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Marriage without any mention of dowry

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I heard that a marriage will be valid even if it is contracted without any dowry given. Is this true? What is the proof? Also, is it at least true that they cannot consummate the marriage until the husband pays to her at least some of the dowry?

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The dowry is an obligation upon the husband. It remains a debt upon his shoulders until he pays it. It is not, however, a condition for the validity of the marriage.

Allah says: “There is no blame on you if you divorce women before consummation or the fixation of their dower; but bestow on them (a suitable gift), the wealthy according to his means, and the poor according to his means – a gift of a reasonable amount is due from those who wish to do the right thing.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 236]

Then Allah says: “And if you divorce them before consummation, but after the fixation of a dower for them, then the half of the dower (is due to them), unless they remit it or (the man’s half) is remitted by him in whose hands is the marriage tie; and the remission (of the man’s half) is the nearest to righteousness. And do not forget liberality between yourselves. For Allah sees well all that ye do.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 237]

These two verses clearly mention divorce before payment of the dowry. The first of these two verses shows that a marriage can be fully contracted before a dowry value is even fixed. The question being answered by these two verses is: “If I have not consummated my marriage with my wife, what do I owe her of dowry if I divorce her?”

The answer is then given for two circumstances:

1) if no dowry was fixed

2) if the dowry was fixed but not yet paid

The answers for these circumstances are given in the two successive verses.

In both cases, the marriage has already taken place. Otherwise, it would be impossible for the man to divorce the woman.

Also, please do not misunderstand the matter and think that a man cannot consummate a marriage before he has paid the dowry. There is no evidence for that. A man can consummate the marriage as long as he is legally married to the woman. It is clearly the case in these two verses that the man is legally married.

However, if he has already consummated the marriage, then it becomes incumbent upon him to pay her the full dowry and it remains a debt upon his shoulders until he does so. In the event of divorce, he must pay her the dowry immediately, in full.

If the dowry had not been specified in the marriage contract, then she is due the dowry that a woman of her status in her society is customarily expected to receive. Since this amount is something dependent on custom and therefore changes from one time and place to another, the dowry owed must be determined by the Muslim judicial authority in the locality.

And Allah knows best.

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