… there are some encouraging signs …
In my previous article, I have mentioned that aged and wealthy Arabs from the Gulf countries come to India, mainly to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, to prey on teenage girls, by paying fat cash as dowry to their parents. They generally enter into temporary marriage contracts (Mutah) and return home after a brief union of enjoyment and pleasure. In January 2007, a 60 year old Arab married 3 girls, Afreen, Farheena and Sultana, at a single sitting (within ten minutes) in Hyderabad.
In another incident in May 2004, an old man, named Muhammad Zafer Yaqub Hassan al Jorani, from Sharjah to Hyderabad came to undergo a cataract operation. On May 7, he married 19-year-old Haseena Begum; and after two days, he divorced her. On May 24, he married another girl, named Ruksana Begum, aged 16. Haseena, ignoring threat to her life, went to a local police to narrate her story and within an hour police arrested Jorani. Police also arrested one Shamsuddin, who allegedly mediated the marriages and received a cash of Rs. 40,000 from Jorani as his fee. It is to be mentioned here that Jorani, at his Sharjah residence, had two wives and 11 children.
While commenting on these affairs, a reader wrote:
“In child marriage of the other type, where young girl marries an old man, is prevalent in Muslim society in India. I am an ex-Muslim from India and such facts I have seen in my own eyes. I tried to alert police but was threatened by police themselves with dire consequences, even death, and so I kept quiet.
In various cities, where there are Muslim ghettos, this happens regularly. Muslims condemn prostitution but allow legal prostitution through temporary marriage or Mutah. Young girls, aged 16 to 18, are married to Arabs, simply for money, for a stipulated period. Mullahs make the old Arab and young girls sign nikahnama and talaknama at the same time.
Parents get money and send their daughter as a prostitute to the Arab to be raped. The Arab then divorces her after a stipulated time that may vary from a few hours to a few days. Things move fast because the next victim is waiting in the queue. Generally, beautiful girls are entered in the waiting list and many of them have to entertain their (temporary) rapist husbands every year. The month of Ramadan is busiest period of this business when many Indian girls are sent to Dubai and from Dubai to elsewhere, to please the Arabs, after Ramadan fasting.
Generally, the girls earns anywhere from Rs 15,000 to Rs 500,000, depending on the skill of the negotiator (middleman) and also on the beauty of the girl. If she happens to be a virgin, she earns a lot more, as Arabs are ready to spend fabulous money for a first time sex.
Now-a-days, there are plastic surgeons, I know, are earning lot from the pimps by turning the girls virgin again by attaching a layer of fresh skin to their private parts and thus making an artificial hymen. This happens repeatedly for many girls till she gets tired or fails to find a new (temporary) husband.
Local police, political leaders and NGOs get their share and keep silence. I can spell names of some people, who are involved in the racket. But my life is already under threat due to disclosing the truth about Islam. I also don’t want annoy the local police because they may just shoot me in a false encounter and get paid by the racket leaders. Such an incident happened earlier. This, indeed, another horrible face of Islam.”
Another reader commented: “Dear old Muslims in the Middle East who are planning to marry a girl as young as 6 yrs old to be your bride, kindly let me have the honour to ask you a very simple question. Try imagining that the young 6-year-old bride whom you’re going to marry soon, is your daughter or granddaughter or great granddaughter or great-great granddaughter and that you are going to penetrate her very small vagina with your big xxxxx. Do you feel it nauseating or disgusting at the very thought of it? I believe that for those old Muslims who have some human conscience or fear of God will be kind enough to let all these young girls go.”
Another reader commented: “I believe that for those old Muslims who have some human conscience or fear of God will be kind enough to let all these young girls go. As for those old Muslims who still can’t let all these young girls go because of their super strong sexual needs, may I suggest a much better option for you which could help satisfy all your sexual needs or cravings and that is, to go and buy a sex doll from any sex shop and sell all these erotic products. Don’t you think that your Allah will be pleased with my kind suggestion here which is better than destroying all those young innocent girl’s life? Thank you in advance for heeding my advice to give all these young innocent muslimahs a chance to live life to the fullest.”
In this context, it should be mentioned that, in Islam, there is no place for ethics, morality or conscience. Islamic morality is quite different and stands on two notions – Halal (permitted) and Haram (not permitted). To a sane non-Muslim individual, marrying a 6 or 8-year-old girl by an over 50 man, may appear to be highly immoral, unethical and vulgar. But to a Muslim, such an act is Halal, as Prophet Muhammad had done it. So, application of personal sense morality and ethics does not play any role. Whatever the Prophet did is Halal and every Muslim has the right to emulate the Prophet.
Yet another reader wrote: “These old wolfs who practice such disgusting acts by following their Prophet are wild animals. They don’t even deserve to live. These innocent young brides should be given some poison by their mothers, which they can mix with some food and feed their wonderful husbands on the first night and finish them off. The Human Rights activists can defend them saying these children are minor and they do not know what they are doing. Even few years of jail sentence is much better than living with these animals. If more and more child brides start rebelling by giving the due punishment to these animals, this cruel practice will vanish.”
Out of court settlement allows Saudi girl 8 to divorce 50 year old husband
As mentioned in the previous article, a Saudi judge refused to terminate the marital bond between an 8-year-old girl and her 47-year-old husband. The girl’s father, according to the attorney, took US$13,000 from the man and arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with him, who is also a close friend of his. On the other hand, the girl’s mother expressed her determination to fight the case and continue to seek daughter’s divorce.
According to a press report, appeared on April 30, 2009, from Hadeel Al-Shalchi of the Associated Press, the mother of the girl had been succeeded to obtain a divorce for her daughter through out of the court negotiation. “The girl was allowed to divorce the about 50-year-old man, whom she was married to by force, in August last year, after an out-of-court settlement was reached in the case”, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli.
The reader may recall that a court in the central Oneiza region previously rejected a request by the girl’s mother for a divorce and ruled that the girl would have to wait until she reached puberty to file a petition. It has been mentioned earlier that there are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage for girls. Though, according to the Shariah Law, a woman’s consent is legally required, most of the marriage officials don’t seek it.
Recently, due to increased social awakening, there has been a thrust by Saudi human rights groups to define the minimum age of marriage for girls and put an end to the shameful phenomenon of child marriage. Sohaila Zain al-Abdeen, one of the most renowned human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, was optimistic that the girl’s divorce would be an important precedence and help efforts to get a new law passed enforcing a minimum marriage age of 18 for the girls. “Unfortunately, some fathers trade their daughters. They are weak people who are sometimes in need of money and forget their roles as parents.” she told The Associated Press.
But it was not clear whether the husband got back the money, nearly 50,000 riyals, or about US$13,350, he paid to the father of the girl as dowry, the lawyer said.
This was not the only incident of marrying off an 8-year-old to an old man, in the kingdom that attracted public attention. Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men. In one incident a 15-year-old girl, whose father serving prison terms with a death penalty, married her off to a cellmate.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for permitting child marriages. The United States, a close ally of the conservative Muslim kingdom, has called child marriage a “clear and unacceptable” violation of human rights. But Saudi Arabia’s conservative Muslim clergy is opposing the drive to end child marriages. It has been mentioned earlier that in January, 2009, the kingdom’s most senior cleric said it was permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry and those who believe they are too young are doing the girls an injustice.
The good news is that, some in the government appear to support the movement to set a minimum age for marriage. The kingdom’s new justice minister was quoted in mid-April as saying the government was doing a study on underage marriage that would include regulations.
There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year. Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty marriage gifts or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.
It has been mentioned earlier that there are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage for girls and according to the Saudi clerics, one can enter into a marriage contract even with 1-year-old girl. Though a woman’s consent is legally required, most of the marriage officials, called ma’thoons do not seek it. Only these ma’thoos have the legal authority to preside over marriage-contract ceremonies. They seek consent of the groom and the woman’s guardian and if they approve of the marriage, the ma’thoon proceeds to complete the ceremony by signing the marriage papers. But the Saudi government does not keep any statistical record to show how many Saudi children are married off every year, which it can easily do by collecting data from these ma’thoons.
In this context it may be mentioned that the Arabic word nikah does not mean what the word marriage stands for. According to Mohammad Asghar, the word “nikah” has been derived from “nokh”, which refers to woman’s vagina and hence the word “nikah” stands for penetration of woman’s vagina (see: The Meaning of Nikah in Islam).
Child-marriage that sparked uproar in Saudi Arabia
According to a news appeared on August 6, 2008, in the Riyadh based dailies Al-Watan and. Al-Harbi, a nikah between an 11-year-old boy Muhammad al-Rashidi’s and a 10-year-old girl has been declared by Muraiziq al-Rashidi, the groom’s father. But the ceremony has been strongly opposed by the governor of the northern province of Hail, who considered the elementary school student too young to marry. Opposition has also came from some human rights groups.
“We are studying this issue so we can put an end to this phenomenon,” said Zuhair al-Harithi, board member of the Human Rights Commission, a human rights group run by the government. “These marriages violate international agreements the kingdom has signed”, he said. Though the incident created a stir in the kingdom, Sheik Muhammad al-Nujaimi, a strong opponent of child marriage, said, “But the phenomenon is not new.” He and other clerics, activists and writers have requested the government for issuing a new law setting a minimum age for marriage and to resolve differences among religious authorities over the issue. “There are different (religious) opinions regarding such marriages, which is why we need the government to settle the issue through a new legislation,” said al-Nujaimi.
Activists say that incidents of this kind of marriage between a young girl and a young boy are not so high in Saudi Arabia. These are the result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that such a marriage will protect them from illicit relationships. Muraiziq al-Rashidi, the father of the 11-year-old boy’s said he may delay but not cancel his son’s marriage. “God willing, we will hold the wedding next year,” he said. It has been pointed out earlier that, Ahmad Al-Muabi, a marriage official, defended the practice of child marriage by saying that, “A man can enter into a marriage contract even with a one-year-old girl, not to mention nine years, seven years or eight years. This is just a contract indicating consent.” (Sources: CNN & Asian News)
In the midst of total darkness, one finds a ray of hope in two incidents, which we shall discuss now.
Girl divorces her 80-year-old husband
On April 23, 2010, The Telegraph, London, reported that, on the previous day a 12-year-old Saudi girl successfully won a divorce from her 80-year-old husband. The incident sparked wide uproar Saudi Arabia to abolish the shameful tradition of child marriage. Many believe that it could prompt the Saudi Government to enact a new law fixing the minimum age for marriage for girls.
The girl was 11 when she was married, against her wishes, to her father’s cousin last year in an arranged marriage in her hometown of Buraidah, near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The Telegraph reported that her father was paid US $23,350 as dowry by the groom.
The girl, with the help of a lawyer from the state-run Human Rights Commission, has been trying to get out of the marriage and took her case to court in Buraidah. She recently reached an agreement with her family, and the divorce will be settled privately rather than in the courts, the Telegraph reported.
Though it is common in poorer, tribal areas for girls to be married off, or sold at a fabulous bride price, however, it is rare for a child bride to challenge the match in the court. The case has prompted the Human Rights Commission to call for a legal minimum age of 16 for marrying off girls in the kingdom. The commission and the Ministry of Justice will issue new guidelines after hearing from medical experts, child psychologists and scholars of Islamic law.
On the other hand, the case has been hotly debated in Saudi Arabia, with some judges and clerics citing the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a 9-year-old as justification for child brides. However, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mane, a senior Saudi cleric, earlier this year slammed the comparison, saying the prophet’s marriage occurred centuries ago and could not be used to justify marriages today.
The best thing for the Arabs would be to abandon child-marriage along with the abandonment of the Prophet of Islam, who is the fountainhead of this shameful legacy. “The main aim is to not allow cases like this to happen again,” said Alanoud al-Hejailan, a lawyer for the commission, to The Telegraph. “There will be some opposition, of course, but we feel that public opinion has changed on this issue. We want to gather all the public support we can for a minimum age for marriage”, said al-Hejailan.
Saudi Legal expert opposes marriage of minors
Islamic Voice (IV), a Bangalore-based monthly, published a startling news in its February 2010 edition that said: “Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mane’, a member of the Board of Senior Ulema and an Advisor to the Royal Court in Saudi Arabia, has said that ‘Holy Prophet’s Marriage with Ayesha (RA) cannot be a precedent’. Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) marriage to Ayesha when she was nine years old cannot be used as justification for child marriage today due to the “different circumstances” of the time, said a news report in the Jeddah based Saudi Gazette.”
It continued: “According to Sheikh Al-Mane’, when Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was contemplating marrying off his daughter he was unable to find anyone better than the Prophet (pbuh). “It is impossible to use the marriage of Ayesha, the ‘Mother of Believers’ (May Allah be pleased with her) as a measure for child marriage because of the incompatibility of the conditions and circumstances,” Sheikh Al-Mane’ said.”
Today, child-marriage is an issue that has come to the fore in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly after the incident in which a 12-year-old girl successfully divorced her 80-year-old husband in Buraidah, as discussed above. “A court in Qassim is scheduled to look into the case on Monday, while the Human Rights Commission has also set up a Shariah specialist team to investigate and meet with the marriage official, who conducted the marriage rites”, the report said.
The report also said that, “Sheikh Al-Mane urged scholars and preachers to take responsibility in making parents aware of the social and mental damage caused by the marriage of minors.”
It is a grave error to burden a child with responsibilities beyond her years,” the Sheikh said. “Marriage should be put off until the wife is of a mentally and physically mature age and can care for both herself and her family,” he added. “We need a law banning and preventing the marriage of under-18s,” said Mufleh Al-Qahtani, Chairman of the National Society for Human Rights, which has taken part in drawing up a law to protect children and is pushing for its legal approval.