practice of giving dowry (jahez) is not part of Islam, although it is rampant in
Pakistan. In fact, it is a practice which has never been endorsed by Islam and
is not prevalent amongst Muslims of other cultures. It is an imitation of
ancient Hindu culture in which daughters were not given any share in the family
property, but were given payments, part of which might be in the form of goods,
as a measure of compensation. Islam granted daughters a rightful share in their
family property and inheritance.
The form of dowry is either an amount of money, goods or possessions given to
the bride by the bride's family at the time of her marriage, in order to attract
a good husband for her. It then becomes the property of the husband or his
family upon his marrying her. This is a totally un-Islamic practice. In Islam,
women are not the properties of their families and should not be traded like a
material good. This is an insulting practice and a very unfortunate and
deplorable act that we see being committed daily in our society. It has become a
sick and ruthless yet acceptable practice for the family of the bridegroom to
demand a certain amount of money (or other items of value) from the bride or her
family, usually the bride's father, without which the marriage cannot take
place. The curse of this deplorable practice is such that many women don’t get
married because their families cannot meet the long list of demands by the
Islam does not stop a father from giving his daughter gifts, money or property,
or arranging for a wedding feast but to make anything a demand and a way of
exploitation of the bride’s father is in my view nothing short of an immoral and
corrupt act which must be condemned and discouraged by all sections of our
society. The Prophet (sws) himself saw to the marriages of his four daughters.
He gave his daughter Hazrat Fatimah (rta) various gifts when she married Hazrat
Ali (rta), but there is no record of his having given anything to his other
daughters on the occasion of their marriages. Moreover, the gifts given to
Hazrat Fatimah (rta) were extremely modest household articles.
It is in fact the total opposite that Islam has ordained in a marriage and that
is the giving of the dower (mahr) by the husband to the wife in order to show
symbolically that he has accepted her financial responsibility. The dower is a
right exclusively for the wife. It is her possession and none of her guardians
or relatives share any part of it. No one has any power over her concerning how
she wishes to dispose of it, as long as she does so in a legally acceptable
manner. She may give it away as a gift, she may lend it to others or she may
give it in charity or do any other permissible acts she wishes with it.
What we see happening in our society is very bizarre to put it mildly and
deplorable to put it honestly! How times have changed and our attitudes and
practices drifted away from the examples set by the noble Prophet (sws), that
now it’s the woman who is required to furnish a dowry or provide high value
items for the future house. This is definitely twisting the natural order of
things and is goes against the nature of mankind. It leads to a great deal of
social ills and behavioral harm. It is a means by which the woman is despised
and belittled and turned into a commodity with a price tag. If the woman is not
able to gather enough wealth together for marriage, she will not be able to get
married which in turn can give rise to various other social evils.
There is a great difference between the case where the woman feels that she and
what she possesses belong to her husband and where she feels that she is
something desired and honored, as the man spends money on her and gives her
presents and so on to get her as his wife.
Another regrettable aspect of dowry giving in recent times is that it is
becoming more and more a matter of a vulgar display of wealth. Nothing could be
more un-Islamic in motivation than this. Even the practice of performing a
marriage quietly, without any flamboyant display of wealth, but subsequently
giving a lavish dowry to enable the bride to set up her home is contrary to
Islamic practice. It was certainly not the practice of the Prophet (sws). Hazrat
Fatimah (rta) was his favorite daughter, but he neither gave her a lavish dowry
nor did he send things to her home after the wedding.
In Islam, the home is organized on the pattern of a microcosmic estate, with the
man in a position of authority. The Qur’an is specified on this issue:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because God has made some of
them to excel others and because they support them from their means. All the
righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has
(ordained to be) guarded. (4: 34)
The practice of dowry among ignorant Muslims is a result of the influence of the
evil practices of the society they live in. Islam does not put any financial
burden on the father of the girl. A Muslim father is told to get her daughter
married away in a most simple ‘Nikah’ ceremony solemnized in a mosque, witnessed
by his close relatives and friends. He is not even required to throw a luncheon
to the handful of invitees assembled for this occasion. In fact it is desirable
on the part of the groom that he offers a reception (Waleema) to his near ones &
dear ones without forgetting the poor people of his society
The example of such a simple marriage was set up by none other than the Prophet
(sws) himself. He got his daughters married in the simplest possible manner.
There was nothing in it whatsoever for the bridegroom that could be termed as
dowry. The Prophet (sws) said:
The best of the marriages is one which is least burdensome in the financial
sense to the families of the bride and the groom.
Thus he paved a way for people of all times to come to live a life without
stress and strain pertaining to daughters’ marriages too!
The Quran and the Prophet Muhammad offer sayings distinguishing each spouse’s
economic rights in a marriage:
And they (women) have rights (over their husbands in regard to living expenses,
etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (in regard to obedience and
respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility)
over them. Surah 2:228
The practice of dowry given from the bride to the groom will only stop with
co-operation from everyone. The young adults have to take this seriously and do
some serious discussion with their parents about what’s Islamic and what’s
merely a cultural practice, that too one which is unjust and based on
exploitation. Dowry is just one of many misconceptions about Islam, let’s be
clear and make it clear to others that there is nothing Islamic about it, let’s
no keep shut because of fear of upsetting someone, we have to make the choice
are we going to upset Allah and please fellow beings or will we stand up for the
truth and please Allah regardless of how many people become upset with us?
We cannot restrict Islam to just rituals and feel satisfied that we are doing
the mandatory prayers and other commands. Allah has placed us on earth to test
us as his agents and a big part of that is how we deal with our fellow human
beings. Do we make life easy for them or do we take advantage> Do we keep our
wishes and demands in check so as to not burden other souls or do we make a
sacred institution of marriage nothing more than a trade where the man and his
family are out there to maximize their returns?
The choice has to be made right here right now, we have to speak up and stand
for justice, anything less and we are a party to something which is immoral.