Women’s right to choose life partners

Women’s right to choose life partners

Sattam Al-Mogren

Sattam Al-MogrenBy Sattam Al-Mogren

ISLAMIC scholars are unanimous in their opinion that the religion gives full freedom to sane and adult woman to accept or reject a marriage proposal. Her father or guardian is not allowed to force her to accept a suitor who she does not like. They also hold the view that a marriage contract is null and void if it was concluded without the bride’s consent.

However, some modern scholars insist that a virgin should get the permission of her father or guardian to get married. Although the permission was required as a precautionary measure, some scholars argue that it is a Shariah requirement and the absence of which would nullify the marriage.

We have learned from Islamic Jurisprudence that “adhl”, or preventing a woman from marrying a groom she likes is not allowed. The Holy Qur’an has explicitly stated:

“And when you divorce women and they have fulfilled their term, do not prevent them from remarrying their [former] husbands if they agree among themselves on acceptable basis. That is instructed to whoever of you believes in Allah and the Last Day. That is better for you and purer, and Allah knows and you know not.” (Qur’an 2:232)

On the basis of the above verse, it is not allowed for a guardian to prevent a woman from marrying a suitable groom. Experts in jurisprudence have pointed out that if a case of adhl is proved and the woman is prevented from marriage without a genuine reason, a judge can order the guardian to marry the woman to the suitor she likes. If the guardian prevents her again he will lose the guardianship and the judge can give her the consent to get married.

According to scholars, a woman has the full authority in administering her affairs, including marriage. Imam Abu Hanifa has said a wise woman can take the decision on her marriage without a guardian. The prevalent guardianship system goes against this principle. Any adult and sane individual is allowed to carry out all his/her affairs and this includes selection of a life partner.

The marriage contract in Islam insists that if both the bride and groom agree to marry each other the contract will be valid even if the bride’s guardian rejects it.

I like to point out two instances that have occurred during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Once a girl came to the Prophet and told him that her father forced her to marry someone who she doesn’t like. The Prophet said she has the right to choose her husband. In the second case, the Prophet asked a woman whether she liked the proposal made by her father. When she replied in the negative, he said, “Go and get married to the one you like.” These two instances prove the guardian’s approval is not mandatory for a woman to get married.

In light of the above, it is better for a woman to consult her guardian before marriage as part of the prevalent custom and out of respect and manners, but it is not a basic requirement for the completion of a marriage contract.

The primary condition for the marriage is that it should be agreed by the woman and it is the guardian’s duty to facilitate that marriage and provide necessary support to ensure its stability. Many people have made big mistakes in this regard because of the wrong belief that women are incapable of taking care of their affairs and they require male guardians to look after their interests. They also think that if women are allowed to marry without a guardian’s consent, they could be cheated and the practice might lead to the spread of immoral relationships where young men and women could get married without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.

Later people started exploiting guardianship for serving their vested interests. While some keep an eye on women’s income, others use the opportunity to demand exorbitant amounts of money as dowry. Statistics issued by the Justice Ministry show that the number of adhl lawsuits in the Kingdom is growing as more and more women are becoming aware of their rights and they approach the court for consent to marry suitors they like.

Despite the measures taken by the Justice Ministry to protect women’s rights, they still face two major problems: domestic violence and arbitrary attitude of guardians. The court cases filed against guardians who prevent their daughters from getting married have exposed them in the public.

Our society is going through continuous transformation. We have to accept the new realities even if we do not like them. Women have started demanding their rights and personal freedom. Can our scholars propose solutions to tackle family and women’s issues in contemporary society? It’s a need of the hour.