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June 17, 2004
Marriage or Baggage?

by Nadia Khan

Suraya Khanum is 39 years old and is still unmarried. Her father is a shoemaker in Pakistan and cannot earn enough money to prepare dowry for her; more affectionately called “jahez” in the local language. Silver is already shining in her hair and she has given up the hope that she’d have a family of her own someday.

Rukhsana Jamal is another lady; 32 years old who does not want to get married despite her parent’s repeated attempts to convince her. She is quite well-to-do and can easily lace herself with a good amount of dowry but the idea of marriage nauseates her. She does not want to spend her life with someone who is more interested in the money she brings rather than being interested in her.

Nabeeha Qazi is sill another one who is slightly more fortunate than the other two. She lives in States and is getting married in the upcoming summer. Though her would-be-husband is a good person and agrees with her on many issues; he cannot take a stand against his mother’s desires to expect a big amount of dowry on Nabeeha’s behalf. Nabeeha’s parents are quite upset at this prospect but they do want to see their daughter happy and hence they have taken a credit card loan of $30,000 with only 4.5% APR. Nabeeha is going to come to her new house, laced with a brand-new Honda Civic and most of the furniture including her own teakettle. Her mother-in-law has almost lost her sleep and has a hard time believing that she is soon going to be among the nouveaux riches.

Is Dowry Islamic?

According to Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, a religious expert, “The custom of giving dowry (jahaz) is not part of Islam, although it actually seems to be on the increase among several Muslim cultures, notably those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. In fact, it is a practice which has never been sanctioned by Islam and is not prevalent amongst Muslims of other cultures. It seems to be in imitation of ancient Hindu culture in which daughters were not given any share in the family property, but were given payments, part of which might be in the form of household goods, as a measure of compensation. Islam granted daughters a rightful share in their family property and inheritance.”
The truth of this statement is evident from the teachings of the Quran and the Ahadith.
According to the Quran, it is actually the men who are supposed to give “jahez” to the women except it has a much more sacred name “Mahr”. Mahr is a gift of money, possessions or property made by the husband to his wife, as a result of the blissful contract of marriage between the two which becomes her exclusive property.
'Women are lawful to you….provided that you take them in marriage and not fornication. As to those through whom you profit (through marriage), give them their faridah as appointed.' (2:24).
“…the wealthy according to his means, and the straitened in circumstances according to his means. The gift of a reasonable amount is necessary from those who wish to act in the right way.” (2:236).
"Mahr is an admission of independence of the wife, for she becomes the owner of the money or property immediately, even though she may have owned nothing before.” It ensures kindness between husband and wife and makes it clear from the beginning that the husband is going to be the provider and the protector.

Marriage with dowry; harbinger of Bliss?

The Prophet stated: “The most blessed marriage is the one in which the marriage partners place the least burden on each other.” (al-Haythami, Kitab an-Nikah, 4:255).Marriage is quite a precarious relationship and is especially vulnerable in the beginning. Couples are in dire need of Allah’s Blessings and Happiness with them during this time. They should do everything they can to gain His Blessings so that they can fulfill those rights and responsibilities which are required of them, in a proper Islamic manner. What good a journey will be when you step on the wrong foot right from the beginning? What selflessness can you expect from such a bond when it is based on the waters of materialism and selfishness?

Who is at fault?
1. First of all, all those brothers who fail to realize that marriage is not synonymous with either baggage or burden. It does not mean that their would-be-wife should load them with all those things they only wished for all their life. It does not mean either that the wife or her family are exploited so ruthlessly and are burdened with unnecessary and un-Islamic expenditures.
2. All those mother-in-laws who see marriage as a financial contract rather than a blissful one which is indispensable for the well-being of the partners, for the betterment of the society as well as for the procreation of future generations.
3. All those mothers who do not leave any stone unturned in order to ensure the happiness of their daughters and to make sure that her in-laws do not chastise her or mock her for coming bereft. They might be doing good to their daughters by giving them everything down to shoelaces in their innocence; however they are not doing a favor to those mothers who are blessed to have many daughters. By reinforcing the evils of society, they are not fulfilling their duty to prevent evil in whatever form and in whatever way feasible.

Brothers! Be Revolutionaries!
Dear Brothers, You should see the evil of dowry as an opportunity to earn thawab in this life and Hereafter. You should make it clear to the other party that you would not accept any kinds of tokens from them. Rather, you would buy your wife a washing machine with your own hard-earned money. You should also convince your mothers that they should not expect anything from their daughter-in-laws except love and kindness to them and their sons. By preventing this social evil from gnawing the roots of society and from impregnating the pristine religion of Islam with innovations, you will be doing yourselves, the sisters, your parents and most importantly Islam a favor. May Allah (swt) accept your endeavors and count them as Jihad on your part. Ameen.


of and relating to...
Faisal Akhtar said

Assalam-o-alaikom

I loved the title.

Just a few thoughts regarding this practice

Didn't Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) give some gifts to Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) when she was married?

There should be no problems with giving gifts to your daughter as long as everyone undertands that no demands can be made on the womans family regarding this and whatever she brings from her household as gifts, belongs solely to her. Her husband has no part in that, infact he is obliged to pay the mahr to her and she has no financial obligation towards him.

I guess the difference between the sunnah and what we see in our cultures today is that Ali demanded none of what Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with them both) brought from her household and our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) gave the gifts according to his means and out of his own love for Fatimah and was not compelled to do so by Ali like many parents are today.

One last thing. I cannot stress enough the importance of standing up to your parents when it comes to this issue. Both Sisters and Brothers need to put their foot down and say no to any marriage being arranged this way.

Sisters, if a man is marrying you for the money, then he will not be a good provider later. What kind of a man is he if he needs you to take care of him fanancially? Do you really think he will be able to support a family after marriage when he can't even support himself before it?

Brothers, if you are marrying for the dowr the woman is bringing, then be prepared for a role reversal. You will be wearing the skirt in the family and your wife will always have a upper hand on you. I have seen it happen, it is a big shame indeed.

To the Brothers I say "Man Up!"

To the Sisters I would say "Woman up!" but that doesn't sound right.

Nuff Said yo

Walaikomassalam

on June 18, 2004 6:55 AM
Nadia said

Walaikum Salaam Br.Faisal,
Jazakallah khair for the clarifying words.
"The Prophet himself saw to the marriages of his four daughters. He gave his daughter Fatimah various gifts when she married Ali b. Abu Talib, but there is no record of his having given anything to his other daughters on the occasion of their marriages. Had such gifts been a recommended sunnah, he would surely have given the others gifts as well. Moreover, the gifts given to Fatimah were extremely modest household articles - a sheet, a leather water-bag, a pillow stuffed with grass and fiber and a jai namaz" [A practical guide by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood.]

What I meant to say by "tokens" when I said:" You should make it clear to the other party that you would not accept any kinds of tokens from them. Rather, you would buy your wife a washing machine with your own hard-earned money. "; are any of the big items which are made to seem as little tokens such as fridge, car and all other accessories but are a heavy burden on the parent's finances.

I also addressed the brothers more because I personally have seen many instances when girls are not willing to have their parents spend so much, (who will?) but the brothers are quiet; either because they want dowry themselves or because they are pressured from their parents.

I think if the guys make it clear to both parties of parents that the girl is not obliged to bring anything except of her own accord, then it is going to be very easy for everyone.
May Allah(swt) give all of us Hidaya and the courage to amend things which are not well-sorted out. Ameen

on June 19, 2004 9:21 AM
S said

Masha Allah very nice article Nadia. Right On Girl!:)

on June 19, 2004 10:20 AM
Justoju said

Excellent topic. We need more awareness on this issue, especially since our societies have, in many ways, adopted the same practices and injustices that Islam was sent to mankind to eradicate.

And wow, the purchase of a washing machine has officially become an expression...pretty soon it will become a part of the english language and time will pass and people will forget what its origins were...but we will know...Hidaya will remember...

on June 19, 2004 3:11 PM
M.ANWAR said

MASH ALLAHWELL DONE NADIA ,INDEED ITS A GREAT ARTICLE, ALL HATS OFF ,LADY

on June 4, 2005 9:44 PM
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