No minimum age for conversion to Islam, says Pakistan court dismissing Christian rickshaw puller’s petition for recovery of her minor daughter married to a Muslim man

Noting that neither Holy Quran nor any specific hadith of Prophet Muhammad expressly stipulates a minimum age for conversion to Islam, a court in Pakistan has dismissed a petition filed by a member of the Christian community seeking recovery of his daughter who married a Muslim man after embracing Islam on her “own free will” when she was a minor

Sep 25, 2021
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Lahore High Court

Noting that neither Holy Quran nor any specific hadith of Prophet Muhammad expressly stipulates a minimum age for conversion to Islam, a court in Pakistan has dismissed a petition filed by a member of the Christian community seeking recovery of his daughter who married a Muslim man after embracing Islam on her “own free will” when she was a minor.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled that Muslim jurists regard mental capacity of a child as of crucial importance for conversion to Islam.

“There is no exact definition of religion. It is a matter of faith…,” observed Justice Tariq Nadeem while dismissing the petition.

The judgment said the petitioner mentioned the age of his daughter as 17 years in the First Information Report (FIR) and records divulged she had contracted marriage with the respondent and also recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate under the due process of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The judge stated that the girl in her statement had said that she was sui juris and had embraced Islam on her own free will and without any coercion and no one had abducted her.

Gulzar Masih, a Christian rickshaw driver from Faisalabad, had alleged that his minor daughter Chashman Kanwal was abducted by Mohammad Usman and his accomplices.

He said the police found the girl but refused to hand over her custody to him saying she had converted to Islam and married Usman. Gulzar said he approached a local court in Faisalabad but it dismissed his application for the recovery of his daughter.

In his detailed verdict on the petition on which a short order was issued last week, Justice Nadeem observed that the Supreme Court has held that Article 20 of the Constitution grants rights to citizens to propagate their faith but that right does not allow anyone to convert a person to another religion by coercion or inducement.

Justice Nadeem maintained that forced conversion or imposing beliefs on others rather constitutes infringement of the right to freedom of religion.

The judge said neither Holy Quran nor any specific hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) expressly stipulates minimum age for conversion to Islam.

Justice Nadeem noted that Hazrat Ali (RA) was only ten when he accepted Islam.

However, he said, Muslim jurists regard mental capacity of a child as of crucial importance when considering the question of his/her conversion.

The judge remarked that the age of discernment is generally reckoned as the age when one attains puberty.

Justice Nadeem held that the high court cannot undertake a factual inquiry while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution as the question whether a conversion is tainted or otherwise cannot be determined without recording evidence.

“In the eventuality of above discussion, the instant writ petition has no merit and is hereby dismissed in limine,” the verdict concluded.

According to a BBC report, every year in Pakistan, several hundred young Christian or Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, and sometimes married off.

The growing radicalization in the country is making life increasingly hard for the 10 percent of non Muslim Pakistanis - and they have little recourse in the face of violence, the report said.

(SAM)