Q. My parents are trying to force me to marry a man of their choice, and they have refused the one I have chosen. May I ask whether it is forbidden for a girl to choose her husband? Please advise.
A. In Muslim communities normally the authority of the parents is recognized and respected. But also Muslim communities require parents to take good care of their children, particularly their daughters. It is the responsibility of the parents not to force any husband on their daughters, and to try to ensure that when a daughter is married, her husband is the sort of man who would make her happy.
These are basic rights, which must always be observed and respected. Parents must not treat the marriage of their daughters as something, which they know best how to handle, in which their daughters have no say. If they do, then they would not be following the Islamic way. According to Islam, a father is required to approve only a marriage which will establish a happy family and in which his daughter is satisfied with her husband. Therefore, he may not force her to marry a man whom she does not find suitable.
A woman came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and complained that her father had married her to a cousin of his seeking to improve his own social standing by this marriage. The Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered the marriage to be nullified. She then declared: "Now I agree to what my father has done. I only wanted to make it clear to all women that men have no say in their marriage."
Islam does not object to a woman choosing her husband. What it objects to is for a relationship between a man and a woman to be carried without being legalized by marriage. So, if the man you have chosen is of good character and satisfactory prospects, he should introduce himself to your parents at the appropriate time, and make his proposal. They should then inquire about his character and background. If that goes well, then your marriage to him can go through. What is important in all this is that you should not put yourself in a position of confrontation with your parents.
Marriage in Islam: Considered from a Legal Point of View
[by Dr. Ahmad Shafaat]
From a legal point of view Islam views marriage as an 'aqd or contract. Like any other contract the marriage contract requires full and free consent of the parties concerned. The parents or guardian of any of the parties may give advice, choose a marriage partner or use persuasion, but the final decision to enter into a marriage must be the result of a free choice on the part of each partner, even though this freely made choice may consist of nothing but accepting the choice of one's parents or guardian. This right of free choice is fairly well recognized in the case of men but (unfortunately) not in the case of women. In the Holy Qur'an we read:
"Do not inherit women against their will" (4:19)
And in Hadith we find traditions like the following:
"Khansa bint Khidhan who had a previous marriage, related that when her father married her and she disapproved of that, she went to the Messenger of God and he revoked her marriage." (Bukhari, Ibn Majah)
"A [girl who was not married] came to the Messenger of God and mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet allowed her to exercise her choice." (Abu Da'ud, on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas)
Just as any adult can enter into any legal contract, so also any adult man or woman can arrange his or her own marriage, provided that during the process of arranging the marriage there is no dating. It is well known that Khadijah, the Prophet's first wife arranged her own marriage with the Prophet. It is true that this happened before sayyadna Muhammad received prophethood. But if an arrangement by a woman of her own marriage were so shameful in the eyes of ALLAH as it is in the eyes of some Muslims, then He would have somehow prevented His Messenger from such a marriage. Moreover, there are some ahadith which show that even after receiving prophethood sayyadna Muhammad did not disapprove of women arranging their own marriage.We quote here one such hadith:
"A woman came to the Messenger of ALLAH and offered herself to him (in marriage). When she had stood for a long time (without receiving an answer) a man got up and said: Messenger of ALLAH! Marry her to me if you have no need of her. He asked the man if he had anything to give her as dower (marriage gift), and when he replied that he had nothing but the lower garment he was wearing, the Prophet said: Look for something, even though it be an iron ring. Then when the man had searched and found nothing, ALLAH's Messenger asked him whether he knew anything of the Qur'an. When the man replied that he knew Surah so and so and Surah so and so, ALLAH's Messenger said: Go away, I give her to you in marriage. Teach her some of the Qur'an." (Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Sahl bin Sa'd)
In this hadith a woman is arranging her own marriage but the Prophet does not rebuke her or admonish her in any other way. Thus while it may not be the best thing for a woman to do, she can if she wishes, make a marriage proposal for herself without being blameworthy in the eyes of ALLAH.
However for a Muslim girl it is a requirement to have a guardian from her side for nikah. Who is either her father, adult brother or a close relative. Without a guardian her marriage is not valid.
"If a woman marries herself away without the presence of her father or guardian, then her marriage is invalid. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is quoted to have said: "A woman does not marry another woman away and a woman does not marry herself away. Only an adulteress gives herself away in marriage." Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawood relate on the authority of Ayesha that the Prophet, peace be upon him, has said; "Any woman who marries herself away without the consent of her guardian, her marriage is invalid, invalid, invalid." These Hadiths leave us in no doubt as to the invalidity of such a marriage."
(extracted from a detailed answer at www.ourdialogue.com under the heading Matrimonial, and sub heading parental consent denied situation 1)