You can’t eat and leave your children hungry.
Yet, what’s commonly ignored is the unspoken desire.
Facilitating teenage marriage is a basic act of empathy. And, for Muslims, empathy is correlated with faith.
Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself“.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The UN is already acting more empathic than many Muslims by approving basic human rights.
Providing young people with equal access to CSE respects their right to the highest attainable standard of health, including safe, responsible, and respectful sexual choices free of coercion and violence,
In another report, it advocates fair access to contraceptives.
Other policy measures include ensuring access to appropriate contraceptive methods without limitations related to age or marital status and providing accessible, acceptable, and age-appropriate clinical services, adolescent-friendly clinics, and community outreach services.
Meanwhile, Western governments are competing to raise the minimum age of marriage, because they’re worried about the future of “children.”
A bill is being presented to parliament to raise the age of marriage in England and Wales from 16 with parental consent to 18 and make coercing children into marriage a criminal offense rather than putting the onus on the child to raise the alarm.
What they’re fighting in marriage is vague, but they’re clear about what they’re NOT fighting.
What I’m not trying to do is stop sex because you can’t stop that and never will. I’m just trying to save these young people from ruining their lives really when there are lots of opportunities out there for them.
In other words: they’re approving the desire but opposing the Islamic solution.
Talking To Teens
Relationship matters are pressing questions for teens. It is counterintuitive to say that Islam only approves marriage but that this option is not available to teens.
When talking to teens, I sincerely give my tips on what helped me to abstain, but I also honestly mention what I wasn’t told at that age. This struggle didn’t exist a century ago.
It has been forced by modernist international charters on Muslim communities by raising the age of marriage. I still made it clear, however, that this gives us no excuse to cross Allah’s limits.
I can overlook if the teens I counsel vent to me about their frustration at their parents, tradition, or any other condition except for Islam. Being disrespectful or committing a sin is less serious than believing that Allah was unfair when He commanded Islam. Islam rewards Halal intimacy, and it holds guardians accountable for not facilitating the Halal for their dependents.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t marry your children off, then at least make such matters clear by talking to them. Validate their inclinations, discuss long-term solutions, and share experiences and Islamic literature that they can relate to. Don’t be a test to their faith in Allah.
In Ayah 32 of Surat An-Nur, Allah encourages the guardians to marry off their slaves, let alone their children.
Marry off the ˹free˺ singles among you, as well as the righteous of your bondmen and bondwomen. If they are poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty. For Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing.
Here Allah instructs guardians and masters to arrange marriages for the single people under their care. So relatives and guardians of orphans should arrange marriages for those who wish to get married among those on whom they are obliged to spend.
In this video, Abdul Aziz Al-ِAnsary reports how it has become common to shame young girls for requesting marriage. The denial of such rights to women is termed ‘Adhl عَضل. It is prohibited in Ayah (2:232) and (4:19) in the Quran. Most girls, however, will be too shy to bring this up. Guardians are encouraged to accept suiters as soon as possible or to seek competent husbands themselves.
On a side note, there are levels of Zina (unlawful intimacy), including that of the eyes, tongue, and touch. The Hadith makes it clear that there is an inevitable share of Zina to every child of Adam because the desire is strongly ingrained. We’re expected to minimize that share through Halal means. Allah may forgive us as singles if we were helpless about it, but will we be forgiven for the sins of our dependents if we already have the means?
Muslim scholars have given two options with this regard: You either teach them a skill to provide for themselves, or you’re required to provide for them and their dependents.
There’s no such option as delaying their marriage.
According to the family counselor, Hamed Al Edreesy, the marriage prerequisite in Islam (Al-Ba’ah الباءة) doesn’t imply financial self-sufficiency. What is required is the ability and potential to make money. It’s more of an attitude that will make the providers accept whatever work is required to make an income.
It’s worth noting that financial provision is only one part of Al-Ba’ah. The other part requires the bodily capability of satisfying one’s partner. While finances grow with age, there’s a great risk of weakening the second prerequisite if singles learn to “satisfy themselves” by the time they reach their late twenties.
Additionally, some scholars have obliged the family of the woman to contribute to providing for her if the husband is not self-sufficient. Much depends on societal norms and the agreements made to facilitate the marriage for the sake of Allah.
We also need to calibrate our beliefs regarding Rizq (sustenance). For the same Ayah quoted earlier from Surat An-Nur (24:32), As-Sa’di elaborates:
So you should not let what you imagine – that if he gets married, he will become poor because of having too many dependents – prevent you from getting married. This offers encouragement to get married and is a divine promise to the one who gets married that he will become independent of means after having been poor.
Al Edreesy states that in Islamic belief, marriage is one of the major means of Rizq. He quotes Abu Bakr’s saying which he found to be true in his own quest:
Obey Allah in what He commanded you to do in marriage, and He will fulfill what He promised you of wealth.
~Abu Bakr As-Siddiq
Perhaps there’s nothing more related to moving to a new house, than starting a new life with marriage. This has become an exaggerated challenge in the modern city. Where the Sharia outperforms the modern city is in terms of autonomous development and its indirect solutions to such crucial matters as affordability. Sharia would not deprive individuals of their right to build an extra room on the roof (as long as they reach an agreement with their neighbors). Modern city planning would not allow such autonomous development, even in many suburban areas.
I mention this to point out that we are prisoners in a modern system that works against our interests in many subtle ways, therefore we need to be open to permissible compromises.
When it comes to modern living complexes in the typical urban environment, the standard units are deliberately designed to accommodate nuclear families. However, extended family houses are more affordable as far as amenities are shared.
When planning for you or your children’s long-term accommodation needs, keep in mind the possibility of sharing the house with your married children, at least temporarily. Think of modifications that allow for appropriate mahram and non-mahram interactions. In this sense, traditional Islamic interiors were more responsive to Sharia by including segregated Harem quarters. This is one more point to learn from our Islamic cultures and traditions.
Is It Worth Breaking Norms?
The more time I spend in this world, the more I realize that what it’s lacking is compassion. As tough as Umar ibn al-Khattab was, his mercy towards his daughter compelled him to seek a husband for her after she got widowed. Just because those youngsters are unaware of what they should be demanding doesn’t give us the right to ignore their struggle. We can do better than leaving them to fantasize about Anime characters — to say the least.
In the end, it all depends on what you aspire to when raising your children. If you can only foresee them as successful doctors and engineers with happy families visiting you every other weekend, then you don’t need to concern yourself. This message is to those who envision their descendants as impactful, strong Muslims who will champion Islam. At minimum, parents must be willing to go against harmful and anti-Islamic norms to equip their children with their Islamic rights, of which their peers have been unjustly deprived.