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Part two of a bride’s guide: Signing the contract

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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. 

Also Read: Part one 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.  Check out the opposite page to see the optional conditions to consider adding to your basic marriage contract.  The conditions relate to divorce rights and the division of property in the case of a divorce.

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 alright 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 grand religious authority or the grand 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 grand 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, a practice which is not legal in Canadian family law.)

(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 LLC and those who assisted in the preparation of this sample text are not liable for any defects therein.

 

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 LLC 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

 

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