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Islamic leaders, including Muslim Religious Leaders and legal experts, in Mindanao endorsed a new Fatwa, or formal legal opinion, clarifying the issues of early and forced marriage in the context of Islam.
The Fatwa on the Model Family in Islam, signed by Abuhuraira Udasan, Mufti of the Dar-al-ifta Bangsamoro, urges the Muslim youth to “get married when the necessary conditions are met” but clarified that the urgency is not applicable to the pre-puberty or childhood stage.
Although the generally-accepted marrying ages for Muslims are 20 years for males and 18 years for females, the Fatwa says that “Islam does not precisely fix any marriageable age” and in instances where the bride is under 18, the couple can practice contraception to delay her pregnancy.
Klaus Beck, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, hailed the endorsement of the Fatwa by Islamic leaders, noting that early marriage and the consequent teen pregnancy are among the major causes of maternal mortality.
“Global medical evidence shows that adolescent girls 15 to 19 are twice likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth compared to women in their 20s. Likewise, infants of adolescent mothers are 50 per cent more likely to die during their first year of life compared to babies of older women,” Beck said.
Comprehensive health and gender education for the youth can provide adequate guidance on how Muslim boys and girls should responsibly approach sexuality, adolescent reproductive health, and gender equality, he said.
The Fatwa also reaffirmed women’s sublime status in Islam and affirmed that “gender-based violence and other forms of abuses against women are absolutely against the principle of the Shari’ah.”
UNFPA, which supported dialogues and consultations among Islamic leaders about these issues, said the new Fatwa strikes at the very core of reproductive health and rights. “It conveys a loud and clear message that reproductive health is not at odds with Islam. The Fatwa will help debunk misconceptions and misunderstandings about Islam,” Beck said.
Prior to the adoption of the Fatwa, the Dar-al-ifta Bangsamoro sought the expert advice of the eminent Muslim religious scholars of the Al Azhar University in Egypt and the spiritual guidance of the Grand Mufti of Egypt.
The new Fatwa is the second to be endorsed by Islamic leaders pertaining to reproductive health. The first was issued in 2004 when it clarified that family planning is not forbidden among Muslim couples.