Child Marriage in the Muslim World

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In many Islamic countries and around the world, child marriages are common practice. Girls below the age of 18, and often far below the age of puberty are forcibly married to older persons (sometimes in their 50s and later), often for various personal gains by the girls' guardian or with the intention to preserve family honor by helping her avoid pre-marital sex.

Islamic law permits child marriage. Jurists agreed that a father may compel his pre-pubescent virgin daughter to enter into a marriage contract. The family was to hand her over for consummation when they judged her physically able to withstand intercourse without physical harm rather than being linked to a particular age. See the article Forced Marriage for more detail and for sources of help for those at risk.[1]

The prevalence of child marriage involving under 18s is decreasing globally, but is still widespread according to Unicef, affecting millions of girls annually, as well as boys to a much lesser extent.[2] According to Unicef, "Many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide ‘protection’, family honor, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system." Data available on their website indicates that marriage of girls under 18 and under 15 is common in many predominantly Muslim countries, and similarly in many predominantly Christian countries in Africa, in India (among Hindus as well as Muslims) and to a lesser extent in Latin America and the Caribbean.[3]

The practice also exists on a much smaller scale among Muslim populations in some non-Muslim countries such as the United Kingdom, where hundreds of girls under the age of 18 are taken overseas to be forcibly married each year (as well as young adults; the Hanafi and Hanbali schools of Islamic law require consent before post-pubescent virgins are given in marriage, though such rules are often flouted).[4]

Today, many modern Muslim countries have legislated to raise the minimum age of marriage, commonly to the age of 16 or 18 for girls (though often with loopholes or with ineffective enforcement) and to prevent forced marriage. This has often happened in the face of opposition from traditional Islamic scholars. Many Muslim campaign groups and charities have been involved in this progress and continue to offer help to those at risk. In 2019 in collaboration with activists, the deputy Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo issued a fatwa calling for marriage based on mutual consent with a minimum age set as 18.[5]


PLEASE NOTE: The information below dates to the first decade of the 21st century. For more up to date information on the prevalence of child marriage compiled by Unicef, see here. A number of countries have since taken steps to raise the minimum age of marriage. For information on this see the table on the Wikipedia page Marriageable Age.


In Afghanistan, despite the law against child brides, more than half of all girls are married before they turn 15, usually to settle disputes.
. . .

A Unicef study from 2000 to 2008 found that more than 43 per cent of women in Afghanistan were married under age, some before puberty.

In 2009 Human Rights Watch and Unifem, a UN agency, classified 57 per cent of all brides as under age, which is below 16. Despite the changes in the state law, not much seems to have changed since then[6]


93% of Azerbaijan's population identify as Muslim.[7]

Officials in Azerbaijan are so concerned by the number of women getting married under-age that parliament is discussing raising the minimum age for marriage to 18.

Women’s rights activists say corrupt religious officials are prepared to conduct Islamic ceremonies for couples when the woman is too young for a state service, leaving her unprotected if her husband leaves her, uneducated and vulnerable to medical complications.
. . .

In Khachmaz, a city near Azerbaijan’s border with Russia, of 2,500 pupils in their final year of school, almost 130 girls were not attending since they had already married. The headmaster, she said, took no action, although education is compulsory.

But her organisation’s research shows that the problem of young marriages is most pronounced in the southern regions bordering Iran.[8]


According to statistics from 2005, 45% of women then between 25 and 29 were married by the age of 15 in Bangladesh. According to the “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 63% of all women aged 20–24 were married before the age of 18.[9][10]


According to an article in the Toronto Sun, Muslim child brides in Canada are on the rise:

Federal immigration officials say there’s little they can do to stop “child brides” from being sponsored into Canada by much older husbands who wed them in arranged marriages abroad.

Top immigration officials in Canada and Pakistan say all they can do is reject the sponsorships of husbands trying to bring their child-brides to Canada. The men have to reapply when the bride turns 16. The marriages are permitted under Sharia Law.

Muslim men, who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents return to their homeland to wed a “child bride” in an arranged marriage in which a dowry is given to the girl’s parents. Officials said some of the brides can be 14 years old or younger and are “forced” to marry. The practice occurs in a host of countries including: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon.

Not valid in Canada

Canadian visa officer Steve Bulmer said in classified documents he refused to allow one Pakistani man to sponsor his 15-year-old bride in August 2009.

“I can find no section (of law) that states the marriage is ‘invalid’ or ‘void,” Bulmer wrote in e-mails obtained by lawyer Richard Kurland under Access of Information. “I am afraid the age does not invalidate the marriage even if it is illegal to marry.”

Abdul Hameed, of the Canadian embassy in Islamabad, said child marriages are not valid in Canada.

“A child marriage is punishable but it does not render the marriage invalid,” Hameed said. “We are refusing such application on grounds the marriage will not be valid as per Canadian laws.”

William Hawke, of immigration’s Permanent Resident Unit, said the young brides won’t be allowed in Canada.

“Sponsorship applications submitted for a spouse under 16 will be refused,” he said.[11]


More than 3,000 women and girls in Germany, most from Muslim families and many of them minors, faced forced marriage in the course of a year, official research released this week indicates.

The first federal study of its kind found 3,443 recorded cases in 2008 - the most recent year with sufficient data - in which people living in Germany were forced to wed or threatened with a forced marriage.

Most were between the ages of 18 and 21, although nearly a third of them were under the age of 17.
. . .

More than half were beaten or otherwise physically abused to convince them to marry, while more than one in four were threatened with weapons or told they would be killed if they did not go through with the marriage.[12]


Data in the 2010 progress report to the United Nations on HIV in Malaysia prepared by the Ministry of Health reveals shocking statistics on the number of Muslim girls under the age of 14 who have undergone pre-marital HIV screening in order to get married.

The data shows that 32 girls under the age of 10 and 445 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 went through this testing in 2009 alone in preparation for marriage!

What is also significant is that this phenomenon is taking place in the more developed states in Malaysia, with the highest numbers recorded in Penang (195), Malacca (103) and Johor (87).[13]
There was an increase in marriages involving underage Muslims in the Federal Territory last year.

This goes against the assumption that child marriages are now on the decline due to changing cultural trends.

Last year [2009], 49 Muslim girls under 16 years of age and 39 boys under 18 tied the knot.

According to the statistics provided by the Federal Territory Religious Department, this number was higher compared with the previous year.
. . .

In 2008, 40 girls and 28 boys below the permitted age registered their marriages.
. . .

It was also reported last week that, according to the 2000 Census, there were 11,400 children below 15 years of age who were married -- 6,800 girls and 4,600 boys.[14]


The legal minimum age for marriage in Morocco is 18 years, although family judges are empowered to allow exceptions. This loophole has enabled thousands of families to marry off their daughters prematurely.

According to figures from the justice ministry, over 31,000 under-age girls were married in 2008, compared with 29,847 in 2007.[15]


Northern Nigeria has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world: nearly half of all girls here are married by the age of 15.

The consequences have been devastating. Nigeria has the highest maternal mortality rate in Africa and one of the world’s highest rates of fistula, a condition that can occur when the pressure of childbirth tears a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. Many women are left incontinent for life. Up to 800,000 women suffer from fistula in Nigeria.
. . .
Dr Waaldijk operates on up to 600 women a year, with no electricity or running water... Some have been divorced by their husbands - it is estimated that up to half of adolescent girls in northern Nigeria are divorced... The Nigerian federal Government has attempted to outlaw child marriage. In 2003 it passed the Child Rights Act, prohibiting marriage under the age of 18. In the Muslim northern states, though, there has been fierce resistance to the Act, with many people portraying it as antiIslamic.
. . .
Half of Nigeria’s 36 states have passed the Act, but it has been adopted by only one of the dozen Muslim states - and even that one made a crucial amendment substituting the age of 18 for the term “puberty”.

Each state in Nigeria has the constitutional right to amend legislation to comply with its local traditions and religion, meaning that central government is powerless to impose a minimum age of marriage.[16]

Palestinian Authority area

According the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 682 girls aged 14 and younger were legally married in 2000. Two of them were married to men who were 35 or older, 13 to men 30 to 34, 117 to men 25 to 29, 378 to men 20 to 24 and 172 to men 15 to 19. Child marriages of girls 14 and younger made up 2.9 per cent of the total number of registered marriages. In the same year, 13,163 Palestinian girls between 15 and 19 were legally married, surpassing 55 per cent of all registered marriages.

Local human rights organizations are deeply concerned about child marriage in Palestinian society. Participants of a conference in Gaza dedicated to this issue in January 2008, organized by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), warned of the “significant rise in child marriage rate” and its severe psychological and physical implications on the youth.[17][18]

Saudi Arabia

Though there has been no exact figure of child marriages, some studies published in the media suggested that no less than 3,000 girls in the Kingdom were under 13 when they got married, while their husbands were at least 25 years their senior.[19]


[As of November 2008] Thirty-nine percent of married women in the southern province of Şanlıurfa were 16 or younger on their wedding day, according to the Istanbul-based Social Democracy Foundation, which is campaigning against the practice.

They typically marry in religious ceremonies and delay civil marriage until they’re of age, according to the foundation. "As long as you have people in Turkey who say this is okay and who use Islam to justify it, it remains a big problem," says Amanda Akçakoca, an analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels.[20]

United Kingdom

The number of forced marriages has increased more than ten-fold in just four years, government figures have revealed.

More than 770 suspected cases were reported to the Forced Marriage Unit this year, up from 152 in 2005.

If the trend continues, by the end of this year more than 1,540 Britons will have been coerced into a marriage they do not want to enter - an increase of more than 913 per cent.

The practice affects mainly young Asian women, with more than a third of cases involving those aged under 18. One in six victims are under 16.

Advisors said they are dealing with hundreds of schoolchildren who have confided to teachers that they fear they will be taken abroad in the summer holidays and forced to marry.[21]


Yemeni parliament had actually approved a law last year that set a minimum marriageable age of 17 for boys and 18 for girls. (Significantly, the family of Elham Mahdi al Assi lied that she was 18 years old). According to the UN statistics, more than half of Yemeni girls got married before reaching puberty. That means more than half of all marriages in Yemen are child marriages. In line with the UN statistics, the Gender Development Research and Studies Centre at Sana’a University carried out a study on early marriage in 2008 and found that 52.1 per cent of girls are under 18 when they wed, compared with 6.7 per cent of boys.

But following the approving of the law by Parliament, thousands of conservative Yemeni women actually demonstrated outside parliament last month to protest the implementation of a minimum marriageable age [They were holding up copies of the Qur'an while stating that the proposed law is un-Islamic].[22] Because of the opposition to the proposed law, it did not come into force. Had that law been approved, parents of children involved in child (underaged) marriage could be fined $500 or jailed for a year.[23]
Yemen is full of child brides. Roughly half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some as young as eight.[24]

Traditional Islamic Justification

Permitted in the Qur'an

Traditional Quran commentators and jurists have been essentially unanimous that child marriages are permitted in the Qur'an.

And (as for) those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time shall be three months, and of those too who have not had their courses; and (as for) the pregnant women, their prescribed time is that they lay down their burden; and whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah He will make easy for him his affair.

The term "courses" mentioned above (indicated in bold italic text) is most accurately translated as "menstruation", which is the exact meaning of the Arabic word used in that context (i.e. 'Yaĥiđna يَحِضْنَ).

Permitted by Muslim Scholars

It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger. A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.

We hear a lot in the media about the marriage of underage girls. We should know that Shariah law has not brought injustice to women.[25]
Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh
Our mothers and before them our grandmothers married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.[26]
Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh
A nine-year-old girl has the same sexual capacities like a woman of twenty and over.[27]
Skeikh Mohamed Ibn Abderrahmane Al-Maghraoui
Getting married at an early age is something that is confirmed by the book of Allah, the Sunnah of his Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), the consensus of the scholars and the actions of the companions, and the Muslims who came after them...

There are many Ahadith which confirm that marriage at an early age was widespread among the companions and no one denied its permissibility. Getting married at an early age was not peculiar to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) as some people think, but it was general for him and for his Ummah.

The following are some of the actions of the Sahaba (companions):

1. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, married his daughter, Um Kulthum to Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, and she mothered a child before the death of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam). Omar got married to her while she was young before reaching the age of puberty. This is reported by Ibn Saad in 'Al-Tabaqat'.

2. From Urwa Ibn Zubair: that Zubair, may Allah be pleased with him, married his daughter when she was very young. Reported by Saeed Ibn Mansour, in his Sunnah, and Ibn Abi Shaibah, in Al-musannaf, with a Sahih chain of narration.

Al-Shafie said in the book of Al-Um: "Many companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) married their daughters while these were still young."

Delaying the marriage of girls in many Muslim countries is something new and contradictory to what Muslims used to do over many centuries. This is because of westernization and the application of man-made laws. This caused a change in understandings and customs within a considerable number of the population, and it is absolutely not permissible to consider the customs and traditions in a given country as the standard by which people abide, and fail to obey the absolute evidences of Shariah.

In some Muslim countries, the marriage for girls has been delayed by many years beyond the age of puberty. This has indeed led to an increase in the removal of the veil from the face, and increased fornication and adultery, as well as the emergence of deviation in conduct and religion among the youth. They had become morally unstable as they lack affection, chastity, and protection their private parts from illegal sexual relations.

By delaying marriage, there is also a reduction in the number of Muslims in the Ummah, and this is contrary to the order of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), as he ordered us to have many children so that the Muslim nation will be greater in number than the previous nations.
Child marriage in Islam
Islamweb, Fatwa No. 88089, June 24, 2004
A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however is prohibited from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual acts such as foreplay, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed. A man having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not committed a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the man must provide for her all her life. But this girl will not count as one of the man's four permanent wives. He also is not permitted to marry the girl's sister.[28]
The late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution
The Saudi religious establishment is generally supportive of child bride marriages. Some clerics who addressed this issue cited the example of the Prophet's marriage to 'Aisha. For example, Jeddah marriage and divorce official Ahmad Al-Ma'abi said on a June 2008 program on Lebanon's LBC TV that a girl may marry and have sexual intercourse from the age of nine, arguing that the Prophet Muhammad had married 'Aisha when she was six and had consummated the marriage when she was nine. Al-Ma'abi added that, in Yemen, girls often married at the age of nine or 10. He concluded that as long as the father of the bride consents to the marriage and is present at the ceremony, as required by religious law, "the marriage is obviously legal."[29][30]
You can have a marriage contract even with a 1-year-old girl, not to mention a girl of 9, 7 or 8. But is the girl ready for sex or not? What is the appropriate age for sex for the first time? This varies according to environment and tradition.[31]
Dr. Ahmad al-Mu’bi, Saudi marriage officiant
The marriage of nine-year-old girls is not forbidden because according to the Hadith (the Prophet Mohammed's sayings), Mohammed married Aisha when she was only seven-years-old and he consummated his union when she was nine.[32]
Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui
According to the Shari'ah, if a girl is a minor (did not attain puberty), she may be given in marriage by her father. When she attains puberty, she has the right to maintain the marriage or discontinue the marriage. There is no age limit to be intimate with one's wife even if she is a minor.
I would like to marry a woman who is 12 years old, her father and she has also agreed. What is your advise?
Islamic Q & A Online with Mufti Ebrahim Desai, Ask-Imam, Question No. 6737
Child marriage in Islam is permissible. In the Koran there is no specific age of marriage...[If the government imposed new laws against child marriage] There will be violent conflict from the Muslims, saying that 'no, we will not accept this, we'd rather die than accept something which is not a law from Allah.'[16]
Ahmed Sani Yerima, former governor and current senator of Zamfara State, Nigeria
Nigeria has many uncountable problems and none of them is early marriage. As a matter of fact early marriage (is) the solution to about half of our problems. For those who wonder if I can give my daughter(s) out in marriage at the age of 9 or 13, I tell you most honestly, I can give her out at the age of 6 if I want to and it’s not your business. This is because I am a Muslim and I follow the example of the best of mankind, Muhammad ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ...
Ahmed Sani Yerima, former governor and current senator of Zamfara State, Nigeria[33] is permitted to contract marriage with a young girl and to hand her over to her husband to stay with him before she reaches adolescence.
Ruling on marrying young women
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 1493
m3.13 Guardians are of two types, those who may compel their female charges to marry someone, and those who may not.

  1. The only guardians who may compel their charge to marry are a virgin bride's father or father's father, compel meaning to marry her to a suitable match (def: m4) without her consent.
  2. Those who may not compel her are not entitled to marry her to someone unless she accepts and gives her permission.

Whenever the bride is a virgin, the father or father's father may marry her to someone without her permission, though it is recommended to ask her permission if she has reached puberty. A virgin's silence is considered as permission.[34]
Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law
Everything that is not forbidden is permitted. [The new law in Yemen that set the minimum marriage age at 17] is a Western plot aimed at Westernizing our culture. The West wants to teach us how to marry, conceive and divorce. This is cultural colonization that we reject.[35]
Sheik Mohammed al-Hazmi, a legislator in Yemen, 2009
...If she is married without her permission, by threat or coercion, then the marriage is not valid. The only exeption is in the case of the father and his daughter who is less than nine years of age. There is no harm if he gets her married while she is less than nine years old, according to the correct opinion. This is based on the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) marrying Aisha without her consent when she was less than nine years old, as is stated in authentic Hadith...[36]
Shaikh ibn Baz's answer on the Q & A site of the Muslim Students Organization of the University of Houston
Scholars have discussed at length the marriage of a young girl who has not attained puberty and whether her father may marry her away without her permission. If such a marriage takes place it is valid. However, it is perhaps best if the marriage is not allowed to be consummated until the girl attains puberty, when she is given the choice whether to continue with this marriage or not.[37]
Adil Salahi
Because this happened to the Prophet, we cannot tell people that it is prohibited to marry at an early age.[38]
Sheikh Hamoud Hashim al-Tharihi, general secretary of the Vice and Virtue Committee and member of the Islah Party in Yemen
Banning child marriage will cause challenging the marriage of the holy prophet of Islam, who also married minor Ayesha, when she was just eight years old. The new law [seeking to ban child marriages] initiated by the current government [of Bangladesh] will put the moral character of the prophet into controversy and challenge. Islam permits child marriage and it will not be tolerated if any ruler will ever try to touch this issue in the name of giving more rights to women.[39]
Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini

Committed by Muhammad

Main Article: Muhammad's marriage to Aisha

Another justification used by scholars is that Muhammad, who is considered the Uswa Hasana (perfect example) by all Muslims, then in his early 50s, married Aisha, when she was a 6 year old girl and consummated the marriage when she was 9.

A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.

Committed by Muhammad's Companions

Umar ibn al-Khattab, the 2rd Caliph of Islam, at the age of 55 married Umm Kulthum bint Ali when she was between 10 and 12 years old. Some sources even say that she was five years old when Umar married her.

"'Umar asked 'Ali for the hand of his daughter, Umm Kulthum in marriage. 'Ali replied that she has not yet attained the age (of maturity). 'Umar replied, 'By Allah, this is not true. You do not want her to marry me. If she is underage, send her to me'. Thus 'Ali gave his daughter Umm Kulthum a dress and asked her to go to 'Umar and tell him that her father wants to know what this dress is for. When she came to Umar and gave him the message, he grabbed her hand and forcibly pulled her towards him. 'Umm Kulthum asked him to leave her hand, which Umar did and said, 'You are a very mannered lady with great morals. Go and tell your father that you are very pretty and you are not what he said of you'. With that 'Ali married Umm Kulthum to 'Umar."
In Tarikh Khamees, Volume 2, p. 384 ('Dhikr Umm Kalthum') and Zakhair Al-Aqba, p. 168

Example Cases Around the World


In September 2010, a 14-year-old girl from Melbourne was saved from an arranged marriage to an adult stranger by a court's ban on her travelling overseas until she turns 18. Her Muslim family (originally from Macedonia) was also forced to surrender the child's passport and cannot apply for a new one.[40]


September 4 2009, in Barisal, Bangladesh, 75-year old moneylender Lokman Sikder was given 13-year old Akhinur in marriage, by her father, as payment for his unpaid loan of Tk 4,000. Lokman Sikder was previously known to the child as 'Lokman Nana' (grandfather).[41]

In 2011, Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini threatened to wage jihad in the country if the government passed any law banning child marriage. He said, two hundred thousand Jihadists of his group are ready to 'sacrifice' lives if any such law, which goes against "Qur'an and Sunnah" be passed by the government.[39]


In Indonesia, a 43-year-old Muslim cleric married a 12-year-old girl in front of thousands of people in the Central Java Province in August of 2008. Not long after the marriage ceremony, police returned the girl to her parents' care. The cleric also announced his intention to marry two other girls aged 7 and 9. In March 2009, he and the girl's father were arrested. The cleric argued that he had committed no crime because he intended to wait until she reached puberty before consummating their relationship.[42]


In Iran a 13 year old girl is old enough to legally marry and considered as an adult at age 8 years and 9 months, old enough to be sentenced to stoning, flogging and hanging for adultery and fornication. Iranian gender biased law favors men where pedophiles are likely to prevail over the girls and women they victimized facing the risk of being convicted should they go to courts.[43]
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Los Angelos, California, August 2009


In August, 2010, the Malaysian State of southern Malacca legalized child marriages specifically between Muslim men and Muslim girls below the age of 16. In a country where Muslims now amount to 60% of the total population, they enforce "Sharia law which operates in parallel with the civil legal system." Ivy Josiah, the executive director of the Women's Aid Organisation, says "It is really a regressive move. It is turning back the clock." [44] News like this leaves one wondering what will happen to child abuse laws in Western countries once Muslims form a sizable portion of the population. In February 2010, two girls aged 10 and 11 were wed to middle-aged men in the state of Kelantan. The 11-year-old was found outside a mosque and was taken to hospital for treatment. Sharia court officials have said that her marriage was not officially approved.[45] In December 2010, 23-year-old teacher Abdul Manan Othman married 14-year-old Siti Maryam Mahmod in a mass wedding at a major mosque, after being given permission in an Islamic Sharia court. The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of legal affairs has shot down calls to ban underage marriage, stating "If the religion allows it, then we can't legislate against it."[46]


In some cases, daughters are sold to other tribesmen by their own fathers as an alternative way of settling debt, which is usually accumulated as a result of gambling. The benefactor as a result marries his young bounty so that she may not have any excuse for returning to her native home (in the same concept as how ordinary people spend money that they acquire) [47].

There have also been cases, especially in Pakistan where daughters (sometimes as young as 3)[48] have been sold to others for personal gain, usually to raise money for gambling, drinking, smoking and consuming drugs. Prices for child brides usually range from PKRs 80,000 to PKRs 200,000 (~US$ 1,340 to ~US$ 3,350). In March 2004 in Sindh province, Pakistan, a man was charged for selling his 7 year old daughter to a 35 year old man for marriage. In another rather peculiar case, a 13-year old girl, bought for PKRs 53,000 (~US$ 888) was later rejected by her buyer on the ground that the girl was not "healthy" enough, and he demanded a "healthier" girl from the seller[49].

Another form of pedophilic marriage is linked to a tribal custom called Vani, which is a common practice in the Punjab province of Pakistan and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. This custom is tied to blood feuds among the differing tribes and clans where the young girls are forcibly married-off in order to resolve the feuds. The Vani could be avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money in lieu, called Deet. Otherwise the young bride will have to pay for the crime of her male relatives by spending the rest of her life with a rival tribesman.[50] In early January of 2010, ten people including a Muslim cleric and the father of the girls, were arrested for participating in "a jirga that declared two girls vani" in Pakistan. The girls (ages 9 and 3) were being used to resolve a marriage dispute.[51]

Another rather similar concept is called Badal, or revenge. This custom is strong in Pashtun society native to northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, and leads to a need for disputes to be settled quickly to avoid further bloodshed. Girls are treated as second-class citizens when they are sent to be a bride in a new family to mend ties.[49]

Finally, we have forced conversions of minors via marriage. This is when children from minority communities, such as the Hindus' and Christians, are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married off to one of the kidnappers. These types of marriages have seen a sharp rise in recent years, due to the general indifference among the police forces towards the plight of the non-Muslim, and laws which prevent the return of 'Muslim' children to their non-Muslim parents. As was the case for the Christian mother Sajida Masih,[52] who's 12 year-old daughter Huma was abducted at gunpoint by Muhammad Imran on the 23rd of February, 2009. When the terrified mother reported the crime to Sadar police station in Gujranwala, the police ridiculed her, and told her there was nothing they could do as she is now a Muslim.

In September 2011, a 12-year-old girl was given in marriage to an 85-year-old man in Chiniot. Rani was sold to her fathers rival for five acres of land, thus a blood debt. Langrana Station House Officer (SHO) Zafar Bhatti said that he had conducted a raid at the marriage ceremony but found that no laws were broken. “I cannot arrest anyone here because the girl is an adult as per Islamic Law and Shariah. She is 12-years-old and that is not too young for marriage.”[53]

In October 2011, Kot Shakir police arrested three men for marrying a 1-year-old infant to a 24-year-old man.[54]

Saudi Arabia

As recent as May 2009, A Saudi sheikh performed a wedding ceremony between a 10-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man. The reason for this? The girl's father said that he married off his daughter, as he feared she would remain a spinster.[55]In 2008 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, another marriage between an 8 year old girl and a 58-year old-man was validated by a local court (other sources place his age at 47), and a plea by the girl's mother to nullify the marriage was rejected. The girl was apparently sold into the marriage by her father for SR 30,000 (~US$ 7,994) to ease the financial difficulty he was facing.[56] A second attempt to have the marriage annulled was struck down by the same judge who denied the girl's mother as a witness in court because she was separated from her husband and therefore not the girl's legal guardian (under Shari'a). The judge ruled that the girl could seek a divorce when she reached puberty, and he required that the husband sign an agreement not to consummate the marriage until the girl reached puberty.[57] In August 2009, a Saudi father returned his 10-year-old daughter to her elderly husband who was reportedly 80 years old. The girl had been hiding with her aunt for over a week until she was discovered by her father. Originally the girl's older sister was betrothed to the man, but when the elder girl chose instead to further her education, their father gave the 10-year-old to him as a replacement bride. The husband insisted that "My marriage is not against Shariah. It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride."[58] In February 2010, a 12-year-old girl, fighting to divorce an 80-year-old man who paid her father $22,000 for permission to marry her, suddenly dropped her divorce request. She failed to appear in court on the day the judge was supposed to issue his decision. No news was further reported as to why she dropped the case.[59]

United Kingdom

According to 2009 government figures in the UK, forced marriages have seen a ten-fold rise in just four years. One-third of these cases involve victims aged under 18, and one-sixth under the age of 16.[60] While it is reported to be a problem mainly concentrated within the "Asian" communities, this is usually a politically-correct term given to any sensitive issues concerning the Muslim population. This has been previously witnessed with the media handling of the 2001 "race riots" in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley. The government, and the then home secretary David Blunkett, were secretly warned by the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Gurbux Singh, that more violence was to be expected from "Young Muslims who feel disenfranchised" living among the many "Muslim" hotspots in the UK.[61]

United States

On the 4th of August 2009, 23 year-old Vincent Mosby paid a dowry (consisting of a watch and a ring purchased from Wal-Mart) and married a 14-year-old child in a religious ceremony held in her parents home, and attended by two other members of the Kansas City mosque the child bride's step-father belongs to. The parents say they pressured their daughter into the marriage, due to fears of her becoming sexually active with a boy her own age. Mosby was charged with statutory rape in November 2009.[62]


In September 2009, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl who was forced into marriage died during a painful childbirth which also killed her baby.[63] In 2008, 10-year-old Nujood Ali went to a courthouse by herself, after attempts to get help from relatives failed, and demanded a divorce, generating a landmark legal case. The judge granted the girl a permanent divorce from her 30-year-old husband who had raped and beaten Nujood on their wedding night. Her lawyer said that they were "lucky with this judge. Another judge might not have accepted her in court, and would have asked her father or brother to come instead." Had that happened, Nujood would probably still be married. However, based on the principles of Shariah law, her husband was compensated, not prosecuted. Nujood was ordered to pay him more than $200 -- a huge amount in a country where the United Nations Development Programme says 15.7 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. She also feels like an outcast among her relatives and friends.[64] Just weeks after Nujood's case, 9-year-old Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali ran away from her 35-year-old husband to a local hospital and reported that she had been beaten and sexually abused for eight months. The judge who heard her case briefly jailed the local judge who had approved the marriage contract. Arwa's husband refused to show up to court.[65] Also in 2008, Reem, a Yemeni girl married at 12, sought a divorce from her 30-year-old husband after he choked her, bit her, dragged her by the hair, and raped her when she resisted his demands for sex. He imprisoned her in his house for 11 days during which time she tried to kill herself with a kitchen knife before being rescued by her mother.[66] Her father had forced her into the marriage with her cousin, resorting to a gag and tying her up twice. He also threatened to kill the girl for defying him.[67]


In countries like Yemen, Bangladesh, Iran, and Northern Nigeria, attempts at reforming laws and banning child marriages have been opposed and stopped on the grounds that such a ban would be un-Islamic,[16][33][39][23][22] and in the case of Malaysia, the growing Muslim population has effectively turned back the clock on social progress by passing new laws which allow for the practice of pedophilic marriages specifically between followers of Islam.[44] Whatever reasons and justification people may give for the prevalence of child marriages in Muslim-majority nations, without Islam this practice would likely have been discarded as immoral and unacceptable in the modern world.

See Also

  • Marriage - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Marriage

External Links


  1. For example Muslim Women's Network UK and Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative
  2. Child marriage - (accessed November 2022)
  3. Child marriage data - (accessed November 2022)
  4. - UK government Forced Marriage Unit
  5. Senior Islamic cleric issues fatwa against child marriage -
  6. Robert Fox - Girl, eight, sold to Afghan police officer as his bride - London Evening Standard, October 6, 2011
  7. Middle East :: Azerbaijan - The World Factbook, August 19, 2010
  8. Diana Isayeva - Early Marriages Worry Azerbaijan Officials - Institute for War & Peace Reporting, November 6, 2009
  9. Child Marriage Factsheet: State of World Population 2005 - UNFPA
  10. Child Protection - UNICEF
  11. Tom Godfrey - Muslim child brides on rise - Toronto Sun, March 11, 2010
  12. Young women face forced marriage in Germany - Agence France-Presse, November 12, 2011
  13. Zainah Anwar - Nothing divine in child marriage - Sisters in Islam,
  14. Joanne - Too young to wed? - International Campaign Against Honour Killings, June 20, 2010
  15. Sarah Touahri - Child marriage in Morocco criticised - Magharebia, May 5, 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Nigeria Child Brides-Broken Lives", Times Online, November 28, 2008 (archived), 
  17. Jonathan Dahoh-Halevi - Antonia Zerbisias and Pedophilia in Palestinian Society - ShalomLife, February 26, 2010
  18. aryouth - Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Website, 2001
  19. Fatima Sidiya - Saudi Child marriages, an issue still not resolved - Arab News, March 9, 2011
  20. Sex case grips country amid young-brides split - Hürriyet Daily, November 26, 2008
  21. Ten-fold rise in forced marriages in just four years - The Daily Mail, July 2, 2009
  22. 22.0 22.1 YEMEN: Deep divisions over child brides - IRIN, March 28, 2010
  23. 23.0 23.1 yessir - Child Marriage - Death Of 13 Year Old Bride After Wedding - A BIG MESSAGE, April 10, 2010
  24. Carla Power - Nujood Ali & Shada Nasser win “Women of the Year Fund 2008 Glamour Award” - Glamour Magazine, November 13, 2008
  25. Top Saudi cleric: OK for young girls to wed - CNN, January 17, 2009
  26. Carlyle Murphy - Child marriage case showcases deep splits in Saudi society - GlobalPost, April 16, 2009
  27. Fatwa in favour of 9-year-old girl marriage, Polemics - ANSAmed, September 8, 2008
  28. Parvin Darabi - Ayatollah Khomeini's Religious Teachings on Marriage, Divorce and Relationships - Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation
  29. Y. Admon - Rising Criticism of Child Bride Marriages in Saudi Arabia - MEMRI: Inquiry and Analysis No. 502
  30. Saudi cleric condones child rape! - YouTube
  31. LBC TV (Lebanon) - June 19, 2008 - 03:08 - MEMRI TV, Video Clip No. 1798
  32. Moroccan theologian: Muslim girls can wed at nine - Middle East Online, September 15, 2008
  33. 33.0 33.1 "I Could Marry Off My Six Year Old Daughter If I So Wished, Senator Ahmed Yerima Replies Critics", The Nigeria Today, July 21, 2013 (archived), 
  34. Reliance of the Traveller/Book M: Marriage - (full text online)
  35. Islamists Fight Yemen Law Banning Child Marriage - Fox News, April 16, 2009
  36. Questions Related to Marriage/ Is it allowed for a father to force his daughter to marry a specific man that she does not want to marry? - Muslim Students Organization of the University of Houston
  37. Adil Salahi - Marriage in Islam/Marriage at an early age - Islamic Voice, Vol 12-08 No:140, August 1998
  38. Jenny Cuff - Child marriage and divorce in Yemen - BBC, November 6, 2008
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Islamist leader threatens of waging Jihad - Weekly Blitz, April 20, 2011
  40. Peter Mickelburough - Father banned from marrying off 14-year-old daughter - Herald Sun, September 15, 2010
  41. Rafiqul Islam - Loan shark's awful act - The Daily Star, September 13, 2009
  42. Indonesia Muslim Cleric Detained for Marriage to 12-Year-Old - Associated Press, Fox News, March 18, 2009
  43. Azad Moradian - Domestic Violence against Single and Married Women in Iranian Society -, September 10, 2009
  44. 44.0 44.1 Outcry over Malaysian child marriages - Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2010
  45. Joanne - Religion minister rejects child marriage reform - International Campaign Against Honour Killings, March 17, 2010
  46. Underage marriages are allowed in Islam, says Nazri - Daily Express, December 9, 2010
  47. Nadia Usman - Nazim, NGO, police intervene to stop child marriage - Daily Times Pakistan, April 17, 2008
  48. Guardian UK: 15 child brides used to settle Pakistan feud, by Declan Walsh in Islamabad (Pakistan); Thursday June 5 2008
  49. 49.0 49.1 Giraldus Cambrensis - Pakistan- Muslim Child Bride For Sale - Western Resistance, April 17, 2006
  50. Barbara Plett - Forced child marriage tests Pakistan law in Sultanwala - BBC News, December 5, 2005
  51. Cleric among 10 held in vani case - The News, January 4, 2010
  52. Pakistani Muslim Forces 12-year-old Girl to Convert, Marry Him - Compass Direct News, June 4, 2009
  53. Shamsul Islam - Child marriage: 12-year-old girl given in wani to 85-year-old - The Express Tribune, October 1, 2011
  54. Shamsul Islam - Wani tradition: 3 arrested for marrying infant to 24-year-old - The Express Tribune, October 11, 2011
  55. thememriblog; In Saudi Arabia, Girl, 10, Wed To Man, 26 - MEMRI blog (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, May 6, 2009)
  56. Ian Black - Saudi girl, eight, married off to 58-year-old is denied divorce - The Guardian, December 23, 2008
  57. Mohammed Jamjoom - UNICEF 'deeply concerned' about marriage of 8-year-old - CNN, April 14, 2009
  58. Child bride turned over to 80-year-old husband - Arab News, August 26, 2009
  59. Joel Brinkley - Child marriage still an issue in Saudi Arabia - The San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 2010
  60. Ten-fold rise in forced marriages in just four years - The Daily Mail, July 2, 2009
  61. Home affairs editor, Alan Travis- 'Summer of race riots' feared after clashes in 2001 - The Guardian, December 28, 2006
  62. Christine Vendel - Man charged with statutory rape in ‘marriage’ to 14-year-old girl - The Kansas City Star, November 8, 2009
  63. Mohammed Jamjoom - Yemeni girl, 12, dies in painful childbirth - CNN, September 14, 2009
  64. Paula Newton - Child bride's nightmare after divorce - CNN, September 4, 2009
  65. Robert F. Worth - Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage in Yemen - The New York Times, June 29, 2008
  66. Jenny Cuff - Child marriage and divorce in Yemen - BBC, November 6, 2008
  67. Child Bride Fights Against Forced Marriage -, March 6, 2009