Following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-'Ubeidi, an Iraqi expert on Islamic law, which aired on Al-Rafidein TV on March 14, 2008:
Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-'Ubeidi: There is no minimum marriage age for either men or women in Islamic law. The law in many countries permits girls to marry only from the age of 18. This is arbitrary legislation, not Islamic law. Why? Because there might be cases in which it is impossible to keep the girl [single] until the age of maturity.
For example, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbs killed many Albanian Muslims, and there are many mass graves there. [Muslim] families fled from that war, and so did small children, who were not yet at the age of marriage. But if a man takes such a girl in, he might desire her, and eventually commit a sin, even though his intentions were noble. So he can formally marry her, but without having sex with her. She will remain like that until she grows up, and then someone will ask to marry her, or he will find her a husband – this happens in many Islamic countries with girls from Bosnia-Herzegovina – and when he finds her a husband, he will divorce her, so that she can marry again. In such a case, there should be no waiting period. So there is no need for the girl to be of age.
Most of the time we act according to what is acceptable to most people, and indeed, most men do not marry a girl until she is of age. In some Islamic countries, the age of maturity can be 8 or 10 years. In Yemen, a girl might get her period at the age of 8. In cold countries, such as Russia, Belarus, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Canada, and so on, a girl might not reach maturity until she is 22 years old. She might not get her period until then. Therefore, the greatness of Islamic law is manifest in the fact that marriage is not just for pleasure. True, it is the basic objective for marriage, but there are some cases that require solutions.
Many criminals, the enemies of Islam, ask: "How could the Prophet Muhammad, at 52 years of age, marry 'Aisha when she was only 8 years old, and consummate the marriage when she was 9 years old?" I say to them: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Why do you permit your young girls to fornicate? They consider it one of their liberties. Therefore, in these stupid countries, you rarely find girls aged 10 or 12 who are still virgins. They permit this. They have even legislated laws stating that if a girl is under the age of 18, and her girlfriend [sic] or whatever has had sex with her, she has the right to have an abortion. How can you permit the outcome without accepting the cause? Why do you allow your girls to have sex and say this is an individual liberty? It is okay to fornicate with girls there or force them to have sex, and so on, and they have the right to have an abortion. If you permit all this before the age [of 18], without a marriage contract and without any legal grounds – how come you forbid marriage?