Article from the Malaysian Insider.
PETALING JAYA, April 9 — Religious experts are split whether child marriages are legal in Islam but all agree that Malaysia’s civil laws prohibit such nuptials.
The issue came to light when an 11-year-old girl named Siti Nur Zubaidah was married off to a 41-year-old man in Kampung Jelawang, Kuala Krai last month. Also in Kelantan was a case involving a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly forced to marry a man in his 30s.
Kelantan Women, Family and Health executive councillor Hajah Wan Ubaidah Omar said Islam condoned such marriages if they were approved by the Syariah court.
“In God’s eyes legal, but in laws of the country (Malaysia) not legal,” said the Kijang state assemblywoman when questioned on the legality of child marriages.
Speaking about the 11-year-old, Ubaidah said that it was clearly wrong as the girl’s father had not received permission from the Syariah court to marry the girl off to the older man. She added that the girl’s mother had requested for the religious department to annul the marriage.
Section 8 of the Kelantan Muslim Family Law Enactment (2000) states that any girl below 16 cannot marry, except with written permission from the Syariah Court.
When questioned on what criteria would merit such consent, Ubaidah replied that in cases where a girl and her partner are “madly in love beyond control”, the court would grant them permission to marry. A father who wishes to marry the girl off to a rich man may also receive similar authorisation from the court.
Although Ubaidah said that a girl’s consent and understanding is needed before marrying her off, she said: “Silence is consent”. If a girl is married off without her consent, she can seek help from her relatives or approach the religious department herself, Ubaidah added.
Ubaidah explained that in Islam, it is the father who usually gives his daughter up for marriage. This role is called the wali or guardian. If the father is not available, the role of the wali can be played by the girl’s grandfather, brother, or uncle.
However, former Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin rejected the Syariah view that invests power in the father to give his daughter up for marriage. “Fathers do not have absolute power,” he said in a telephone interview.
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