I will always remember this long, long day of autumn or spring — forgive my vagueness — I spent with this passionate, intriguing, meticulous old gentleman, who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, but with tired looks and without a beard. He spoke of great revolutionary ideas, which were distilled into small innocuous, simple and humble words. Pure nectar.
The old man had long been observing me and listening with a little smile on his face, before he addressed me in a fairly nice and calm manner, articulating beautiful Arab words reminiscent of the greatest poets of the Umayyad era.
"My young friend, I understand that people such yourself may have a problem with the Sunnah and Shariah law, and frankly, I share your doubts. There are some precepts of Islam that do not fit in with our times. If these precepts are mentioned in a page of the Quran or Hadith, well, we ought not hesitate to tear out this page, for the good of the Ummah [Islamic nation]," he said.
The author of this tirade is named Gamal al-Banna, the younger brother of Hassan, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This is the organization that has changed the face of Islam, Arab countries and — to a little extent — the world we live in today.
He is 92 years old and is deeply religious. He represents one of the main figures of contemporary Islam, even though he is not regarded with favor by Al-Azhar authorities. However, he speaks aloud what we are well aware of, yet do not actually dare to say: There are some codes dictated or tolerated by Islam that are obsolete and backward. They should be banned, without riling the anathema of the mullahs hiding in us.
I remembered the words of this dear visitor during a foggy day in Rabat — to whom I wish a very long life and dedicate these lines to, hoping he will read them one day — when I read in amazement and dismay the new statistics on child marriage in Morocco. The number of cases of child marriage has risen in the span of one year from 33,000 to 41,000. What a shame.
Child marriage, which is a common practice in Morocco, draws its legitimacy from the life and mission of the Prophet Mohammad.
“If he did it, why can’t I?” This is how today's Muslim men reason, without a single pang of conscience, convinced that they are on the right path by marrying girls as young as 10 or 12 years old.
Thus, rape has become disguised as marriage and "women" have become an offering presented from one guardian to another. Undoubtedly these "women" are likely to be put away sometimes later. All this is possible and even common in Morocco, which has reformed its family code in 2004. Nevertheless, thousands of young girls can still raise the placard saying "Married and Divorced at Age 14," without arousing the ire of anyone.
To paraphrase the old Gamal al-Banna, since such an ignominy is mentioned on a page of the Mudawana* [the family code], we ought not hesitate to tear it out! This is exactly what Moroccans should do, instead of focusing on the current ridiculous debate on setting the "minimum age" of marriage at 16 years. Child marriage is a barbarity that must be prohibited by law, regardless of the rules of the Sharia and Sunnah.
*Note: Articles 20 and 21 of the Mudawan, which ostensibly ban child marriages, actually produce an opposite effect as they allow the patriarch of a family to "authorize the marriage of boys and girls before the legal capacity to marry, i.e. 18 years."
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