Women in Islam – Early Marriage

December 23, 2010

in marriage in islam


Several attacks have been raised recently against early marriage in Islam, which clearly result from ignoring facts about pre-modern society and Islam, or intentionally concealing them.

1) Age of Consent in History

One such claim is that “Islam’s age of consent was relatively low in history”.

  • First of all, early procreation was a necessity for human survival. Lifespan ranged from 20 to 30 years,[i] [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] [vi] [vii] [viii] [ix] due to high death rates.[x] [xi] [xii] Even until the 18th century, 8 children were still needed by each fertile wife just to maintain the population.[xiii] [xiv] [xv] [xvi] [xvii] [xviii] [xix] [xx] Also, sexual attraction accompanies puberty,[xxi] [xxii] which genetically ranges from ages 7 to 13 in women.[xxiii] [xxiv] [xxv] [xxvi] [xxvii] [xxviii] [xxix] [xxx] So, whether one believes this instinct resulted from evolution, or part of God’s plan, procreation after puberty in history is natural and acceptable.
  • According to the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, the “age of consent throughout history…usually coincided with the age of puberty” with “the absolute minimum at seven”.[xxxi] Both that Journal and Encyclopedia Britannica state that age of consent laws were passed from Roman law to the Church to English Common Law,[xxxii] [xxxiii] which states: “between 7 years and puberty there could be consent but not consummation” until puberty, with no parental consent required from the age of 12.[xxxiv] This was confirmed in 1877 by the US Supreme Court.[xxxv] [xxxvi] Even today, 6 states and the District of Columbia allow this Common Law marriage, [xxxvii] [xxxviii] [xxxix] [xl] [xli] [xlii] and such marriages are then constitutionally recognized in all 50 states.[xliii]
  • Marriage as early as age 7, which was considered the “age of reason”,[xliv] [xlv] or directly after puberty was the norm for the vast majority of all human society even until the 19th century.[xlvi] [xlvii] [xlviii] [xlix] [l]
  • · 1300 years earlier, Islam’s minimum of 9 was 2 years higher, and also added the protection of requiring parental consent even after age 12.[li]
  • The delay of puberty in industrialized cities between 1700 and 1850 does not disprove the norm of early marriage in history, because that was an abnormal result of poor sanitation, [lii] [liii] [liv] lack of exercise, and the vast introduction of cheap, un-nutritious cereal diets.[lv] [lvi] [lvii]

As a result, not only was Islam’s age of consent higher than all pre-modern law, it also added the protection of requiring parental consent after age 12.

2) Psychological Maturity in History

The second claim is that “Islam allowed marriage at puberty in pre-modern times, which caused psychological harm because puberty was too young to give informed consent”.

  • The fact is that even until the 18th century, reaching puberty meant becoming an “adult”, in terms of maturity, behavior and responsibility, as stated in the Journal of Social History, Online Etymology Dictionary, Journal of Marriage and the Family, and numerous academic references.[lviii] [lix] [lx] [lxi] [lxii] [lxiii]
  • Children faced the daily struggle for physical and economic survival,[lxiv] [lxv] [lxvi] [lxvii] [lxviii] and while this type of “environmental stress” actually causes puberty at a younger age,[lxix] [lxx] [lxxi] it is proven to have also speeded psychological maturity.[lxxii] [lxxiii] [lxxiv] [lxxv] [lxxvi] This maturity helped in coping with the responsibilities of early marriage and childbearing.
  • These responsibilities were indeed valued by society, including the most important founding father of the United States,[lxxvii] Benjamin Franklin.[lxxviii]
  • It was only in the industrial mid-18th century that psychological maturity started to delay,[lxxix] due to side effects that are proven to delay maturity such as: increasing comforts of life, diminished parental guidance,[lxxx] [lxxxi] [lxxxii] and that “children remained children longer to complete their education”.[lxxxiii] [lxxxiv] [lxxxv] [lxxxvi]
  • It is therefore ridiculous to “demand late marriage in pre-modern society on the pretense of psychological harm” as it would have wiped out the human race for reasons that only arise for immature adolescents today.
  • Since psychological maturity and adulthood were reached at puberty in pre-modern times, it is also naive to slander early marriage in history as:

1)      Child sexual abuse: “the engagement of a child in sexual activities for which the child is developmentally unprepared and cannot give informed consent”.[lxxxvii]

2)      Pedophilia: the sexual attraction towards pre-pubescent children.[lxxxviii] [lxxxix] [xc]

As a result, early procreation was psychologically appropriate and even a valued benefit to society.

3) Risks of Early Procreation in History

The third claim is that “Islam allowed procreation at puberty in pre-modern times, which was more dangerous to the younger mothers”.

  • This attack cites a UNFPA study, but conceals that the study was for 2 contemporary impoverished nations, and that “almost all of these deaths are preventable” simply by providing access and transportation to hospitals.[xci] The International Journal of Epidemiology states “studies implicate poverty, not maternal age, as the real threat to maternal and infant welfare”.[xcii] In pre-modern times, the high risk of childbirth, due to lack of medical knowledge and hygiene, affected all women regardless of age.[xciii]
  • In fact, early procreation was a genetically superior trait for population growth in pre-modern times for 2 reasons:

1)      Women who have puberty earlier have children who grow up faster and weigh more.[xciv]

2)      “Life history theory” states that in a less stable environment, “natural selection will favor individuals that reproduce earlier…within a population”.[xcv] [xcvi]

As a result, early procreation was not harmful, but beneficial to newborns and genetics.

4) Early Marriage in Modern Times

The fourth claim is that “Islam allows marriage at puberty in modern times, which causes sexual and psychological harm”.

  • First of all, it is untrue that Islamic age of consent is lower in modern times compared to other laws. For example, the US and other countries currently allow marriage well under the age of 16 with pregnancy, or parental or court approval.[xcvii] In contrast, 17 Islamic countries have age of consent ranging from 15 to 18 years with parental consent,[xcviii] [xcix] [c] [ci] [cii] [ciii] [civ] [cv] [cvi] [cvii] [cviii] [cix] [cx] [cxi] [cxii] [cxiii] [cxiv] which was raised specifically as an implementation of Islamic Law.[cxv] [cxvi]
    In fact, because of the contemporary delay in maturity, marriage at puberty today would violate 6 basic Islamic rules:

1)      “Rushd”, psychological maturity, or “prudent judgement” is required before marriage.[cxvii] [cxviii]

2)      No one should harm anyone else. [cxix] [cxx] [cxxi] [cxxii]

3)      People’s best interests must be observed.[cxxiii]

4)      No one should bear any burden beyond their capacity. [cxxiv] [cxxv] [cxxvi] [cxxvii] [cxxviii]

5)      Governments and guardians are entrusted to act correctly.[cxxix] [cxxx] [cxxxi]

6)      Compliance to “urf”, new social norms that are considered good.[cxxxii] [cxxxiii] [cxxxiv]

  • Secondly, it is untrue that Islamic marital law results in more harm in modern times compared to other laws. In fact, the Islamic requirement of marriage provides to every sexual relationship and its potential offspring the benefits of faithfulness, emotional support, mutual trust, commitment,[cxxxv] parental guidance and wide social support.[cxxxvi] In addition, with a slightly lower average age of marriage, Islamic countries benefit from the early marriage mentality, which is proven to result in psychological maturity at a relatively younger age.[cxxxvii]
    On the other hand, non-Islamic societies permit and condone sexual activities years before psychological maturity and the legal age of marriage,[cxxxviii] which causes devastating sexual harm to adolescents, such as the following current US statistics:

o   50% of child sexual abuse offenders are adolescents themselves,[cxxxix] committing sexual abuse, child pornography, child prostitution and incest,[cxl] using deception, force or coercion.[cxli]

o   35% of all 17 year olds have been sexually abused.[cxlii] [cxliii]

o   12% of all 14 year olds have had sex “involuntarily”.[cxliv]

o   “Half of all new HIV infections occur among adolescents”.[cxlv] [cxlvi]

o   70% of 13 year olds who had sex said it was “against their will”.[cxlvii]

o   7% of 12 year olds have had sex.[cxlviii] [cxlix]

o   90% of prostitutes were victims of child sexual abuse.[cl] [cli] [clii]

o   “The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14”.[cliii]

o   Sexually active teenagers are 3 to 8 times as likely to attempt suicide.[cliv] [clv]

o   76% of unplanned teen mothers end up on welfare[clvi]

o   Every year in the world’s richest countries, there are 1.25 million teen pregnancies and 500,000 teen abortions.[clvii]

o   Countries that choose legalized prostitution as their solution, like Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, end up with increased rates of child prostitution and sex trafficking,[clviii] [clix] [clx] [clxi] child pornography,[clxii] [clxiii] incest,[clxiv] [clxv] and even legal “beastiality”, sex with animals.[clxvi] [clxvii] [clxviii] [clxix]

  • In modern times, the age of puberty has fallen [clxx] [clxxi] below the age of psychological maturity,[clxxii] [clxxiii] [clxxiv] sexual values have greatly degraded,[clxxv] and the late marriage mentality is delaying psychological maturity even further.[clxxvi] These 3 trends will continue to increase the above devastating sexual harm to adolescents in non-Islamic countries.
  • While extremely rare cases of marriage at puberty in Afghanistan’s countryside are exploited to attack all Muslims, it must be noted that even in Islamic countries that have not yet officially raised the minimum age of consent, they have done so in practice. Otherwise Islam’s critics would have publicized more than just a few cases from some isolated tent villages. More importantly, even such Islamic countries do not have any of the sexual atrocities that are documented at alarmingly high ratios in the same countries attacking Islam.

As a result, Islam’s flexible marital law provides far better protection than contemporary laws by prohibiting sexual activities prior to psychological maturity and then marriage.


In conclusion, Islam responsibly channels sexual instincts through marriage, with the prior condition of psychological maturity. And contrary to claims of improved morality, non-Islamic laws have alarmingly driven child sexual abuse and psychological harm to epidemic proportions.

Therefore, when such attacks against Islam are analyzed impartially, they reveal the perfect applicability of Islam’s solution from the 7th century until today, and the utter failure of any other system to provide any protection whatsoever to society’s youth. At best, these attacks are also found to be irresponsibly superficial due to the seriousness of this issue.


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