At a time when many are fighting to end child marriage across the world, a Saudi cleric issued an edict saying that in Islam, it's permissible.
The controversial edict was made by Sheikh Abdullah Al Mane'e, a long-time member of the kingdom's Council of Senior Scholars, during a television appearance. It came in response to a question asked by a viewer.
A short clip of his statement went viral on Twitter over the weekend in which he said:
"There is no specific age for a girl to be married, that's for one. For two, a girl's father is the person who is most entitled to make such a decision for her because he's the person who has her best interest at heart."
"If he finds that a man who proposed to his daughter is acceptable, there is nothing wrong with going ahead with the proposal even if the girl is young," he added.
Al Mane'e also explained that what validates his edict is the fact that examples of child marriage can be found in the Quran.
"Abu Baker accepted his daughter Ayesha's marriage to Prophet Muhammad when she was just six years or seven years old and their marriage was consummated when she turned nine. This is not to compare anyone to him, but we're just saying this is an example to follow," he said.
The Saudi cleric's statement didn't stop there, he also went on to explain that there is a reason why Muslim men were given the right to govern a woman when it came to marriage decisions.
"This rule wasn't set to grant men power to oppress or degrade women, but to help them make the right decision when it comes to choosing who to marry, a person who is right for them and who'll make them happy," he said.
Towards the end of his edict, Al Mane'e said that allowing or forbidding such marriages all depends on the reason or motive behind them.
"If a father or guardian is marrying off the girl for financial gain or to profit out of it, then he is considered a criminal and a traitor. However, if he thinks a great marriage opportunity has come around and accepts it to ensure his daughter's happiness, he'd be doing nothing wrong," he explained.
People just couldn't even with the statement
Even though a few did agree with it...
"He's right, our sharia sets no minimum marital age when it comes to women."
The majority of tweeps found it unconvincing...
"I wasn't convinced by his explanation."
"You can't compare our era with that of Prophet Muhammad"
Many were just outraged by the cleric's edict and hit back at it
"Go on, let us see your daughter married at 10 years of age."
"There's common sense and then there's this"
"A young girl cannot physically or mentally handle marriage and its responsibilities"
"Masked pedophilia... when are you going to stop twisting God's words?"
"A girl shouldn't be married until she is over 18 years old"
"The same goes for boys. When the marriage takes place at ages younger than these it'll end up in problems and divorce."
"Give us a law that clearly sets a minimum marital age"
"I am guessing we're the only country that has people divided over basic rights and has clerics issuing edicts permitting or forbidding things. Bottom line... what we only need is:
A law that sets minimum marital ages: So that no guardian can take advantage of a young girl's naivety, subjecting her to this injustice.
A law that clearly states the age at which a woman becomes an adult: So that no one can interfere in her future and life thereafter."
This certainly isn't the first time a similar statement is made by a Saudi cleric
In 2016, Saudi's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, expressed a lack of interest in banning child brides, saying there is nothing wrong with girls under the age of 15 getting married.
"There is currently no intention to discuss the issue,” he said at the time.
The statement went against the wishes of the kingdom's justice ministry, which has been urging for a minimum age requirement for marriages in the kingdom for years.
Even though several of the kingdom's governing bodies and its shura council have constantly demanded that marriage for girls under 15 years of age be banned.
However, such a ban is yet to be issued in the kingdom, where child marriage is still prevalent in several areas.
Child marriage continues to be a major issue all around the world
The attempts at normalizing child marriage are alarming, especially given the fact that thousands of Arabs who do marry off their young daughters use religious edicts to excuse their actions.
Even though the problem is widespread in the Arab world, especially when it comes to rural areas, it isn't limited to the region and is also considered a global issue affecting numerous countries including the United States.
According to the World Economic Forum, 117 countries around the world allow child marriages, either because there is no set age specification or it is allowed under certain circumstances.
Globally, UNICEF says 39,000 child marriages occur daily. While one in three girls in the developing world are forced into marriage before the age of 18.