Does the father have the right to force his daughter to marry someone she doesn’t want to?
Does Islam give a father the right to force his daughter to marry someone that she doesn’t want to marry? Can a woman end a marriage in Islam or is that solely the right of the man?
Islam treats men and women equally in regards to the right to choose a mate. It has not given parents the authority to compel them [to marry someone]. The parents’ role in marrying off their children is manifested in giving advice, direction, and guidance; they do not have the right to force their children, whether they are sons or daughters, to marry someone they do not want to marry. The final say in this belongs to the children themselves.
Marriage is one of a person’s private affairs and it is impermissible for parents to force their daughter to marry someone she does not want to marry since that would be oppression and a transgression on the rights of others. In Islam women have complete freedom to accept or reject whoever comes to propose to them. Neither her father nor her legal guardian has the right to force her to marry someone she does not want, for married life cannot be based on compulsion and coercion which are in contradiction to the love and mercy that God has placed between man and wife.
Many legal texts from our pure tradition indicate this firmly established ruling, and actual events make it clear to all how the Prophet, dealt with a woman and her guardian and challenged all of the norms of the jahiliyah that oppressed women by affirming her right to choose her husband and nullifying the marriage of those who tried to compel her even if that person was her father. We cannot fail to notice the contravention of the traditions of the Arabs at the time that this entailed. This was a test of the believers’ hearts to be satisfied with the pure law that honored women and respected their will and choice, while freeing themselves of all the norms that did not value women, disdained, and oppressed them.
The prophetic texts that refer to this all affirm this right as in is the saying of the Prophet, “A widow may not be married until she has been consulted, and a virgin may not be married until her consent has been sought.” They said, “O Messenger of God, how does she give consent?” He said, “By remaining silent.” Similarly he dealt equitably with girl who came to him complaining that her father had forced her to get married, as is established in his sunna where it is related that, “A young virgin girl came to the Prophet and told him that her father had married her off and that she was averse [to it], so the Prophet gave her the choice [of whether or not to remain married].”
It is related that a man married off his daughter who was averse [to the marriage], so she came to the Messenger of God and said something to the affect that her father married her off and she was averse [to the marriage]. Furthermore, she said, “and my cousin was betrothed to me.” The Prophet said, “He has no marriage; marry whomsoever you wish.”
Khansa’ bint Khudham said, “My father married me off, and I was averse [to the marriage], and I was a virgin, so I complained of it to the Prophet who said, “Do not marry her if she is averse [to it].” It is related that there was a woman from among the Ansar who was married to a man from among the Ansar. The man was killed in the Battle of Uhud and he had one son from her. Her son’s uncle was betrothed to her so he married her to the man and disregarded her son’s uncle. She came to the Prophet and said, “My father married me to a man that I do not want and disregarded my son’s uncle, so my son is going to be taken from me.” The Prophet called her father and said, “Did you marry so and so to so and so?” He said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “You are the one who has no right to make marriages.” [Then he said to the woman,] “Go marry your son’s uncle.”
Concerning the hadith of the Prophet narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim that says, “Aisha asked the Prophet if a young girl whose family marries her off should be consulted. He said, ‘Yes, she should be consulted.’ Aisha said, ‘But they are shy.’ He said, ‘If she remains silent, that is her consent.’” Ibn al-Qayyim says, “We adopt this fatwa; a virgin must be consulted [concerning her marriage].
There is an authentic tradition that the Prophet said, ‘Widows are more deserving of [deciding for] themselves than their fathers; virgins are consulted concerning themselves, and their consent is their silence.’ In one version it reads, ‘The virgin’s permission is sought by her father, and her permission is her silence.’ It is related in al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said, ‘Do not marry off a virgin girl until her permission is sought.’ They asked, ‘How is her permission [given]?’ He replied, ‘By remaining silent.’ And a young virgin girl told him that her father married her off and she was averse [to the marriage], so the Prophet gave her the option [whether or not to remain married].
So he enjoined seeking out the consent of the virgin girl, forbade marrying her off without it, and gave an option to whoever had been married without having their permission sought. How then can we leave all of this and go against it?”
The attention Islam pays to the issue of choice between a husband and wife is, in reality, a concern for the nucleus of the family. Family begins with a man and a woman who come together with a great deal of mutual understanding that has an affect on the family when it grows and its members increase. Family is the essential building block of society, and upon this sound basis civilizations are established and values are elevated.
The words of Ahmed Shawqi, the Egyptian Prince of Poets bears witness to the importance of women in the foundation of Muslim society, “Mothers are schools if you prepared them…then you prepared a great nation”.
Just as Islam gave women the right to choose their husbands, it also gave them the right to choose whether to remain with them or part from them when relations between them become soured and reconciliation and compromise cannot be reached.
Divorce was incorporated into the law for the benefit of both women and men alike. One of the widespread misconceptions of Islam and its family structure is that men are the only ones who have the right to end a marriage, that they are the only ones who can choose divorce, and that women do not posses this right. The truth, however, is quite different.
Islamic law gives women the right to end a marriage just as it gives that right to men. Islamic law allows women to end a marriage in a number of ways: Women have the right to make it a condition [in the initial marital contract] that the authority to pronounce divorce be in her hands, meaning that they can divorce themselves whenever they please.
In this case the woman divorces herself and is entitled to all of her rights; it is as if her husband divorced her, so she does not lose any of her rights. She can also request to be separated from her husband due to harm. If the man has inflicted great harm on his wife the judge will separate them and she will be entitled to all of her rights without exception. She can also seek khula’ . Only in this case does the woman separate herself from the man, except she waives her rights due to the fact that there is no [external] reason to end the marriage so it would be unfair to impose a fine of these dues on the man while he is still holding fast to the relationship between them.
Many religious texts indicate the free choice of women when it comes to separation from their husbands. An example is that which is related by Ibn Abbas [who said], “Barira’s husband was a slave called Mughith; it is as if I can see him now following after her weeping, the tears moistening his beard. The Prophet told Abbas, ‘O Abbas, do you not marvel at the love of Mughith for Barira and the dislike of Barira for Mughith?’ So the Prophet said to her, ‘Would you take him back?’ She said, ‘O Messenger of God, are you commanding me?’ He said, ‘I only intercede.’ She said, ‘I have no need for him.’” When she understood that his words were not a command, but rather advice, she chose to leave him since that was her right after becoming free.
The wife of Thabit ibn Qays came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God, there is none more steadfast than Thabit when it comes to religion and morals, but I do not love him.” He said, “Will you return his garden to him?” She said, “Yes,” and gave him back his garden and his and he separated from her.
This is a brief clarification of the issue of women choosing their husbands and having their desires respected if they want to leave them. According to this it is impermissible for a father, or anyone else for that matter, to force his son or daughter to marry someone they do not like; also women can end marriage in the ways mentioned.
And God is Most high and Knows Best.