A CRITICAL ANALYSIS ON THE IMPACT OF THE CONCEPT OF IJBAR ON THE PRACTICE OF CHILD MARRIAGE UNDER ISLAMIC LAW

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ABSTRACT

This study critically analyzes the impact of the concept of ijbar on the practice of child marriage under Islamic law. While child marriage is widely criticized by the feminists on the basis of human rights, its practice is nevertheless defended on the basis of Islamic law and culture. This is because, ijbar is a concept related to marriage guardianship (wilayat-un-nikah) and it connotes the power entrusted upon parents/guardians to marry off his ward in order to secure the protection of his/her welfare and in instances where it becomes apparent that the parent/guardian acted wrongly or in defiance of the rationale of ijbar, certain safeguards were instituted to cope with the situation. This involves the exercise of the option of puberty (khiyar-ul-bulugh) under which the marriage would be annulled. Prompted by the raging debate and desire for the urgent need to reform Islamic family law whereby a drastic curtailment or even the abolition the concept of ijbar vis-à-vis the practice of child marriage is advocated by the West globally, the main objectives of this research work therefore, is an attempt to critically analyze the contemporary debates for and against child marriage in Islamic law. It is argued that, while puberty marks the legal criteria of Islamic adulthood and in the absence of fixed marriageable age in addition to the exercise of coercive marriage guardianship, the practice of Islamic child marriage goes to secure the welfare of minors and the protection of their best interest in life and in view of this, it was observed that to prohibit or even restrict Islamic child marriage and the exercise of the role of coercive guardianship, is to call for disruption of the moral foundation behind the Islamic institution of the family and at the same time aggressively enforcing western secular family values that delays marriage while paying the least concern on premarital sexual indulgence among teenagers. Further still, it has been argued that the current move by the international community for the curtailment of ijbar and the abolition of child marriage together with recent reforms directed towards these ends in the Muslim world is nothing but motivated by the western conspiracy against population growth in third world countries, more particularly in the Muslim world. Therefore, the study concludes with the firm recommendation that the Islamic concept of ijbar vis-à-vis the practice of child marriage by Muslims should be accordingly maintained and that as a matter of human right, Muslims must be allowed sufficient freedom to practice the tenets of their Islamic personal law, in particular, to have recourse to the practice of child marriage where they deems so.

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