Underage marriage: Problems and Effects at Beirut Arab University

31 March 2022


The Faculty of Law and Political Science at Beirut Arab University organized a seminar on “The Marriage of Underage Girls: Problems and Effects”. The Faculty Dean, Prof. Mohammad Kassem, moderated the seminar. The President of the Supreme Sunni Sharia Court, Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Assaf, Head of the Coptic Community in Lebanon and Syria, Monk Reverend Andrawes Al-Antony, President of the Jaafari Courts Sheikh Mohammad Kanaan, President of the Druze Supreme Court of Appeal Sheikh Faisal Naser Eddine, Professor at the Faculty of Canon Law at Sagesse University Dr. Abdo Younes, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at BAU Sheikh Dr. Wafic Hijazi.

The Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic representative, Sheikh Dr. Hassan Merheb, Sheikh Al Aql of the Druze monotheistic faith representative, His Eminence Sheikh Sami Abdel Khalek, Patriarch Bechara Al Rai representative, His Eminence Father Abdo Abou Kasem, President of the National Commission For Lebanese Women Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the Lebanese Community in Tanzania, Mr. Ali Shoumar, deans of faculties, the Secretary General at BAU, Dr. Omar Houry and a crowd of jurists, students and interested people attended the seminar.

After the Lebanese national anthem and the university anthem, the Faculty Dean prof. Mohammad Kassem said “Beirut Arab University gathers and does not separate. For this reason, it was established and will continue and since the topic of the seminar is important and dangerous, some supported and some avoided it, but the right and wisdom require that we meet on what we disagree. The only thing we want is to reform and serve the community since the personal status system in the Arab countries is derived from religion, and we know that the potential for disagreement is great, but we must reach a unified opinion”.

Then Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Assaf said, “The Islamic religion is a religion that is valid for every time and place. It takes care of all the people’s interests. Jurists took diligence in matters in which there was no explicit text from the Quran or the Sunnah, where they permitted the permissibility for the better interest. For this reason marriage of underage girls is one of these jurisprudence that does not contradict the Quran but is an imperative, necessary and for the interest of the minor in terms of her psychological, physical, social and human condition”.

Assaf continued, "The age of marriage for minors is determined by sects according to jurists and their jurisprudence on which they are based and any determination from outside the personal status system for the concerned sects is considered as violation to the Lebanese Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations”.

Dr. Abdo Younes indicated in his speech that “the Lebanese state has committed itself, under Article 9 of the constitution, to ensure that parents, regardless of their religious denominations, respect the personal status system and religious interests. Moreover, based on this last commitment, the state has left personal status issues, including marriage on Lebanese territories in the custody of sectarian legislation. That is why the exclusively applicable marriage system is the sectarian one and there is no civil system due to the absence of relevant texts”.

Sheikh Mohammad Kanaan also emphasized that , “The Lebanese people have absolute freedom in what the law permits them to say or do. Therefore, they were able, through their religious and sectarian diversity, to create the creative formula that makes coexistence. Hence, the Lebanese legislator considered that sects in Lebanon do not go beyond being civil and cultural, all of which contribute at the national level and preserve for itself ideological privacy and the consequent personal peculiarities”.

Sheikh Faisal Nasser Eddine spoke, “The personal status law of the Druze monotheistic faith sect may allow the suitor to marry when he has completed eighteen of age and the girl who has completed seventeen years. The law permits the Sheikh Al-Aql or the Sect’s judge to authorize the marriage of a young man who has completed sixteen years of age and a girl who has completed her fifteen years if medically proven that their condition permits that”.

Then Monk Reverend Andrawes Al-Anthony said, “The Coptic Orthodox Church rejects completely the marriage of underage girls because the rites of marriage in the Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, as it is a sacred bond that unites the man and the woman. The Christian Church throughout its history obligated the man to marry one woman for life, and that each spouse being faithful to the sacred marital vows”. “Based on the words of the Lord Jesus the Christ, for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one body, for what God has combined together, no man can separate.”

Sheikh Dr. Wafic Hijazi was surprised: “Whoever calls for prohibiting marriage under the age of eighteen years encourages or at least does not object to establish a relationship outside its scope. The issue of marriage in Islam is a matter of philosophy that is not instinctive, but carries in its contents respect for the humanity of the human being and his honor without being a commodity in the online market and pornography in the name of human rights”.

The seminar was concluded with questions and discussions between the attendees and the lecturers.