“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” (Qur’an, 2: 228)
Islam came into being at a time when people buried their new born daughters and the women who were fortunate enough to live were treated like animals. They had barely any rights, were considered a huge burden and there status in the homes of Arab people were no more than child bearers. If a woman was unable to bear a son she was cast off and shunned. Islam completely changed all this, it was the first religion that held women equal to men and raised their status in society. Allah does not discriminate between men and woman and The Prophet SAW himself loved all his daughters and wives.
“The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakat (obligatory charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Qur’an, 9: 71)
A religion that gives so many honors to women would never discriminate against them when it came to marriage but unfortunately women do not know their rights when it comes to the Nikkah Nama which is the most important contract of a Muslim women’s life.
Expressing ones needs and wants at the vital time of marriage should not be considered shameful in any Muslim society. Allah has given women these rights and no man should take that away from them. This is her right and her community must protect that right. A woman when she becomes a wife is entitled to certain rights and especially then when she starts living together with her husband.
What actually is the Nikkah Contract?
Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961 has considered the Nikkah Nama as an official requirement. A verbal Nikkah hold as much weight as the written one under Sharia law. The law of the state however requires that the Nikkah document needs to be signed and registered so that there is written proof of the event and it also serves as a better evidence in court if any unprecedented problems or clashes arise in between the Nikkah parties. It is not just a religious contract, but also a civil one. That means that the status of a Nikkah has religious value plus it works as any other business contract.
The contract of Nikkah constitutes of the same elements as other contracts.It requires the same basic requirements in order to be enforceable by law, as that of any other contract: Offer which is by the groom, Acceptance given by the bride, Consideration which is just an exchanging an item of value by both parties, and lastly witnesses to testify that the contract did actually take place.
Under Pakistani Law (which is an aspect of Hanafi Shariah Law), there is no legal requirement of a Wali’s (the guardian of the bride) consent for a Nikkah to become official.
Any clause that does not contradict any Shariah or State Laws can be included in the Nikkah, like any other legal contract.
Elements of the Nikkah Contract for the protection of the bride
In Nikkah form, if all the columns are filled with honesty and sincerity the woman entering the marriage with be protected in all matrimonial matters. Especially the columns No. 13 to column No. 22 are completely in the favor of the women. They are regarding the following
- The dower,
- The dowry articles,
- The maintenance
- The banning on the second marriage
- Delegated powers of the divorce.
In the Muslim societies today either mostly these specific columns are left blank or no one actually pays any heed to these very important columns. The Muslim Family Law does its best to give complete protection to women during marriage but unluckily they are unable to get this advantage and only column No.13 is filled and all the others are left bank or crossed out due to disregard by the parents of the bride or the bride herself. It is very vital that the dower amount should be mentioned. Either it can be prompt or can be deferred as clearly stated in column No.14 .
Column No.15 asks whether dower was paid at the time of nikkah and how much.
The next column No. 16 is also regarding the amount of dower. This is applicable if any kind of property has been given to the bride and what are the conditions. So it can be seen that there are four columns regarding the amount of dower but barely one is mostly filled. Most of the times due to the ignorant attitude towards the law of marriage the Qazi or the registrar of the Nikkah contract these columns are not paid any attention and they do not notify the parents of the bride regarding the facts and the terms of the Nikkah.
Colum No.17 is about the conditions of the Nikkah if any and this part is more times than not crossed out. The conditions of the Nikkah that are supposed to be added here are for the protection of the bride. The conditions may include if wife wants to work after marriage or how much pocket money should she be receiving from her husband.
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
If he stipulates that he will not take her out of her house or her city, or that he will not travel with her or will not take another wife, then he is obliged to fulfill that, and if he does not do so, then she has the right to annul the marriage. (narrated from ‘Umar, Sa’dibnAbiWaqas and ‘Amribn al-‘Aas -may Allah be pleased with them)
The next column No.18 deals with the fact if the bride has been given the power of initiating divorce or not and if she has what are the conditions necessary. This makes the divorce process for oppressed women much easier, without this right the women have to go to the court and ask for Khula which is a very difficult thing to do which in most cases is exploited by men.
According to Sylvia Vatuk (an Islamic journalist), an extra-judicial khul ‘or khula is simply arranged and inexpensive. However, it does require the consent of the husband. The Feminist campaigners want religious representatives to react more compassionately to a woman’s claim for khula‘, even when their husbands do not want to cooperate or are lost etc. religious leaders normally don’t like simplifying things for women and their justification is that
“An easier divorce process for women might increase divorce rates and broken families”
This is an inhumane approach.
Sylvia narrates how she was told, “We are in the business of preserving Muslim families, not contributing to their breakup!”
According to male clerics delegating the right to divorce to women would result in broken families as women are emotional and would seek divorce on the slightest of misunderstanding.
There has been a new development in the case of delegating powers of divorce. The Council of Islamic Ideology has declared that now it is the duty of the person performing the Nikahh to ask the bride regarding the delegation of powers of divorce.
“The nikahkhawan will be legally bound to inform the bride of her right to ask for dissolution of marriage,”QiblaAyaz, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology.
Column No 19 is about the ban on divorce. This is one of the most important columns for the protection of women rights in the Nikkah contract. Many times the husband would divorce without much justification and if the right conditions are imposed then it might not be easy for the husband to divorce his wife out of rage.
Mostly there is never any maintenance documents prepared at the inception of marriage. This poorly affects the life of the soon to be wife if the husband refuses to pay the maintenance. So in order to counter this issue a separate document must be prepared and indicated in column No 20.
Column No. 21 shows the marital status of the man. It indicates if he was previously married or is still married and whether he has the permission of his first wife for conducting a second marriage. This part is mostly left blank and is definitely against the rights given by God to the woman. This helps men conceal their other marriages from the woman in question. This occurs when men do not actually have the permission of their first wife to marry.
Hazrat Fatimah RA was the first wife of Hazrat Ali RA and when she heard about Hazrat Ali RA getting married again, she was hurt. The Prophet SAW therefore stopped Hazrat Ali RA from marrying the other woman as it hurt his first wife Hazrat Fatima RA.
And lastly column 22 is also regarding the permission of the arbitration about the second marriage.
Summing up the entire article, Islam does give women; rights and freedom in their matrimonial life. It is up to the bride to make sure that she gets each and every right she deserves while signing the contract and to fill all the columns as she pleases. These are her divinely ordained rights.