Moroccan preacher says girls can marry at nine

Salafi scholars outraged at fatwa


Morocco’s Supreme Scientific Council condemned a fatwa issued by a Salafi preacher that permits girls to marry at the age of nine. The council filed a complaint with the Rabat preliminary court, which has opened an investigation.

The Council said in a statement Sunday that the fatwa issued by Sheikh Mohamed al-Maghrawi has no religious validity since its reasoning is based on only one individual case—the marriage of Prophet Mohamed to Aisha bint Abu-Bakr, who most Muslims believe was nine-years-old, in the 7th century.

"This is an exceptional case related only to the prophet and cannot be applied to the rest of the people," said the Council.

The Council said that it is the only body authorized to issue fatwas and not any individual preachers or scholars, adding that Maghrawi’s fatwa "uses religion to support perverted views."

Earlier this month, Saudi researcher and historian Dr. Suhayla Zein al-Abedin said that her research indicates that Aisha likely married the prophet when she was 19 and not nine. She based her conclusions on an analysis of the historical record and mathematical logic and said she is still verifying her results.

Nabila al-Tibr, head of the National Association for Solidarity with Women told that such a fatwa encourages sexual delinquency and compels children to think about sexual relations at such an early age.

Tibr added that the Association played a very significant role in issuing the law that raises the age of marriage for girls to 18 so that she can be mature enough to bear the responsibilities of marriage.

"How can a fatwa say that a girl can get married before puberty while we are exerting out utmost effort to stop marriages between the age of 15 and 18 in some Moroccan regions," added Tibr.

"If the Sheikh has a daughter at that age, why doesn't he marry her off?"

Sheikh Maghrawi is one of the most renowned Salafi figures in Morocco. He issued the fatwa in response to a question about the validity of marriage for girls before puberty.

Abedin, a member of the World Union of Muslim Scholars, appealed to the Saudi Minister of Justice to consider preventing cases of child marriage, given the magnitude of potential psychological and physical pain, and setting a minimum marriage age.

Other researchers have noted that there are many explanations for why Ayesha’s age – and that of the prophet or his other wives – cannot be definitely determined including high illiteracy at the time, typographical errors, and simple exaggeration as stories were repeated through the years.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)