Hadhrat Abdullah ibn ‘Umar mentions that he heard the Prophet of Allah SAW said:
“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. An Imaam is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for his flock. The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband’s house and is responsible for her flock. The servant is a shepherd in respect of his master’s property and is responsible for his flock. All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.”
The meaning of this Hadith is that each person is responsible for one thing or another and that each person will be questioned regarding his responsibilities.
The parents hold great responsibility for their children; they are required to name them, feed them, clothe them, educate them and fulfil their necessities. Additionally, one of the responsibilities of parents is to marry their children when they are of age.
It is narrated by Hadhrat Abu Huraira رضي الله عنه that the Messenger of Allah صلي الله عليه و سلم said:
It is clear in this Hadith that the responsibility of getting one’s child married is of the parents. If they are neglectful in any manner then they will be responsible and sinful, especially if the child commits any sin.
It is obvious that the age of marriage will vary with each individual and that varying factors will determine a suitable age of marriage for a person. For example, a child who is less aware of these matters will desire to marry later than someone who has matured earlier and quicker. Similarly, a child who is studying or does not have the means to maintain a family may decide to delay marriage until one is more settled and ready.
Nevertheless, it should be remembered that if the child has such desires then marriage should not be delayed due to excuses such as studying; for if the child falls into sinning due to not marrying then he will receive the sin as well as the parents.
Although the ages of marriage will vary, as mentioned above, there have been guidelines and indications regarding the age. In the Ahadeeth it is mentioned that a child should be married when the child matures and reaches an understanding. Furthermore, the child should be able to bear the responsibilities of marriage and fulfil the rights of the partner.
General guidelines have indicated the average age for a male to be twenty and for a female to be seventeen. However, this will vary in different societies, countries and from individual to individual. We may also see that as time goes by the age for marriage may decrease as children develop a quicker understanding of such matters and usually mature quicker.
Therefore, it is vital for every parent to analyse their child individually and deduce whether it is the correct time for their children to get married.
It should be understood that delay in marriage due to pre-requirements, such as not being able to find a suitable partner, does not fall under the description of ‘negligence’. The messenger of Allah صلي الله عليه و سلم has himself mentioned qualities for which a person is regarded suitable for marriage. However, it should also be kept in mind that all preparations and ‘requirements’ should be in accordance to the Islamic guidelines and Shari’ah.
In conclusion, the general age mentioned for marriage is twenty for boys and seventeen for girls. However, this will vary from individual to individual and will also depend on the customs within different backgrounds, social classes and families. However, these should all be disregarded if the child is ready for marriage and especially if he will commit a sin if marriage does not take place soon.
The above was written in view of the Shari’ah where the responsibility of getting a person married lies in the hands of the parents. However, it would be foolish to ignore current situations and customs where individual children are responsible for their own marriage, sometimes for valid reasons and at other times by going against the Shari’ah.
At times individuals are faced with the difficulty of organising their own marriages. This, at times, is due to the parent’s negligence or stubbornness where they are not willing to take the necessary action to meet the needs of their children or because they are unwilling to accept the choice of partner selected by their children. Insha Allah, these topics will be discussed in a later post.