that if the woman marries a man who is beneath her, the
contract will be invalid from its inception. This opinion was expressed by Ab Ysuf and

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Muhammad, and it is the opinion adopted by the later scholars of Hanaf Law in
consideration of the womans interests.
Hanaf scholars support the womans right to contract a marriage on her own behalf by citing
three types of evidences: the Qurn, the Sunnah, and reason.
From Allahs book they used the verse. So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably) he
cannot, after that, re-marry her until after she has married another man. [Srah al-Baqarah:
230]

They also cite the verse: When you divorce women, and they fulfill the term of their
waiting, do not prevent them from marrying their (former) husbands. [Srah al-Baqarah:
132]

Both of these verses refer the action of marriage to the woman. This shows that the woman
may get married in her own capacity.
From the Sunnah, there is a hadth that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A single
woman has more right over herself (for marriage) than has her guardian. [Sunan Ab Dwd,
Sunan al-Tirmidh, and Musnad Ahmad]
This hadth clearly shows that her right in marriage is greater than that of her guardian. They
also point out that the hadth asserts the guardians right to execute the marriage contract with
the womans consent as something which is preferred.
From a rational standpoint, they argue that a sane adult woman has the legal capacity to
dispose of all of her affairs, including her financial ones. Since she is empowered to conduct
her financial matters, no matter how considerable they might be, she should have the right to
handle her own marriage.

Indeed, marriage is more her right, since marriage depends on a womans full satisfaction on
choosing her life partner. When she executes her own marriage, this indicates that she is fully
satisfied in the matter.
On this basis, her marriage is valid in the Hanaf school of thought subject to the conditions
that we have already discussed.
However, it is worth saying that the Hanaf school of thought affirms a preferential
guardianship for the father and other close relatives. This is to be considered after her consent
and is only to protect her dignity from scandal and to avoid her being described as
unscrupulous for executing the contract on her own.
The opinion of the Hanaf jurists creates an opportunity in Islamic Law for women who do
not have guardians and want to get married to do so with ease.
However, it must not be forgotten that all Hanaf scholars uphold the right of a womans
guardians to have the marriage annulled in cases where the woman get herself married to a
person who is beneath her status or in cases where she receives a dowry less than that which
is commanded by women of her social standing.

DOES ISLAM ALLOW FORCED MARRIAGE?

Islam is a religion which commands justice towards others, and forbids oppression.
Allah said in the Quran:

Indeed, Allah orders justice, good conduct, and giving to relatives; and forbids
immorality, bad conduct, and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be
reminded. [The Qur'an: an-Nahl 16:90]

Islam is also a religion that forbids forcing people to do things against their will. This is
emphasised, even in the matter of religion, as we find in the Quran:

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There is no compulsion in religion; the right path has become distinct from the
wrong [The Qur'an: al-Baqarah 2:256]

If there is no compulsion in the most important of matters, then it is even more deserving that
no person be compelled by another in matters which are of lesser importance, such as
marriage.

Forced marriage is something alien to Islam, and something which was openly opposed in the
Quran, and by the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Allah said:

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And
do not make difficulties for them [The Quran: an-Nisaa 4:19]

Ibn Abb?s (may Allah be pleased with him), the great scholar of Quran interpretation, and
the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),
said regarding the above passage:

When a man died [in the pre-Islamic period], his relatives had more right to his wife then
her own [family]. If any one of them wanted to marry her, he did so; or they gave her in
marriage; and if they did not want to marry her, they did so. So this passage was revealed
about the matter.

Therefore, we see that this passage is a clear and unequivocal statement forbidding forced
marriage. However, it might be misunderstood that his only applies to forced marriages
conducted after a womans husband passes away. The Prophet Muhammad (may the peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him) issued an even more emphatic prohibition of forced
marriage, as reported by his companion Ab? Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him):

A previously married woman must not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a
virgin must not be given in marriage until her permission is sought." We said, "O Messenger
of Allah, how her permission [to be given?" He replied, "By her silence." [al-Bukh?r?: 5136,
Muslim: 1419]

He also said:

"A [virgin orphan girl should be consulted about [her marriage; if she remains silent, this is
her permission, but if she refuses, there is no forcing her." [Ab? D?wood: 2093]

Furthermore, the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) serve to emphasise this ruling, as reported by Ibn 'Abb?s (may Allah be pleased
with him):

"A young virgin woman came to the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of All?h be upon
him) and mentioned that her father had given her in marriage against her will, so the Prophet
(may the peace and blessings of All?h be upon him) allowed her to exercise her choice." [Ab?
D?wood: 2096, Ibn M?jah: 1875]

In another narration, al-Q?sim narrated:

A woman from the offspring of Jafar was afraid lest her guardian give her in marriage
against her will, so she sent for two elderly men from the An??r [i.e., the companions of the

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Prophet], Abdur-Ra?m?n and Mujammi, the two sons of J?riyah. They said to her, Dont
be afraid, for Khans? bint Khidh?m was given by her father in marriage against her will,
then the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) cancelled it. [al-
Bukh?r?: 6969]

From the proofs mentioned above, we see that the Quran and the statements of the Prophet
Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) clearly prohibit forced
marriage, and that the judgements of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) serve as a practical implementation of these rulings which Muslims are obliged to
follow. The scholars of Islam even differed over whether a woman has the choice to remain
with her husband that she was forced to marry, with many of them saying that the marriage
must be annulled and that should she wish to stay with him, the marriage contract must be
carried out again with her express permission.

It may be noted that all of the discussion above relates to forcing women to marry men. This
is by far the most common form of forced marriage. However, the scholars of Islam make no
distinction in the prohibition of forcing a woman to marry or forcing a man. That is because it
is understood from the texts that if forcing a woman to marry is forbidden, then forcing a man
to marry must be equally forbidden, especially since there was no historical precedent for
forcing a man to marry, whereas in pre-Islamic times, women were forced to marry against
their will.

Having established the ruling of forced marriage in Islam, a person may respond by saying
that forced marriages are conducted by Muslims, and in Muslim countries all over the world.
In this regard, it is vital that the reader understands a number of important matters:

That there is a difference between what Islam commands and whether or not some
Muslims choose to follow those commands. There are Muslims in the world who
murder, lie, steal, cheat, fornicate, gamble, and drink alcohol. All of these things are
prohibited in Islam, and are listed among the major sins which are deserving of severe
punishment. Islam is no different in this regard to any other religion.
Of even greater concern is when Muslims use Islam to justify forced marriage. This
happens when Muslims become unable to distinguish between their religion and the
actions of the people in their society. There are many places in which forced marriage
is common, either from practices that predate Islam, or through copying people of
other religions who live in the same geographical area. Due to the fact that some of
these societies have a large Muslim population, and because of a lack of proper
Islamic education, some Muslims may presume that forced marriage is sanctioned in
Islam. It is the job of Muslims who are educated to challenge this belief, and to prove
it incorrect by quoting the evidence mentioned above.

In summary, Islam is a religion which commands justice towards others, and forbids
oppression. Islam is also a religion that forbids forcing people to do things against their will.
Forced marriage is something alien to Islam, and something which was openly opposed in the
Quran, and by the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

The Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) issued an
emphatic prohibition of forced marriage, as reported by his companion Ab? Hurayrah (may
Allah be pleased with him):

A previously married woman must not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a
virgin must not be given in marriage until her permission is sought." We said, "O Messenger

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of Allah, how her permission [to be given?" He replied, "By her silence." [al-Bukh?r?:
5136, Muslim: 1419]

Furthermore, the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) serve to emphasise this ruling. For example, he annulled the marriage of a woman
who complained that she was forced to marry. As for Muslims who force others to marry,
they either do so because they are choosing not to follow the commands of their religion, or
because they are unable to distinguish between their religion and the actions of the people in
their society.

Many people confuse the concept of an arranged marriage with a forced marriage. An
arranged marriage is one where the couple are introduced for marriage by a third party, rather
than by one of them proposing to the other. This is allowed by Islam, as long as the bride and
groom enter into the marriage freely. Having said that, it is not the only way of Muslims
finding a suitable marriage partner, and others prefer to search for themselves.