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Mahr, dowry and gifts

Mahr (donatio propter nuptias  in Roman Law, Latin = gift because of marriage) is often mistranslated into English as dowry or gift, as in the Quran translations below, due to a translator’s lack of understanding of the true nature of a dowry, and the nonobligatory nature of a gift. The mahr is not a gift, and is a mandatory requirement for all Muslim marriages whereby an amount of money or possessions is paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage for her exclusive use. The mahr does not have to be money, but it must have monetary value. Therefore "it cannot be love, honesty, being faithful, etc., which are anyway traits of righteous people." If the marriage contract fails to contain an exact, specified mahr, the husband must still pay the wife a judicially determined sum.

Mahr is mentioned several times in the Quran and Hadith, and there is no maximum limit to the amount the groom may pay as mahr, but at a minimum it is an amount that would be sufficient for the woman to be able to survive independently if her husband dies or they divorce.

The term dowry (Latin, dos dotis) is inaccurate as strictly speaking it is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage, usually provided by her parents or family. In Islam, bride prices and dowries are forbidden. Any assets brought into the union by the wife may only be accepted by the husband after the mahr has been paid by him to her.

With prior mutual agreement, the mahr may also be paid in parts to the bride with an amount given by the groom to the bride at the signing of the marriage contract, also called a mu’qadamm (in Arabic: ?; ????, literally translated as forepart presented), and the later portion postponed to a date during the marriage, also called a mu’akhaar ( in Arabic: ? ????, literally translated as delayed). Various Romanized transliterations of mu’qadamm and mu’akhaar are accepted. Such an agreement does not make the full amount of the mahr any less legally required, nor is the husband’s obligation to fulfill the agreement waived or lessened while he fulfills his obligations to reasonably house, feed, or cloth the wife (and any children produced from the union) during the marriage.

Quran [4:4] "You shall give the women their due dowries, equitably."

Quran [5:5] "Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture is lawful for you. Also, 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. You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers. Anyone who rejects faith, all his work will be in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be with the losers"

Quran [60:10] "O you who believe, when believing women (abandon the enemy and) ask for asylum with you, you shall test them. GOD is fully aware of their belief. Once you establish that they are believers, you shall not return them to the disbelievers. They are not lawful to remain married to them, nor shall the disbelievers be allowed to marry them. Give back the dowries that the disbelievers have paid. You commit no error by marrying them, so long as you pay them their due dowries. Do not keep disbelieving wives (if they wish to join the enemy). You may ask them for the dowry you had paid, and they may ask for what they paid. This is GOD’s rule; He rules among you. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise."





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