Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti okayed marriage for girls starting at age 10 and criticized those who want to raise the legal marriageable age, according to news reports.
Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh said a girl becomes ready for marriage at 10 or 12 according to Islam and stressed that Islamic law is not by any means oppressive to women, the London-based al-Hayat reported Wednesday.
"Those who call for raising the age of marriage to 25 are absolutely mistaken," al-Sheikh said in a lecture he gave at the faculty housing mosque of Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
"Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age."
Al-Sheikh's statements came in response to a question from a female attendee about marrying minor girls without their consent.
The Saudi National Human Rights Association (NHRA) has criticized the prevalence of the marriage of minors in the kingdom and considered it a violation of childhood. The association has sought to work with authorities to curb the practice and protect children's rights.
NHRA stressed that underage marriages are also a breach of several United Nations treaties including the Child Rights Treaty, which Saudi signed in 1996 and the Treaty for the Rights of Women that the kingdom joined in 2000.
Last year a similar fatwa, or religious ruling, by Salafi preacher Sheikh Mohamed al-Maghrawi allowing girls as young as nine to marry was condemned by Morocco’s Supreme Scientific Council. The council said it lacked religious validity because it was based on only one case—the marriage of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) to Aisha bint Abu-Bakr.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).