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Part II of a Bride’s Planning Guide: Signing the Contract

ImageSuffice it to say, a lot of emotional issues can arise if you ask for additions to the basic marriage contract. Your husband-to-be may ask, "Don't you trust me?" and such a feeling on his part is not surprising. Explain to him how you do trust him and don't expect the conditions to be resorted to. Out of respect for you, he should not mind giving you extra protections. It may make things easier to set up a meeting with your local imam, a neutral third party, so that he can suggest the conditions and explain them to the groom and to the parents himself.


Wedding Contract

For the first part in the series please see: Part I of a Bride's Planning Guide: Help! Where Do I Start?

Yes, it sounds odd – what's this about contracts? A bride should be thinking about her dress, flowers, her wedding day. A marriage isn't a business deal, right? It's true, marriage is not a business deal – it's more important than one! A marriage contract is a matter of securing your future.

Marriage is a lifetime commitment, which is why it's necessary to make sure that it starts off with the proper framework in place. There is no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to that important time.

Customizing your marriage contract is a sensitive issue for many, especially if your fiancé and your loved ones have not heard of it before – make sure to discuss this with them well before the wedding.

Suffice it to say, a lot of emotional issues can arise if you ask for additions to the basic marriage contract. Your husband-to-be may ask, "Don't you trust me?" and such a feeling on his part is not surprising. Explain to him how you do trust him and don't expect the conditions to be resorted to. Out of respect for you, he should not mind giving you extra protections. It may make things easier to set up a meeting with your local imam, a neutral third party, so that he can suggest the conditions and explain them to the groom and to the parents himself.

The contract

A basic marriage contract in Islam consists of three essential conditions: The proposal from the bride, the acceptance by the groom, and the Mahr, the dowry given from the groom to the bride.

The Mahr is a gift from the groom to you. He's not buying you! The Mahr is supposed to be a symbolic gesture of his devotion to you. You get to decide what the gift will be, but don't go overboard. Some brides feel comfortable letting their fathers specify the Mahr. But remember, the Mahr doesn't have to be money or an object – it can even be Qur'an lessons, a trip to Hajj or a provision for your university studies. That's the basic contract.

Many people also opt to add more conditions to their marriage contract. Is this some new-fangled idea? Not at all – the concept of adding optional conditions to contracts existed in the Shariah from its earliest days. It's just now that the usage of optional conditions for marriage has become popular. It's taking off because of problems between Muslim couples which newlyweds-to-be fear falling into.

Many imams at Islamic centers, Muslim counselors, and social workers encourage the addition of such conditions because they have all come across instances where some men would abuse their rights and hurt their wives. Now, Islam does not say that everything permitted is good in all circumstances, divorce itself being an example. But by enforcing certain conditions, wives can have mechanisms in place to leave more easily if they are mistreated, mechanisms which are completely acceptable according to the teachings of the Quran, the Prophet and his household. By the way, for those of you who are married already, Islamically it's perfectly fine to draw up such an agreement now too. It will be just as valid as a contract signed at the time of your wedding.

When no such conditions are in their contract, a woman who is in the relationship can extricate herself only if her husband agrees to give her a divorce. If he refuses to, a woman, especially in the West, must usually go through a very long process until her religious authority or his representative is able to pronounce the divorce without the husband's consent.

By putting the suggested conditions in the contract, things are made easier for the wife in the case that she needs to get a divorce. For example, in the case of the husband marrying an additional wife, the first wife has the option to disengage herself from the relationship more easily.

Finally, with only a basic contract, property rights would become an issue. If a divorce were to occur, the wife would only be entitled to her Mahr and her own property or belongings that she brought with herself at the time of marriage or whatever she got through jobs, gifts, inheritance and so on. Adding a condition to split the husband's property if the husband initiates the divorce provides the wife with some financial support. Keeping this condition will give peace of mind to a lot of brides, because often the idea comes to request a huge Mahr as a kind of insurance in case things go wrong. If this condition is there, the worry is gone, and the Mahr can take the form of what it is meant to be, a gesture of love.

Reference: "Optional Conditions in a Marriage Contract," Al-Furqan, Vol. 1, No. 9

Optional Conditions to Consider for Your Marriage Contract

1. If the husband and wife divorce without any fault of the latter, then the husband agrees to give to his wife half of all the "net family property" (as defined by local law) that he acquired during the marriage period, excluding property that the husband acquired by gift or inheritance from a third person after the date of the marriage. In the case of dispute about the cause for divorce, the Shia religious authority (such as your local scholar or the representative of the Supreme Religious Authority or the Supreme Religious Authority) will make such a determination. (Note that the Religious Authority would have to determine whether or not the cause for divorce was the fault of the wife, and in if that is determined positively, then the wife will be prevented from receiving the aforementioned property. If the examination as to the cause for divorce is found to be inconclusive, the wife will have a right to the aforementioned property. Also note that the wife does not have to give any of her property to the husband in the event of a divorce.)

2. The husband hereby delegates to the wife an irrevocable authorization to appoint an agent (wakil) for divorcing her on behalf of the husband after giving a Shia Supreme Religious Authority reason to believe the occurrence of any one of the following:

(a) if the husband solemnizes a "religious marriage" with another woman without permission of the wife named in this contract; ("Religious marriage" here means a marriage that has been solemnized only on the basis of Islamic laws which allow polygyny.)

(b) if the husband ill treats or physically abuses the wife;

(c) if the husband abandons the wife and does not provide for her for more than three months continuously;

(d) if the husband divorces the wife in a secular court, but does not give her the religious divorce; or

(e) if the wife obtains a divorce in a secular court, but the husband does not give the wife a religious divorce.


DISCLAIMER: The above conditions are only a sample selection of conditions to consider for addition in a marriage contract. It is strongly recommended that each party to a marriage seek independent legal advice when drawing up a contract. Islamic Insights and those who assisted in the preparation of this sample text are not liable for any defects therein. For the full sample of the marriage contract the text of these conditions is based on, visit www.jaffari.org .

About Aliyyah Rizvi-Bokhari

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  • Pervez

    So What us being implied that we bring our religious and social practice in line with western thought. Probably we will have the same result as them broken families and cheating spouses.
    It has been historical observed that where men find the cost of getting out of a marriage high then it leads to cheating abuse and as observed in south Asian countries high rate of death for the married women.
    On the other hand if one of the spouse is given an incentive to hit the other financialy when differences arise between spouses they use it to extract vengeance making reconciliation difficult.
    This kind of advice is wholly misguided effects of which will be felt for decades in society.
    The west has taken its family life and flushed it down the toilet let us not follow them in their stupidity.

  • also known as .

    Uh, Pervez, didn’t you notice that having a contract is not only entirely permissible, it is supported by our scholars? Furthermore, there is no excuse for “cheating abuse” as you call it. You are saying that the West has flushed cheating abuse, but you’re saying that the same thing is happening in South Asian countries. In South Asian countries, women are often denied their Islamic and secular rights. There is a lot of “stupidity” there too.

    What is important is that we follow the guidance that Islam offers. I don’t see how a contract has anything to do with problems and the wise, pious scholars we have endorse the practice. Rather than make life more difficult for couples, we should encourage them to be open about what they want before the marriage and make a record of it in the form of a contract. Contracts help limit both misunderstandings on the two sides and room for potential abuse.

  • Pervez

    Just because one can put conditions that does not mean that one should. What is the logic of advice to ask for half the family property except to follow the present western norm.
    Are you claiming that as a norm scholars are proposing that a woman ask for 50% of the property from husband in event of divorce? Why not 40% , 60%, 25%, 75% or 10%?
    With Iranian divorce rate nearly 30% and probably the same here in USA we need to think better than providing an Islamic cover to western practices. Which by the way are changing right now children’s custody laws have already changed in a number of states as are alimony laws property division laws will follow too. Will you change your recommendations to follow the current trend then?
    Are easy availability of sex and heavy financial penalties in event of all too frequent divorces part of reason why many men don’t marry? Perhaps one needs to analyze the social impact before suggesting a boiler plate marriage contract.

  • Ahmed2011

    What’s the deal with making conditions to give the wife 50% of the husband’s property, but the husband doesn’t get any of the wife’s property if the divorce is her fault? Why must we blindly follow the West in everything? If I have to put any condition it will be that there will be absolutely NO division of property along such vague lines as 50% one-sided husband to wife transfer. Islam has the concept of private property, where the property you own belongs to you and no one can take it by force. This 50% divorce split is a purely Western concept. Since married women could not own any property in the West their laws made it compulsory to split the “marital property” 50/50. In Islam women can own property, and there is no justification for this Occidentalization of Islam.

  • Observer

    hey whats up with 2 (a) ????

    If I want a second wife, then whats the problem with that? Are women seriously putting conditions in a pre-nup that states I HAVE to inform my current wife if I marry another women or do muta with another women????

    Thats crazy. 2 (a) is a senseless pre-nup and I would never marry a women who would want that pre-nup.