The custom of forcibly marrying off one’s daughter or sister prevails in many feudal Muslim societies.

This, it must be appreciated, is absolutely against the freedom which Islam has granted women in choosing their spouses.

Here is what the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

 

عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لَا تُنْكَحُ الْبِكْرُ حتى تُسْتَأْذَنَ ولا الثَّيِّبُ حتى تُسْتَأْمَرَ فَقِيلَ يا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ كَيْفَ إِذْنُهَا قال إذا سَكَتَتْ

It is narrated by Abū Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “A widow must not be married off without her consent and the consent of a virgin is [also] necessary.” People inquired: “How should her consent be obtained.” The Prophet answered: “If she stays quiet it means that she agrees to it.”[1]

 

عن بن عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال الْأَيِّمُ أَحَقُّ بِنَفْسِهَا من وَلِيِّهَا وَالْبِكْرُ تُسْتَأْذَنُ في نَفْسِهَا

Ibn ‘Abbās narrates from the Prophet (sws): “A widow can take her decision herself and permission must be sought from a virgin.”[2]

 

Such forced marriages can even be revoked:

 

عن خَنْسَاءَ بِنْتِ خِذَامٍ الْأَنْصَارِيَّةِ أَنَّ أَبَاهَا زَوَّجَهَا وَهْيَ ثَيِّبٌ فَكَرِهَتْ ذلك فَأَتَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَرَدَّ نِكَاحَهُ

Khansa’ bint Khudhām says that when she became a widow, her father solemnized her marriage. She did not like the decision. So she came over to the Prophet (sws) and he gave her the permission to revoke her marriage.[3]

 

A question may arise here: Is it imperative to seek the consent of the parents or guardians in a marriage? This question has assumed great importance in this era since some marriages are taking place against the wishes of the parents and guardians.

In this regard, the stance of Islam is that the consent of the parents/guardians is not a legal requirement of marriage. The legal requirements are only two: the man and woman who intend to get married must be chaste and a man must pay dower (mahr) to his wife. However, the consent of the parents/guardians is a cultural and social requirement of marriage. Narratives like لَا نِكَاحَ اِلَّا بِوَلِى(no marriage should take place without the [permission of] the guardian)[4] and other similar ones actually allude to this aspect. They are a corollary of the social directives of Islam pertaining to the institution of family and based on great wisdom. Since the preservation and protection of the family set-up is of paramount importance to Islam, it is but natural that marriage takes place through the consent of the parents who are the foremost guardians. It is obvious that a marriage solemnized through the consent of the parents shields and shelters the newly formed family.

However, there can always be an exception to this general principle. If a man and a woman feel that the rejection on the part of the parents has no sound reasoning behind it or that the parents, owing to some reason, do not appreciate the grounds of this union, they have all the right to take this matter to the courts of justice. It is now up to the court to analyze and evaluate the whole affair. If it is satisfied with the stance of the man and woman, it can give a green signal to them. In this case, as is apparent from a Hadīth,[5]the state shall be considered the guardian of the couple. On the other hand, if the court is of the view that the stand of the parents is valid, it can stop the concerned parties from engaging in wedlock. However, no one has the authority to invalidate a marriage that has not been solemnized through the consent of the parents or the guardian.