Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: As-Salam ‘alaikum
I am getting married soon. I have a decision to come to about the meher. My question is how do you calculate how much I should request? I do not wish to ask for too much, as I feel it will seem inconsiderate. How should a person conclude how much the perfect amount should be?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
Determining the Dowry Amount
You should consult a scholar or some respected elders of your community, as locality and general standard of living plays a role in the ideal dowry (mahr).
Having said that, there is a concept in Islamic law known as the “dowry of equivalents” (mahr al-mithl), which is seen as an ideal or appropriate dowry for a woman. The way to determine it is for a woman to look the amount of dowry for similar women in her family, such as sisters, aunts, cousins, etc. [from the father’s side].
The great Hanafi jurist Imam Mawsili states in the Mukhtar (a classic work of Hanafi law):
“The dowry of a woman’s equivalents is determined based on the women folk of her father’s family; if none of them are similar to her state, then from non-relatives. It is determined based on a woman that resembles her in age, beauty, virginity, locality, time, and wealth. If all considerations are not similar, then it is based on that which is similar.”
The Wisdom of the Dowry
The dowry serves as an expression of the man’s seriousness and responsibility as he enters into marriage. It indicates that he is ready and able to fulfill the rights of the wife, and affords the wife a certain sense of assurance and comfort regarding her future.
The sunna in everything is moderation, and this applies especially to the dowry. A general principle of life taught to us by the early Muslims (salaf) is “The best of any matter is to do it in moderation and balance.” [Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman]
So it should not be excessively high, as that makes it very difficult for men to get married, and can instead serve as a type of ostentation in the community.
Our Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best of dowries is what is easy [and affordable].” [Hakim, Bayhaqi]
At the same time, it should not be so little that it is well under the dowry of equivalents described above, as the honor of the wife’s family is given due consideration in the Sacred Law.
And Allah knows best.