In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- It is also wrong to declare or request a large amount of mahr at the time of marriage to show off or to boast even if this is deemed a commitment on paper.
2- This is playing a game with the rules of Allah. Muslims should only commit to what they are really capable of paying and what they intend to pay.
3- It is haram to enjoy relations with a wife and then deny her the mahr when she demands it.
Answering your question, Dr. Sabri `Abdur-Ra`oof, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence, at Al-Azhar University, states:
Mahr (dower) is a woman’s right and that signifies a husband’s love and appreciation for his wife. However, it should be reasonable and not too expensive. The bride’s guardian and family should focus on the religious commitment and character of the suitors rather than asking for huge amounts of dower which burden the youths who want to get married and protect themselves against temptations.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never demanded huge amounts of dower when giving his daughters in marriage. He is also reported to have said, “The best woman is the one whose mahris the easiest to pay.” (Al-Haythami)
Unfortunately, many people are now going to extremes in imposing great amounts of money as a dower on husbands. They also follow the same vein when it comes to signing the marriage contract and agree upon which amount of money they are going to specify as a deferred dower.
The poor husband finds himself at the end of the road in a dilemma, especially when he finds it extremely difficult to continue with his wife when divorce becomes inevitable.
There is an agreed upon rule among Muslim jurists that the husband is required to furnish the marital home according to the status of his wife without any form of show-off or extravagance.
Every serious husband should try to furnish the home according to his means. Referring to this Allah Almighty says:
“Let him who hath abundance spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah hath given him. Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which He hath given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease.” (At-Talaq 65:7)
Now, if the husband agrees on the terms and conditions stated in the bride’s household stuff menu, and agrees on the high amount of mahr (dower) stated by the father of his would-be wife, the husband shoulders the responsibility and he has to pay the money before the worst comes to worst.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Muslims are to abide by their conditions.” (At-Tirmidhi)
He is also reported to have said: “Muslims are to abide by their conditions save a stipulation that deems an unlawful thing lawful and vice versa.” (At-Tirmidhi)
It makes no difference whether the amount the husband is going to sign (i.e. 30,000$) is fake or real. In all cases, the husband has to abide by what he is going to sign keeping in mind that it is a trust and a Muslim is supposed to be truthful in all his affairs.
Elaborating on this issue, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, adds,
Mahr is a wife’s right, which becomes binding upon the husband once the marriage is contracted. It is fully payable after the consummation of marriage but if divorce occurs before the consummation of marriage then half of the Mahr is required to be paid unless the wife or her guardians waive it. Allah says: “And give unto the women, (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions…” (An-Nisaa’ 4:4)
He Almighty also says: “And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty…” (An-Nisaa’ 4:24)
Mahr is very important in Islamic marriage. Allah has used the word “faridah” for it. It means something fixed, decided and obligatory. It is obligatory on the husband to pay mahr to his wife unless she expressly by her own will without any pressure forgives him or returns the amount of mahr to him.
Mahr belongs to the wife and it is to be given to her only. It is not the property of her parents or her guardian. No one can forgive the husband to pay the mahr except the wife herself or, in case she did not go to her husband and the marriage ended without consummation, then in that situation her guardian can also forgive the mahr on her behalf. If a husband dies without paying mahr to his wife, it will be an outstanding debt on him and it must be paid before the distribution of his inheritance among his heirs.
Mahr is not a bride price. It is a woman’s right and it signifies a husband’s love and appreciation for his wife. In the Qur’an it is called “sadaqah” which means a token of friendship. It is also called “nihlah” which means “a nice gift or present.” Mahr also signifies a husband’s commitment to take care of his wife’s financial needs (nafaqah).
People often make part of mahr advanced (mu`ajjal) and part of it deferred (mu’akkhar or mu’ajjal).
The advanced mahr should be paid at the time of nikah while the postponed should be paid later. The wife has a right to demand it from her husband; it’s her right.
A wife should also not feel threatened that her husband may leave her if he pays her all her mahr. All these notions belong to various cultures but they have nothing to do with the Shari`ah.
According to the Shari`ah, the mahr should also be reasonable. There is no fixed amount of mahr in the Shari`ah. It should be given according to the financial status of the husband and according to the time and place.
However, it is a principle of the Shari`ah that the mahr should not be too expensive. It is wrong to declare large amount of mahr at the time of marriage to show off or to boast. Sometimes, bride’s family put pressure on the groom and his family for a large amount of mahr so that they may show their pride to their relatives and friends boasting that their daughter was married for a big mahr. Sometimes, the groom declares a big amount and secretly thinks that this is just a commitment on paper. People are often heard saying, “Write whatever you want, no one asks and no one pays.” This is playing a game with the rules of Allah. Muslims should only commit to what they are really capable of paying and what they intend to pay. It is haram to enjoy relations with a wife and then deny her the mahr when she demands.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.