Young Yemeni Heroine Fights Child Marriage
While so many of us have heard of child marriages in the Muslim world where sharia law prevails, one young heroine has been fighting for their rights.
Nada al-Hadal, the young Yemeni, has had the courage to confront such crimes against humanity.
As detailed in her blog, Nada’s story as a human rights activist started in 2013, when she was 11 years old. She refused to be a victim of child marriage and told her story to the world. Although she faced many struggles and disappointments, she has never surrendered. Nada’s determination to keep fighting for Children’s Rights won her the admiration of many, and garnered International support for her cause.
Click below to hear Nada’s Story from her own words
Justification for Child Marriages
The justification for adult men to marry female children is based on the hadiths — the sayings and acts of the Prophet Muhammad — that condones this sexual depravity.
Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six years old when, he as a man in his fifties, wedded her and consummated the marriage when she was nine:
- “The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).” —Sahih al-Bukhari Book 7: 62, 88
- The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. —Sahih al-Bukhari Book 5: 58, 23
Sharia law — an amorphous body of legal rulings, judgments and opinions, assembled from the Quran and the hadiths over the course of many centuries after Muhammad’s death — asserts that such conduct is not child abuse but a young girl’s capacity to live out her dignity as a woman. Despite many Islamic states prohibiting such matrimonial contracts, sharia courts have the power to override state laws.
In Pakistan, for example, as of 2019, there have been an estimated 1,909,000 children that were married off by their parents. According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the sixth-highest rate of child marriage in the world.
Yemen has no legal minimum marriage age; two-thirds of marriages involve underage brides, including 44 percent under 15.
Child marriage is an important issue for Muslims in the modern period, as social customs have drastically changed over the last few hundred years. Yet this practice has also been prevalent, though to a lesser, in Western countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany where the growing Muslim population has been resorting to sharia law as a means of self-preservation.
We must also keep in mind that child marriages, also exist in non-Islamic countries. As per a United Nations report, India has the second highest number of child marriages. For a nation which is touted to be the next emerging superpower nation, it is a disturbing reality that evils like child marriages still persist — they have existed from the times of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate (1206–1290) when the monarchy system was prevalent.
Impact of Child Marriage
Once married, the girl child is forced to leave her home and inhabit another place altogether wherein she is forced to take up roles that she is not mentally prepared for. Huge responsibilities like that of mother and a daughter-in-law are too much for a minor girl. It eventually leads to isolation and depression. For the males, taking up a responsibility as critical as that of wife as in to take of her finances and share your own finances also becomes taxing.
Early pregnancy is one of the most dangerous causes and consequences of this harmful practice. Girls who married early are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations.
Childhood is lost and the freedom to play and learn is also snatched in the process. Early marriages also carry with them excessive risk factors. There is a greater risk of contracting sexual diseases like HIV. Also, girls who marry early are less likely to be updated about pregnancy and related subjects. Infants born to such mothers are more likely to suffer from malnutrition, low birth weights.
Advocacy for Children
Courageous youngsters like Nada are what we need in today’s world. She has, for example, established many highly impactful humanitarian programs to promote education and protect girls from underage marriage and domestic violence. This effort was achieved through the use of media and community outreach and awareness programs.
Since 2017 the Nada Foundation has managed to nullify hundreds of illegal underage marriages, and rescue children from domestic violence. It has also disbursed more than 60 scholarships to aid girls in their development and ensure a good future through employment. Nada, with her Foundation, also runs a shelter for girls who flee marriage or domestic abuse. It is hoping to spread its influence across International borders, helping girls have a childhood and thrive throughout the world.
Educating girls, as Nada says, protects their human rights and changes traditional attitudes toward early marriage. Instilling confidence and dignity, education lifts girls’ hopes for achieving their life dreams. As such, education is the foundation for creating social change and economic growth wherever child marriages are prevalent. Creating future leaders even while the fighting continues is the first step in achieving long-term goals for future stability and economic development of the region.
If I may add, while human rights abuses in countries where sharia law prevails must be dealt with by Muslims, the West, too, has a responsibility — there is a slight hope in Yemen now that the Biden administration has stopped funding the Saudi-led genocidal war.
Nada’s shining example, however, is not to be underestimated. In fact, it should encourage those who can do something to stop the crime of child marriages to actually do something! In the end, it is up to all of us to pitch in as best we can to ensure that child marriages and other heinous sharia-based atrocities come to an end.
N. B. Along with the videos, the segments “Impact of Child Marriage” and “Advocacy for Children” are primarily drawn from the Nada Foundation blog.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.