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Is Marriage Without Legal Papers Valid in the West?

01 November, 2022
Q As-salamu `alaykum. Is conducting marriage without legal papers in the West valid? I have read that during the Prophet's era marriage contracts did not exist. Is this true?


Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

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All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

In line with the aims of Shariah, the registration of marriage in non-Muslim countries is of paramount significance in protecting the rights of the spouses.

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Answering your question about marriage without legal papers, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:

Unregistered Marriages

Some Muslims in the US and Canada say that in Islamic marriage paper work is not necessary. They also say that they only care for what is halal and want to marry according to the Shari`ah. They do not care whether the marriage is legally recognized here or not.

However, there are some cases where Muslim women have greatly suffered, due to these unregistered marriages. Some Muslim men marry without any legal papers and then leave their wives. These women do not know what to do and how to get divorce from their husbands who abandon them.

Upon resorting to the US and Canadian courts they are told that, according to the local laws, they are not considered married.

These women have nothing to prove their marriage and the courts have no marriage record of these women. Even the local Islamic centers in the US and Canada are unable to help them. This is because the laws in these lands do not give the right of divorce to anyone except to the local superior courts.

It is important for Muslim men and women to have their marriages and divorces properly documented. Islam teaches fairness and justice in all cases.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, adds,

Necessary Measures to Protect Family Life

Islam pays great attention to marriage, taking all measures to protect the family life and relations between the spouses against any suspicion or difficulty that may arise in the future.

Like all contracts, the Shariah demands witnesses for the marriage contract and lays emphasis on announcement so as to protect the spouses against suspicion from the society and protect each partner’s rights in cases of dispute.

Getting Legal Papers before Marriage Contract

As for the issue of contracting marriages in a society where Islamic laws are not enforced or recognized, it is also highly crucial to get the legal papers before marriage contract. For legal purposes, the marriage must be solemnized by someone who has been authorized by the law of the land to perform marriage.

In the absence of such legalization, there is no guarantee of legal protection for anyone in the event of a dispute.

Although some people may consider legalization as being not so crucial, I would, however, insist that it is quite crucial and essential. It is not advisable for anyone to get married without legal papers.

This fact can be emphasized by referring to the fact that marriage is primarily a social contract and as such we should do so in conformity with the laws of the land we live in so that such a contract can be legally enforced.

Apart from this, Islam teaches us to do what we do as efficiently, methodically and professionally as we can. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Allah loves you to do your work as best as you can.” (At-Tabarani)

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.