Women: Marriage & the consent of parents

Q687 :1. I have met a man whom I would like to marry, but my father is against this marriage. He says that the man I have chosen is poor and uneducated. I have answered him that the value of a man cannot be measured either by his wealth or by formal education. The personality and the character of the man are of far greater value. My father tells me that it is not permissible for a girl to get married without the knowledge or the consent of her parents. He says he must be a witness. If not, the marriage is illegal. How about if I am away from my parents? Can I then get married without their consent? If I do so, am I committing a sin? I am rather confused. I do not wish to disobey my parents but I want a satisfactory solution to my problem. 2. A friend of mine who wants to get married has not been able so far to obtain the consent of the parents of the lady he wishes to marry. His own parents are in agreement with him. The lady has all the necessary capabilities to get married from the point of view of Islam and the local rules of law as well as the social customs. Her parents' refusal seems to be arbitrary. What I would like to ask is whether it is permissible for my friend and the lady in question to elope and get married on their own, without waiting for her parents' consent. If they do, is there any offence committed on their part? I understand that if they travel 40 kilometres, then their marriage can be legally sanctioned. How far is this true in the light of Qur'an and sunnah.

A687 : Many people commit the folly of considering their present problem in the light of their immediate interests, as they view them now. Sometimes they are not even interested in listening to arguments which may question the wisdom of their choice. Moreover, at the time people think of getting married, they are normally young, full of life. They are unlikely to want to listen to voice of experience. Young people tend to think that their feelings and circumstances are unique to them. They imagine that a parent or an elderly person cannot have ever experienced the same feelings and cannot understand the intricacies of the problems they are facing. Hence they think of a way to overcome the objections to their choices or prejudices when they are raised. I must admit that I agree with my first reader who says that the value of a man should not be measured by his wealth or formal education. There is much more to the personality of a man, or indeed a woman, than either of these considerations, despite the great importance of education. I also applaud her statement that she has no wish to disobey her father. That is the proper attitude of good Muslim children, especially when it comes to the marriage of a young woman. I am not sure what my second reader means when he says that the lady who is at the centre of this marriage problem has all necessary capabilities to get married on her own, especially when he adds the phrase "from the point of view of Islam." If he means that she is of the right age and she has enough wealth of her own or that she is wise enough to judge a person and his character, how can he tell that this is "all" that is needed from the Islamic point of view? That may be sufficient from the legal point of view in your part of the world,but does it agree with what Islam says? The answer to this problem is very simple. The father's consent to his daughter's marriage is absolutely necessary for the marriage to be valid. The Prophet is quoted to have said : "No marriage may be made without the presence of the woman's guardian and two responsible witnesses." The majority of scholars concur that a woman may not give herself away in marriage, but her guardian must act for her. Nor can she give an authority to anyone else to act for her in marriage. Moreover, a woman cannot act for another woman in a marriage contract. [That is to say: even a mother cannot]. As for the person who should be her guardian for marriage purposes, there is no doubt that it is her father. If he is available, then no one else may act for her. If her father is not available, either because he is dead or mentally deranged, then her parental grandfather or great grandfather may act for her. If she has no father or grandfather, then her adult son may act for her. Next in line is her brother. There are further details on this point to outline who comes next. It should be said that the condition of a guardian to act for a woman in her marriage does not detract from her the ability or the qualification to make the right choice. Indeed any such guardian should have her consent before he goes ahead with the marriage arrangements. His presence is required not as a witness but as her representative. This is an aspect of the honourable position which Islam assigns to women. Moreover, it reflects on the seriousness with which Islam views marriage. It is a family matter which is conducted by families. Moreover, when the woman is represented by her family, this is more conducive to ensuring that her rights are respected by her husband. Besides, the nature of society Islam builds is one in which the woman normally takes her natural position, looking after the future generation. That is bound to limit her social activities a little. Her judgement of people, especially of men and their characters, may as a result need to be supplemented by that of other men in her family. This is not the first time I am asked whether when a woman travels a certain distance from her hometown, she may marry herself away. I find it very strange. To start with, a woman must not travel on her own. If she does, she violates Islamic teachings. To do it in order to evade certain conditions in her marriage sounds like resorting to a backdoor way in order to achieve something which cannot be done in a straightforward manner. May I ask here: against whom is this backdoor way employed? It is simply a trick to avoid Islamic rules. In other words, it is a trick which aims to invalidate Allah's instructions. This is something to which a Muslim never resorts. There is no doubt in my mind that if a woman undertakes such a journey in order to get married without her father's consent, she is disobeying Allah. Furthermore, her travel does not affect the status of her marriage in any way. The second reader asks whether the lady can elope with her prospective husband. May I say that her elopement may give her the legal convenience of being able to get married without interference by her parents. But how can she get away from the rule of Islamic teachings? If a woman marries herself away without the presence of her father or guardian, then her marriage is invalid. The Prophet is quoted to have said: "A woman does not marry another woman away and a woman does not marry herself away. Only an adulteress gives herself away in marriage." Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawood relate on the authority of Aisha that the Prophet has said; "Any woman who marries herself away without the consent of her guardian, her marriage is invalid, invalid, invalid." These Hadiths leave us in no doubt as to the invalidity of such a marriage. However, if a woman does marry herself away in this fashion, without the presence of her guardian, the marriage needs to be pronounced null and void by a judge or by the governor or ruler of the locality. She may not be married to another man, even though her father is acting for her, before such nullification of her invalid marriage. If her guardian marries her away to another man before such pronouncement, the second marriage is also invalid. Both need to be pronounced null and void by a judge. The reason for this is the need to spare the woman the problems of being claimed by two husbands. All sorts of problems may arise and the less the possibility allowed for them the better. After making such an invalid marriage, she is entitled to retain the dower he has given her, if she has had intercourse with the man who is her partner in it.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )