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The process of thighing (مفاخذة, mufākhadhah) refers to rubbing between the legs as an alternative to sexual intercourse when that is not possible due to age or menstruation (an example of a fatwa permitting the practice during menstruation can be seen here).
The Shi'a cleric Ayatollah Khomeini (d. 1989), the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, infamously permitted this act on wives who are pre-pubescent. Permission is also found in a handful of isolated fatwas which used to be in a large Sunni fatwa database (one is still present on the site). While Ayatollah Khomeini is an important 20th century Shia figure, neither they nor he cite hadiths or classical rulings that explicitly mention doing this act to minors. As such this would not count as representing any kind of Islamic legal consensus, historic or otherwise. However, the more general permission for Child Marriage in Islamic Law has the longstanding consensus of the legal scholars. Modern Muslim countries are increasingly changing their civil laws to raise the minimum age of marriage in an effort to reduce the prevalence of child marriages. Many Muslim groups also campaign for these changes. The UN regards child marriage as a human rights violation and aims to eradicate it by 2030. The girl is vulnerable to spousal abuse and childhood pregnancy which greatly jeopardizes her health and future.
The Sunni fatwas permitting the practice on minors quoted below appear to be incompatible with traditional Sunni jurisprudence in which the husband is forbidden access to a minor wife until she reaches the age of majority (typically understood to mean menarchy). Reuben Levy, who was Professor of Persian at Cambridge University, writes, "No age limits have been fixed in Islam for marriage, and quite young children may be legally married, although a girl is not handed over to her husband until she is fit for marital congress. The Hanafite legal code lays down that a wife must not be taken into her husband's house until she reaches that condition. In case of dispute on the matter, between the husband and the bride's wali, who is her nearest male kinsmen and her guardian, the qadi is to be informed, and he is to appoint two matrons to examine the girl and report on her physical preparedness for marriage. If they decide she is too young, she must return to her father's house until she is declared fit."
Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic of Iran, wrote of this practice regarding its practice with pre-pubescent children:
ﻣﺴﺄﻟﺔ 12 : ﻻ ﻳﺠﻮﺯ ﻭﻁﺀ ﺍﻟﺰﻭﺟﺔ ﻗﺒﻞ ﺇﻛﻤﺎﻝ ﺗﺴﻊ ﺳﻨﻴﻦ ، ﺩﻭﺍﻣﺎ ﻛﺎﻥ ﺍﻟﻨﻜﺎﺡ ﺃﻭ ﻣﻨﻘﻄﻌﺎ , ﻭ ﺃﻣﺎ ﺳﺎﺋﺮ ﺍﻻﺳﺘﻤﺘﺎﻋﺎﺕ ﻛﺎﻟﻠﻤﺲ ﺑﺸﻬﻮﺓ ﻭ ﺍﻟﻀﻢ ﻭ ﺍﻟﺘﻔﺨﻴﺬ ﻓﻼ ﺑﺄﺱ ﺑﻬﺎ ﺣﺘﻰ ﻓﻰ ﺍﻟﺮﺿﻴﻌﺔRuling # 12: It is not permission to have intercourse before (her) being 9 years old, be it in nikah (permanent marriage) or temporary marriage. And as for all other pleasures such as lustful touch, embracing, and thighing (ﺍﻟﺘﻔﺨﻴﺬ), there is no problem in it even with a suckling infant.
The practice is also attested to and confirmed by Sunni legal sources. Islamweb.net, one of the largest Fatwa sites on the internet that includes more than 250 thousand Fatwas, includes the following Fatwa:
السؤال: ما هو حكم مفاخذة الصغار؟
الإجابة: فإن كان المقصود بالسؤال مفاخذة الرجل زوجته الصغيرة فهذا جائز. وأما إن كان المقصود بالسؤال مفاخذة غير الزوجة فهذا محرم سواءً كان المفاخذ صغيراً أو كبيراً ذكراً أو أنثى
Question: What's the ruling on thighing minors?.
Answer: If the question refers to the thighing of a minor wife by her man then this is permissible. But if the question refers to the thighing of a non-wife then it's forbidden whether it's the thiging of a minor or an adult, a male or a female.
The following is a Fatwa from the same website archived by Al-Maktabah Al-Shamilah library in 2009. The Fatwa on the site now no longer mentions the kissing and the thiging of a minor. The archived Fatwa says:
There’s no issue in the sexual kissing, thighing..etc of a minor wife, even if she can't yet endure sexual intercourse. Scholars have stated that the default ruling is that a man can enjoy his wife however he wants as long as no harm is caused. The examples they mentioned for this include masturbating with her hand, fondling, kissing, etc.
Another archived fatwa from Islamweb.net that's now deleted from the site:
السؤال: أهلي زوجوني من الصغر صغيرة وقد حذروني من الاقتراب منها ماهو حكم الشرع بالنسبة لي مع زوجتي هذه وما هي حدود قضائي للشهوة منها وشكرا لكم؟
فإذا كانت هذه الفتاة لا تحتمل الوطء لصغرها، فلا يجوز وطؤها لأنه بذلك يضرها، وقد قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم " لا ضرر ولا ضرار " رواه أحمد وصححه الألباني. وله أن يباشرها، ويضمها ويقبلها، وينزل بين فخذيها، ويجتنب الدبر لأن الوطء فيه حرام، وفاعله ملعون.
Question: My family married me to a female minor and they warned me not to touch her. What’s the ruling regarding me and my wife and what are the limits of pleasuring myself with her?
Answer: If this girl can’t endure sexual intercourse due to her young age, then it’s forbidden to have sex with her because it would harm her. The prophet said: “There is no injury nor return of injury”. The husband can touch her, embrace her, kiss her and ejaculate between her thighs. And he should avoid anal sex because it’s forbidden and the one who does it is cursed.
- Mu'jam Lughat Al-Fuqaha', p445المفاخذة: إيلاج الذكر بين فخذي المرأة
Thighing: Shoving the penis between the thighs of a woman.
- Reuben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1969, pp. 106-107