Marriage: Payment in cash or kind to bridegroom's family

Q363 :In my home country, a girl is married only if her parents are able to pay an amount of money in cash or kind to the bridegroom's family. Without such payment, marriage does not take place. In some cases, you find people going from house to house like customers shopping around. What does Islam say about this?

A363 : This method of marriage is the exact opposite of the Islamic method. In Islam, the bridegroom is the one who pays to his wife, at the time the marriage contract is made, an amount of money or gives her some property which becomes absolutely hers, in return of her agreeing to marry him. The point is that marriage creates certain rights and privileges, much of which are given by the wife. Hence, she is entitled to have something in return. What the bridegroom gives is called the dower, and its amount is agreed upon by himself and the bride's guardian. It is important to mention that the amount cannot be decided by the woman's guardian arbitrarily. He has to refer to the bride and to obtain her consent. If she does not agree to it, he cannot accept it on her behalf. When this system is reversed so as to make the bridegroom the beneficiary of such payment, the bride is deprived of something which Allah has assigned to her by right. The problem is bypassed in most cases with a nominal agreement between the two families that the bridegroom will pay a specified or a nominal amount to his wife. On the night of the wedding, the bride is instructed by her family to tell her husband that she forgoes the amount of the dower agreed between them. This is certainly a traversal of the Islamic system. However, as human beings, we cannot do much more than to explain to the people that what they are doing is wrong. The point is that the technicalities of marriage are well taken care of. A dower is specified and a gift made of it to the bridegroom, seemingly voluntarily. How can a judge, or a scholar, or indeed anyone else describe this as invalid when the bride herself is saying to her husband that she is willingly gifting her dower to him? Hence, we have to say that the marriage is valid but, at the same time, we must describe what actually takes place as a traversal of the Islamic system. Scholars in your part of the world have an important task to fulfill, namely, to educate people in Islamic laws and traditions. They have to explain to fathers of young girls that they must observe the Islamic system, not borrow an alien system of marriage from an alien faith and an alien civilization. Moreover, young girls must be informed of their rights. Some way should be devised so that at the time when a marriage contract is made, the girl is informed of her rights, prior to proceeding with the contract. If this is done, often enough in front of guests and witnesses, people will soon come to realize that their practices are in conflict with Islamic teachings. A process may then be started to reverse this trend.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )