Marriage: Exchange marriages

Q347 :I got married two years ago on the basis of exchange marriage. This was against the wishes of my brothers and parents. I am afraid my marriage has not gone well at all. I recently read that this type of exchange marriage is not liked by Allah. Is this true? If so, how can I rectify my mistake? The difficulty is that if I have some problem with my wife, my sister suffers as well, because she is blamed for our problems.

A347 : I have some bad new for you. Your marriage is not valid at all nor is your sister's marriage. This type of marriage is known in Islamic terminology as 'shighar'. Abu Hurairah reports that Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) has forbidden shighar, which means that one man says to another: Marry me your daughter and I will marry you my daughter; or marry me your sister and I will marry you my sister." (Related by Muslim). In another highly authentic Hadith, Abdullah ibn Amr reports that "Allah's messenger (peace be on him) has forbidden shighar which means that one marries his daughter to another on condition that the other man gives him his daughter in marriage, without mentioning any dower." (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). These two Hadiths are perfectly clear in forbidding exchange marriages altogether. It is not surprising that this is forbidden in Islam, because it is an exchange deal which looks at women as though they were commodities that could be bought and sold. When a woman gets married, she is entitled to receive a dower which becomes her own property and she may dispense with it the way she likes. In such an exchange marriage, a dower is not commonly mentioned. Even if it is mentioned and specified, the condition that the marriage will only go through if the exchange deal goes through is enough reason to invalidate the two marriages altogether. It is not surprising that you are having problems. You also mention that your sister is having problems as well. May be the reason is due to the fact that both women feel that they were treated like two inanimate objects which were exchanged. If the marriage is invalid, then there is no way to make it valid. What you have to do is to make it clear to both families that both marriages are not valid. Each of the two women goes back to her family and the two relationships are terminated forthwith. When this has been done, everyone of the four parties, meaning yourself, your sister and the other man and his sister are free to marry other people. Similarly, it is open to you to propose to the women you have described as your wife. Since you have been having problems, most probably you do not wish to do so. That is indeed better. But if you feel that you may have a chance to lead a happy life and you want to marry her, you make your proposal as if there was no relationship whatsoever between the two of you. You agree terms of the marriage without any reference to the past relationship. You agree an amount of dower which you have to pay her and she is free to use that money in the way she likes. There must not be the slightest hint that when your marriage goes through, your sister will be married to your wife's brother in consequence. Otherwise, you would be back in the same situation and both marriages will be invalid. Perhaps I should explain that a man may marry a woman in the normal way without any third party being involved in any way whatsoever, and the marriage goes through after payment of the dower and the contract being made as Islam describes. Sometime later, it may so happen that one of the relatives of the woman wants to marry a relative of her husband, this is permissible because the two marriages are separate and no condition was attached to the first one that the second one will follow. If there are any such conditions, then the conditions are not valid and there may be doubt about the validity of the marriage itself.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )