Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
I am from Yemen and it is the custom of my people to pay exorbitant amounts of money to the father of the bride in order to make him agree to the marriage. I think that this is forbidden, but what should I do if they don’t accept without my paying any money?
If the bride’s father stipulates money for himself as a condition on someone who wants to marry his daughter, and this stipulation is part of the actual contract, such as if he says, “I marry you my daughter for one thousand provided you pay me one thousand,” then the marriage contract is valid but the marriage payment (mahr) is invalid. As a result, the amount mentioned in the contract (i.e., one thousand in the above example) does not become binding. Instead, the wife has a right to receive the amount of marriage payment (mahr) that is typically received by similar brides (this is determined according to her relatives). This amount may be greater than or less than one thousand. This is the position of our school on this issue, as explicitly mentioned in Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 7.385-386. In addition to the above, the husband is not obligated to pay anything to the father of the bride.
If the condition is not stipulated as part of the contract, but they agree on it before the contract, and then only mention the marriage payment (mahr) when conducting the contract, then the mentioned marriage payment (mahr) is valid, although the husband is not obligated to pay any money to the bride’s father. It has been related in Bughyat al-Mustarshidin from the Great Scholar Ba Makhramah that when a woman is proposed to and her guardian prevents her from getting married unless she vows to pay him a certain amount, and she then vows [h. to pay him that amount of money], then the vow is invalid.
– Amjad Rasheed.
[Translated by Sidi Hamza Karamali]