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Early Marriage

The custom of early marriage is upheld by the intellect and the religion. It was the norm amongst Muslims from the dawn of Islam up to and before the cultural, economic, and military assault by the laws of the West and East upon their lands. If this (early marriage) had not been the case, then it would have led either to depravity, the least form of which is masturbation, or to illness as physicians have shown.

It was the custom of Muslims to marry off girls from the age of ten to fifteen or thereabouts, and boys from attaining maturity up to age eighteen. Early marriage was a vital necessity for them because of its simplicity. There was no condition of completing studies or military service. Marriage was like food and drink and clothing to them. A certain man would need a certain woman and vice versa, and nothing would prevent them from coming together in lawful matrimony.

The West, in placing obstacles and hurdles in the way of marriage, has laid itself open to public and private licentiousness as well as various other perversions. Its own figures show that most youngsters are sexually active from age ten for girls and from reaching physical maturity for boys, with all the dangerous consequences of that such as abortion and the profusion of illegitimate children found on the streets and in the slums, as well as various sexually transmitted diseases, and adulterous acts together with marital and family infidelity and incest and suicide, the appearance of homosexuality, and the trade in buying and selling children and so on.

Knowing that Islam is the religion of human nature, it is clear that sexual purity and cleanliness necessitates that we return to the teachings of Islam in this important area of life.

It should not be argued however: Why did the Messenger of God not marry until the age of twenty-five and for that matter Ali, because it can be said that one reason may be that the Prophet was poor, his family suffering great hardship as is seen in the story of the dividing up of the sons of Abu Talib. As for Ali, he was at the most serious stage in facilitating mankind's transition from darkness to light. It is clear that in this state, a man sacrifices everything for the sake of his goal. 37

This is common sense more than tradition, for it is the needs of the young men and women which lead them towards marriage and the dowry is no more than symbolic. There should be nothing to prevent two souls from coming together in a legal way no matter whether their conditions are poor or rich, especially as we see now certain nations making the dowry incumbent upon the man and others making it upon the woman and others still leaving it out altogether.

Islam sanctions the dowry out of honour and respect for the wife but it is not to be over done, rather it stresses the simplicity of the dowry so that it is enough for the husband to teach the wife a chapter from the Qur'an or a simple craft, or even give her a plain iron ring.

Then on, it is clear that after the marriage, the two will be motivated towards working and earning, because the person who knows that he has a responsibility will run towards life as opposed to one who does not feel any responsibility.

Simplicity of dowry made for the best women of the nation according to the Prophet because it makes this vital element of life easier and quicker. God wants for you ease and he does not want difficulty.' 38 It is related that the Prophet said: Make things easy upon yourselves and do not make things difficult.' 39 Ease in anything promotes the absence of stress on the person physically and mentally.

As for the 'most radiant of face', perhaps this stems from good moral behaviour which promotes the radiance of the face and skin. 40

In this way, it was the custom amongst Muslims, before the age of Western materialism, for the dowry to be small and simple, except in a very few cases, for the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs diverged from the traditions of Islam to the traditions of the Persian kings and the Caesars in every domain and especially in the matter of dowries. Because of this, the impeccable Imams used to emphasise and insist upon the dowry of the sunna - that practised by the Prophet.

37 Shi'a Guide; Volume 15; Page 1.

38 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 185

39 Ghawali Al-Li'ali;Volume1;Page 381. There are many traditions referring to the desirability of a small dowry which have been dealt with by the author in The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh; Volume 62-68;The Book of Wedlock.

40 The author has dealt with similar such traditions in The Book of Fiqh, Etiquette, and Practice. Volumes 94 -97.

Adapted from the book; "The Family" by: "Imam Muhammad Shirazi"

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