Marriage: Need for observing the legal formalities

Q357 :What I would like to know is whether I am married to my man, although we have not signed any marriage contract. Our "marriage" took place in an office when I was in one room and everyone else was in another because they were all men. We had witnesses who, as they came out at the end of the "ceremony", offered congratulations to me. Since I do not have any relatives to celebrate the marriage, we simply set out together, just the two of us. Because I feel I am not properly wed, I have asked him on two separate occasions whether we are married and he answered in the affirmative. Yet no one in his family knows about our marriage. I live with them in the same house but in separate flats. As I have become a Muslim with full conviction, I want to be sure. Can you help?

A357 : I wish you could have given me more details about what happened at the time when your marriage took place. You realize that a marriage is a contract between two parties, a man and a woman, made in the presence of witnesses as well as the woman's guardian. It also involves the payment of a dower, the amount of which is agreed between the two parties and become payable by the husband at the time when the contract is made [though the payment may be deferred by mutual consent]. A marriage contract does not need to be written down in order to be valid. But the documentation is important, particularly these days in order to ensure that all future formalities are properly made. What I am saying here is that you may have a verbal marriage contract which is completely valid, but you need to have it registered with the civil authorities so that you do not run into problems in future, particularly when you have children. Like every contract, marriage can only be entered into by agreement of both sides. It cannot be taken care of only by one party. While you might have had to be in a separate room, your express consent should have been sought and given properly for the marriage contract to go ahead. In many Muslim marriages, the wife may not be present when the actual contract is made. However, her father or guardian comes to her with two witnesses and asks her whether she gives him the [verbal] power of attorney [in presence of the two witnesses] to act for her in marrying her to the man concerned and whether she agrees to the amount of dower to be paid to her. When she has given him the power of attorney, he proceeds to complete the marriage contract. Did you give the power of attorney to anyone to act for you? If not, did the witnesses ask you before the marriage contract whether you were willing to proceed with this marriage? If not, then what sort of contract was this? What was your part in it? If you did give power of attorney to someone and he acted for you, and since you say that you have no relatives, then the marriage contract would be valid. If not, then there was no marriage contract because you did not take any part in it either in person or by appointing someone to act for you. It is not sufficient that the witnesses congratulate you or that your man says that you are married. You say that no one in his family knows about your marriage. Do you mean that he is married to another one? Or do you mean that his parents do not know about this? If it is the latter, then you are entitled to be recognized as his wife. In any case, you should have your marriage properly registered. What you should do is to insist that your marriage is properly registered with the civil authorities. Your husband cannot deny you that because you are only asking him to document a legal relationship. Perhaps the best way is to arrange for the marriage to be properly made at an Islamic court. Once this is done, your position is clear. But you should stop any marital relationship with him unless you are sure, in the light of what I have said, that the marriage that took place is a proper and valid one. This means that you have given power of attorney to someone to act for you and he acted according to the mandate you have given him. If not, you must do it now. You must not lose any time.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )