Sheikh Ibrahim Sumaila Dankwabea, an Islamic scholar, says forced marriage has no legal validity in Islam as marriage is a consensual arrangement requiring both parties to have the freedom to make the decision.
He explained that the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet and his Ahlul-Bayt frame marriage as a relationship that promotes modesty, procreation, love, mercy, and enjoyment, hence it is unlawful to inherit a woman by force.
In some Muslim communities, it was normal for parents, particularly fathers, to betroth or marry out their children while they were still minors, with the understanding that the marriage would be consummated at a later date, Sheikh Dankwabea told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Tema.
“This practice occurs in different societies for diverse reasons including tribal, and is by no means inherently an Islamic practice,” he said.
Sheikh Dankwabea, the Director of Admission of the Islamic University College of Ghana, said even though Islam did not forbid the practice in principle, it allowed it on condition that the marriage could be rejected or upheld by the male or female upon reaching puberty.
“This is because, in any other marriages, until they reach maturity they have no legal capacity to give their consent,” he said.
He urged Muslims to obey the law of the land, noting that the legal minimum age for marriage was 18 years in Ghana, as well as in most countries.
Forced marriage was among the reasons many girls dropped out of school, thereby, increasing the illiteracy rate in the country, Sheikh Dankwabea said.
He advised parents to consider the right of the child to a marriage partner adding: “If a child is forced into marriage, he or she is likely to suffer significant harm through physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”