Mehar, neglected right of wife [Archives:2008/1216/Culture]
Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany
For the Yemen Times
'Mehar' which means dowry in the Islamic tradition is an important Right of a wife in Islam, which becomes the responsibility of the husband to pay, soon after the Marriage, even if it is not mentioned in writing. It is one of the 7th essential conditions for a valid Marriage. It means that although at the time of solemnization of Marriage, Mehar may not have been specifically fixed, still it will be presumed that it has been agreed to be paid. It is an essential aspect, and it is assumed that there is an intention on the part of the bridegroom to pay Mehar and intention on the part of the bride to receive it. A Marriage becomes annulled if the couple foregoes it, whatsoever it should be paid by the bridegroom and demanded by the bride. In Islam, Marriage is a contract and Mehar is the name of that 'Right' which a wife gets from her husband. Qur'an says:
“Pay off the dowry of women willingly” (Verse No.4, Surah al Nisa)
Allah has ordained that you should pay Mehar to your wives in lieu whereof you have legitimized sexual relations with them”. (Qazi al Numan,”Da'em ul Islam”, Vol. 2)
Therefore, the person who does any injustice to his wife regarding her Mehar, should understand that he has established relationship with his wife, as one commit Zina (fornication). A Hadith transmitted by Ali Ibn Abi Talib says:
“Allah would forgive every sin but He would not forgive the person who has usurped the Mehar of his wife”.
Muslim jurists have made this point clear that after Marriage a woman is not legal to the husband unless her dowry is paid to her. Ali al Murtaza explained that without fixing an amount of Mehar no Marriage is legal. Alas the actions of the nation in regard to it are simply conjectural. Majority of the husbands don't follow this clear injunction of Qur'an regarding this very important Right of Wife.
In Marriage, if no Mehar is specifically fixed and if the husband gives divorce to his wife before consummating the marriage, he is not liable to pay any it whatsoever, nor is his estate liable to pay anything if he dies prior to consummating the marriage. If it is specifically fixed at the time of solemnization of Marriage but if husband pronounces divorce, before the intercourse, the wife is entitled to half the daory, but if he dies before the sleeping with the wife then his estate is liable to pay full Mehar which has been fixed. (“Da'em ul Islam”, vol. No. 2, Qazi al Numan, Egypt). After the Marriage and before the intercourse, wife is entitled for half of the dowry, which was fixed at the time of Marriage. Before consummating the marriage wife commits adultery, she is not entitled to any dowry whatsoever even if it was specifically fixed.
Guidelines to fixing eh dowry:
The fixing of an exorbitant amount is a practice of less learned class. Today it is very difficult for a common man to earn his livelihood. Prophet Mohammed (MPBH) and his descendants extended glorious Talim of simplicity in all phases of life. According to ordinary people there are two reasons for the fixation of excessive amounts of dowry. One of the reasons is:
A girl whose dowry is of a lesser amount, is less valued. An excessive amount is sort of protection from divorce & kind of undue pressure on the husband.
Above mentioned approaches are incorrect. In fact, motivations are not fulfilled by fixing excessive amounts. The sum total of the Talim of Islam is that the amount, which a husband pays willingly and gladly, is alone the cause of love. A Hadith says:
“The best girls of my nation are those who are beautiful and whose dowry is of fewer amounts”. (“Wafi”, Kitab-un-Marriage, page 15, Beirut, Lebanon).
This means that despite being beautiful the less amount of Mehar is a sign of eminence and excellence of a woman.
Mehar: Sign of Woman's Dignity:
In Islam Marriage is a contract, in which a woman regards the other party as a husband in lieu of Mehar. Contrary to this, Marriage is quite a different thing among Hindus, where there is no concept of contract, but a concept of life-time unbroken relationship. Rather Marriage is an essential requirement for male and female both. It is a legal way to take benefits from each other. Abi Jafar Imam Mohammad al Baqir says:
“Marriage is a contract according to which the husband would keep his wife with good manners, and whenever he terminates the contract of Marriage, he should so do with kindness”.
From the point of view of Islam, it is an important matter. In the Qur'an, which is the primary source of Religious Injunctions this matter has been clarified at several places and it has been defined as an obligation.
Treacherous practice of snatching Mehar:
Before the advent of Islam, it was a common practice in Arabia that when a husband released his wife through Divorce he used to snatched wealth gifted as Mehar from her as much as could be possible. He then gifted that snatched amount, adding something to it, to the new bride. If the ex-wife refused to return the Mehar, the cruel husband used to blackmail her with adultery charges. As a result of it a noble woman for the sake of her chastity, used to forego her Rights to the tyrant husband. Alas this evil practice is still prevalent in our society, while Islam has not only condemned it, but also declared it Har'am. Qur'an says:
“If you have made up your mind to bring another wife instead of the present wife, then you should not take back the amount, which you have paid to her. Would you take back that amount by way of accusation and allegation, which is an open sin? And how would you take back the Mehar, although you have derived pleasure and those women have also obtained firm promises from you?
(Verse No. 20, Surah Nisa)
The practice of snatching the dowry at the time of Divorce is an act of a perfidious person. Islam has severely condemned this act. After enjoying with his wife, and spending much time with her in privacy, it is a cruel act. If by means of force or by any pretext the wife is made to forego her Mehar, then whatever the Court's decision might be, it would not be considered exempted in the Court of Allah. Even Ibr'aa is not permissible by Force. Ibr'aa is a term of Islamic legislation, which means that if a wife after receiving the wealth as it returns it to her husband, it is called gift and if she forgoes it without receiving it, it is called Ibr'aa.
Responsibilities of the Intelligentsia to protect Rights of Wife:
It is the duty of the Muslim Scholars that they should explain the importance and forcefully try to eliminate these evil practices regarding the dowry. The woman and her relatives who demand lots of money have been described as unlucky. (“Mun-La-Yahzaruhul-Faqih”, Qum, Iran). The moral significance of Mehar is a symbol of man's interest and love which should not be higher than its financial status. It is a financial Right of wife in Islam, which becomes the responsibility of the husband, immediately at the time of the Marriage, even if it is not mentioned in the contract. Qur'an says:
“And give women their dowry as a Gift” (Verse No.4, Surat No. 4).
Mehar, according to Islam is a sort of Gift which a husband should offer to the wife as a token of love and fidelity. Islam has provided dowry for the following few considerations:
Every husband should pay to his wife according to his financial status, sincerely before consummating the marriage.
It is the Talim of Islam that wife should not demand an exorbitant amount, which is literally beyond the limit of her husband.
Majority of the Seminar Organizers on Women's Rights are those who don't know the ABCD of the Women's Rights, provided by Islam. These Ignorant Friends of Women always prepare the grounds for more exploitation of women. Their restricted spheres give the colonialist valid and ample excuse to condemn Islam and tell women: “This is the Islam you have, it gives you no honor, position or status”. This group practically encourages the foreigners to misled Muslim women.
It is my sincere advice and recommendation to all women and Muslim Women Rights activists that they also invite Competent Religious Scholars in their programs, and time to time gatherings to discuss and explain issues for the benefit of women and explicitly explain about their rights, bestowed by Islam.
Intelligentsia, especially Media constantly discourages the positive contribution of the Genuine Religious Scholars on Women's Rights. If the responsible people of the Media refrain from encouraging positive approach and constructive understanding, masses will not change their negative attitude towards the Rights of Women.
Immediately on the conclusion of Marriage, whatever has been fixed as dowry becomes the property of the wife. If it is a piece of land, a house or a sum of money, its benefits accrue exclusively to her. Only with the wife's consent it can remain in the custody of the husband and the benefits accruing from it can be utilized for conducting their common life.
Maher is a sign of honor, in consideration of women's personality and independence, and not as her price to be paid to her. This Divine Gift conferred by Qur'an, established woman's economic independence, since it is considered as worthy of proprietorship.
The writer is Attorney at Law & Religious Scholar. PhD (USA), NDI, Shahadat al A'alamiyyah (Najaf, Iraq), M.A., LLM (Shariah.)Member, Ulama Council of Pakistan. He could be reached at
Example from the Prophet's practice
The best example of Mehar is certainly that of Fatima daughter of Prophet Mohammed (MPBH)who had inquired from Ali Ibn Abi Talib as to what he has for the payment of Mehar of Fatima? Ali al Murtaza replied:
“My financial condition is very well known to you. I have one armor, one sword, and one horse only.
Prophet Mohammed (MPBH) replied:
“Sword and horse are essential for Jeh'ad, but the armor might be sold out to arrange for the payment of Mehar”.
The armor of Ali was sold for four hundred eighty Dirhams and payment of Mehar of Fatima was arranged.
Now see how Prophet Mohammed (MPBH) spent the amount of 480 Dirhams. Distributing this amount, He directed his Ash'ab, to purchase following items:
1. 160 Dirhams for fragrance (Attar).
2. 160 Dirhams for clothes.
3. 066 Dirhams for house-hold goods.
4. 094 Dirhams to be saved.
Ash'ab purchased following goods:
1. One white dress
2. One head scarf
3. One Bed-sheet
4. One Lota
5. One bed made of date-skin
6. Two quilts or beddings out of which one was stuffed with the wool of a sheep and other one was stuffed with leaves of palm tree.
7. One Mat
8. One pillow made of sheep's skin stuffed with grass.
9. One pair of hand flour mill
10. One cup of copper
11. One leather beg for filling water
12. One tray for washing clothes
13. One pot
14. One utensil for drinking water
15. One wool curtain
16. One earthen pitcher for water
17. Two earthen cups
18. One goat skin for the floor
19. One Arabi dress
(“Masnud”, by: Ahmad b. Hanbal, Vol. 6, pg. 207, Egypt).
When Prophet Mohammed (MPBH) observed the above items, for her beloved daughter Fatima, tears rolled down from his eyes. He offered a prayer – 'May Ahl al Bait be blessed, Bless this couple, whose property are these few utensils'.
This example indicates that less dowry of high-caliber-lady is a sign of blessings. Huge amounts often create obstacles in the opening phase of marital life and this causes decrease in love and sincerity. Demand of high amount of Mehar also discourages young men for late marriages. The golden example of dowry of Fatima has set a precedent that the Canon Source of Islam does not consider it better to demand an excessive amount. Contrary to the Talim of Islam, people proudly say that our daughter's Mehar has been fixed in million or billions. Such an excessive amount is like a sin without any pleasure.
Islam persuades the youngsters to enter into the wedlock as early as possible, so that the society may be saved from illegitimate-sexual-association. It is a Talim of Islam that the amount should be such that could easily be borne by the husband. If Prophet Mohammed (MPBH) wished, he could have spend lavished on her daughter Fatima's wedding, but by his action he set an excellent example for us that when the Muslims get their daughters married, they should remember the weeding of Fatima.