The issue of wilayah (male guardianship) in marriage is differed between the majority of Muslim jurists (Malikis, Shafi'is and Hanbalis) and the Hanafi jurists. Whilst majority of scholars maintain wilayah in marriage is a rukn (pillar) of marriage and a condition for its validity, Hanafis argued wilayah is not a condition for the validity of marriage, but it is a condition for the completion (shart kamal) of marriage.
Definition of Wilayah
Linguistically: the wali is a person who has been given authority to safeguard the rights and interests of another. (Ibn Fars, Hilayat al-Fuqha, p. 165)
Technically: it is a legal authority given to a person to make contracts without the consent of anyone else. (Zayla'i, Al-Bahr al-Ra'iq, Vol. 3, p. 117)
Thus, if a woman has a wilayah over herself, this means that she is capable of enacting her marriage independently without her wali (male guardian).
Unlike the majority of scholars who maintained that wilayah in marriage is a rukn (pillar) of marriage and a condition for its validity, Hanafis viewed wilayah is not a condition for the validity of the marriage, but a condition for its completion (shart kamal).
The seventh-century Hanafi jurist al-Musili for instance stated:
وَعِبَارَةُ النِّسَاءِ مُعْتَبَرَةٌ فِي النِّكَاحِ حَتَّى لَوْ زَوَّجَتِ الْحُرَّةُ الْعَاقِلَةُ الْبَالِغَةُ نَفْسَهَا جَازَ
The statement of women is legally allowed in marriage. Even if the free, sane mature woman marries herself off, this marriage is valid (Al-Ikhtiar, Vol. 3, p. 90)
The Hanafis state an adult, sane woman, virgin or previously married, has the right to carry out her nikah without the permission of her wali (guardian) to someone who is suitable. This step is usually used as a last resort after all other steps to obtain permission from the father.
“Nikah of a woman without permission of father is valid but if this woman marries without permission in the absence of a valid legal reason, then she is sinful. Firstly, it is a sin to displease the father without any valid cause. Secondly, to marry without permission of the wali is also a shameless act and not void of sin.” (Imdad ul-Mufteen p. 440)
The Hanafis also stipulated two conditions in such marriages:
1. Suitability of the husband (Kafa'ah)
They stipulated a woman should marry a man in equal standing and status. Thus, if the sane, mature woman did not marry herself off to an adequate man, Hanafis rule her wali has the authority to nullify this marriage.
لَوْ زَوَّجَتْ نَفْسَهَا مِنْ غَيْرِ كُفْءٍ مِنْ غَيْرِ رِضَا الْأَوْلِيَاءِ لَا يَلْزَمُ. وَلِلْأَوْلِيَاءِ حَقُّ الِاعْتِرَاضِ؛ لِأَنَّ فِي الْكَفَاءَةِ حَقًّا لِلْأَوْلِيَاءِ
If she married herself off to a man who is not kuf' (suitable) without the consent of her awliya, this marriage contract is not valid. Because they have a right in kafa'ah. (Bada'i al-Sana'i, Vol. 2, p. 317)
A “mature” girl can marry whoever she wishes, provided the man is of her equivalent social standing, the marriage will be valid irrespective of whether the wali is informed or not, and irrespective of whether the wali gives his consent or not.
The rules are different for a mature woman who marries a man who is of a lower social status than her family. If her wali is not happy about this marriage, the marriage will not be valid. In this regard, the wali has a central role in ensuring that social hierarchies are not undermined by a woman marrying a man who is considered of lower social standing than her. This sort of marriage is looked down upon in the Hanafi fiqh tradition probably because it inverts what is considered to be the normal relationship between the spouses, with the man meant to be “superior” in status to the woman.
Thus, the fuqahaa (jurists) have stated that a weaver is not a Kufu’ (match) of a tailor, rather he is inferior nor is a tailor the Kufu’ of a cloth merchant nor a cloth merchant the Kufu’ of an aalim or qadhi. (Darrul Mukhtaar Vol. 3 p. 90)
The Prophet (saw), ‘Listen! Women should be married off only by their (Shar’ee) guardians (Wali) and their marriage should take place only with suitable matches.’ (Akfaa).’ (Daaraqutni and Bayhaqi)
The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Oh Ali! Never delay in 3 matters: Salaat – when its time is nigh; Janaaza – when it is ready, an unmarried woman – when her Kufu’ (suitable partner) is found.’ (Tirmidhi)
2. Dowry given to similar brides
Hanafi jurists also view that it is a necessary condition that the woman receives the same dowry that is usually given to similar brides. But if she did not receive the same amount that is usually given to similar brides, the marriage contract is valid but is not binding and the wali then has the authority to demand the remaining amount of the dowry from the husband. If the husband paid the remaining of the dowry, the contract would become valid but if he did not, he has the right to nullify the marriage contract. (Kasani, Bada'i al-Sana'i, Vol. 2, 322)
Evidences of the Hanafi Madhab
Hanafis introduced a number of arguments from Qur'an, Sunnah, the application of the companions and Qiyas to legalise the marriage contracted without a wali:
فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنْفُسِهِنَّ
Then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner. (Qur'an 2:234)
حَتَّى تَنْكِحَ زَوْجًا غَيْرَهُ
Until [after] she marries a husband other than him. (Qur'an 2:230)
أَنْ يَنْكِحْنَ أَزْوَاجَهُنَّ
Do not prevent them from remarrying their husbands (Qur'an 2:232)
Hanafis scholars used these verses as evidence that woman can marry herself off without the interference of her wali. Shams al-A'imma al- Sarakhsi stated:
وَأَمَّا مَنْ جَوَّزَ النِّكَاحَ بِغَيْرِ وَلِيٍّ اسْتَدَلَّ بهذه الأيات، حيث أن المولي سبحانه وتعالي أَضَافَ الْعَقْدَ إلَيْهِنَّ فِي هَذِهِ الْآيَاتِ فَدَلَّ أَنَّهَا تَمْلِكُ الْمُبَاشَرَةَ
Those who view the validity of marriage without the interference of the wali (male guardian) used these verse as evidence, for Allah (swt) ascribed the contract to them (women). This means that woman possesses the capacity to individually concluding (the marriage contract). (Al-Mabsut, Vol. 5, p. 12)
Fakhr al-Din Zayla'yi futher argues based on the above verses:
وَمَنْ قَالَ لَا يَنْعَقِدُ بِعِبَارَةِ النِّسَاءِ فَقَدْ رَدَّ نَصَّ الْكِتَابِ
Whoever says women cannot enact (marriage contract), he rejects the Qur'anic precept. (Tabieen al-Haqa'iq & Hashat al-Shalabi, Vol. 2, p. 117)
وَامْرَأَةً مُّؤْمِنَةً إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِيِّ
And a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet (Qur'an 33:50)
Hanafis also used this verse as evidence for a woman marrying herself to the Prophet (saw) without having her wali with her. Qaduri argues:
الهبة هاهنا النكاح بالإجماع. وقد أضافه إليها
Hibah (gift) here, according to the unanimous agreement (of scholars), means marriage and Allah attached it to her. (Al-Tajrid, Vol. 9, p. 4239)
عن عبد الله بن عباس أن النبي - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قال: الْأَيِّمُ أَحَقُّ بِنَفْسِهَا مِنْ وَلِيِّهَا
Ibn Abbas (ra) reported the Prophet (saw) as saying: A woman without a husband has more right to her person than her guardian. (Muslim 16:78)
Hanafis presented a linguistic argument here, they said that the word "الْأَيِّمُ" is used to refer to any single unmarried women, whether she married before or not. Sarkhasi stated,
الْأَيِّمُ: اسْمٌ لِامْرَأَةٍ لَا زَوْجَ لَهَا بِكْرًا كَانَتْ أَوْ ثَيِّبًا، وَهَذَا هُوَ الصَّحِيحُ عِنْدَ أَهْلِ اللُّغَةِ، وَهُوَ اخْتِيَارُ الْكَرْخِيِّ - رَحِمَهُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى - قَالَ: الْأَيِّمُ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ كَالْأَعْزَبِ مِنْ الرِّجَالِ
Ayim is the woman who has no husband, whether she is virgin or has previously married. This is the sound (usage) according to the linguists. Karkhi also chose it and said: aiyam woman is the (female) equivalent to azab (single male). (Al-Mabsut, Vol. 5, p. 12)
عن عبدالله بن عباس قالَ، قال - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: لَيْسَ لِلْوَلِيِّ مَعَ الثَّيِّبِ أَمْرٌ
Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) narrated: The Prophet (saw) said: A guardian has no concern with a woman previously married and has no husband (Abu Dawud 12:55)
عَنِ الْقَاسِمِ أَنَّ خَنْسَاءَ بِنْتَ خِذَامٍ أَنْكَحَهَا أَبُوهَا، وَهِيَ كَارِهَةٌ، فَرَدَّ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ذَلِكَ
Al-Qasim (ra) narrated: Khansa bint Khidam was given by her father in marriage against her will, then the Prophet (saw) cancelled that marriage. (Bukhari 90:16)
This hadith demonstrates the final decision in marriage is given to the bride, not to her father/wali.
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّ فَتَاةً، دَخَلَتْ عَلَيْهَا فَقَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي زَوَّجَنِي ابْنَ أَخِيهِ لِيَرْفَعَ بِي خَسِيسَتَهُ وَأَنَا كَارِهَةٌ . قَالَتِ اجْلِسِي حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَجَاءَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَأَخْبَرَتْهُ فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَى أَبِيهَا فَدَعَاهُ فَجَعَلَ الأَمْرَ إِلَيْهَا فَقَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَدْ أَجَزْتُ مَا صَنَعَ أَبِي وَلَكِنْ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ تَعْلَمَ النِّسَاءُ أَنْ لَيْسَ إِلَى الآبَاءِ مِنَ الأَمْرِ شَىْءٌ
Aishah (ra) narrated: A girl came to her and said: "My father married me to his brother's son so that he might raise his own status thereby, and I was unwilling." She said: "Sit here until the Prophet comes." Then the Messenger of Allah came, and I told him (what she had said). He sent word to her father, calling him, and he left the matter up to her. She said: "O Messenger of Allah, I accept what my father did, but I wanted women to know that their fathers have no right to do that." (Nasa'i 26:74; Ibn Majah 9:1947)
In this hadith, the Prophet (saw) "فَجَعَلَ الأَمْرَ إِلَيْهَا - left the matter up to her" and also in another narration, he said: "فَانْكِحِي مَنْ شِئْتِ – marry whoever you wish", meaning that he (saw) gave her the authority to contract her marriage. Also, when she said: "وَلَكِنْ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ تَعْلَمَ النِّسَاءُ أَنْ لَيْسَ إِلَى الآبَاءِ مِنَ الأَمْرِ شَىْءٌ - but I wanted women to know that their fathers have no right to do that", the Prophet (saw) approved what she said regarding the wali authority on the marriage contract and did not object. (Musili, Al-Ikhtiar, Vol. 3, p. 91)
Also, the hadith reported by Um Salamah (ra) when the Messenger of Allah (saw) sent Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) with a proposal of marriage, she said:
وَلَيْسَ أَحَدٌ مِنْ أَوْلِيَائِي شَاهِدٌ . فَأَتَى رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَذَكَرَ ذَلِكَ لَهُ فَقَالَ " ارْجِعْ إِلَيْهَا فَقُلْ لَهَا أَمَّا قَوْلُكِ أَنْ لَيْسَ أَحَدٌ مِنْ أَوْلِيَائِي شَاهِدٌ فَلَيْسَ أَحَدٌ مِنْ أَوْلِيَائِكِ شَاهِدٌ وَلاَ غَائِبٌ يَكْرَهُ ذَلِكَ" . فَقَالَتْ لاِبْنِهَا يَا عُمَرُ قُمْ فَزَوِّجْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَزَوَّجَهُ
... and none of my guardians are present." He went to the Messenger of Allah and told him that. He said: "Go back to her and tell her: As for your saying that none of your guardians are present, none of your guardians, present or absent, would object to that." She said to her son: "O Umar, get up and perform the marriage to the Messenger of Allah," so he performed the marriage. (Nasa'i 26:59)
It has been reported that Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ali ibn Talib and Abdullah ibn Umar viewed marriage as permissible without the interference of a wali guardian. ( Al-Mabsut, Vol. 5, p. 12)
روي عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ - رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ - أَنَّ امْرَأَةً زَوَّجَتْ ابْنَتَهَا بِرِضَاهَا فَجَاءَ أَوْلِيَاؤُهَا فَخَاصَمُوهَا إلَى عَلِيٍّ - رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ - فَأَجَازَ النِّكَاحَ
It has been narrated by Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) that a woman married off her daughter with her consent. But the awliya (male guardians) of her daughter complained to Ali but he ruled for the validity of this marriage. (Al-Ikhtiar, Vol 3, p. 91)
روي أن عَائِشَةَ - رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى عَنْهَا - زَوَّجَتْ ابْنَةَ أَخِيهَا حَفْصَةَ بِنْتَ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مِنْ الْمُنْذِرِ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ، وَهُوَ غَائِبٌ.
It has been reported that Aishah married off her niece, Hafsah the daughter of Abdul Rahman ibn Al-Mundhir ibn Al-Zubir , while he was absent. (Al-Mabsut, Vol. 5, p. 12)
Hanafis held a woman's eligibility to contract marriage to be analogous to her eligibility to contract financial transactions. Sarakhsi argued:
وَالْمَعْنَى فِيهِ أَنَّهَا تَصَرَّفَتْ فِي خَالِصِ حَقِّهَا وَلَمْ تُلْحِقْ الضَّرَرَ بِغَيْرِهَا فَيَنْعَقِدُ تَصَرُّفُهَا كَمَا لَوْ تَصَرَّفَتْ فِي مَالِهَا
It signifies that she directed her rights and did no harm others, thus her contract is valid as she directs her own money. (Ibid, Vol. 5, p. 12)
They also made an analogy between her capability of contracting her marriage to her capability of safeguarding her rights. Sarkhasi also stated:
وَهِيَ مِنْ أَهْلِ اسْتِيفَاءِ حُقُوقِ نَفْسِهَا فَإِنَّمَا اسْتَوْفَتْ بِالْمُبَاشَرَةِ حَقَّهَا .. فَكَذَلِكَ هُنَا
She is eligible for safeguarding her own rights. She independently safeguards her rights and this is analogous to our issue. (Ibid, Vol. 5, p. 12)
They also argue that a woman's capability of enacting her own marriage is analogous to the mature sane person who is legally eligible to contract his marriage without the interference of a wali.
لِأَنَّهَا حُرَّةٌ بَالِغَةٌ عَاقِلَةٌ فَتَكُونُ لَهَا الْوِلَايَةُ عَلَى نَفْسِهَا كَالْغُلَامِ
Because she is a free, mature and sane person and thus she is eligible for the waliayah (guardianship) over herself such as the young man. (Zayla'i, Tabieen al-Haqa'iq , Vol 2, p. 117)
Responses to evidences of the majority
In addition to the textual evidences and arguments presented by Hanafis to prove the capability of woman of contracting her own marriage, they also introduced counterarguments to the evidences presented by the majority of scholars.
عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ " لاَ نِكَاحَ إِلاَّ بِوَلِيٍّ "
It was narrated from Abu Musa that the Messenger of Allah said: "There is no marriage except with a guardian." (Ibn Majah, 9:1955)
Majority of scholars argued this hadith clearly indicates the necessity of the interference of the male wali in marriage.
Hanafis doubt the authenticity of this hadith and argue it could not stand alone as an evidence. Ibn al-Humam stated this hadith is mudtarib (disordered – narrated in contradictory ways, while none is preferred over the other due to their equal strength). He also quoted Tirmidhi saying:
هَذَا حَدِيثٌ فِيهِ اخْتِلَافٌ
This hadith is controversial. (Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, Vol. 3, p. 259)
The second hadith cited by the majority of jurists is:
عنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم " أَيُّمَا امْرَأَةٍ نَكَحَتْ بِغَيْرِ إِذْنِ مَوَالِيهَا فَنِكَاحُهَا بَاطِلٌ". ثَلاَثَ مَرَّاتٍ " فَإِنْ دَخَلَ بِهَا فَالْمَهْرُ لَهَا بِمَا أَصَابَ مِنْهَا فَإِنْ تَشَاجَرُوا فَالسُّلْطَانُ وَلِيُّ مَنْ لاَ وَلِيَّ لَهُ
Aishah (ra) narrated the Messenger of Allah (saw) as saying: The marriage of a woman who marries without the consent of her guardians is void. (He said these words) three times. If there is cohabitation, she gets her dower for the intercourse her husband has had. If there is a dispute, the sultan (man in authority) is the guardian of one who has none. (Tirmidhi 12:38)
Majority of scholars argue this hadith clearly indicates a marriage contracted without the permission of a wali is null and void. Thus, according to them, this hadith signifies involvement of the wali is a condition for the validity of marriage.
But Abu Hafs al-Hanafi responded to this hadith by stating:
Firstly, Yahya ibn Ma'iyn weakened this hadith. Secondly, If we accept the hadith as sahih, it should be particular to the female slave, immature, sane woman and not including the free, mature and sane woman. Thus, this hadith signifies a particularization to a general ruling. Thirdly, this hadith is reported on the authority of Aisha who did not adhere to this statement as mentioned above i.e. Aishah married off her niece. (Al-Mabsut, Vol. 5, p. 12).
Abu Hafs then concluded that this hadith is weak:
وَبِهَذَا تَبَيَّنَ أَنَّ مَا رَوَوْا مِنْ حَدِيثِ عَائِشَةَ - رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى عَنْهَا - غَيْرُ صَحِيحٍ فَإِنَّ فَتْوَى الرَّاوِي بِخِلَافِ الْحَدِيثِ دَلِيلُ وَهَنِ الْحَدِيثِ
Thus, it is clear that the hadith reported from Aisha (ra) is inauthentic since the fatwa of the narrator that contradicts the hadith s/he narrated is an evidence of the weakness of such hadith. (Abu Hafs al-Hanafi, Al-Ghurah al-Manifah, p. 130)
Fourthly, Qaduri also stated:
مَدَارُ ذَلِكَ الْحَدِيثِ عَلَى الزُّهْرِيِّ وَأَنْكَرَهُ الزُّهْرِيُّ، وَجَوَّزَ النِّكَاحَ بِغَيْرِ وَلِيٍّ. ومتى أنكر المروي عنه الخبر قدح ذلك في رواية من روى عنه
The maddar (common link in the narration) of this hadith is built on the narration of Zuhari who denied that and he ruled for the validity of marriage without the interference of a wali. When a narrator denied the tradition, this weakens the narration of the sub-narrators. (Qaduri, Al-Tajrid, Vol. 9, p. 4254; Abu Hafs al-Hanafi, Al-Ghurah al-Manifah, p. 130)
Thus, this hadith is also controversial and cannot stand as solid evidence. This led the Hanafi jurist and traditionist, Zayla'i, to say:
وَقَدْ رَوَوْا فِي كُتُبِهِمْ أَحَادِيثَ كَثِيرَةً لَيْسَ لَهَا صِحَّةٌ عِنْدَ أَهْلِ النَّقْلِ حَتَّى قَالَ الْبُخَارِيُّ وَابْنُ مَعِينٍ: لَمْ يَصِحَّ فِي هَذَا الْبَابِ حَدِيثٌ يَعْنِي عَلَى اشْتِرَاطِ الْوَلِيِّ
They reported in their books various hadiths which are not sahih according to the traditionists. Bukhari and ibn Ma'ieen stated: no hadith reported on this issue (i.e. the stipulation of the wali) is sahih. (Tabieen al-Haqa'iq, Vol. 2, p. 117)
After reviewing the scholarly views on this topic, the preponderant and safest (ahwat) position in this issue is that both the bride and her wali should be involved in contracting the marriage. This would block the means for immature marriages that may be contracted between teenagers usually leading to divorce and thus negatively affecting society.
I also view urf (custom) should take authority in such issues. Thus, if the custom of a certain country preserves the woman's right for individually contracting her marriage, such marriages should be valid. But if the custom of a different country does not give woman this authority, she should not individually contract her marriage. This is based on the usuli maxim: "لا ينكر تغير الأحكام بتغير الزمان والحال والمكان - the change of the rulings according to the change of time, status and place is not denied."
Abu Hafs al-Hanafi, Al-Ghurah al-Manfiyah
Ibn Fares, Hilyat al-Fuqaha
Ibn al-Hummam, Fath al-Qadir
Ibn Qudamah, AL-Mughni
Mula Kisru, Durrar al-Hukam fi Sharh Ghurrar al-Ahkam
Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar
Zayla'i, Al-Bahr al-Ra'iq
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