Dower: Deferred payment

Q178 :How much should a man pay in dower at the present time? When and how should it be paid? What is the result of its non-payment or delayed payment? How is a husband who refuses to pay the dower penalized?

A178 : There is no fixed amount for a woman's dower. Normally, its amount is agreed upon by the husband and his prospective wife's guardian. Her guardian should consult her before consenting to the marriage. A dower may be in cash or kind and it may be the realization of some benefit to the prospective wife. The Prophet asked one of his companions who wanted to get married, how much he could afford in dower. When he learnt that the man did not have any money, the Prophet asked him whether he had learnt any parts of Qur'an. When the man answered that he knew certain surahs, the Prophet sanctioned the marriage on the basis that the husband would teach his wife those surahs. That was her dower. In another incident, a man called Abu Talhah proposed to a Muslim woman. At that time he was not a Muslim. She said to him: you are not one to be rejected, but as you are a non-believer, a marriage between us is impossible. If you accept Islam, I will take that as dower and will ask you nothing more. The man because a Muslim and the Prophet sanctioned the marriage. His companions considered that she had the best dower of all. That is certainly true because by her marriage, she won a good man to Islam. Normally, the dower is paid by the husband to his prospective wife before the marriage contract is made. Its amount is specified in the contract. The payment of the whole of the dower or any part of it may be deferred. If the dower is not paid before the marriage contract is made, it remains a debt owed to the woman by her husband. It does not affect the validity of the marriage. As long as the husband acknowledges his wife's right to her dower, and is willing to pay it should she demand payment, there is nothing wrong in delaying payment. If he defaults on payment, when a demand is made, the case may be put to a court of Islamic law which will immediately order the man to pay. In this case it is treated as a debt which is unpaid. Everything that applied to debts applies to unpaid dower. When the husband dies, his wife may claim her deferred dower from his estate and its payment is given priority since such priority is given to all debts left outstanding by the deceased. I realize that in certain societies the dower is considered as a formality. It is specified but not paid and the bride is required to declare that she has forgone her right to it. Such a practice is unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. [Added: The agreement to pay as dower a sum of money so high that it may apparent that the prospective husband will never be able to pay such an amount, would be far from realistic and thus lose its sanctity. The husband knows from the day one that he never will pay the dower. Such a position is not acceptable to Islam. Likewise, a meagre sum of money agreed between the parties, as is done by certain communities when they fix paltry sum of money as dower, purely as a customs, without any specific consideration, is also unrealistic and would amount to be only a formality. This is also unacceptable to Islam. Dower is a serious matter. The fixation of dower should be realistic, meaningful and acceptable to both the parties .]

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )