DOWER OR MAHR UNDER  MUSLIM LAW

MEANING OF DOWER:

Dower is also called Mahr. It is a sum of money or some property that is given by the husband to his wife as a consideration of marriage. Dower is either specified or unspecified. However, in both cases, Muslim law gives the right of dower to the wife in her marriage ceremony.  Dower belongs to the wife absolutely and neither her husband, her in-laws nor her own relatives dictate to her how to use her dower. Dower is a check on the capricious use of the unlimited power of a husband to divorce his wife. The payment of dower is enjoined by the Muslim law as a token of respect for the woman.

DEFINITION OF DOWER:

Dower or Mahr is a certain amount of money or any property which the wife is entitled to get from her husband in consideration of the marriage.

Wilson defined dower as consideration for the surrender of a person by the wife.

Ameer Ali defined dower as a consideration that belongs absolutely to the wife.

In Abdul Kadir v. Salima, Justice Mahmood observed that a dower is an amount of money or some property promised by the husband to pay to his wife in consideration of the marriage. He further observed that if the amount of money or some property is not fixed to be paid to the wife as a dower by her husband then also the wife has a right to demand dower.

ESSENTIALS/INGREDIENTS OF DOWER:

The main ingredients of dower according to Muslim law are as follows-

  • Money or other valuable– A dower to be paid by the husband to his wife has to be either in the form of certain amount of money or some kind of property or any other valuable thing.
  • Right of wife- As per muslim law dower is the right of the wife promised to her at the time of the marriage. Therefore, it is obligatory for the husband to give dower to his wife as promised.
  • Consideration- Dower is paid in consideration of the marriage. It is an essential feature of muslim marriage to be considered as a civil contract.
  • Amount of dower may or may not be fixed– If the dowr is decided to be paid in the form of money to the wife by her husband then it may or may not be a fixed amount. The amount of dower can be fixed before the marriage, at the time of marriage or even after the marriage.
  • Relinquishment of dower– The muslim law permits the wife to even relinquish the dower promised to her by her husband. However, she can relinquish the dower after she attains the age of puberty as this age is considered proper for her to decide if she wants to relinquish her dower.

TYPES OF DOWER:

Broadly speaking there are 2 types of dower

  1. Specified dower
  2. Unspecified dower/proper dower.
  1. SPECIFIED DOWER:  

Specified dower is the amount fixed by the parties to the marriage either before, or at the time of marriage, or after the marriage. Under Muslim law, the amount of specified dower should not be less than 10 dirhams that is Rupees 500.  This is the minimum amount that should be kept as specified dower. There is no maximum limit fixed for the amount of dower. It can be excessive and beyond the means of the husband. But still, the husband has to pay the dower to his wife.  When the dower in a marriage ceremony is fixed by the husband’s father on behalf of his minor son then this amount of specified dower becomes binding on the minor son on attaining majority.

Specified dower is further divided into –

Prompt dower and Deferred dower.

Prompt dower This has to be paid to the wife at the time of marriage. Prompt dower may be asked by the wife before or after consummation.  As it is up to the wife she can even refuse to live with her husband or consummate her marriage till her prompt dower is not paid to her.

Deferred dower– Deferred dower is paid on the dissolution of marriage by death or by divorce. A deferred dower cannot be demanded by the wife like in the case of a specified dower. The technical term for deferred dower is muajjal which means delayed. So, deferred dower means delayed dower that is paid either on the dissolution of marriage by divorce or on happening of any event like death.

SUIT FOR PROMPT AND DEFERRED DOWER AND LIMITATION PERIOD-

  If the dower is not paid to the wife then after her death her heirs may sue to recover the dower.  The period of imitation with I which suit for recovery of dower has to be filed in case of prompt dower is three years from the date the dower is demanded and in case of deferred dower is three years from the date when the marriage is dissolved by death or divorce.

2. UNSPECIFIED DOWER/PROPER DOWER-

This means that any specified or particular amount of dower is not fixed at the time of marriage. However, the wife has the right to get a reasonable amount of dower from her husband. Even after there is an express condition in the contract of marriage that the wife will not claim any dower from her husband she is still entitled to a reasonable amount of dower. Therefore, as per Muslim law, the husband is liable to pay dower to her wife even if it is not specified. In such a case, the wife is entitled to receive an amount of money customarily given in marriages in her community or the amount that is considered proper in each case.

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