God's Message: Forced Marriages are Null and Void
Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and woman, which makes each other permissible for them to enjoy and live happily. Allah (God) has described, in the most moving and eloquent terms, this eternal, natural relationship between man and woman, which is filled with security, love, understanding and compassion:
“And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. [30:21]
Islam regards marriage as a right of the individual and therefore others cannot make the decision for them. If a woman/man is forced in marriage then the marriage would not be valid and would therefore need to be cancelled. However, daughters and sons should also recognize the parental concerns and come to a mutual solution before the marriage takes place.
The Quran reminds us that believers are those who conduct their matters by mutual consultation/counsel [42:38].
Thus, forced marriages are clearly not acceptable according Quranic principles:
O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit the women by forcibly/unwillingly... [Part of 4:19]
Marriage is done by mutual agreement:
And if you divorce the women, and they have reached their required interim period, then do not prevent/hinder them that they marry their partners if they mutually agree between themselves in a kind/equitable manner... [Part of 2:232]
In the following verse, it is also made clear that a couple undergoing divorce can only get back together if they both wish to:
And the divorced women shall wait for three menstruation periods; and it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. And their husbands would then have just cause to return together, if they both wish to reconcile... [Part of 2:228]
All examples in the Quran involving decisions between marriage partners are in the reciprocal Arabic word form, e.g. "taraadaa" [2:232-233, 4:24], "tashaawar" [2:233], which means they are mutual.
The relationship between a husband and wife is discussed in affectionate terms in The Quran, not of one enforcing decisions on the other:
And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. [30:21]
...They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them.... [Part of 2:187]
And they say, "Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and let us be the foremost among the righteous." [25:74]
In the Quran, there is a pre-marriage requirement for a male to give the female a dower, see the following examples in which the female is involved in the decision making process:
And give the women their due dowries willingly, and if they remit any of it to you of their own will, then you may take it with good feelings. [4:4]
...And unto those with whom you desire to enjoy marriage, you shall give the dowers due to them; but you will incur no sin if, after [having agreed upon] this lawful due, you freely agree with one another upon anything else... [Part of 4:24]
The above Quranic verses endorse that the consent of the bride and groom is required for marriage. The above verses are sufficient for any believer/Muslim:
"It is such that We clarify the revelations to a people who think." [10:24]
However, the following incident further elaborates the position of forced marriages amongst Muslims:
Reportedly Khansa Bint Khidam said “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He said to me “accept what your father has arranged.” I said “I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.”
He said “then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.” I said “I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them). (Fathul Bari Sharah Al Bukhari 9/194, Ibn Majah Kitabun Nikah 1/602)
At first, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) reportedly told Khansa to accept her father’s wishes, and this is as expected, because the concerns of fathers for the well-being of their daughters is well known. But when he realised that her father wanted to force her in to marriage she did not want, he gave her the freedom to choose, and saved her from the oppression of a father who wanted to force her into an unwanted marriage.
The parents have a responsibility to ensure that both couples are compatible and do not arrange a marriage merely for their own social or personal reasons such as Bradari – clan or cast system. If the latter is the case then they will have to answer to Allah. They may also be summoned to the court. The Prophet of God (May God bless him and grant him peace) gave the strictest orders with relation to the rights of others. He reportedly said:
“'Truly Allah has totally forbidden disobedience (and the subsequent hurt) to mothers, burying alive daughters, with-holding the rights of others, and demanding that which is not your right.” (Hadith Muslim 4257. Recorded by Mughirah b. Shuba). This is in accordance to the Quran: "Allah commands you to render trusts to their owners, and when you judge between people, that you do so with justice. Excellent indeed is the admonition He gives you, for Allah hears and sees all things."[4:58]
In today’s day and age there are still many marriages that can make a person’s life miserable. Some people use their power of authority and cultural understanding and status in society to arrange such marriages and use family or societal peer pressure to their advantage.
These type of marriages occur across a broad spectrum of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. It does not only occur in developing countries or amongst the poor and illiterate - as is often claimed by many organisations, but it also occurs in the developed countries and amongst the rich and educated. Such as in royal families or monarchies, even in the 21st century United Kingdom.
Those who wish to eradicate forced marriages need to take this into consideration as well, since in God’s sight no one is above the divine law. Hence, in Islam forced marriages are void and null for all.
And Allah knows best.
For Younger Readers
God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:
All people have a God given right to choose their partner for marriage
Forced marriage is wrong and an abuse therefore a sin