Last month a religious leader in Morocco, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman al-Maghraoui, received a question on his website about whether a woman can get married before reaching puberty. He responded by issuing a fatwa, or religious ruling, saying it was lawful for a Muslim man to marry girls as young as nine years old.
Globally, the Shia account for an estimated 10 or 15 percent of the Muslim population, but in the Middle East their numbers are much higher: they dominate the population of Iran, compose a majority in Iraq, and are significant minorities in other nations.
The Shia rejected the authority of the Umayyad dynasty, claiming that the Umayyads were usurpers and demanding that leadership go to the direct descendants of the Prophet. The Shia rose in the city of al-Kufah (south of Karbala, in present-day Iraq) and, in 680 A.D., invited Ali's son Hussein to join them and be their leader.
Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, his third wife, Aisha bint Abu Bakar becomes one of four people to transmit the "hadiths," or the words and deeds of Muhammad considered by many Muslims to be important tools for discerning the Qur'an.
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