A Word on Wedding Dowries (Mahr/Sadāq) in Islam and Spending on a Walīmah

By Abu Khadeejah ‘Abdul-Wāhid Alam

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation—and may He extol the Messenger in the highest company of Angels, and grant him peace and security—likewise to his family, Companions and true followers.

Shaikh Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) stated that it is disliked to exaggerate in the dowries that are paid to women. The Sunnah is to pay small dowries and make matters easy for the groom. However, if the groom is wealthy and able to pay more then there is no harm in that because of the fact that he can afford it. Dowries to brides can be in the form of currency, jewellery, bedding, clothing, gold, silver and so on. All of this is allowable with the agreement of the bride.

So, the dowry is an obligated bridal gift at an amount requested by the bride to be given to her when the marriage contract (‘aqdun-nikāh) is made –– it makes permissible intimacy with her and softens the heart.

The dowry amount should be written and recorded in the marriage contract. In the case of divorce (may Allah protect us and the believers from evil), then the dowry remains with the wife as her property. If he divorces her before seclusion, intimacy or consummation, then he gives her half the dowry agreed upon. If he divorces her after consummation, intimacy or seclusion alone with her, then all of the dowry remains with her. In the case of khula’, the dowry is returned to the husband.

As for providing the wife with a weekly stipend, then that is not a part of the dowry nor is it obligatory for the groom to add it into the marriage contract. If the bride insists on including a weekly/monthly stipend into the marriage contract, and the groom agrees, then he must fulfil his agreement.

Under Shariah Law, the husband is obligated to clothe, feed and shelter his wife in a manner that he clothes, feeds and shelters himself–– he is not allowed to harm his wife, abandon the marital home, mistreat or abuse her. Indeed, he is obligated to treat her with love and as a woman is to be treated––a man should not behave with his wife in a coarse or rough manner as he may be used to in his interaction with other men.

As for the practices in the culture of some Muslims who make conditions upon the groom to buy a car for his future wife, land, apartments and to fix a stipend, then all of that is burdensome not supported by the texts of the Book and Sunnah––and it does not increase love between them, rather it increases the burden upon him, and may lead to resentment, especially if he is led to take loans to fulfil these demands. So this is the exaggeration in dowries that are hated. So the scholars speak against dowries that cause harm to the husband such that he cannot afford it and leads to resentment and ill-feelings towards his wife (and her family) leading him to conclude that she is attached to the world and its pomp and glitter. The dowry should be something of value and benefit to the woman without burdening the groom.

As for what is referred to as mu’akkhar which is a delayed dowry to be paid if a divorce takes place, then there is no evidence for such a practice from the Sunnah, and Allah knows best. A man and woman marry one another based on piety, righteousness and obedience to Allah hoping not to depart from one another except due to death. And if they end up separating through a divorce, then that is the last resort after all avenues of reconciliation have been exhausted––and that is from Allah’s Decree that none knows but He, the Most High. So, the decrees are written by Allah, and adding burdens upon the groom with financial penalties and hardships do not help but instead burden families.

What is required is that the couple marries each other for religious reasons, compatibility, character and good manners; and are happy to live with each other and build an Islamic household.

Their families and friends enjoy the gatherings that lead up to their marriage such as the nikāh and walīmah—they should not compete to make the marriage the grandest ever seen in the community or the most extravagant! They should not worry about what the people will think or how they will criticise. Keep the events pleasant and happy; let the women gather and sing, wear their nice, modest (and beautiful) garments but not be excessive and wear expensive clothes that they will never wear again! Let people eat and drink in moderation and happiness––have nice and tasty food and desserts. The real journey of life, the mutual love, mercy and affection begins (for the couple) after the marriage. The marriage nikāh and walīmah is a right of passage, it is not the goal, so let them enjoy it, be happy, but not excessive—let people exchange gifts and visit each other during this period. This is the true friendship the families and happiness rooted in the hearts.

One should not spend large amounts on halls, food and sundries, rather keep it pleasant and within your means that befit the behaviour of Salafis who have Taqwā of Allah. Events arranged in your homes or banqueting hall (if you have many guests) can be exciting and joyful if organised properly. The “mehndi” (found in many Islamic cultures where the women and girls gather to beautify the bride and prepare her for marriage, where they sing, play the drum and arrange garments), followed by the nikāh and walīmah are just the first steps in a long, happy and challenging journey ahead.

Shaikh Al-Fawzān explained that excessive dowries bring hardship on people and open a door to evil and are considered as isrāf (excess that the Shariah forbids). At weddings, people arrange too much food that is not eaten, only to show-off to others what they have spent large amounts––so, it is wasted because people were not in need of it––all of this is harām. He mentioned that he’s heard of people spending 12,000 Riyals ($3,200) to rent a hall for a few hours and they commit sins through the evening with music and free-mixing—this is excessive and harām. Then he cited a Hadeeth stating that the dowry of Safiyyah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) when the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) married her was her freedom from being a captive of war. The dowry that he gave A’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) was 500 dirhams (500 silver coins), each weighing 3 grams, which comes to 1,500 grams of silver. Shaikh Al-Fawzān said that this is the example to be followed, this was the dowry of his wives and his daughters—and when people go beyond that, they tend to exaggerate. So, here we have the best example from the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) with the best women, who are his wives and his daughters.

‘Ali (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) was not very wealthy, so he gave a coat of mail (used in war) as a dowry when he married the daughter of the Prophet, Fātimah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā), and she was able to sell it if she wanted. This is the ease we find in Islam and in the Sunnah that people of our times have left in favour of customs, ostentatiousness and exaggeration.

This mahr/sadāq is for the bride, at the time of marriage. It is chosen by the bride, or offered by the groom and accepted by the bride (if she is happy with it), it is not to enrich her parents and relatives. It should be kept reasonable and in accordance with the Sunnah, easy for the man and valued by the women as a dowry on the day of the nikāh.

Abu Khadeejah ‘Abdul-Wāhid Alam

29th December 2020 CE
15th Jamāda Al-Ūlā 1442 AH

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