Is Dowry permitted in Muslim marriages?

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Islam, Marriage, Marriage in Islam | 0 comments

Is Dowry permitted in Muslim marriages?

It is often noticed that the term Mehr is mistaken for the term Dowry, in Muslim marriages. However, the two words have completely different meanings. While Mehr is a religious obligation towards the wife by the Muslim husband and constitutes him providing a security in material terms for his wife at the time of marriage, Dowry is a custom that was begun by the Hindus hundreds of years ago and constituted the girl’s family giving a large portion of material wealth the boy, which in turn would guarantee their happiness.

So by this definition, would a self respecting Muslim find the custom of dowry permissible? No, they would not. The custom of dowry all began with the birth of girls, who 1500 and more years ago, were considered the worst thing that could happen to a family. While paganism was at its height so was the hatred towards girl babies who were instantly killed when they were born as they were thought to be a burden rather than a blessing. It is said in the Quran “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief.” (An-Nahl 16:58). But the Holy Prophet (PBUH) fought against this prejudice and explained to his followers that the birth of a girl was Allah’s blessing and did not deserve to die. However, before this the girl was not considered a bread winner and her only purpose was for her parents to get her married and get ‘rid’ of her as soon as possible. For this reason the concept of dowry came about which meant that the girl was, in all essence, sold to the boy’s family by promising them huge material gains along with the girl, including a car, house, clothes, house accessories and a lot of money.

The custom of dowry hence was a great burden on the girl’s family especially if they had many daughters.  It made difficult the marriage of Muslim girls, especially among families who earned less.  How could Islam, which preaches fairness and humanity to all, advocate the concept of dowry then?  Islam shunned this practice as it was evil, and not at all based on the principles of Islamic marriages which taught that marriage was a sacred institution, not a deal of material goods. The girl was not required to give anything to the boy’s family at marriage except that which they happily gave as a present.

The Prophet (PBUH) shunned the concept of dowry and embraced the obligation of Mehr as required by Allah.  “And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mehr (obligatory bridAl-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allah has made it lawful).” When Ali (RTA) wanted to marry the Prophet (PBUH)’s daughter Fatima, he asked him what he could serve as Mehr. The Prophet (PBUH) even helped his fulfill the obligation of Mehr, being the guardian of Ali and gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. Ali was helped by the Prophet (PBUH) with his own happiness and was not at all asked for dowry with his daughter. This also meant that just like dowry was unacceptable in Islam, so was the concept of the girl’s families asking for huge amounts of Mehr, even though it is an obligation in Islam.  The best marriages in Islam are those that have no dowry and minimal Mehr. Families should take in the girl into their homes and families at marriage without the greed of material things and give her a place in their heart without her having to sell herself for it. This is the respect that she deserves, as she is a blessing for the family.

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