If a muslim woman marries without the presence of her wali (guardian), her marriage is invalid. The Prophet (ﷺ) said:

 لاَ نِكَاحَ إِلاَّ بِوَلِيٍّ

“There is no marriage except with a guardian.”  

If a muslim woman has no wali, she is required to find a person in authority (from among the muslims) who acts as her wali. The Prophet (ﷺ) said:

وَالسُّلْطَانُ وَلِيُّ مَنْ لاَ وَلِيَّ لَهُ
“And the ruler is the guardian of the one who does not have a guardian.”

In addition to the authentic hadiths regarding the requirement for women to have the permission/presence of their wali (guardian) to marry, Allah (in the Quran) instructs the believing men (and not the women) not to marry their women to the mushriks (idolaters).  Allah says:

وَلَا تُنكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّىٰ يُؤْمِنُوا

And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. 2:221

According to Imam Al-Qurtubi and Ash-Shawkani, and al-jamhoor (the vast majority of scholars of fiqh), this is additional proof of the requirement of the permission/presence of a wali in order for a marriage to be valid; and that a woman cannot marry herself off.  Further proof of this is in the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ):

لاَ تُزَوِّجُ الْمَرْأَةُ الْمَرْأَةَ وَلاَ تُزَوِّجُ الْمَرْأَةُ نَفْسَهَا فَإِنَّ الزَّانِيَةَ هِيَ الَّتِي تُزَوِّجُ نَفْسَهَا
“No woman should arrange the marriage of another woman, and no woman should arrange her own marriage. The adulteress is the one who arranges her own marriage.”

Regarding this matter, there is also the verse in which Allah states that men are in charge of their women. Allah says:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. 4:34

In fact, there are several verses in the Quran, in which Allah instructs the believing men directly regarding the affairs of their women. 

So, even though we love and respect Imam Abu Haneefah (may Allah have mercy on him), he was wrong (according to the majority of scholars) regarding his opinion that a woman can marry without the approval of her guardian.  Insha Allah, Imam Abu Haneefah will have no sin for his wrong opinion, given the words of the Prophet (ﷺ):

‏ إِذَا حَكَمَ الْحَاكِمُ فَاجْتَهَدَ فَأَصَابَ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ وَإِذَا اجْتَهَدَ فَأَخْطَأَ فَلَهُ أَجْرٌ

“If a judge passes judgment and strives to reach the right conclusion and gets it right, he will have two rewards; if he strives to reach the right conclusion but gets it wrong, he will still have one reward.”

And Allah knows best…

Suleiman Anwar

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