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What Is the Mahr (Dowry)? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I do not know anything about mahr: What does it mean in Islam? Is it mandatory? What kinds of mahr exist?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your question.

The Mahr is the dowry given to a woman upon marriage. The ruling on the dowry is that it is obligatory upon the husband and that the wife has sole ownership of it.

Mahr in the Quran

The word mahr does not appear in the Qur’an, but instead various words are used,

‘And give the women their dower (saduqat) as a free gift (nihla). But if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.’ [4:4]

‘So, to those of them whose company you have enjoyed, give their dues (ujur) as obligated. There is no sin on you in what you mutually agree upon after the (initial) agreement.’ [4:24]

‘You may marry the chaste women among the believers, as well as the chaste women among the followers of previous scripture, provided you pay them their due dowries (ujur).’ [5:5]

Wisdom in the Mahr

Among the wisdoms behind the mahr are:

It is a gift from the husband to the wife at the very onset of marriage, as evident from the use of the word nihla, a gift, in the first Quranic verse quoted above. Gifts are a way to bring hearts close together, as they are tangible gesture of one’s feelings towards another person, and a means to incline the heart. The Mahr is for the wife to enjoy and do as she pleases. In Islamic marriages, where previous integration between the couples were very limited, the mahr further acts as an ice-breaker between two people who are relatively strange to one another, for when a person gives another person a gift, an automatic attachment to that person becomes established.

Men have been given a few legal advantages over women in marriage, in that they have the power to divorce a wife, as well as the fact that traditionally men have always been the main financial providers in marriage 9a woman may work but she keeps her money for herself). Some men may abuse this power if they know that they can enter into a marriage, do as they please, and then end the marriage just as easily. The Mahr then becomes not only a price to pay for the husband being allowed to marry a woman in the first place, but it is also acts as a safeguard for the woman, should the man divorce her.

If the husband neglects his financial obligation towards his wife and children, then the wife has some financial independency and not left with nothing.

Dowry in Sacred Law

The main legal rulings that apply to the Mahr are:

The dowry is paid by the husband to the wife, and it solely belongs to her. Neither the husband nor any of his or her family members have a right to it. In pre-Islamic Arabia, a woman’s father would keep the mahr, and this was later forbidden by Islam, given the wife her right to possess the mahr exclusively. The woman’s guardian (wali) has no right to forgo the mahr on her behalf.
The dowry should something that is permissible to buy or sell, such as cash, jewellery, property etc., and excluding impermissible items such as alcohol.

It is sunna [in the Shafi’i school] to mention the mahr in the marriage contract and disliked to omit it, though its omission does not affect the validity of the marriage contract.

If no dowry was agreed upon, or it was not taken into account at all, the mahr automatically defaults to the ‘mahr al mithl’ which is the typical mahr given for a woman of the same social standing in that place and time.

The husband and wife can mutually make any adjustment to the dowry before or after the marriage contract.

If the wife chooses to forgo the dowry, she may do so.

The wife can demand the mahr immediately upon marriage or defer it’s payment to a later date.

If the mahr becomes due and the husband does not pay, the woman has the right to not fulfil the husband’s rights, without this affecting her rights in any way.

If the couple divorce after the marriage is consummated, the husband cannot take back any part of the mahr. If divorce takes place before consummation, the husband has a right to ask for half of the mahr back, though he may relinquish this right if he wishes.

Mut’a

It is also worth mentioning that in the Shafi’i school, if the husband divorces his wife, (without the wife divorcing herself if given the right (tafwid), or through mutual dissolution), it is obligatory for the husband to give the wife a payment called the mut’a. The mut’a should be something that both parties agree to, while it is sunna to be no less than 30 dirhams and no more than half of the customary mahr of that place and time.

Despite the mut’a being an obligatory payment, many men and women are not aware of it, and therefore, men do not fulfil this right, and women are not given their due upon divorce.

I pray this gives provides you with a general understanding of the mahr.

[Tarshih al Mustafidin, ‘Iyanat al Talibin, Mishkat al Misbah, Miftah li bab al Nikah]

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

My Fiancé Is Willing to Put Me Into Debt for a Ring. What Do I Do?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: Assalam alaykum,

My fiancé has asked for an engagement ring (5670 pounds), which I cannot afford unless I take out a loan. Her family is very wealthy, so she is used to a certain level of living. What do I do?

Answer: Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.

Marriage

I encourage you and your fiancé to enroll in and complete Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages.

Having sincere concern for your spouse is a foundation of Islamic marriage. Being willing to put your spouse into debt runs counter to this.

Waste

Dear questioner, your fiancé is asking you for an engagement ring far beyond your means. £5670 is well above the average monthly salary in England, let alone elsewhere, and her request is wasteful. What about the cost of your actual wedding? Setting up your marital home? Your honeymoon?

Unless you have access to permissible Islamic financing, taking out a loan will put you in state of riba. This is a major sin, and your marriage has not even started yet. I caution you against starting your marriage with debt.

Prayer

I encourage you to perform the Prayer of Guidance up to seven times about what to do. Please observe how events unfold to help you decide what to do. For example, if your fiancé is willing to compromise and settle for a more affordable engagement ring, then this is a positive sign. If she is not, then that is a clear negative sign.

Pre-marital counselling

Please see a pre-marital counselor with your fiancé. Speak openly about your different expectations when it comes to finances.

I understand that you are both in love, and this makes it very difficult for you to remain objective. Just be aware that difficulties with finances and marital intimacy can break up marriages.

Reflections

Narrated Abu Hurayra: The Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, said, “A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers.” (Bukhari)

You have described your fiancé as being used to a certain standard of living. The reality is that most young newlyweds go through an initial struggle before finding their feet.

If she wishes to continue the lifestyle which she is used to, then she is better off marrying a much older and wealthier man. If she chooses to marry you, then I pray that she accepts the fact that you are still early in your career. This requires a lot of maturity on her part.

Marriage is an ongoing conversation. I pray that Allah grants you both the wisdom and patience to make this a conversation which brings you both closer to Allah, and not further away.

Please see:

Some Rulings Related to the Dowry
Love, Marriage and Relationships in Islam: All Your Questions Answered

Wassalam,

[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.

Photo: International Gem and Jewelry Show

Will My Child Be Illegitimate If I Don’t Pay the Dowry of My Marriage?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam’aleykum

Is it true that if someone refuses to pay the dowry of one’s marriage or can’t pay it due to death then the child born of this marriage will be considered illegitimate?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

No, what you have mentioned is incorrect. The dowry (mahr) is a consequence of the marriage contract which is due whether it is contractually stated or not. If the man and woman thus marry, any children that are borne thereof would be legitimate children from a valid marriage contract. The fact that the dowry wasn’t paid, in the case of death or refusal, doesn’t change their being a lawfully married couple. In any case, the dowry remains a debt upon the husband until payment.

Please also see: Some Rulings Related to the Dowry

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.

Is It Permissible for a Woman to Demand a Very High Dower and to Condition Its Payment on a Divorce?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: As salam alaykum,

These days it is becoming a norm for a woman to demand very high dower and some of them stipulate that this amount should be payed only if they end up divorced. Other stipulate for the amount to be payed in installments during the marriage.

Is it permissible?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The dower (mahr) is a consequence of the marriage contract, and a legal right afforded to the woman. However, its specific amount is determined by a number of factors such as locality, and issues related to the woman herself.

As for your specific questions:

(1) She is legally due half of the agreed upon amount immediately after contracting the marriage, and the remaining half after consummation.

(2) The method of payment returns to the couple. They can agree on instalments, or any other method of payment that ensures she gets her right.

Please also see: Some Rulings Related to the Dowry and: How Much Should I Ask to Get for a Marriage Dowry (Mahr)?

And consider taking the following free class: Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life

And Allah knows best.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What Would Be an Appropriate Amount to Ask for a Dowry?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: What would be an appropriate amount to ask for a dowry (mahar)? I live in Toronto, but my fiance is from Portland and we will be moving there. From what I understand cost of living in Portland is more affordable. What exactly would be a fair amount to request?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

This is something you would have to discuss with your family and future husband. The Qur’an commands men to give dowry with a “good heart” (4:4), while the sunna advises that the dowry should be something that is “affordable” to give. [al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak]

The minimum amount of dowry that is to be given is the equivalent of ten dirhams, which is 31 grams of silver. The dowry that the Prophet (God bless him) and the Companions (God be well-pleased with them) gave when they married varied. It is reported that the dowry that the Prophet (God bless him) gave to his wives was the equivalent of 1530 grams of silver, while the amount he commanded `Ali (God be well-pleased him) give Fatima (God be well-pleased with her) was 1469 grams of silver,

For more details, please see: Some Rulings Related to the Dowry

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How Much Should I Ask to Get for a Marriage Dowry (Mahr)?

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.

wassalam

Faraz

Some Rulings Related to the Dowry

Answered by Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Can gold jewelry be given as part of the mahr in addition to cash?  Is there a sunnah mahr amount? Also, I was given some cash and gifts for our engagement.  Should the cash and the gifts be equally divided?

Answer: Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Congratulations on your engagement. Yes, gold jewelry (and other non-cash objects) can be given as all or part of the mahr along with cash.

Mahr is a gift that is given to the bride; it becomes her sole property and should not be taken back. It can be paid at the time of marriage, or promised to be paid on a later date, whereby it becomes a debt on the husband to his wife, which she can subsequently forgive if she chooses to do so out of her free will.

Amongst the wisdoms of the mahr is that it creates appreciation and respect between the spouses, becomes a source of comfort as the woman enters a new household, shows the seriousness of the husband, and gives the wife something to fall back on that is hers, and no one else’s, should anything not go as planned.

Allah Ta’ala says the Quran, “And give (O men!) the women their bridal-gifts with a good heart!…” [al-Quran, 4:4]

The value of the mahr should not be exorbitant such that the groom cannot afford to pay it, or such that it goes into wastefulness or to show-off, though there is no legal maximum amount to be demanded or offered. In some parts of the world, the mahr is set ridiculously high, making it well-nigh impossible for most young men to marry until they have spent their youth saving only for this; in the West, perhaps some young sisters may not know the value of demanding a fair mahr, and thus be deprived of this right. The Prophet (peace be upon him said), “The best of mahrs is the easiest (most affordable).” [al-Hakim, al-Bayhaqi]

It is not blameworthy for a woman to demand a reasonable amount that other women within her father’s family would deserve, considering as well her status, beauty, education and the times and society she lives in [al-Maydani, al-Lubab].

The Prophet (peace be upon him) paid varying amounts of mahr in his marriages; the mahr paid to Fatima by ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) was commanded by the Prophet (peace be upon him), and thus, this amount is often the amount considered when “sunnah mahr” is discussed (this is also called the Mahr Fatimi).

This amount of this mahr is 480 silver dirhams, though there is some difference in opinion on this. One silver dirham is equal to approximately 3.06 grams of silver, so one would calculate the price of 1469.60 grams of silver on the day of marriage to approximate the sunnah mahr. This is taken from a narration in which ‘Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“Do not go to extremes regarding dowries to women, because if doing so was a noble thing in this world, or piety according to Allah, the most suitable and most worthy of doing it would have been Muhammad (peace be upon him); he did not give dowry to any woman from amongst his wives, nor were his daughters given any dowry, more than 12 uqiyyahs [approx. 480 dirhams]. Truly, a man may increase the dowry until he feels resentment for her within himself while saying, ‘You cost me [everything I own], and I was just a regular man who had no idea what that kind of expenditure was before!’” [Ibn Majah, Sunan, with approximation of the meaning]

As for engagement and wedding gifts, because they are given in varying ways, and it is often unclear who gave it and whether it was meant for one or both spouses, so how the couple divides them often returns to local customs. Amongst the possibilities are that the money is divided equally, or shared to furnishing a new home or to pay off wedding expenses. Gifts can be divided based on whose side of the family gave it, or whether the object seems intended for gents or for ladies. If the gifts were given to one person specifically, they would not have to share it. At any rate, these gifts will soon be forgotten or spent, while the true gifts of an Islamic marriage will endure, insha Allah.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani