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Iranian Grand Ayatollah Grants Women More Marital Rights

Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi one of the most influential Ayatollahs currently in Iran
An Iranian grand ayatollah has ruled that it is not always necessary for a young woman to get a father or grandfather's permission to be married, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi said during a lecture in Qom on Koranic verses on September 9 that a virgin girl or young woman does not need her father or grandfather's approval if she is mature enough and/or other senior members of the family are in favor of the marriage.

In one commonly followed version of Islamic Shari'a law, the father or grandfather must give their permission for their daughter/grandaughter's marriage.

This new take on a traditional Shari'a law regarding marriage by Shirazi -- who is one of Iran's few grand ayatollahs and sources of emulation -- indicates an easing of views by Iranian ayatollahs on some Shari'a laws.

Shirazi's opinion on this issue during a lecture gives it the force of a fatwa.

London-based Iranian Islamic philosophy lecturer Abbas Mohajerani told Radio Farda on September 9 that the issue has been discussed by other sources of emulation as well.

"This is not a brand new fatwa, it has been mentioned in other resalehs" -- a reference to a guide on daily Islamic rituals -- "but what is new in this order is the increased rights given to the woman," he said.

Mohajerani said Shirazi ruled that "when girls have reached adolescence and are mature, as many young girls in Iran now who have academic background, [a father or grandfather's] permission for marriage is not necessary."

He said there is a difference of opinion among Iran's grand ayatollahs in the application of the new ruling to temporary marriages and permanent marriages.

"Some ayatollahs [consider different rules for] short-term marriages and long-term marriages but others consider them to be identical," Mohajerani told Radio Farda.

Mohajerani said that previous sources of emulation ardently supported girls and women getting their father or grandfather's permission before marrying. But he said current sources of emulation in Iran are moving away from such a requirement.

Mohajerani added that grand ayatollahs have taken more "modern" stances on "many issues" recently. He cited the marriage of a Muslim man to a Christian woman, something that was banned before but under new fatwas is now allowed.