Islam beautifies our life with the blessing of marriage, and it is a mercy from Allah. The blessed marital union is considered complete only with the fulfilment of certain criteria. One of them is Mahr which is the dowry a husband pays to his wife. Let’s see in detail about what is Mahr and its importance in Islam.
What Is Mahr?
While there are a lot criticisms stating that Islam oppresses its women, Mahr is a strong example of how Islam honours its women. Mahr is one of the important rights of a woman, where she is paid a certain amount (generally determined by her) by her spouse upon marriage. In many countries the practice of dowry is that the bride’s family pays the groom for the marriage. In contrast, Islam has obligated the groom to pay the bride in order to have her hand. There are a lot of verses we can find about Mahr in the Qur’an. For example,
‘And give to the women (whom you marry) their mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart…’ [Surah An-Nisaa’ 4:4]
Allah terms mahr in the Qur’an as ujoor, its singular word being ajr, which means compensation, recompense or reward.
It is essential to have mahr in a marriage. The mahr, once agreed upon by the bride and handed over to her by her guardian, belongs totally to her that even the guardian cannot take anything from it without her consent. The woman has the lawful right to do whatever she pleases with the amount.
It is permissible for the woman to give a part of or whole of her mahr to her husband if she wills (if she is in a sound mind), after the marriage contract. The evidence relating to this point on mahr in the Qur’an. ‘But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.’ [Surah An-Nisa 4:4]
Who Decides the Mahr?
The Mahr amount is generally finalized by the-
- Bride and her guardian
- The couple
Islam gives the liberty to a woman to choose her mahr amount. In case there occurs a dispute between the woman and her guardian regarding the mahr amount, the scholarly opinion is considered. In that case, one should take reference, the dowry of a woman of similar standing. If the bride agrees to the dowry of a woman of similar standing, but the guardian disapproves, then the wishes of the bride are accepted. If the guardian agrees to the dowry like the woman but the bride disagrees then it is better to consider his views.
What Can Be Given as Mahr?
The mahr can be in the form of
- Movable & Immovable properties
- Material & non-material gifts
Incidents from the life of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions give us examples on what was given as Mahr during their time.
The Prophet ﷺ has said, ‘Marry, even with (a Mahr equal to) an iron ring.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari 5150, Sunan an-Nasa’i 3200] In a similar narration, it was said that the Prophet ﷺ married a man off on the basis of Surahs he knew from the Qur’an [Sunan an-Nasa’i 3200].
Our beloved Messenger of Allah ﷺ had approves of a marriage, where the mahr was gold equal to the weight of a date stone. [Sahih al-Bukhari 5148]
In another narration we find that an entire garden was given as mahr. The evidence is found in Sahih al-Bukhari 5273.
Now we might have a question on what amount of mahr did our Prophet ﷺ pay his wives? We learn from a hadith, as narrated by Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), that our Prophet ﷺ gave a mahr of twelve uqiyah and a nahsh to his wives, which approximately amounts to 500 dirhams. According to the calculations and conversions to modern-day global currency carried out by qualified scholars, the value of this mahr amounts to between $300-400. [Sahih Muslim 1426]
On the other hand, if a man is willing to pay a generous value of mahr out of his own willingness to his bride, he is absolutely allowed to do so, as long as he is not showing off or depleting his wealth for the cause.
From all the above information we can understand what can be given as mahr upon a marriage.
Importance of Mahr in Islam
The following are the reasons why the importance of mahr in Islam is constantly emphasized.
Firstly, Whenever the Prophet ﷺ was met by a single man who desires to get married or a newly married man, He ﷺ would immediately inquire about what he could give as mahr or what he had given his wife as mahr. This in itself tells us why mahr was a strict requisite for marrying a woman.
Secondly, in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah it can be said that, mahr is the wealth a man pays in order to be able to start to or continue to enjoy halal conjugal relations with his wife in a way Allah ﷺ has sanctioned it.
Thirdly, many people have a wrong assumption that mahr is paid to a woman solely for the services she provides. But Allah ﷻ has ordained mahr for women in order for men to honor, value, respect and protect them, for a wife is the only woman that a man is allowed to enjoy sexually. We don’t understand the value of something we get for free without any struggle or toil. In order to prevent women from being easily acquired for marriage, or to be, undermined, manhandled, abused or discarded by men, Allah ﷻ made it an obligation upon them to give something of value, big or small, to women when they agree for a marriage even when the guardian consents the union.
Similarly, if a woman is married without mahr, the marriage is valid but it is due on the husband to pay his wife her dowry.
Thus is the huge importance of mahr in islam.
In this article we have seen clearly about what is mahr, who decides the mahr, what can be given as mahr, importance of mahr and about mahr in Qur’an.
May Allah ﷻ grant us understanding of deen and the taqwa to practice it. Aameen.