Minimum Age For Marriage In The Qur’an

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Kaleef K. Karim

Arabic:
وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ فَإِنْ آنَسْتُم مِّنْهُمْ رُشْدًا فَادْفَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوهَا إِسْرَافًا وَبِدَارًا أَن يَكْبَرُوا وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيرًا فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ حَسِيبًا
Transliteration:
Waibtaloo alyatama hatta itha balaghoo alnnikaha fa-in anastum minhum rushdan faidfaAAoo ilayhim amwalahum wala ta/kulooha israfan wabidaran an yakbaroo waman kana ghaniyyan falyastaAAfif waman kana faqeeran falya/kul bialmaAAroofi fa-itha dafaAAtum ilayhim amwalahum faashhidoo AAalayhim wakafa biAllahi haseeban
Translation:
And test the orphans until they attain puberty; then if you find in them maturity of intellect, make over to them their property, and do not consume it extravagantly and hastily, lest they attain to full age; and whoever is rich, let him abstain altogether, and whoever is poor, let him eat reasonably; then when you make over to them their property, call witnesses in their presence; and Allah is enough as a Reckoner. – Quran 4:6

In this article we are going to examine some claims made against the above verse. Quran 4:6 is a verse which orders guardians to give orphans their property when they reach an age of marriage/puberty and at an age when they perceive sound judgement.

Those who hate Islam/Muslims always happen to make up baseless claims. They assert that Quran 4:6 is not talking about marriage. They make these claims in order to convince others who don’t know much of Islam as a religion, that Islam does not specify an age when marriage should take place. They further assert that, since there are no verses in the Quran that specify what age is appropriate to get married, that Islam allows child marriage. In addition, in order to convince others that Quran 4:6 does not talk about marriage, they mistranslate Arabic words and deceptively hide other facts relating to the passage. Let us see if any of these baseless assertions hold any weight.

Claim 1

The first claim by critics is that the Arabic word ‘Nikah’ (marriage) has been translated by them as ‘f*ck’. I have already written an article which you can access here, where I have referenced many Muslim and non-Muslim academic sources that the word only means marriage, marriage contract and nothing more.

Claim 2

The second claim is that the passage mentions nothing about ‘puberty’. The Arabic word for puberty is mentioned in the passage, which is ‘balaghoo’. Check the following syntax table picture where I have circled the word in red (click on the picture to zoom in),

Quran46Syntax

Let us read and see what the Arabic word balighoo (or baligh) means in the following Arabic-English Dictionaries:

Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage – Elsaid M. Badawi & Muhammad Abdel Halim

ب /ل /غ
b-l-gh to reach, to arrive, to mature, to come of age, to reach puberty; to exhaust; to attain a high degree; to be eloquent; to exaggerate; to do one’s utmost; to notify, to announce, to convey, message. [1]

Wortabet’s Arabic English Dictionary

بَلَغُو
Arrival at a certain point.
Puberty, maturity; majority. Accomplishment, completion.

To reach attain.
Become of age; attain to puberty. Come to one’s knowledge (news). [2]

An English And Arabic Dictionary – Joseph Catafago

بَلِّغْ
Baligh, Arrived, reached, happened, come to pass. One who has attained the age of puberty. [3]

Also refer to Al-Mawrid by Dr. Rohi Baalbaki on the word [4]. Reading the above Arabic-English dictionaries, it is clear that the word ‘puberty’ is indeed prevalent in the verse. The attempt by critics to undermine the verse hold no ground once we examine their futile deceptive assertions.

Furthermore, besides marriage being specified when one enters puberty, Quran 4:6 also orders that the person entering marriage has to be of sound mind, and that they should be capable of managing one’s own affairs. So the verse (Q. 4:6) not only specifies puberty as the age of marriage but also that the person has to be intellectually mature (Rushd). The following are Muslim and non-Muslim commentaries on Quran 4:6.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

“(Prove orphans) test the intelligence of orphans (till they reach the marriageable age) the age of puberty; (then, if ye find them of) if you see that they possess (sound judgement) righteousness in Religion and a tendency to protect their wealth, (deliver over unto them their fortune) then give their wealth which is with you; (and devour it not squandering) it in transgression and unlawfully (and in haste) in haste lest the orphan grows older and consumes it little by little (lest they should grow up) for fear that they grow older and stop you from devouring their wealth.” [5]

Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali

“The age of marriage is the age when they reach majority.“ [6]

Tafhim al-Quran: Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi

“When such people approach their majority their mental development should be watched so as to determine to what extent they have become capable of managing their own affairs.
Two conditions have been laid down for handing over the charge of their properties to such people. The first of these is the attainment of puberty, and the second is that of mental maturity – i.e. the capacity to manage their affairs in a sound and appropriate manner.” [7]

Tafsir al-Jalalayn

“Try, test, well the orphans, before reaching maturity with regard [the duties of] religion and [before] they can [legally] manage their own affairs, until they reach the age of marrying, that is, until they have become eligible for it through puberty or [legal] age, which, according to al-Shāfi‘ī, is the completion of fifteen years; then, if you perceive in them maturity, that is, right [judgement] in matters of religion and their property, deliver their property to them; consume it not, O guardians, wastefully, without due merit, and in haste, that is, hastening to expend it, fearing, lest they should grow up, and become mature, at which time you will be obliged to hand it over to them.” [8]

Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi

Verse 6: … translated as ‘and test the orphans until they reach marriageable age;’ means that children, well before they become pubert and marriageable, should be tested through small assignments of buying and selling in order to determine their ability to conduct themselves in transactions on their own. This process of practical experimentation should continue right through upto the age of marriageability, that is, when they become pubert and mature. This is the time of special assessment. Now it should be determined if they have become smart and self-restraint in their affairs. Once this is sensed as ‘dependable’, it is time to hand over their property to them. In short, given the nature of children and the factors involved in the growth of reason and intelligence among them, they have been divided in three stages.

One: minority (before puberty).
Two: After puberty.
Three: After self-reliance, and discretion in conducting personal affairs (Rushd as opposed to Safahah).

During the first stage, the guardians of children have been instructed to educate and train them by providing for them hands-on experience, that is, let them become smarter by conducting small dealings in buying and selling on their own. The expression:… (Test the orphans) in this verse means exactly this. It is from Abu Hanifah has deduced the ruling that the transactions of buying and selling entered into minor children with the permission for their guardian are sound, valid and operative.
In accordance with the other injunction, when children become mature, puberty and marriageable, the guardian should check up their state of growth at that stage in terms of experience, intelligence and dealings, and once it becomes clear that they understand their profit and loss and handle their affairs and dealings in a satisfactory manner, their property should be handed over to them.

THE AGE OF MATURITY

Along with the injunction of maturity (bulugh) in this verse, the Holy Qur’an has also answered the question as to the ‘age’ when a child would be taken as mature (baligh) by saying: … translated as ‘until they reach marriageability’. Here, it has been indicated that real maturity is not tied up with any particular count of years. Rather, it depends on particular indicators and signs experienced by adults entering the threshold of adulthood. [9]

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi

512. (even when they have attained to the age of majority, as they are likely to spend away their property wastefully).
513. (which belongs to the orphans or orphans under guardianship).
514. (all). Property, as a means of support and sustenance, is a thing to be valued, and not to be lightly squandered. The pronoun refers to property in general, and not to the particular property of an orphan. (Th).
515. The property of a ward is to be managed in a way entirely beneficial to him, and in a way that the whole of it may not be consumed in poor-rate. Capital, for instance, may be invested in trading. (Th).
516. (to the affect that this withholding of their property from them is in their own interest).
517. (to find out, in the case of males, if they have intellect and capacity to judge and act for themselves, and , in the, case of females if they have ability to perform household duties).
518. ie., the age of majority, which, in the Hanafi school of Islamic law, is 18 years for boys and 17 years for girls.
519. I.e., after the ward has been so tested at the attainment of majority.
520. i.e., maturity of intellect; capacity to manage one’s affairs.
521. (unless they are found even at that age wanting, either by nature or by Habit, in that discretion and judgement). ‘A person though not an idiot, may be so foolish by reason of weakness of intellect that his actions generally are not in accord with what reason or common sense would dictate, so that he wasted his property by extravagance, and from incapacity to take care of it.’ (Abdur Rahim, op. cit, p.245). [10]

In the Shade of the Qur’an – Sayyid Qutb

When orphans come of age
This powerful opening to the surah is followed with an outline of the foundation upon which the Islamic social system is built: mutual co-operation within the family and the community, care for the weak and vulnerable, protection and honour for women, looking after the property of the community, and the distribution of inheritance among heirs according to a system which ensures justice to individuals and prosperity to the community. Guardians of orphans are commanded here to hand over to them all their property when they have attained the age associated with sound judgement. Moreover, they are commanded not to marry under-age orphans’ girls who are in their charge in the hope of absorbing their wealth. As for the weak-minded who, it is feared, will squander their wealth once it is given to them, they should not be handed their property, because it, in fact belongs to the community which has an interest in it. [11]

Rev. E. M. Wherry

Examine the orphans. If males, see to their intellect and capacity to care for themselves; if females, examine them as to their ability to perform household duties.
The age of marriage. ‘Or age of maturity, which is generally reckoned to be fifteen; a decision supported by tradition of their Prophet; though Abu Hanifah thinks eighteen the proper age’ –Sale… Waste it not. . Hastily, i.e., when ye see them growing up rapidly to years of discretion, do not pass from your hands’.
What shall be reasonable, ‘That is, no more than what shall make sufficient recompense for the trouble of their education’ – Sale…[12]

Malik Ghulam Farid

567. Under no circumstances should the property of orphans be made over to them before they attain puberty and are so mature of intellect as to take care of and property manage it. [13]

Maulana Muhammad Ali

6a. These words show further, that the guardian is not only responsible for the education of the wards as pointed out at the end of the last verse, but he is also required to examine them and see what progress they have made. According to Abu Hanifah, majority is attained at eighteen years, but if maturity of intellect is not attained at eighteen, the limit may be extended. These words, moreover, show that marriage should be performed at the age when a person has attained majority, for the age of marriage is spoken of as being the age of attaining majority. [14]

In conclusion, the flimsy claims made by critics against Quran 4:6 hold no weight once we expose their deceptions. The evidences presented on the verse (Quran 4:6) shows that the Quran has specified an appropriate age for someone to get married i.e., hitting puberty and when one is intellectually mature (rushd). The passage confirms the prohibition against child marriage, as those who have not attained the age of discernment would be disallowed from making the decision of entering married life.

References:

[1] Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage [Copyright 2008 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands] By Elsaid M. Badawi & Muhammad Abdel Halim  page 111 – 112
[2] Wortabet’s Arabic English Dictionary [Fourth Edition Librairie du Liban Beirut] By William Thomson Wortabet With the collaboration of Rev. John Wortabet. M.D. And Professor Harvey Porter. Ph. D. page 28
[3] An English And Arabic Dictionary [Second edition – London: bernard Quaritch, 15 Piccadilly. 1873] By Joseph Catafago page 52
[4] Al-Mawrid A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary [Copyright 1995: Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin – Beirut, Lebanon] By Dr. Rohi Baalbaki Page 47 and 65
[5] See: Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
[6] See: Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s Commentary
[7] See: Tafhim al-Quran: Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi
[8] See: Tafsir al-Jalalayn
[9] Quran Translation and Commentary by Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi page 322 – 323
[10] Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and commentary of the Holy Qur’an By Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi Volume 1 Page 303
[11] In the Shade of the Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb volume 3, Page 22 – 23
[12] A comprehensive Commentary on The Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation And Preliminary Discourse with additional Notes and Emendations By The Rev. E. M. Wherry volume 2 Page 69 – 70
[13] The Holy Qur’an Arabic text with English translation & short commentary by Malik Ghulam Farid Page 185
[14] The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali Page 195

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