Is my Nikkah marriage recognised as a valid marriage?
Although this is a complex and ever evolving area of the law, generally speaking the law is as follows on Nikkah marriage:
- If your Nikkah took place overseas in a country where the Nikkah is recognised as a legally valid form of marriage and you complied with the formalities as per the law in that country, you will have a legally recognised marriage.
- If your Nikkah took place in England or Wales then it will not be recognised as a legally valid marriage unless it complies with the formalities of section 26 of the Marriage Act 1949. Broadly speaking this requires that the building that the ceremony took place in, is registered for the purpose of solemnising marriages. If unsure, please consult a family solicitor in the country in which the Nikkah took place.
What are my rights if my Nikkah is not legally recognised?
You could choose to have civil marriage. If this is not an option, then you will be treated as cohabitees. Click here to view our article about cohabitee’s rights.
Is my Sharia divorce legally recognised?
This will largely depend on whether you had a legally recognised marriage. If your Nikkah was not legally recognised, then you were never married in the eyes of the law and therefore the validity of a Sharia divorce is a moot point.
If your Nikkah is recognised as a legally valid marriage, then again the law is broadly as follows:
- If your Islamic divorce took place entirely overseas in a country where the Islamic divorce is recognised as a legally valid form of divorce and you complied with the formalities as per the law in that country, you will have a legally recognised divorce. Note that if the Islamic divorce was initiated in England and Wales e.g. by the pronunciation of Talaq and then registered in a country where Sharia law is recognised, although you will be divorced under Sharia law, you will still be married under the laws of England and Wales
- If your Islamic divorce took place in England or Wales then although you may be divorced under Sharia law, it will not be recognised as a legally valid divorce in England and Wales and you will need to apply for a civil divorce. For more information on how to obtain a civil divorce, click here: Get a divorce: Check you can get a divorce – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
I have a decree absolute/ final order, do I still need an Islamic divorce?
Depending on what school of thought you follow, there are differences in opinion regarding this. For peace of mind and certainty it is therefore best that the dissolution of the Nikkah is dealt with separately.
Although Sharia Councils have somewhat differing procedures, the core elements are the same:
- There is usually a fee for the application although exemptions may be available.
- A narrative is usually required of why the Nikkah has ended.
- The narrative is usually then sent to the other party and options may be considered for reconciliation.
If reconciliation is not possible then the Islamic divorce is either granted by:
- Talaq- the husband granting the divorce
- Khula – an agreement that the husband agrees to give the wife Talaq in return for her repaying some or all of the Mahr to the husband
- Faskh- dissolution by a Shariah court (if the husband will not agree to the Talaq)
Sharia councils are likely to be more swift in accepting that a Nikkah has ended where a decree nisi/conditional order or decree absolute/ final order has been granted as it shows that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Does my husband have to pay the Mahr/ Dowry if we divorce?
Under Sharia concepts, Marriage is viewed as a contract between the two parties. As part of this contract the husband agrees to pay a contractual Mahr (dowry) amount to the wife. Mahr does not have to be a monetary amount but could instead (or in addition to money) be in the form of a property, jewellery, chattels etc. Sometimes a husband may choose to pay this upon Nikkah but often this payment is only made in part or postponed until some point or event in the future. If the Mahr amount has not been paid and the parties divorce as per Sharia, then subject to the terms of the Nikkah contract and unless agreed otherwise, this amount is then a contractual sum that is due to the wife. Accordingly, the wife is then able to sue the husband for breach of contract as per the laws in England and Wales.