Najia Nabil explains why forced marriage is common in Afghanistan, and why it is against the teachings of Islam.
Imagine living in an illiterate family, where the mother’s authority in the house is limited to cleaning and cooking. She is even not allowed to visit her family without her husband’s permission. On the contrary, the father has the full authority that whatever he says should be obeyed without any exception. He enters the house with an angry face to show his dominance and so make others obey him. Moreover, in such houses mostly women’s rights are being violated and these girls are considered as a servant for serving men.
Now think a bit deeper about a girl living in that type of house, it seems quite complicated and even dangerous. Further, as the family is illiterate and girls are not allowed to go outside too, then it is obvious that she has no view about the rights given to her by law and religion. Whatever is said to her she has to accept because that is all she hears and sees, even if it is against the teachings of Islam.
Most Afghan girls are married by force and at a very young age. In Afghanistan, child marriage is rising day by day. For example, it has been reported by UN, in 2016, that Afghanistan covers 12% of girls’ forced marriages all around the world. Furthermore, child marriage is not restricted to poor farmers – it is common even for many of the Afghan officials who are considered to be the educated sector of the society. The main reasons are said to be poverty, security, and confusion between tradition and Islam.
In Afghan culture when someone marries a girl, her parents receive Toyana (dowry) from the groom side, and they can increase the dowry by demanding more. Therefore, many families who are very poor give their daughter in marriage only to get the money without considering the age of the girl and even the age of boy or man.
In most of the Afghan societies, families are more concerned about the safety of girls than boys. In other words, they believe that girls are not able to protect themselves as boys can do. Therefore, they believe that if something bad happens to a girl, the society will blame her parents and even might not allow them to live there. In most of the insecure provinces, such as rural areas that are bordered with Pakistan, people give their daughter in marriage at a young age because they think that due to insecurity it is very hard to protect them. They marry their daughter to that person with the belief that now they are done with the responsibility and the husband has the responsibility to protect her from any harm.
In Afghan society, Islamic scholars are of great respect. Therefore, many people for their self-interest memorise some verses and some hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and present themselves as Islamic scholars. As majority of Afghans are illiterate and have little awareness of their religion, one can easily trap them.
Unfortunately, these so-called mullahs (Islamic scholars) have such a respectable position in Afghan societies that even questioning them is considered sin because whatever they say is considered holy. For example, they say that it is fine for a girl to get married at a young age if her parents or guardian decide, even if she is not agreeing.
Different in Islam
However, in Islam it is totally different; the girl should always be asked if she wants to get married or not. If she accepts, it is fine but if she disagrees, forced marriage is considered sin in Islam and the marriage is not acceptable.
For instance, as it is mentioned in Hadith, Khansa Bint Khidam said: “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He said to me ‘accept what your father has arranged.’ I said, ‘I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.’ He said ‘then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.’ I said, ‘I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them).” (Fathul Bari Sharah Al Bukhari 9/194, Ibn Majah Kitabun Nikah 1/602).
Unfortunately, people are not aware of such teachings because those so-called mullahs are teaching them the wrong way to benefit themselves. Although there have been attempts to reduce the level of child marriage, due to insecurity and also peoples’ belief that is very hard to change, it has not been effective.
For instance, UNFPA has been working with the religious leaders and the people in five provinces. In addition, television programmes have been broadcasting to change the view of the people. However, the question is what percentage of the society have access to television? And are the religious leaders and the people ready to change their minds?