What Is the Ruling on Deferred Dowry, and What Are the Regulations Related to Dowry?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad Fayez Awad


What is the ruling on deferred dowry, and what are the regulations related to dowry?


Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and the best of prayers and most complete peace be upon our master Muhammad, his family, and all his companions.

The dowry is a financial right for the wife, and it is not a mere illusion or ink on paper. It is a debt on the husband as long as it has not been received.

Hastening to Pay the Dowry in Full

It is recommended that a person hastens in paying the full dowry of his wife, and not make it unpaid. Our master, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), used to pay the dowries of his wives before consummating the marriage with them, as Allah (Most High) said: “O Prophet! We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their ˹full˺ dowries….” [Quran, 33:50]

Definition of Dowry (Mahr):

The dowry (mahr) is the money that is obligatory for the husband to pay to his wife due to the marriage contract.

It is called “mahr” as it indicates (in Arabic) the sincerity of the giver’s desire in marriage.

As Professor Mustafa al-Siba‘i said in his book The Woman Between Fiqh and Law, the dowry in Islam is a symbol of honoring the woman and the desire to unite with her.

Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli stated in al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu: “The wisdom behind the obligation of dowry is to demonstrate the seriousness of this contract and its status, to honor and respect the woman, to provide evidence for building a dignified marital life with her, and to ensure good intentions in living with her honorably, and the permanence of the marriage. It also enables the woman to prepare for marriage with the necessary clothing and expenditure.

Rulings on Dowry:

The dowry has several rulings, which we mention as follows:

The dowry is obligatory on the husband immediately upon the completion of the marriage contract, whether it is named in the contract with a specific amount of money, or not named. Even if there is an agreement to deny it or not to name it, such an agreement is invalid, and the dowry is obligatory.

The Evidence for the Obligation of the Dowry

The evidence for the obligation of the dowry is the Quran, the Sunna, and the consensus.

As for the Quran, Allah (Most High) says: “Give women ˹you wed˺ their due dowries graciously.” [Quran, 4:4]. He also says: “Give those you have consummated marriage with their due dowries.” [Quran, 4:24]

As for the Sunna: Sahl ibn Sa‘d narrates that a woman came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said that she had given herself to Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: “I have no need for women.” A man then said: “Marry her to me.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Give her a garment.” The man said: “I cannot find [one].” He then said: “Give her even an iron ring.” The man was then distressed by that, so he asked: “What do you have of the Quran?” He replied: “Such and such.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Then I have married her to you for what you have of the Quran” [Bukhari; Muslim]

As for scholarly consensus: The scholars unanimously agreed on its obligation without any denial from anyone.

Is There a Specific Amount for the Dowry?

There is no dispute among the jurists that there is no limit to the maximum amount of dowry; as Allah (Most High) says: “… and you have given the former ˹even˺ a stack of gold ˹as a dowry˺…” [Quran, 4:20]

Regarding the “stack of gold”, there are sayings that it alludes to a large amount of money. Sha‘bi narrated that Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) stood to speak and said: “Do not exaggerate in the dowries of women, for it has reached me that no one gave more than what the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave, except that the excess was put in the public treasury.” A woman from the women of Quraysh objected and said: “Allah gives us, and you prevent us; the Book of Allah is more deserving to be followed. Allah (Most High) says: “… And you have given the former ˹even˺ a stack of gold ˹as a dowry˺, do not take any of it back.” [Quran, 4:20] Umar then returned and said: “Everyone may do with his wealth what he wishes.” [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab]

As for the minimum amount of dowry, the Shafi‘i School holds that there is no limit to the minimum amount of dowry, nor to the maximum. Whatever is valid to be named money or is equivalent to money is permissible to be a dowry, whether small or large, tangible or debt. Imam Nawawi in al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab said, “There is no limit to the minimum dowry according to us; rather, anything that can be possessed and is valid to be the price for something or rent is permissible to be a dowry.”

Is It Permissible to Divide the Dowry?

Imam Nawawi in al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab said, “It is permissible for the dowry to be debt or tangible, immediate or deferred, because it is a contract for benefit, so it is permissible, as mentioned, like renting.”

When Does the Dowry Become Established for the Wife?

The dowry comes into full effect in two cases:

The first is When the husband consummates the marriage with his wife, whether that consummation is in a state of permissibility (as when the woman is pure from menstruation) or in a state of prohibition (as when she is menstruating).

Once he consummates the marriage with her, the full dowry becomes obligatory on him because he has received the benefit for which the marriage was contracted. Thus, the compensation becomes due. This is indicated by the saying of Allah (Most High): “Give those you have consummated marriage with their due dowries.” [Quran, 4:24]

And from ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him): “Any man who marries a woman then touches her, then she is entitled to her full dowry.” [Malik; Bayhaqi] “Touches” means consummating the marriage by having intercourse with her.

The second cause for the dowry coming into full effect is the death of one of the spouses, whether death occurred before consummation or after. The evidence for this is the consensus of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them). [Nawawi, Rawdat al-Talibin; Mustafa al-Khin, al-Fiqh al-Manhaji]

Paying Zakat on the Deferred Part of the Dowry

The deferred portion of the dowry is a debt for the woman on her husband, and its zakat is like the zakat of other debts: if the amount of the debt reaches the nisab by itself or with the wife’s other money, gold, or silver joined to it, and the husband is capable of paying it, then she must pay zakat on it for every year the debt remains due to her.

Imam Nawawi in al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab said, “The texts of Imam Shafi‘i (Allah be pleased with him) and his companions (Allah have mercy on them) agreed that the woman must pay zakat on the dowry if a year passes over it and she must pay it for the entire amount at the end of each year without dispute, even if it is before consummation.”

Waiving the Dowry

If the wife waives a part of the dowry for the husband, it is permissible for him to take it. Allah (Most High) says: “But if they waive some of it willingly, then you may enjoy it freely with a clear conscience.” [Quran, 4:4]

May Allah grant us the ability to act upon His Book and follow His Prophet; indeed, He is Hearing, Near, and Responding. And all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
[Shaykh] Muhammad Fayez Awad.

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad, born in Damascus, Syria, in 1965, pursued his Islamic studies in the mosques and institutes of Damascus. A graduate of the Islamic University of Medina in 1985, he holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan.

He has extensive experience developing curricula and enhancing the teaching of various academic courses, including conducting intensive courses. Shaykh Awad has taught Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Quranic sciences, the history of legislation, inheritance laws, and more at several institutes and universities such as Al-Furqan Institute for Islamic Sciences and Majma‘ al-Fath al-Islami in Damascus.

He is a lecturer at the Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih Waqf University in Istanbul, teaching various Arabic and Islamic subjects, and teaches at numerous Islamic institutes in Istanbul. Shaykh Awad is a member of the Association of Syrian Scholars, a founding member of the Zayd bin Thabit Foundation, a member of the Syrian Scholars Association, and a member of the Academic Council at the Iman Center for Teaching the Sunna and Quran.

Among his teachers from whom he received Ijazat are his father, Shaykh Muhammad Muhiyiddin Awad, Shaykh Muhiyiddin al-Kurdi, Shaykh Muhammad Karim Rajih, Shaykh Usama al-Rifai, Shaykh Ayman Suwaid, Shaykh Ahmad al-Qalash, Shaykh Muhammad Awwama, and Shaykh Mamduh Junayd.