There is a misconception that ‘forced’ marriage of any kind is acceptable in Islam. Recently headlines were made when an Imam was charged with conducting the forced marriage of a minor. The ‘groom’ was also charged. The parents, for some reason, and anyone else that stood by and let it happen, were not charged. There is no room in Islam for forced marriages.
Islam is very clear on the conditions of marriage. Gaining consent from both the bride and the groom as well as gaining the consent of the bride’s parent or ‘walee’, having witnesses to the ceremony and announcing the marriage are some of these conditions. Anyone who forces a girl or woman into marriage will be held accountable for their actions in the presence of Allah (S.W.T) and face the full extent of the law of the land in which they reside.
Being clear on the issue of underage marriage is important. Some people would have been to parts of the world where it’s common for people to become grandparents by the time they’re 30. Perhaps this is unimaginable to us here in Australia but in those countries, or certain regions within countries, it’s common, it’s tradition, it’s acceptable and there are no laws preventing these marriages. Australia isn’t one of those countries. We have an age limit to marriage, which is outlined in the Marriage Act 1961, which clearly sets the minimum age at 18. Under ‘unusual and exceptional circumstances’ there is a legal process that can be followed where people as young as 16 or 17 can be married out of their own free will. This involves the authorisation of the court and the parents consent to the marriage. That’s the law everyone living here in Australia is bound by. Not knowing the law is also no excuse for breaking the law.
Finally, if you or someone you know is being forced into marriage please notify your local authority and get in touch with the credible and established Islamic organisations in your area. In Victoria the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights and in NSW the Muslim Women’s Association are very proactive and resourceful organisations in defending women’s rights. It’s every person’s right to give their consent to marriage. What kind of a marriage can we expect from anything less?
Quran 4:19 “Oh you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.”