By: Hj Afwah Mumtazah, M.Pd.I

There are several cases of child marriage in rural areas because of free relationship, or because of parents’ interpretation regarding the meaning of baligh (maturity) in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). The simple argument when a father mates his daughter after the first period, among others, is the burden of the responsibility in keeping daughter from free relationship will be reduced. The assumption of keeping daughter is regarded as more difficult than that of keeping the son has been already stigmatized strongly, especially if she has had menstruation. The daughter may be pregnant and will deface a good name of the family due to wrong relationship. Meanwhile, economically demanding the daughter to get married will ease the burden of the parents, because the burden of livelihood has been shifted to the responsibility of the husband. 

Being baligh in some cases will benefit some families in rural or traditional societies, because it could be the legitimacy of the children to work in the neighborhood country. It becomes a strong impulse after seeing the success of friends and neighbors who work abroad. Even the age is used to be elevated in order to seem older than it is by ignoring adulthood, mental maturity, and adequate insight. The interpretation of baligh in the classical Islamic discourse is sometimes used as a basis for ‘laying off’ daughters to the domestic sphere and becomes the limitation of disappearance of parents’ responsibility, so that the education of daughters will be neglected and the loss in achieving their goals. Those conditions are extremely unfavorable, especially for daughters along with the stereotype of female maturity which still develop in the society.

Baligh and adulthood are understood differently by the Imam of the schools and by several countries. The differences are visible from the side of the object, for instance the limitation of the age of baligh addressed for marriage will be different with the limitation to be the guardian of marriage or witnesses. In Indonesia, a person is considered as adult if he/she has already married though has not reached 21 years old as stipulated in Law No. 1 Year 1974: the minimum age to marry is 16 years old for female and 19 years old for male. While in Somalia and Iraq, they set the age of marriage is 18 years old for both male and female; in Indonesia it is in accordance with the Law on child protection. It can be understood because the Prophet, peace nad blessings be upon him, did not express explicitly in number regarding the limitation of baligh for male and female.  

Baligh in Islam does not merely mean physical or psychological growth towards maturity, but related to its implications, that is the meaning of taklifi (the obligation to perform religious duty). When the signs of baligh have appeared in a male or female, then the consequences of religious law have become personal responsibility. Similarly, any religious obligations, for instance, praying, fasting conducted by someone during his childhood which are only regarded as an exercise and habituation, then when he/she has reached baligh, those obligations become personal responsibility. The obligation of taklifi carried by baligh / balighah is not absolutely applied at the time the age arrives. But Allah has already explained in the context of littadrij (gradually) through training and habituation so that the adolescents will not be surprised when they become mukallaf shara’. It is stated in QS. Al Baqarah, 2: 132-133 about the right aqidah (creed) and in order to be consistent in performing religious practices, and QS An Nur, 24: 2 about self-preservation in relationship. One of the explanations is in Q.S. Nur 24:58 about the manners in the family. There is clear injunction that the application of the Islamic values should be taught before children have reached the age of maturity and the habituation begins in the family from the house that is teaching them to ask permission before entering into the parents’ room on three vulnerable time: before dawn (subuh), at noon and after the time of evening prayer (Isha’). According to al-Alusy, this education for the purpose of litta’dib (habituation) and litta’lim (teaching). 

Baligh also indicates that someone has been deemed ready to perform social transactions / muamalah like al-buyu’ (transaction) ‘aqdu al-nikah (undertaking marriage), shirkah (cooperation), ijarah (lease), khiyar (option) and others. but the meaning of baligh in some cases becomes biased. The arguments of fiqh they understood are used to legitimize of early marriage, command children in early adolescent to be migrant workers abroad, apart from the appearance that they seem ready mentally or mature to face the problems. It can be understood because the meaning of being mature is the product of cultural and religious construction at the same time, so that the indication is different in each district, city and country.

Therefore, the meaning of baligh in the sense of achieving maturity must be reinterpreted, it is not merely limited on the signs which appear in the adolescents as stated in fiqh that is 15 years old for male and 9 years old for female or who has had menstruation. Interpreting baligh by involving contexts will minimize early marriage, child exploitation / trafficking or ‘laying off’ daughter to the domestic sphere for the subordinative reason as the result of textual understanding regarding the meaning of baligh. 

A. Baligh in the Perspective of Fiqh

Baligh is derived from Arabic which means “reach or achieve” that is reaching the age of adulthood.  Baligh in  fiqh is limitation of someone to start performing the obligations of the law of Shariah (taklif) or mukallifan shar’an. In general, baligh can be known when someone is able to distinguish between what is good and what is wrong, hence the word baligh is always accompanied by the word ‘aqil or ‘aqil baligh. ‘Aqil baligh becomes the legal key of human journey in performing muamalah before God, both the worship of mahdhah and ghairu mahdhah such as prayer or transaction among the humans. In fiqh, baligh is marked by several conditons: 

  1. The experience of menstruation (haidh) for female at least at the age of 9 years old.

لا يقبل الله صلاة امراْة قد حا ضت الا بحما


“Allah does not accept the prayer of menstrual female, unless she has been veiled”. (narrated by Ibn Khuzaimah from ‘Aishah). 

The meaning of the word “khimars / veil” is a clothes which is aimed to female who has been already mature (baligh). When she is praying, she is obliged to cover her head, neck and chest. 

2. Wet dream / ihtilam (dream of having sexual intercourse accompanied by seminal discharge or in the state of conscious discharging semen due to of imagination, stimulated by reading / drawing) for both male and female as the following verse: 

a.) Q.S An Nur, 24  : 59

وادا بلغ الا طفال الحام فليستأدنوا كما استأد ن الدين من قبلهم


“And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise” (QS. An Nur: 24)

b.) عن علي كرم الله وجهه قال : كنت رجلا مداء فسألت ان البي صلي الله عليه وسلم فقال في المدي الوضوْ وفي المني الغسل


“From Ali R.A, he said “on men there is madhi, so I asked the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he replied: in madhi (do) ablution and in semen (do) shower”.

c.) عن حولة بنت حكيم أنها سألت النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم عن المرأة تري في منا مها ما يري الرجل فقال : ايس عليها غسل حتي تنزل كما ان الرجل ليس عليها غسل حتي ينزل


“From Haulah bint Hakim, he asked the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, about the female who dreams as a male’s dream, the Apostle replied: “Not required to take shower till she (female) discharges a semen, as a male is not obliged to shower till he discharges semen.”  (narrated by Ahmad and Nasai ‘) 

d.) Ibnu Hajar narrated:

وقد اجمع العلما ءعلي ان الاحتلام في الرجال والنسا ء يلزم به العبادات والحدود وسا ئرالاْ حكام  

“The Ulama agree that ihtilam in male and female necessitates the application of worship, huduud / punishment, and all cases related to law (Fathul Baary, 5/277) 

e.) رفع القلم عن ثلاثة عن النائم حتى يستيقظ وعن الصبي حتى يحتلم وعن المجنون حتى يعقل

“A pen is lifted (not subject to the obligation) in three persons, they are: a person sleeping until wakes up, a child till ihtilam, and madman till reason” [narrated by Abu Dawud no. 4403 and At-Tirmidhi no. 1423; Shahih].

3. The growth of pubic hair 

عن سمره ان النبي صل الله عليه وسلم : اقتلوا شيوخ المشركين واستحيوا شرحهم  والشرح الغلمان  

الدين لم ينبثوا         


“From Samrah, indeed the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “kill the adult idolaters, and let them alive among them syarkhu” / who have not grown public hairs. (Narrated by At Tirmidhi) 

Imam Shafi’i whose school is followed by the majority of Muslims in Indonesia said that the growth of public hairs is a sign of baligh is addressed for unbelievers, not for Muslims. While for the signs of baligh as quoted from the book of Safinatunnajah, he said that the signs for baligh are three kinds. 

علامات البلوغ ثلاث :  تمام خمسة عشرة سنة فى الدكر و الاْنثي و الاحتلام في اللدكر والاْنثي

 لتسع سنين والحيض لتسع سنين                                                                          

“The signs of baligh are three: 1) reaching the age of 15 years old (Hijriyah) for male and female, 2) a wet dream for male and female, and 3) menstruation for 9-year-old female 

4. Reaching fifteen years old for male and female, although not preceded by ihtilam or menstruation. It is based on the Hadith “Ibnu Umar R.A,”:

عرضني رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم يوم احد في القتال وانا ابن اربع عشرة سنة فلم يجزني و عرضني يوم الحندق وانا ابن عشرة سنة فاْجزني


“I have proposed myself to the Prophet PBUH to participate in the battle of Uhud when I was 14 years old, and he did not permit me. I proposed again to him for the Battle of Khandak (Trench) when I was 15 years old, and he allowed me (to follow the war)”. (Sahih Bukhari, no.2664 and Sahih Muslim, no.1868) 

Dawud adh-Dhahiri argues that there is no particular limitation for the age of puberty. The true limitation is just ihtilaam, this is the strongest opinion. 

While generally according to Cholil Nafis, Islam divides human development till adults through three stages, those are: ash-Shaghir, mumayiz and baligh as following: 

1. Stage of as-Saghir

This stage begins from birth until tamyiz at the age of 7 years old. At this period the child mostly receives the rights rather than performs obligations (Ahliyah al wujub). This period is classified as ghoir mukallaf (person who does not have the burden of Shara’). This is as stated in the narration of Tarmidzy:

“A pen is lifted (not subject to the obligation) in three persons, those are: a person sleeping till wakes up, a child till ihtilam, and madman till reason”
[narrated by Abu Dawud no. 4403 and At-Tirmidzi no. 1423; Sahih]. 

2. Stage of Tamyiz

The period between seven years old till adult. At this period, a child does not have a feasibility al-ada’ (implementation) of Shariah perfectly. To be able to fulfill the implementation of Shariah is required two capabilities; those are first: the ability to understand khitab which is proven by the reason, and the second: the ability to implement Shariah which will be fulfilled with a strong and healthy body. These both capabilities will be perfect along with the physical and psychological development until reaching maturity and perfect reasoning. It can be concluded that the child during this period has had ahliyat al wujub perfectly and ahliyyat al ada’ minimally because the reason has not functioned yet.

3. Stages of Bulugh

This stage is known as maturity / adolescence / al murahaqoh. Ethymologically al bulugh is al wushul wal idrak (reaching and knowing / understanding), balagha al ghulam is that the child has been able to understand. In terminology, al-bulugh is the end of childhood. At this period, it is called as ‘aqil baligh, a phase of a person of having responsibility for performing religious practices. Adolescent in this context is called as mukallaf

Yet the majority of the Ulama have different opinions regarding the perfection of maturity age limit, Abu Hanifa states that it is 17 years old for female and 18 years old for male. While Abu Yusuf Muhammad, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal do not distinguish the limitation between male and female. Both have the same limitation that is 15 years old. Meanwhile, according to Imam Malik it is 17 years old. 

B. Baligh in the Perspective of Psychology

Baligh is understood as the period of maturity / adolescence. The word “adolescence” is derived from the Latin “adolescere” from a noun “adolescentia” means teenage, a journey of human’s life who is growing up or in the development to be adult. The psychologists generally divide adolescence into three phases, namely: 1) early adolescence: age 12-15; 2) mid-adolescence: age 15-18 years; and 3) latter adolescence: age 18-21 years. While specifically, Monks and Knoers distinguish into 4 phases: 

1) The period of pre-adolescence / pre-puberty: 10-12 years
2) Early adolescence / puberty: 12-15 years
3) Mid-Adolescence: 15-18 years
4) Latter adolescence: 18-21 years

Meanwhile physically, the changes occur rapidly, both in male and female, and this is called as “Growth Spurt” (growth acceleration). These physical changes are regarded as the symptoms of adolescence in the context of puberty. This affects to the adolescence psychological changes.

The characteristic of male adolescence puberty, according to Sarwono, is the emergence of primary sex feature which is strongly influenced by hormonal change that is stimulant hormone produced by the pituitary gland. This hormone stimulates the testes, so the testes produce testosterone and androgen hormones and also spermatozoa. Sperm produced in the testes of the teenage enables to make reproduction for the first time. Therefore, sometimes a boy by the age of 12 possibly experiences seminal discharge which is commonly known as wet dream or ihtilaam in the language of fiqh. 

While the first menstruation or menarche experienced by female becomes primary sex feature in puberty. The first period (menstruation) is used as guidance to ensure that the reproductive mechanism of the female has been mature so that enable her to be pregnant and childbearing. The emergence of menstruation is strongly influenced by the development of the ovary which is located in the bottom of abdominal cavity of female near to the uterus which functions to produce ovum and estrogen and progesterone hormones. Progesterone hormone works to ripen and prepare the ovum in order to be ready for insemination. While estrogen is the hormone which affects the growth of female features in the body, such as the augmentation of breast, shoulders, hips, public hair growth, smooth voice and others. This hormone also works for regulating menstrual cycle.

The most obvious development on the adolescence is social and emotional development and the way of thinking. In this period, adolescents are looking for identity. That is why it is surprising that they are easily influenced and tempted by temporary things which catch their attention. Socially, their relations and perceptions expand and prioritize their peers rather than their own parents. While their emotion is easily inflammable due to the demand of rapid adaptation, as fast as the physical growth they experience. Moody, expressive like laughing, prancing when being happy are the other emotional features. Intellectually, adolescents are characterized by critical thinking, abstract, a lot of curiosity, tend to oppose the one’s opinion and also a very high ego.

C. Contextualization the Meaning of Baligh

The meaning of baligh / adolescence / al muraahaqah from the aspect of maturity arrival cannot be determined exactly in numeral form. There are different opinions among the Ulama, from the district till the state. Indonesia sets a minimum age limit for marriage that is 16 years old for female and 19 years old for male as stated in Marriage Act of 1974, No. 1 in which gives a hint that they are considered adult by the state. 

Baligh or mature adolescence is supposed to be understood as one phase of development process of human’s life experienced by every human being naturally and not something rigid and must be faced excessively. Then the form of negative stereotypes or labeling attributed to baligh, especially balighah is an exaggeration. Allah says:    


So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know”. (Q.S. Ar Rum: 30) 

Restricting women’s movement since her maturity age (baligh) is also not wise. There is a right of daughter to achieve the goals in her life. Pursuing education and broadening her insight should not be ignored simply because of the justification of balighah. It was stated in a hadith : “Man kaana lahu tsalaatsu banaatin au tsalaatsu akhawaatin au bintaani au ukhtaani fadabahunna waahsana ilaihinna wa jawwajahunna falahu al-jannah” 


“Whoever has three daughters or three sisters, or two daughters / two sisters, then he  does justice to both and they fear to Allah on whatever associated to them, then for them is paradise) then mate them, then for him is paradise”. (narrated by Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)

In another narration stated: 


“Anyone who has a slave girl, then teaches her (knowledge) and improve her teaching, educates and improves her education then freed her and mate her so for that person is two rewards.” 

It is explained in the Sahih of Bukhari, the females of Medinan Anshar protested to the Muslims who were free to follow the teaching of the Prophet. Then the Apostle responded the Anshar’s proposal by giving time and place to teach them. 

Meanwhile the concept of Balighah used by the some parents to legitimize underage marriage should be reviewed. Because marriage is a phase of life’s journey of two people who must be accompanied by a high commitment, mitsaaqaan gholidza in order not to be broken off in the middle, and to create qurrota ‘ayyun family (QS al-Furqan: 74) and mu’asyarah bil ma’ruf, mawaddah sakinah wa rahmah (QS ar Rum: 21) in their marriage. This can be achieved if the couples are ready and have been mature mentally and in mind. Early adolescents at the age of 10-15 years old are obviously not possible to do so, because psychologically, those ages are the time to seek self-identity till they seem fickle, moody, and tend to be the right one and do not want to be blamed. Those temperamental attitudes will disappear gradually along with the physical development. 

Mother is the first madrasah (a place for learning) for children. If the couples physically and mentally are still young even may be superficial in insight and knowledge, surely it will be difficult to realize themselves as the first madrasah and to create strong generation, while the Alah recommends to establish a strong generation. It’s written in the Surah an-Nisa, 4: 9, QS. al-Luqman, 31: 12-19, QS. Al Isra, 17: 23-24. This teaching is also confirmed by the Hadith which talks about the necessity of the parents to fulfill children’s rights those are; teach them reading and writing, swimming, archery and do not give sustenance except lawful (halal) as the narration of Hakim and Baihaqi from Abu Rafi.  

عن أبى رافع رضي الله عنه قال : قلت , يا رسول الله ,للولد 

علينا حق كحقنا عليهم؟  قال : نَعَمْ, حَقُّ الوَلَدِ عَلَى الوَالِدِ أَنْ يُعَلِّمَهُ الكِتَابَ وَالسِّبَاحَةِ وَالرِّمَايَةِ وَأَنْ  لاَ يَرْزُقَهُ إِلاَّ طَيِّبًا


 “From Abu Rafi ‘R.A., he said: I say, O Rasulallah, do the children have the right over us as our right over them? The Apostle said: Yes, children have the right over their parents to teach them al-Quran, swimming, archery and also do not give sustenance except lawful.

While from the aspect of reproductive health, the marriage of early-adolescent and mid-adolescent will bring a great impact. Pregnancy that occurs under the age of 20 years old will increase the risk of miscarriage, the fetal growth will be obstructed due to the imperfection of reproductive organs, and breastfeeding will not be smooth till difficulty in childbirth. This condition will ultimately increase the risk of maternal and infant child mortality. 


Determining adolescents’ maturity including identifying its signs is not easy, because every area till the country has a different scale from the cultural aspect to determine when the individual is regarded as being adult formally. What is considered as ideal is to set adulthood as the puberty has been completed, or at least almost completed. The reason is the child’s sex organs will achieve mental maturity optimally and be ready for production and this occurs at the age of 21 years old.

Maturity achieved by the individual will not be viewed merely from physical development which occurs during the life span development. Maturity will appear along with physical changes in the human’s life journey which affects to the change of attitudes, cognitive process, and behavior. Along with the physical growth, there will be differences in making a decision and solving problem he faces.  

Due to those reasons, the meaning of baligh in the sense of achieving maturity cannot be viewed from one single perspective, though it is religious perspective. The age limitation is also not a guarantee for someone to be mature. Lifestyle, upbringing in the family, geographical condition, residential place such as rural and urban areas will affect to the acceleration of human’s maturity. Therefore, wise attitude is required in making decision regarding baligh and balighah in order not to harm their future and turn off their potential which is still growing. Wallahu ‘Alam bish-shawab. {} 


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