The Contract of Islamic Marriage

You may have heard people referring to the ‘marriage contract’. Sometimes this is a term people of all faiths use to refer to the marriage agreement, but what does this mean for Muslims?

Within Islam, marriage acts as both a legal contract and a social agreement. That agreement is signed in the presence of an Imam, an Islamic judge, or a trusted elder who has a good understanding of Islamic law. And whilst a marriage ceremony may involve many guests, the signing of the contract itself is usually only done with immediate family members of the bride and groom present.

Marriage Conditions

The signing of the marriage contract, and the negotiations leading to it being written, are specific requirements of the marriage under Islamic law. So what conditions are required for the contract to be upheld and seen as binding?

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Consent – The marriage can only be seen as binding if both the bride and groom willingly give their consent to marriage to each other, both verbally and in the written word. How is this done? The proposal of marriage – ijab, and the acceptance of that proposal – qabul, form the basis of this process. A first-time bride will usually be represented in these negotiations by a male guardian whose role it is to act in her best interests. This guardian, known as a wali, may typically be the father, or perhaps paternal grandfather or brother of the bride. Additionally, the bride must be seen as willing to enter into marriage.

Mahr – The most useful translation of this word into English is ‘bridal gift’. This is a gift paid directly to the bride from the groom, which remains her own property. Traditionally this acted as a form of insurance or security in the marriage. A typical mahr may be jewellery, property, cash or another valuable asset.

Prenuptial Conditions – Either the bride or groom are allowed to submit conditions to the marriage contract which, if agreed by both parties, become legally-binding conditions of marriage. For example, these might typically be which country the couple should live in, or that the wife may want to continue her career or education. As long as the condition is allowed by Islamic law and that both parties willingly agree to it, it may be entered into the marriage contract.

Witnesses – The marriage contract is only deemed valid when it has been verified by two adult witnesses.

There’s plenty of time to go through the details of marriage though, and this is where we at Find Your Muslim Partner can help. But at every stage of the process, you need to make sure you are getting out of the marriage contract what YOU want. It’s natural to have questions, everybody does, but the time to ask questions is early in the proceedings!

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