“By getting men to reject the practice that subordinate women and girls and subject them to violence, we can get to the root of child marriage”

Wanjala Wafula, The Coexist Initiative

Samira is 11 years old, with big brown lovely eyes  of one innocent child.She is so sweet and caring and she cant stop smiling. Her mother is helping her to dress best clothes because soon is the  celebration. The young girl is excited because she cant imagine that soon will not play with her toys but with older men or, if she has some crazy luck, with the boy of her age, in bed. Samira is one of 15 million girls who are married every year, before age of 18. One of many girls whose childhood is replaced with instant marriage’s life  wrapped into colorful clothes and jewelry, given to child’s heart to forget the pain which will come soon.

The story about the child marriages is something what follows the history of many backward societies.It is not only connected with Muslim communities but also with Hindu and the India, with the second-highest level of child marriages, according to official data from UN, is a typical example of country which is fighting to eradicate this shameful tradition through the strict laws and education of parents and children, especially in rural areas, which are still under local tribal rules. This shameful tradition hits also many parts of  the Middle East region,  West Asia, Africa,Latin America and Oceania.

The child marriage should be considered as a formal marriage or often an informal union entered by any person younger than 18. The legal approval for young people to get into marriage starts with being 18 years old but in many countries, parental decisions are above any law and they are taken as valid. This kind of marriages affects not only young girls but also young boys. Sometimes, parents of both sides decide for their children the marriage and children are never asked for permission and even if they did, their words aren’t important. In the case of potential teenage’s pregnancy, this marriage is a cover for family dishonor. Unfortunately, many societies don’t need pregnancy as a reason for those primitive heritage, all they need is an ironic  excuse to protect so called girl’s safety and boy’s future. In many situations, child marriage is an union between young female, below 18 (mostly between 8 and 15 years old) and older man. The age difference between marriage partners is inappropriate and this act is a  violent crime against children rights. It is not only against children rights but also it is a violation of human rights and abuse “female flesh” as a source of money for parents. They trade with their children’s destinies, following so called ” tradition”  but it is nothing but demonic  approach to the most fragile elements of any society, children. It is a result of system which is not developed and the people who are not educated. The lack of good economical conditions as well as the absence of real education is a base for this kind of phenomena, what I consider as a cancer of our world.

Every country which is dealing with the child marriages has its own folklore of promoting it, valuing it or simply covering it by plastic traditional explanations or delusional religious phrases. The truth is the next: the child marriage has nothing to do with God but with people who are so far away from God. Primitive rules should have been buried in the past. New times demand adjustments, not regressing but progressing.  Many countries will defeat this disgraceful custom  sometimes….some countries will never find a way out….without paying for it,  by blood. Someone’s. Children’s blood.


Personally, I think that the case of Yemen is the most shocking. I am not referring here that others aren’t but as far as I am informed, in Yemen there are so many  female children who suffer by being consumed in that form of marriage. They are not only suffering, they are dying every day because of many reasons and almost none is talking about it or even if does, it is always hidden among many other terrible news, never headlined. It is stated that Yemeni’s practice of marrying young girls worries the international human rights activists but the real situation is even worse. The big battle is over there, not only on the ground therefor the current security and political challenge turned Yemen into chaotic place, but also in the society where tribal rules try to overcome the legal rules. The same is about the girls. After so many information that so many young just married  girls were taken into the hospitals due to very dangerous  internal genital injuries, the law parts of Yemeni divided community started reconsidering the legal age for marriage union. The attempts to be set up by age of 17 were rejected after the tribal clerics repealed and sent this decision back to the parliament and threaten to possible ban-child-marriage-activists to apostate them. We all know that the highest religious authority is alpha and omega of this Muslim society so those kind of inter structural changes aren’t easy and welcomed by majority of backwards believers. Without prosperity and stuck in the ancient belief that young girl could be easier shaped to be a good wife, Yemeni male grounded  society doesn’t accept any switch. The story of so many young brides, age 12  who are given to 20 years older grooms  are the inspiration for western media to make heartbreaking reportage but it is ended up with readers’s bizarre feedback and the destiny of Yemeni’s then happy children now  early made women  stays in the cracks of our civilization.  The experts warn that female children who are married before age of 15 have 5 times more chances to die on childbirth than older females. They are also innocent and without any real experiences and they are a potential victims of domestic violence, not only committed by their husbands but also by their family in law. Rawan,  was an 8 years old Yemeni  girl who was sold by her parents to 40 years old man, who raped her repeatedly to death. She died from internal injuries and bleeding. This man, her so called husband, wasn’t punished and her family wasn’t punished either. Only in Yemen. Noora Al Shami, one of the secret army of destroyed young Yemeni girls, also narrated  to the Guardian her story. She was sold  at age of 11 to the distant relative for $150 :“After succumbing to Al Ahdam’s advances for the first time, Noora’s body went into shock. ‘I was rushed to hospital – I was a child being treated as a sex object, but the abuse did not stop. Nobody was interested in my complaints, as I was legally a wife.’There were two miscarriages within a year, before Noora gave birth to a son called Ihab when she was 13. A daughter, Ahlam, followed when Noora was 14, and then Shihab, another son, when she was 15. All of the pregnancies were problematic.Al Ahdam became increasingly violent. ‘He thought nothing of hitting me, even when I was pregnant,’said Noora. ‘If his father hadn’t been in the house, it would have been even worse. His presence was some kind of restraint, but I was still very badly injured.’ The children suffered too. When Ahlam was two, Al Ahdam grabbed her by the feet and banged her on the floor. The child was taken to hospital bleeding.”This courageous woman didnt want to accept to be a victim for a whole life and after many years of domestic violence against her and her children, she joined to the Yemeni Women’s Union and to the project Oxfam,which helped her to get divorce and start independent life, educating herself for a teacher and fighting for her and future of her children but also for the future of many potential child brides. Those women will be the light for darkness of Yemen, which is burning into civil wars and poverty with no ends.


Sadly, what about the interpretation of religion what allows this shameful tradition? It is a fact that Islam doesn’t prohibit the child marriage  because it allows the father to make decision for his young son or young daughter to be married before they reached puberty:

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

The scholars are unanimously agreed that the father may arrange a marriage for his young daughter without consulting her. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) married ‘Aa’ishah when she was six years old.

End quote from at-Tamheed, 19/98 “

 Now we will see another explanations but we should have in mind that Islamic theologians argue among themselves what is real and what is fake:

 An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: 

It should be noted that ash-Shaafa‘i and his companions said: It is recommended for the father or grandfather not to arrange a marriage for a virgin until she reaches the age of puberty and he seeks her consent, lest she find herself trapped in a marriage that she resents. What they said is not contrary to the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah, because what they meant is that he should not give her in marriage before puberty if there is no clear and real interest to be served by that for which there is the fear that it will be missed by delaying marriage, such as the story of ‘Aa’ishah. In that case (i.e., if there is a clear and real interest to be served) it is recommended not to miss the opportunity to marry that husband, because the father is enjoined to take care of his children’s interests, not to neglect them. 

End quote from Sharh Muslim, 9/206 “

 Ibn Shubrumah said that:“It is not permissible to arrange a marriage for a young girl who has not reached the age of puberty, because if we say that that is subject to her consent, her consent does not count (because she is too young to make such decisions), and when she does reach the age of puberty we believe that she should not be forced into a marriage.”


So many similar but also different thoughts which are helping the Muslims to keep this disgraceful tradition and to never really eliminate it. In their religious worlds, child marriage is usually  compared with Prophet Mohammed practice. The Prophet Mohammed lived in ancient and barbaric age and many customs were more than brutal and violent according to out modern times but considering those rules as something which is allowed by God is a sign of ignorance, backwards social structure and degenerated generations.

The dark case of Yemen is not the only one. The child brides are around the globe. They are dreaming of lost childhood while they are waiting for their own children.Calling any God wont help them to defeat themselves from aggressive old husband. We can help them. We can be their voices and their strength to punish those societies and to eradicate this primitive practice. They are only children. They are children like ours.

This is a story of broken hearts, destroyed souls and body in pains. Yemen.  Untold.



  1. Thank you so much, Sarah, for bringing such a dark topic to light ! Thank you for, in so
    doing, helping those poor little girls !

    What a shame that those men can live with themselves after committing such heinous crimes against those poor, innocent, and defenseless little girls who know nothing yet about the world except how to play with toys and kids their own age in the most innocent way ! In essence, this is a crime against humanity !

    In modern society, all over the world, not just in the West, “rape” is defined as sex without consent and that’s exactly, and sadly, the case in those child-bride marriages ! This has to be eradicated from Yemen and from all other countries where this barbaric and primitive practice is still allowed !

    The eradication of such practice can be more easily implemented once harsh laws are enacted and promulgated in order to punish the perpetrators. This would
    act as a punishment for current perpetrators, and as a deterrent for any potential perpetrators !

    Further, the International Community has to be involved, and has to come to the aid of those poor and helpless little girls by imposing severe sanctions on the counties that still allow and facilitate such atrocities!

    This is appalling and that’s an understatement !

    Thank you again, Sarah, for your detailed research and for taking the lid off this horrific practice !


  2. Sarah,

    Islam teaches that Prophet Muhammad is the best example of proper ethical and moral behavior for mankind. Indeed, Muhammad is the model against whom our conduct is to be measured. In other words, if Muhammad did it, so should we.

    Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.
    Qur’an 33:21

    If the Qur’an is true and Muhammad is the model of “a beautiful pattern of conduct,” we should be able to examine his life and see what this pattern of conduct (sunnah) looks like, so we can also model it.
    The following accounts are just a small sample of how Muhammad reacted in a number of ethical situations. We have categorized them somewhat, though many of the examples quoted would fall into multiple categories. Most of these examples are taken from the earliest biography of Muhammad by ibn Ishaq.[1]



    Muhammad could not tolerate any kind of abuse against him. The penalty for abusing him was death, as in the case of Ka’ab bin Ashraf who had been assassinated on the order of Muhammad.[2] Hypocritically, Muhammad had no qualms about being abusive towards non-Muslims.
    • Before besieging the Banu Qurayza to slaughter them, Muhammad approached their forts with insults. Calling them “brothers of monkeys.”[3]
    • Muhammad also encouraged his followers to do likewise and abuse them with their poems.[4]


    We find in the life of Muhammad numerous instances of anger, many of which resulted in physical violent actions carried out by the prophet of Islam. For a small sample of the many accounts of violent angry outbursts by Muhammad, consider the following:
    • A group of Jewish rabbis laughed and scoffed at Islam and the Muslims. Muhammad ordered them ejected from the mosque, whereupon some were dragged from the mosque by the hair on their heads and given a severe beating. [5]
    • Muhammad ordered the killing of two girls, Fartana and her friend, for singing songs of a satirical nature about him. [6]
    • Another young girl named Sara was mercilessly trampled to her death by a mounted soldier dispatched by Muhammad after she insulted him.[6]
    • A woman named Asma bint Marwan was brutally murdered with Muhammad’s full knowledge, again for writing poetry deriding Muhammad. Muhammad solicited from among his men for someone to kill her, and one of his men volunteered. When told of the murder the following morning, Muhammad said “two goats will not butt their heads over her death.” This woman left five sons as orphans.[7] According to other accounts of this same incident, the soldier who killed Asma first removed a suckling infant from her breast before plunging his sword into her.
    Thus, we see that Muhammad did not deal with anger in accordance with the norms of a civil society.


    • Muhammad caught word of a trade caravan from Syria coming to Mecca. He dispatched some of his followers to intercept the caravan to plunder its money and merchandise, saying “perhaps God will give it as a prey.”[8] The sole purpose of raiding the caravan was to steal property which was not his and distribute it to his followers to earn their loyalty.
    • Muhammad admitted to a certain woman that the material wealth, which we can assume was the result of similar caravan raids and the plundering of nearby tribes in war, was used to attract unbelievers to Islam.[9]


    Muhammad set the example for his followers, and his example shows him to be a cold-blooded murderer. This likely does not sit well with devout Mulsims, but his biography records many instances of Muhammad either participating directly in the murder of his adversaries or the explicit endorsement of such, at times for deeds as insignificant as writing insulting poetry. Consider the following.
    • Muhammad gave thanks to Allah when the head of one Abu Jahl was delivered to him. Abu Jahl’s crime was making a mockery of Ibn Mas’ud, one of Muhammad’s followers.[10]
    • Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf composed poetry of an insulting nature against Muslim women. For this deed, Muhammad solicited from among his men volunteers to kill Ka’b. They lured Ka’b into the night for a friendly discussion, and at a suitable place killed him.[11] Ibn Warraq adds that Ka’b’s head was delivered to Muhammad who praised their good works in the cause of God.[12]
    • After the death of Ka’b, Muhammad ordered the indiscriminate murder, for any reason or no reason at all, of any Jew.[13]
    • Al-Harith b. Sawayd was considered a hypocrite after initially embracing Islam and later rejecting it. For this Muhammad ordered Umar to kill him if he found an opportunity to do so.[14]
    • Muhammad sanctioned the murder of Amr b. Jihash, who had plotted to kill Muhammad by throwing a rock from a rooftop. But even more disturbing is that an unnamed man was given money to kill b. Jihash, a paid murder along the line of today’s paid mafia hits.[15] Even if one agrees that b. Jihash deserved what he got for his involvement in plotting to kill Muhammad, is this a superior example of what one ought to do with one’s enemies?
    • Side note: The story of Amr. B. Jihash b. Ka’b volunteering to throw a rock from the roof when Muhammad and his companions arrived at Banu Nadir stronghold is evidently a later addition made by Muhammad. Because from Ibn Ishaq’s account of the incident, we understand it was Gabriel who told Muhammad about this plan while he was sitting with Abu Bakr and his other companions. None of Muhammad’s companions could sense it and Muhammad needed his alter ego to invent the plot. It tells us the attempted murder was a made up story by Muhammad. [For more details see Ibn Ishaq: 652]
    • Muhammad personally approved the murder of Sallam ibn Abu’l-Huqayq whom it was said had enmity toward Muhammad.[16]
    • Muhammad viewed Abdullah bin Sa’d as an apostate after initially embracing Islam but later abandoning it. Muhammad wanted Sa’d murdered, but did not want to take responsibility for his murder, hoping that one of his helpers would volunteer for the deed.[17]
    Thus, Muhammad sanctioned, condoned, and even personally ordered the murder of others, at times for even the most miniscule of insults against either Muhammad himself or Islam in general. Clearly, the example set by Muhammad should not become normative for society, lest we find ourselves in constant fear of our lives with no guarantee for life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.


    Most civilized societies live by something akin to what is known as the “Golden Rule:” To do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The example of Muhammad is just the opposite in this regard. His actions speak for themselves. Here are just a few examples from his biography.
    • During the battle of Uhud, one of many battles during which Islam was spread by the sword, Muhammad’s uncle Hamza was killed. A woman named Hind d. ‘Utba mutilated the body of Hamza, cutting off his nose and ears, and cutting out his liver to exact vengeance for the loss of her father, brother, and her first-born son in the battle of Badr.[18] In response, Muhammad expressed an overwhelming desire to personally mutilate 30 men of the Quraysh tribe. His expressed desire incited his own men to state that in future battles, “we will mutilate them as no Arab has ever mutilated anyone.”[19] While this sort of a response by Muhammad may seem justified in terms of human reasoning, it seems quite out of character for the prophet of a god who is said to be “most gracious, most merciful.”
    • In a fit of extreme anger and retribution at the end of the Battle of the Ditch, Muhammad personally beheaded up to 900 Jews in one night, tossing their headless bodies in a ditch dug around Medina. The women, children, and personal possessions of these 900 men were divided up between Muhammad and his followers.[20]
    • Muhammad plotted to attack the people of Lihyan to avenge the death of some of his men at who were killed at al-Raji, though the surprise attack failed when the people of Lihyan heard about Muhammad’s plans and made preparations.[21]
    • Muhammad ordered the flogging of some of his men who were accused of spreading rumors about his wife Aisha having an illicit relationship with a man who found her lost in the desert after her caravan left her behind.[22]

    It is clear from these few examples that Muhammad was a very vengeful man who demonstrated to his enemies not patience, or love, or compassion, but anger and hostility which led in some cases to extreme violence from Muhammad. This sort of behavior is certainly not one of the foundations of civilized society.


    There is evidence that Muhammad engaged in lust, incest, and possibly illicit relationships. Muhammad’s adopted son Zaid had a wife named Zaynab who was Muhammad’s paternal cousin[23] and apparently quite attractive. History records that Muhammad went to visit Zaid one day, but he was gone and Zaynab, dressed very revealingly, greeted Muhammad at the door. Muhammad apparently excused himself for fear of succumbing to his carnal desire for her. His followers noted that Muhammad was captivated by Zaynab’s physical attractiveness, and it was noted that Muhammad desired to have her as his own wife. Zaid, wanting to remain faithful to Muhammad and do everything to please him, divorced Zaynab so that Muhammad could marry her. In modern societies, marrying one’s daughter and cousin would be viewed as incest. Clearly, the evidence points to the fact that Muhammad’s desire for Zaynab was based purely on lust and carnal desire for her.
    Furthermore, there is at least the suggestion in the Hadith that Muhammad was perhaps engaging in illicit behavior with Zaynab before he married her. Abu Dawud records a woman named Hamnah, a sister of Zaynab, who one day sought Muhammad for counsel and found him and Zaynab alone at her house. One can only speculate why Muhammad would place himself in a situation where he knew he would be tempted to engage in carnal activity with Zaynab, alone in her home and away from the view of anyone else.


    Muhammad approved of deceit and condoned lying, as a means to an end. In his biography we find:
    • Three tribes had gathered together to do battle with Muhammad: the Qurayza, Quraysh, and Ghatafan. One of the new converts to Islam, from the Ghatafan tribe, approached Muhammad to inquire how he might help in the battle effort. Since they were still unaware of his conversion Muhammad dispatched him among these three tribes with the explicit instruction to deceive them with a believable story, because war is deceit. The story worked, and distrust was sowed among the three tribes so that the battle against Muhammad’s people was averted.[24] While some may argue that this was a smart, strategic decision on Muhammad’s part to avoid what was sure to be overwhelming odds against the three tribes combined, it nevertheless underscores that Muhammad was not averse to using deceit to his advantage.
    • In another situation, one of Muhammad’s converts had a significant sum of money scattered among the merchants of Mecca that he wished to collect. If he told these merchants the truth about his relationship with Muhammad, he would never recover his money. He approached Muhammad with permission to retrieve his money, and confessed to Muhammad, “I must tell lies.” Muhammad’s response was, “Tell them.”[25]
    Thus, once again we find Muhammad less than an ideal example of ethical and moral behavior.


    After this brief examination of a few specific examples of moral and ethical behaviors of Muhammad, we must conclude that Muhammad does not provide the standard of moral excellence to which every person should aspire.
    The moral characteristics we find exemplified in the life of Muhammad typically are found in power hungry despots whose interests are of a purely selfish nature.
    After achieving political power in Medina, Muhammad’s life became a picture of unbridled power, which he used to fulfill every desire he had, from plundering nearby tribes just to take possession of their wealth, to influencing his followers to give up their wives so he could have them.
    As the British historian Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Such was Muhammad.


    1. Ibn Ishaq’s work Sirât Rasûl Allâh was translated into English in 1955 by A. Guillaume and is available in book form known as The Life of Muhammad.
    2. Sahih Bukhari 3:45:687
    3. Ibn Ishaq 684 When the apostle approached their (Banu Qurayza) forts, he said. “You brothers of monkeys, has God disgraced you and brought his vengeance upon you?” They (Banu Qurayza) replied “O Abul Qasim (Muhammad) you are not a barbarous person”
    4. Sahih Bukhari 5:59:449
    5. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 246-247.
    6. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 551
    7. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 676
    8. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 289
    9. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 639
    10. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 304
    11. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 368
    12. Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2003), 94.
    13. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 369
    14. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 384
    15. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 438
    16. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 482
    17. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 550
    18. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 385-386
    19. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 387
    20. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 464
    21. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 485-486
    22. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 497
    23. Maududi (1967), Tafhimul Quran, Chapter Al Ahzab
    24. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 458-459
    25. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, translator (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 519


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