My question relates to marriage and dowry. After 2 years of marriage talks with a particular, we are but a few months away from being married insha’allah. However, the bride and her family say that a condition which they put forward at the time of accepting our proposal was that we would pay the sister/bride a large sum of money (5 figures) should I divorce her in the future. I do not recall ever accepting such conditions, to the contrary I have always disagreed to having any conditions placed on my marriage. Now, we are going through a very turbulent period where we have already decided to part ways, under duress. This is neither what the sister/bride nor I want. I am in no way able to accept this condition even if it means I do not have to pay ”unless” I divorce her. This figure was in no way discussed between the two individuals concerned i.e. her and myself.
Please could you enlighten me with some guidance? I am not unable to afford such figures now nor am I willing to accept this condition. Am I wrong? Or am I being wronged by the other party (and her family)? If success was to shower this situation, I feel so let down that I could never keep a reasonable relationship with these ”in-laws”. A little research informs me that this is the Mahr they are requesting, but surely I have a say as to how much I can give? Is this request of theirs acceptable in Shariah; a contract within the Nikah for a large sum? Please guide this ever concerned brother.
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The dowry (mahr) is the right of the wife/bride by which she is honoured and formally entered into wedlock (nikah). Allah Most High says:
“Give them (women) their dowers.” (Surah al-Nisa, 24)
The minimum amount for dowry is ten Dirhams (30.618 grams of silver) and there is no maximum limit. Thus, the bride and groom may mutually agree upon whatever sum they desire. However, it is wrong and disliked to fix a large sum as dowry, especially when the groom is not financially capable of paying the amount.
Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said: “Do not stipulate excessive amounts as dowry for women. If (doing so) was a token of honour in this world or a source of piety by Allah, then the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would have been more worthy of it than you….” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no 1114)
The groom is not obliged to pay anything in addition to the marriage payment or dowry (mahr) to the bride. It is unlawful for the bride’s family to demand something other than the dowry (for the bride) and considered to be a form of bribery (rishwah).
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“If the bride’s family demand a return (m: other than the dowry) for giving her in marriage, the husband has a right to re-claim it, as this is bribery (rishwah).” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 3/56)
Thus, you do not have to agree to pay the bride excessive amounts as dowry or gift, neither is it wrong to refuse paying high dowries. The bride’s family cannot demand anything besides the dowry (which must be for the bride) from you, and if you did give something, you may take it back.
As regards to the condition of paying a large sum in case of divorce, if this amount is part of the dowry, then upon divorce you will be obliged to pay it.
The jurists (fuqaha) mention that dowry is of two types: immediate (mu’ajjal) and deferred (ghayr mu’ajjal). The wife has a right to demand the immediate dowry whenever she desires, but she cannot demand the deferred dowry before the date of maturity.
The wife may defer some amount of the dowry (mahr) to the husband’s death or divorce, in which case, upon death or divorce, she will receive the amount stipulated.
Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“…As it occurs in some towns that a portion of the dowry is immediate, a portion deferred to divorce or death and a portion to be paid in installments. If he was to divorce her, the portion deferred to divorce will become immediate, but not the portion to be paid in installments. That will be received on its appropriate time whether after or prior to divorce.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/144)
In light of the above, it is not wrong for the bride to request a sum as part of dowry in the event of a divorce, for it is considered to be a deferred payment of the dowry. Yes, to stipulate an excessive amount would be considered blameworthy, as mentioned earlier.
However, you are completely at liberty in agreeing or disagreeing with this amount as dowry. It is not even wrong or blameworthy to refuse such conditions, rather the opposite if the figure is quite high.
In conclusion, marriage payment (mahr) is something that is mutually agreed upon by the groom and bride. It can all be immediate or some amount may be deferred to death or divorce. It is something that you and the bride will have to mutually agree upon, and no one party can enforce a sum on the other. The bride’s family cannot demand anything other than her dowry, for that is unlawful, sinful and a form of bribery.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK