RIYADH, 18 March 2008 — Muhammad Al-Zahrani, a convicted murderer, was executed at the end of February in Taif. Al-Zahrani’s execution, which was postponed for four years, took place after the victims’ family refused to pardon him.Even the liberal Saudi expert who is against the marriage doesn't state the obvious - that it is the worst form of child abuse to force your daughter to marry a convicted murderer! And yet, according to Sharia, this is perfectly acceptable.
However, what makes Al-Zahrani’s case interesting is that the convicted murderer had married his daughter to another convicted murderer on death row in the same prison, Awad Al-Harbi.
The newly married groom now lives in the hope that he may be saved by the generosity of his victim’s family.
Reaction in society to the prison marriage was mixed. Some saw the father’s decision as a good thing, a way to give a friend and fellow prisoner a second chance in life. Others condemned the step and described it as being unfair to one’s daughter.
The marriage fulfills all legal conditions under Saudi law, according to Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars.
Al-Obaikan said should a woman accept a man on death row after knowing about his situation there is no reason why the marriage should be stopped from happening. When Arab News questioned Al-Obaikan on the girl’s sound judgment considering she is only 15, he said she is considered an adult and therefore eligible to marry.
Al-Obaikan said that a woman could get married and see her husband die soon after, which would be God’s will, and in Al-Awad’s case it would also be God’s will to keep him alive should the victim’s family pardons him.
As for the idea of marriage in Islam being a form of asylum and haven, and whether this condition applies while one of the spouses is in captivity, Al-Obaikan said that if it is a woman’s choice then no one should object.
Ahmad Al-Hariri, a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, said, “In other countries, a 15-year-old is considered a child and cannot be considered an adult until she turns 18.”
He added that even if such a marriage is legal then it is still considered an assault on her humanity and wellbeing.
Al-Hariri said this could not be accepted both socially and psychologically. “After choosing a suitable spouse, starting a family and having children are the natural outcome of marriage and in this case there is no guarantee for such a family to exist and thrive,” said Al-Hariri.
“The overwhelming possibility of the success of this marriage is bleak, and what we see for the future is a widow with orphans,” he added.
“Even if this marriage is legal, it is totally unacceptable on a humanitarian level as it will harm the girl’s interests. Should the Reconciliation Committee’s efforts fail she will loose a husband after having lost her father,” Al-Hariri said.
The New York Times Magazine last Sunday had a lengthy article by Noah Feldman that talks about sharia and how it really isn't so bad, how the West isn't looking at it with enough nuance and how much better it was than English common law - in the 18th century. Perhaps he can defend this action better than the Arab News managed to.