Prohibition of Forced Marriages

Marriage within the ambit of Islam is not only a civil contract but a religious and spiritual contract between two people – which must be entered into freely and with mutual consent. According to Islamic custom, parents and guardians have specific rights in this matter; to arrange the marriage ceremony and conduct it as a respectful family event; give their advice and recommendation for a life partner for their children. These rights are encapsulated within the philosophy of ‘wilayah’. However, Islam does not allow parents, guardians or other relatives to enforce their will or choice on a boy or a girl since it is they who are the real parties to that contract. The right to exercise free will and consent in choosing a spouse is a God given right. This is also clearly evident from important commandments given by the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) in numerous Hadith, which lay down the foundational principles of formulating a marriage contract.

In the Sahih Al-Bukhari, for example, a chapter in the book of marriage has been given the heading: “No father or mother or any close relation can force his/her children to marry any one against their free will and consent”

It is related from Hadrat Abu Hurayra(Radiyallahu Anhu) that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “A previously married woman should not be married until she has been consulted. A virgin is not married until she has been asked for her permission.”
They said, “Messenger of Allah, how does she give permission?”
‘He replied, “It is when she remains silent.”

{Sahih Bukhari , Book of Marriage , Hadith #4843}

Imam Bukhari has set another chapter heading within the book of marriage: “If parents force their daughter to marry someone against her wish then the marriage will be void”. 

Under this chapter Imam Bukhari reports a Hadith of the Holy Prophet(peace be upon him).

It is related from Hadrat Khansa’ bint Khidham al-Ansariyya that her father gave her in marriage when she had been married before and she disliked that. She went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who cancelled the marriage.

{Sahih Bukhari , Book of Marriage , Hadith #4845}

In another Hadith in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari it is narrated by Hadrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu Anhu) that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) said that if a woman wants to marry and is already a divorcee or widow, her right of free consent and free choice is superior than the right of her guardian. If she is not previously married and this is her first marriage even then her parents or other guardians cannot enforce their choice on her. They are not allowed to force her to marry any one against her free choice and free consent. It is thus clearly apparent that forced marriages are totally unacceptable in Islam. Islamic commandments as mentioned above are very categorical in nature. Those who invoke Islam in order to justify their actions do so for ulterior motives. There is a need to educate all and sundry on these issues. In most of the cases, forced marriages are the result of monetary gains, local and tribal traditions and caste affiliations. Strict legislation accompanied by media awareness campaign could be helpful in stemming the trend of the forced marriages.