>Islamic Marriage Contract in the Hanafi Jurisprudence

>The Hanafi School of Jurisprudence is one of the four Schools in Sunni Islam. It was founded by Nu’man abu Hanifa (d. 767) in Kufa in modern Iraq. Abu Hanifa (father of Hanifa) is considered one of the “tabieen” (followers) of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. He had the good fortune to have lived during a time when some of the companions of the Prophet were still alive
The Hanfi School became prominent under the Abbasid Dynaty and later under the Ottoman Empire, during which the Hanafi “madhhab” (school of jurisprudence) became the only authoritative code of law in the public life and official administration of justice in all the vast territories of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, the Hanafi School of thought has followers among Muslim population in Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon.

Marriage Contract in the Hanafi Jurisprudence
According to this School, the “nikah” (marriage) is a contract by which the husband gets “the intended sexual relation” from the woman. This School believes that, the husband enjoys the “bid’” (body of the woman) and all of the “badan” (organs) for the purpose of “taladhudh” (enjoyment). The right to “sexual enjoyment” is given to the man only. This “enjoyment” does not extend to the woman. According to this School, the man may force his wife to exercise his “haqq al-isstimta’a” (the right to enjoy sex), while the woman may do so “one time only.” (See Al-Jazeery, Kitab al-Fiqh, vol.4, p. 2. Dar al-Irshad lil-tibaa’a wal-nashr, Egypt ).
The marriage contract can be in writing or orally, and could also be done by correspondence.

Conditions of the Marriage Contract
A marriage contract is valid, according to the Hanafi School, if the following conditions are met: (1) “Ijab” (propose to marry) and “qubul” (accept to marry) by both parties or their “wali” (guardians). Both “ijab” and “qubul” must be expressed clearly; the term “nikah” or “zawaj” (i.e marriage) must be pronounced during the negotiations of the marriage agreement. (2) “Ijab” and “qubul” must occur in one meeting. If for example the father of the girl offers her for marriage “ijab” by saying: “I give you my daughter for marriage”, the “qubul” (acceptance of the groom or his guardian) must be pronounced in the same session. In other words, if the groom, or his guardian, responds at a later time, his response does not meet the requirements of the Hanafi; thus the marriage does not occur. (3) Bothe “ijab” and “qubul” must be in total agreement on the specifics; if, for example the father of the bride offers her for marriage demanding $200 for “mahr”, the groom agrees to the marriage but does not agree to the amount of “mahr”, then the terms of the contract is not agreed upon, and there is no marriage. (4) Both “ihab” and “qubul” must be heard clearly by the parties involved in the discussion. (5) There must be no time limitation for the period of the marriage. A marriage done for a specific period of time is called “mut’ah” (marriage for pleasure only) and is considered illegal in the Hanafi School.

Gabriel Sawma is Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic and Aramaic. A lawyer with Middle East background; admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association of Beirut; Associate Member of the New York State Bar and the American Bar Associations. Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US courts, Islamic banking and finance. Editor of International Law website at http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

Email [email protected]

Email [email protected]

Te. (609) 915-2237

>The Jihaz in Islamic marriages

>Jihaz (dowry) or trousseau is the amount of clothes, household linen, furniture and other belongings contributed by the bride and/or her family to the marriage. It has to be distinguished from the mahr, which is an agreement between the wali (guardian) of the bride and her future husband by which the groom pays certain sum of money or its equivalent to the bride at the signing of the marriage agreement. The mahr is an obligation on the groom, stipulated by the Quran, to be given to the future wife, while the jihaz is not an obligation on the part of the bride or her family. (For more information on the mahr agreement, see our article on http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com.

The Jihaz is not nafaqa (support) either, because nafaqa is the material support given by the husband to his wife as soon as the marriage is consummated. The nafaqa covers clothing, food and shelter for the wife. (For more on the nafaqa, see our article on http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

In the Middle East, as elsewhere, the brides are often given house furnishings and clothing by their parents or family members when embarking on marriage. There is no obligation in the Islamic Shari’a to fulfill the jihaz, however, in most cases, brides bring such jihaz to their houses once they are married.

Consequently, the groom cannot force his future wife to bring the jihaz as part of the household, and if her family is asked to contribute such jihaz, they may decline the demand.

Once the jihaz is given to the bride, it becomes her own property. Her family cannot claim it as part of their estate unless the jihaz was given as a loan agreement. Under such circumstances, they may demand the return of the jihaz.

The groom cannot have claim on the jihaz, unless it was purchased by the bride or her family, with monies given by the groom as part of the mahr agreement, where the jihaz becomes a mahr and therefore belongs to the groom.

The bride’s father may have a legal agreement with his daughter stating that certain pieces of the jihaz she took with her upon marriage were in fact a loan, and therefore revert to her family upon death. Otherwise the jihaz is considered a private property of the bride and becomes part of her estate.

The jihaz contributed by the bride and /or her family endorses the idea that she enters into marriage as an empowered individual. The marriage arrangements in the Middle East involving jihaz, predate the rise of Islam.

There is no provision in Islamic Shari’a that forbids the exercise of women’s right to contribute jihaz to their marriages. In fact, under Islamic law, married women have legal rights to share in family estate. They may own properties, or be named as beneficiaries of religious waqf (endowment) assets.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic and Aramaic. Expert Consultant in matters related to recognition and enforcement of Islamic divorce, child custody, banking and finance in US courts. Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; Associate Member of the New York State Bar and the American Bar Associations. Editor in chief:

Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected]

Tel. (609) 915-2237


>The Nafaqa in Islamic Marriage

>Under Islamic Shari’a, a man is obligated to support his wife with food, clothing, and shelter. His obligation starts as soon as the marriage is consummated. This article discusses the issue of nafaqa in the Islamic marriage.

In Islamic Shari’a, nafaqa is defined as an obligation of material support for the wife and children. This is a gendered entity in Islamic marriage, as long as the marriage has been consummated. When the marriage is consummated, the husband becomes responsible for providing his wife and children born of the marriage with food, clothing, and shelter regardless of the wife’s own resources. This obligation is stated in the Qur’an; it reads the following: “Men are protectors and maintainers of women because God has given them the one more than the other, and because they support them from their means [their money]” (Qur’an 4: 34). Failure of the husband to provide the nafaqa may result in a jail sentence.

If the husband leaves his house to undisclosed location, the qadi (religious judge) is authorized to locate the husband’s assets to recover the unpaid nafaqa. If the husband is beneficiary of any revenues, or has any outstanding debts owed to him, the qadi could assign the proceeds equivalent to the amount of nafaqa to the wife.

The nafaqa is determined at a level appropriate to the wife’s social standing and background; the qadi may determine the amount of nafaqa in accordance with the style to which the wife is accustomed. Thus, a poor woman may get a bread and cheese for her lunch; a middle class wife would expect to receive grain and animal fat, while a rich wife may get wheaten bread and meat.

As a general rule, the husband has an obligation to support nafaqa to his wife or wives until such time as the marriage is terminated by divorce or death.

In the event of divorce, the former husband must continue to support his wife for the following three months of her ‘iddah, a waiting period after divorce, during which a woman may not marry another man. At the end of her ‘iddah, the wife is legally free to remarry. If the wife should die during that period, the husband is responsible for the burial costs. The ‘iddah is extended, for a pregnant woman, until after the birth of her child.

There should be a clear distinction between mahr and nafaqa; the legal discourse in Islamic marriage contracts is that the husband pays the muqaddam (immediate) mahr at the time of signing the contract. (For more on the mahr agreement, see The Mahr Provision in Islamic Marriage Contracts at http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com. The nafaqa is the amount of money spent by the husband to support his wife on food, clothing and shelter; it is triggered when the marriage is consummated.

A woman, who is married according to the Islamic Shari’a, can refuse to consummate the marriage with her husband if he failed to pay the mahr. But once the mahr issue is settled, she has to be available to her husband. If she continues to refuse him, the husband will be absolved of any responsibility for providing the nafaqa.

A woman is entitled to receive the nafaqa even if she gets mentally or physically ill. The nafaqa is obligatory on the husband in the case he becomes ill. No nafaqa is due if the husband repudiates his wife because she has been guilty of apostasy. Changing once religion from Islam to any other religion is considered a blasphemy and subject to strict penalty ultimating to death.

The husband may stop providing for nafaqa if the wife commits nushuz, a term used to designate the rebellion of a woman against her husband, by disobeying him and causing him anger.

If the husband is traveling and could not be reached, the wife who has been granted nafaqa by the qadi (religious judge), is authorized to borrow money equivalent to the amount assigned, and the absent husband is responsible for paying off the debt once he became available.

If the husband should die, the nafaqa support will be terminated, except for a pregnant woman who could still claim it, through to delivery of her child, from her husband’s estate. She must request the nafaqa during the period of the marriage or the ‘iddah.

Muslim couples may name an amount of the nafaqa support as part of the marriage contract, although such a clause is not required by the Islamic Shari’a; but once made, it can be enforced by the religious court.

Gabriel Sawma is a Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic and Aramaic. He is an expert consultant on International Law, mainly Islamic divorce, inheritance, child custody, banking and finance. Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association ; Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Editor of International Law Website:


Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]

Tel. (609) 915-2237

>The Mahr Provision in Islamic Marriage Contracts

>In recent years, many Islamic divorce cases were litigated in the United States family courts. The issue of mahr in the Islamic marriage contracts became subject of debate among lawyers and scholars. This article sheds lights on the Islamic mahr in USA.

Mahr is the amount of money, or its equivalent, paid by the husband to his future wife. Contrary to the popular notion that mahr is dowry, it is not. A dowry is what the wife contributes to her marriage while mahr is an obligation on the husband to pay his future wife. Others call the mahr a ‘gift’ given by the husband; it is not a ‘gift’ either, because it is an obligation mandated by the Qur’an. The Qur’an calls it sadaq; it reads: “Wa aatoo ann-nissaa’ saduqaatihinna nihlatan” (and give the women their mahr with a good heart.) Qur’an 4: 4
The mahr is an obligation required by Islamic law from the husband to be paid to his future wife. Thus, it must be stipulated in the Islamic marriage contract. If no stipulation is recorded in the contract, the qadi (or religious judge) will assign the amount of mahr. The amount of mahr becomes a property of the wife alone.
Muslim schools of jurisprudence in the Sunni traditions, differ on the definition of the mahr. The Hanafi School defines mahr as “the added money given by the husband to his [future] wife for iza’a ihtibassiha, keep her in his house (see al-Sarkassi, the Mabssut, vol. 5, pp 62-63, Arabic Version). Another author of the Hanafi School defines the mahr as “the money, which is obligatory on the husband in ikd al-nikah (the marriage contract) for manafi’ al-bid’ (sexual pleasure). (See ibn al-Hamam, Sharih Fath al-Qadeer, vol. 3, p. 304, Arabic version).
The Hanbali School of jurisprudence defines mahr as “the money paid by the husband for the purpose of nikah (marriage). (See ibn Kadamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 6, p. 679, Arabic version).
The Malike and Shafi’i Schools defines the mahr as “the money due to the future wife in return for [the husband’s] haqq al-isstimta’ (sexual pleasure) in the marriage contract”. (See al-Hattab Muhammad bin Abdel Rahman al-Mughrabi, Mawahib al-Jalil li-Sharh Mukhtassar Khalil, vol. 5, p. 172-Maliki Jurisprudence). For Shafi’i School see al-Nawawi, Kitab al-Majmu’, vol. 18 p. 605). All these references are cited by Sheikh Mahmud Muhammad al-Sheikh, Al-Mahr fi Al-Islam bayna al-madi wal-hadir, published by al-Maktaba al-Assriyya liltibaa’a wal nashr, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003, Arabic version.
The Maliki and Shafi’i Schools of jurisprudence regard the mahr as “the money paid for the future wife in return for sexual pleasure is an integral part of the Islamic marriage contract and its source is prescribed in the Qur’an. Sura al-Nissaa reads the following:
“Fa ma isstamta’tum bihi minhunn fa aatoohunna ujoorahunna” (So for that pleasure which you have enjoyed from them, give them their prescribed compensation). Qur’an 4: 25
Numerous Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet of Islam) provisions refer to the obligatory nature of the mahr in Islamic marriage contracts. (See for example Ans bin Malik bin Damdam; Al-Bukhari, Sa’ad bin al-Rabi’ bin Khazraj. They are all cited by Al-Sheikh Mahmud Muhammad al-Sheik, Al-mahr.)
Traditionally, Islamic marriage contracts lists two types of mahr; one is called muqaddam (upfront, or immediate at the signing of the contract), or mu’akhar (deferred to be paid in the event of divorce or death of the husband.)

The Amount of Mahr
Neither the Qur’an, nor the Hadith stipulates the maximum amount of mahr to be paid by the husband. As to the lower amount of mahr, Islamic scholars differed on this. The Hanafi School regarded the lower amount to be not less than ten Dirahms (around ten US Dollars). The Maliki School considers the lower mahr to be not less than three Dirhams (or three US Dollars.)
The Hanbali and Shafi’i Schools do not put a limit to the lower amount of mahr; both schools agree that the lower amount could be “a ring made out of iron” or “pair of shoes”, or a few ounces of “wheat, or dates”, or “teaching the future wife verses from the Qur’an”. In all of these, the future wife has to express her acceptance to whatever the amount is.
Modern Islamic marriage contracts are pre-printed forms, filled by the ‘imam/qadi’ (religious leader or religious judge). The form has empty space to fill the name and address of the husband and the name and address of the bride. The contract must include the names and addresses of two adult male witnesses. And the place and address where the marriage contract is signed
Both parties to the marriage contract must express their consent to the marriage, verbally and in writing. This is done through a formal proposal of ijab (an offer to marry) and qubul (an acceptance to marry), in the presence of a wali, a male guardian who looks out for the best interest of the bride. It must include the amount of muqaddam/mu’ajjal mahr, and the amount of the mu’akhar (deferred).
After the contract is signed, the couple is recognized as legally married and enjoy the rights and obligations stipulated by the Islamic Shari’a (law). The marriage contract may be solemnized in a mosque and usually signed in triplicate: one copy should be given to the bride, one to the bridegroom, and the third must remain deposited with the Registrar, imam/qadi (religious leader or religious judge).

The Absence of Mahr Provision in the Marriage Contract
If the marriage does not include a provision for the mahr, the contract is considered to be legal. The three Schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali recognize the fact that the mahr provision is not a main factor, nor a condition for the marriage. These three Schools believe that the mahr is an obligation on the husband regardless of whether it is written in the marriage contract or not (see Mahmud Muhammad al-Sheikh, al-Mahr, published by al-Maktabah al-Assriyya, Beirut, 2003, Arabic version). Accordingly, if the marriage contract is signed by the parties without a provision of the mahr, or if they assign a mahr, which is considered to be illegal under Islamic Shari’a, or if the parties agree not to include a mahr provision, in all these cases the conditions are null, the contract is legal and the husband has to pay a mahr equivalent to a mahr given to another women of the same status as that of his wife.
The Maliki School rejected this interpretation and considered the mahr provision in the contract, necessary. However, this School regards such a marriage to be legal if it was consummated. If the marriage was not consummated, then the marriage is mafsookh (a reason for separation); if he divorces his wife without any agreement on the mahr issue, then he has to pay her mut’ah (money paid to her in return for the sexual pleasure he had with her). But if he dies before any agreement reached between the couple, then the wife is entitled to inherit her share from his estate.
Finally, the mahr must be legal. Thus, alcoholic beverages and the meat of the swine or pig cannot be given to the future wife as mahr because, under Islamic law, it is unlawful to transact these items. If such illegal items were listed in the marriage contract, the imam/qadi may substitute those by legal items.

Should there be any questions regarding this topic or any topic that deals with Islamic Shari’a in the United States or in Europe, please email the author at [email protected] or [email protected]

Gabriel Sawma is a Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic and Aramaic. He is an expert consultant on International Law, mainly Islamic divorce, inheritance, child custody, banking and finance. Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association ; Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Editor of International Law Website: http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com and author of the Aramaic language of the Qur’an: http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com. Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]