Problems in the Koran: Child Marriage (65:4)

Summary

The point of this post is to note that the Koran permits the marriage of a man to a pre-pubescent girl. The fact that if the man is considering divorce he must wait three months to see if his wife is pregnant implies that sexual intercourse between the man and the pre-pubescent girl is also permitted. This is clearly immoral.

I’ve included quite a few quotations below. The list of the quotations from the Koran is to show how different translations somewhat obscure (not necessarily intentionally) the fact that the second group of females in Surah 65:4 includes pre-pubescent girls. The list of quotations from Muslim commentators is to show that this interpretation of the Koran is mainstream. I’ve saved the best (i.e., worst) for last if you’re impatient.

It is worth mentioning that Muhammad, the alleged prophet of Islam, married Aisha when she was six or seven and consummated the marriage when she was nine or ten. It is debatable whether she was pre-pubescent when the marriage was consummated.

Koran

According to Surah 2:228, if a man wants to divorce his wife, he should wait for her to have three periods to see if she is pregnant. Surah 65:4 addresses the case where the wife does not have periods, for one reason or another. One of those reasons is that the wife is too young. Here are a number of translations:

And for such of your women as despair of menstruation, if ye doubt, their period (of waiting) shall be three months, along with those who have it not. And for those with child, their period shall be till they bring forth their burden. And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, He maketh his course easy for him. (Pickthall)

Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same): for those who carry (life within their wombs), their period is until they deliver their burdens: and for those who fear God, He will make their path easy. (Yusuf Ali)

And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses [(i.e. they are still immature) their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death] . And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is until they deliver (their burdens), and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him. (Hilali-Khan)

And (as for) those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time shall be three months, and of those too who have not had their courses; and (as for) the pregnant women, their prescribed time is that they lay down their burden; and whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah He will make easy for him his affair. (Shakir)

And if you are in doubt as to the prescribed period for such of your women as have despaired of monthly courses, then know that the prescribed period for them is three months, and also for such as do not have their monthly courses yet. And as for those who are with child, their period shall be until they are delivered of their burden. And whoso fears ALLAH, HE will provide facilities for him in his affair. (Sher Ali)

As for the women who have reached menopause, if you have any doubts, their interim shall be three months. As for those who do not menstruate, and discover that they are pregnant, their interim ends upon giving birth. Anyone who reverences GOD, He makes everything easy for him. (Khalifa)

As for your women who have despaired of further menstruating, if you are in doubt, their period shall be three months; and those who have not menstruated as yet. And those who are with child, their term is when they bring forth their burden. Whoso fears God, God will appoint for him, of His command, easiness. (Arberry)

And such of your women as despair of menstruation,- if ye doubt, then their term is three months; and such as have not menstruated too. And those who are heavy with child their appointed time is when they have laid down their burden; and whosoever fears God, He will make for him an easy affair. (Palmer)

As to such of your wives as have no hope of the recurrence of their times, if ye have doubts in regard to them, then reckon three months, and let the same be the term of those who have not yet had them. And as to those who are with child, their period shall be until they are delivered of their burden. God will make His command easy to him who feareth Him. (Rodwell)

[As to] such of your wives as shall despair having their courses, [by reason of their age]; if ye be in doubt [thereof], let their term [be] three months: And [let the same be the term of] those who have not yet had their courses. But [as to] those who are pregnant, their term [shall be], until they be delivered of their burthen. And whoso feareth God, unto him will he make his command easy. (Sale)

Now as for those women who are too old to menstruate or who don’t have it for other reasons, their waiting period, to dispel any doubts, is three months. Any woman who is pregnant will wait for the birth (of her child, and then her waiting period will end). Whoever is mindful of God (should know that) He will make his affair an easy one. (Emerick)

And those of your women who despair of menstruation, if you have a doubt, their prescribed time is three months, and of those, too, who have not had their courses. And the pregnant women, their prescribed time is that they lay down their burden. And whoever keeps his duty to Allah, He makes his affair easy for him. (Maulana Muhammad Ali)

Now as for such of your women as are beyond the age of monthly courses, as well as for such as do not have any courses, their waiting-period — if you have any doubt [about it] — shall be three [lunar] months; and as for those who are with child, the end of their waiting-term shall come when they deliver their burden. And for everyone who is conscious of God, He makes it easy to obey His commandment. (Asad)

Commentators

That the Koran permits marriage to pre-pubescent girls is confirmed by Muslim commentators:

And [as for] those of your women who (read allā’ī or allā’i in both instances) no longer expect to menstruate, if you have any doubts, about their waiting period, their prescribed [waiting] period shall be three months, and [also for] those who have not yet menstruated, because of their young age, their period shall [also] be three months — both cases apply to other than those whose spouses have died; for these [latter] their period is prescribed in the verse: they shall wait by themselves for four months and ten [days] [Q. 2:234]. And those who are pregnant, their term, the conclusion of their prescribed [waiting] period if divorced or if their spouses be dead, shall be when they deliver. And whoever fears God, He will make matters ease for him, in this world and in the Hereafter. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn)

(And for such of your women as despair of menstruation) because of old age, (if ye doubt) about their waiting period, (their period (of waiting) shall be three months) upon which another man asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What about the waiting period of those who do not have menstruation because they are too young?” (along with those who have it not) because of young age, their waiting period is three months. Another man asked: “what is the waiting period for those women who are pregnant?” (And for those with child) i.e. those who are pregnant, (their period) their waiting period (shall be till they bring forth their burden) their child. (And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah) and whoever fears Allah regarding what he commands him, (He maketh his course easy for him) He makes his matter easy; and it is also said this means: He will help him to worship Him well. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs)

(And for such of your women as despair of menstruation…) [65:4]. Said Muqatil: “When the verse (Women who are divorced shall wait, keeping themselves apart…), Kallad ibn al-Nu‘man ibn Qays al-Ansari said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is the waiting period of the woman who does not menstruate and the woman who has not menstruated yet? And what is the waiting period of the pregnant woman?’ And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. Abu Ishaq al-Muqri’ informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun> Makki ibn ‘Abdan> Abu’l-Azhar> Asbat ibn Muhammad> Mutarrif> Abu ‘Uthman ‘Amr ibn Salim who said: “When the waiting period for divorced and widowed women was mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, some women of Medina are saying: there are other women who have not been mentioned!’ He asked him: ‘And who are they?’ He said: ‘Those who are too young [such that they have not started menstruating yet], those who are too old [whose menstruation has stopped] and those who are pregnant’. And so this verse (And for such of your women as despair of menstruation…) was revealed”. (Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi)

Allah the Exalted clarifies the waiting period of the woman in menopause. And that is the one whose menstruation has stopped due to her older age. Her `Iddah is three months instead of the three monthly cycles for those who menstruate, which is based upon the Ayah in (Surat) Al-Baqarah. ﴿see 2:228﴾ The same for the young, who have not reached the years of menstruation. Their `Iddah is three months like those in menopause. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

Background on verses 4-5: Ubayy ibn K’ab said to the Prophet, “After the verses in the Chapter of the Cow concerning the waiting period were revealed, some people in Medina said that there were still some women whose waiting periods were not mentioned, specifically the old, the young and the pregnant (who might be left widows before their baby is born).” This passage was revealed in response. (Asbah ul-Nuzul) (Emerick p. 695)

Here, one should bear in mind the fact that according to the explanations given in the Qur’an the question of the waiting period arises in respect of the women with whom marriage may have been consummated, for there is no waiting-period in case divorce is pronounced before the consummation of marriage. (Al-Ahzab: 49). Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for the girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl in marriage at this age but it is also permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur’an has held as permissible. (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi: Tafhim al Quran)

Bibliography

Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A., 2002.

Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur’an. Second edition. The Book Foundation, 2008.

Emerick, Yahiya. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an in Today’s English. CreateSpace, 2010.

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