A nikah contract is an Islamic marriage contract. It requires the presence of at least two witnesses and can be either verbal or a written contract. It is recognised under Sharia law. One of the essential elements of a nikah contract is that the husband agrees to pay the wife a dowry. A dowry is given to the wife at the time of the marriage or agreed to be given in the future.
A nikah performed in England is not valid under English law. The couple are considered to be cohabitees unless they also enter into a civil marriage. It is therefore essential couples enter into a civil marriage in addition to a nikah.
A nikah that is entered into overseas, in a country that practices Sharia law, is recognised as a valid marriage in England. The couple will not be required to enter into a civil marriage in England and will be recognised as a married couple.
English courts do not have jurisdiction over matters relating to Islamic divorce. Any disputes relating to Islamic divorce in the United Kingdom are resolved by the Islamic Sharia Council. The Council only deals with Islamic marriages and cannot dissolve any civil marriages.
Where there is a religious marriage and civil marriage or an overseas religious marriage, the couple will be required to commence an Islamic divorce as well as a divorce through English and Welsh courts.
The dowry (also known as mahr) must be paid by the husband to the wife at the time of the marriage or agreed to be paid in the future, such as upon divorce. Often the unpaid dowry is claimed by the wife on the breakdown of the marriage.
A wife who also has a civil marriage or an overseas religious marriage is able to make an application for financial remedy seeking recovery of her dowry. The courts will consider the content of the nikah contract and the circumstances to ensure fairness and justice is upheld for both parties.
In circumstances where the couple did not enter into a civil marriage and entered into a nikah in England, the wife may be able to issue a claim for breach of contract to require her husband to pay the contractually agreed dowry.
If you would like more information in relation to any of the points raised in this article, please contact the Family team at Neves.