Whilst MINAB does not necessarily accept the bona fides of the reports in the Press about the investigation carried out in mosques about “under-age” marriages, it will use this opportunity to remind our 600 plus member mosques, as well as other mosques, that compliance with all the laws of England, Wales and Scotland is of fundamental importance.
In this context it is well to bear in mind that the legal age for marriage in Britain is not a straightforward matter. “Marriage” of parties, one or both of whom is under 16 years of age is prohibited and invalid and any person who facilitates such “marriage” is liable to criminal prosecution.
If one or both parties are over 16 but under 18, Nikah can be lawfully performed only if the party who is under 18 establishes that he or she has parental consent to the proposed Nikah. For persons who are subject to immigration control the minimum age for marriage is 21.Each and every Mosque Management Committee must remain engaged and vigilant in the provision of Nikah services to its congregations, ensuring that Imams are carrying out their duties in this area with complete adherence to the laws in the United Kingdom and maintaining proper records of the functions.
Before accepting a request to book a Nikah ceremony, an Imam concerned should satisfy himself that parties have the legal capacity to get married. In this context, the Imam should require the parties to produce proof of age, preferably demanding to see their passports, and by checking their immigration status in the United Kingdom. It is also the duty of the Imam who carries out the Nikah to satisfy himself that the parties to the Nikah give their consent freely, without undue influence or duress and that neither party has been subjected to any coercion or financial inducement. This is particularly important where one of the parties is above the age of 16 but under 18, and the consent of parents is required or where a party is subject to immigration control. In the event of doubts on age and free consent, the Imam should share his doubts with the parties and refuse to proceed unless further satisfactory evidence is produced.
The Nikah ceremony must be carried out in public and should be witnessed by a minimum of two persons whose identity and particulars should be duly recorded in the relevant documentation as should any agreement by parties on the payment of dower.
The Chair of MINAB, Maulana Sarfraz Madni said: “ Although MINAB is sceptical of the so-called investigation and its results as stated in the Press, we are determined that all Mosques remain mindful of their duties of good governance. Good governance includes compliance with the laws of the land. We call upon those who were involved in this “secret investigation” to share its methodology as well as full results with us, so that our legitimate doubts, given the prevailing climate of anti-Muslim media, are resolved. We also call upon all our members to pay particular attention to safeguarding children and the vulnerable users of their services in all areas including education. Nevertheless if there is cogent and reliable evidence that laws have been broken, we would support tough sanctions to be used against those responsible.”
Notes to Editors:
A - The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is engaged in the promotion of good governance in Mosques and Imam Training Institutions through a process of voluntary self regulation.
B- It has a diverse membership of over 600 hundred Mosques and Training Institutions.
C- It is a charity registered under the laws of England & Wales.
D- It is a community led independent body, non sectarian in its outlook with no role in matters of theology and an accountable and transparent system of representation.