Usually, nothing coming out of Saudi Arabia surprises me. Yet, this story shocked me to the core. According to a report by CNN, a Saudi judge recently refused to annul the marriage of an “eight-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man.” The annulment petition was brought by the girl’s mother, and the judge dismissed it because, she “is not the legal guardian of the girl,” according to the mother’s lawyer Abdullah al-Jutaili.
The girl’s father arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man. Bu–let us all breathe a sigh of relief here–the judge asked for a pledge from the husband that he would not consummate the marriage until after she reached puberty. After she reaches puberty, the judge ruled, the girl will have the right to request a divorce. But until then, it seems, she
is property of a man almost six times her age.
As a father of an eight-year-old daughter, this story boggles the mind and shocks the conscience. There are many things that are not clear from the article: One of these is the question of whether the father was compelled to “sell” his daughter because of his debt. If so, this is perhaps the most heinous forms of “riba,” or usury, I have ever seen. The 47-year old man should have followed the Qu’ranic injunction of being kind to debtors when they can’t pay off their debts.
When I read stories like these, it makes me wonder whether female infanticide will once again rear its ugly head. Islam came to liberate us from the ugliness of human character, but, sadly it seems, old habits die hard.