What is the ruling on marrying a mi...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

What is the ruling on marrying a minor?


What is the ruling on marrying a minor?


At present, setting an age limit for marriage benefits both parties. Each must be capable of shouldering the responsibilities placed upon them by marriage. [In order to protect both parties], some governments enforce age limits. This is good as long as all [relevant] circumstances are taken into account. [When marriage partners are still young their] legal guardians must be obeyed in these matters, as long as they act in the child’s best interests.


[Traditionally] Islam has never upheld a minimum age for marriage. Yet, it set limits for taklif [religious duties] in general. Specifically, these duties are [only obligatory] once an individual reaches the age of puberty, and thus only when a person reaches the age of fifteen lunar years. Yet, Islam did not apply the same principle to marriage. Rather, marriage before this age has always been permissible only with the permission of a guardian who has the authority to marry his charge to another. Although there is no minimum age for marriage, it is better that marriage takes place after a person attains puberty when both males and females become [physically] mature. This will protect them from corruption. Marriage before puberty may cause hardship due to the intellectual effort required in marriage.

The approval of secular law is not a condition for the religious validity of marriage. However, the legal systems of most Muslim countries will not document, and [thus] approve, a marriage before both husband and wife reach a certain age. The logic underpinning this decision is that marriage requires commitments from both parties that would be unreasonable to expect from a pre-pubescent individual. However, as [in both physical and mental terms] a girl reaches womanhood before a boy, it is sensible that she may marry at sixteen, while he should wait until he is [at least] eighteen.

The majority of scholars have maintained that it is permissible for a male and female to marry as soon as they are deemed legally old enough to have sex. They also permitted guardians to marry their charges earlier than this, i.e. before they reach the age of puberty. In the latter case, a marriage contract may only be completed under the supervision of their guardians.
The majority based their opinion – that a young woman may marry before she reaches the age of puberty [under the guardian’s supervision] – on the words of God the Almighty Who says: “And for such of your women as despair of menstruation, if ye doubt, their period (of waiting) shall be three months, along with those who have it not” [65: 4].

According to this verse, the idda [waiting period] for a premenstrual girl is three months. The waiting period naturally follows a divorce and there is no divorce without [there first being] marriage. According to one interpretation of the verse, it is permissible for individuals who have not reached maturity to marry legally, provided the conditions of marriage are met. In Islam, then, there is no set legal age for marriage. In these days, a minimum age limit is set by [secular] legal systems to protect the psychological and physical well-being of the couple. This allows both partners to carry the responsibilities of marriage.

Some governments enforce legal age limits. This is a good as long as all [relevant] circumstances are taken into account. [A young woman’s legal] guardians must be obeyed in these matters, as long as they act in the best interest of their charge. God the Almighty says: “O Ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority” [4:59].

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