You should know your nikkah nama before signing it

Published: August 26, 2016
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The so-called ‘legalities’ that are waived off are rights granted to women and men by the state which provide them with the necessary protection and alternatives they need in case things do not work out or are not going well. PHOTO: PINTEREST

As we approach a certain age (that age varying upon a variety of factors) we are faced with the prospect of marriage. It is a natural part of our lives and marriage is, at least to me, one of the very sacred bonds we share with another person. To marry someone is to promise lifelong companionship for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

It is and should be considered as a journey you take with your significant other. Like all journeys, it must start somewhere and in the case of Muslims all over Pakistan, it starts when the man and the woman sign the nikkah nama.

The nikkah nama is a legal document and is undoubtedly the foundation of all marriages. It is a written contract that all Muslim couples must put their signature on in order to legalise their marriage. I was always familiar with the term ‘nikkah nama’ but I never looked into it.

It was very recently – when I was asked to speak about the nikkah nama on a radio show – that I felt I should familiarise myself with what it entails. And when I started reading it I realised the amount of protection it offers to Muslim women and how innocently we waive it off without a second thought.

The second realisation came after I spoke to a number of married women about their nikkah nama. I can’t say I was shocked to discover that most of them just signed the document without even taking a look at it. Some are interested in knowing what it says but end up being pressurised by their families to sign it off and not bother with the legalities.

This needs to stop.

The so-called ‘legalities’ that are waived off are rights granted to women and men by the state which provide them with the necessary protection and alternatives they need in case things do not work in their favour. I understand that no one wants to picture a red flag even before they have begun this beautiful journey, but what most of us fail to understand is that it’s only before you sign the document that you have the power to protect your rights.

Once that document is signed, like any other contract, it becomes legally binding between the man and the woman and cannot be altered. It should not be treated as anything other than how you would treat a normal contract, which is why it is essential that the man and the woman read the document fully and objectively discuss what is to be done with the different clauses.

You must be wondering what clauses I am talking about. Let’s deal with them in order.

Clause 13-16 deals with the mehr or dower. Mehr is a gift given to the wife by her husband – the amount or value of which must be agreed upon at the time of the nikkah. You must first specify the exact amount or value of the mehr and the form in which it will be given (cash, jewellery or property). You must also specify when it will be given, whether it will be given promptly (mu’ajjal) or whether it will be given at a later stage (ghair mu’wajjal). These may come across as unnecessary details but it is absolutely essential for this to be sorted out beforehand and included in the document to avoid disputes at a later stage.

Clause 17 includes any special terms and conditions put forward by the man or woman independently. So, for example, if the woman wants her husband to pay her Rs10,000 every month as maintenance, it should be put down in this clause. One may even stipulate that there will be no form of violence between the parties. A particular amount is then specified to serve as compensation in case an incident takes place. Basically, in this clause, the man and woman can put down whatever conditions they want so long as they are within the boundaries of the law. You can even specify who takes custody of the children in case there is a separation or divorce.

Clause 18 is a very important clause, which allows the man to delegate the right of ‘divorce’ (talaq-e-tafweez) to the woman. This is completely different from khula and does not affect the right of khula in any way. It allows the woman to seek talaq from her husband legally. Having this right will allow the woman to seek talaq without the need to go to court and will allow her to keep her mehr. This is a clause favourable to both the husband and wife as the husband can put conditions on the wife’s right to divorce.

Clause 19 asks if there are any conditions on the husband’s right to divorce the wife. The woman can put conditions such as financial compensation, provision of a house etc. as a restriction on the husband’s right to divorce. Through clause 20, the woman may specify the details and documentation of mehr, maintenance and financial support. This will act as proof in case there is a dispute between the husband and wife at a later stage. However, it does not mean that the woman is not entitled to more than what has been specified; it should be considered as a minimum requirement that the husband has to fulfil.

The last of these important clauses is clause 21 that includes the restrictions on the man’s right to contract further marriages while still married to his first wife. This clause states that if a man is already married then, under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961, he must show that he has obtained permission from the Union Council to marry another woman. The Union Council in turn requires proof that the permission of the existing wife/wives has been obtained.

It is apparent from these clauses and their existence on the nikkah nama that these are essential rights that we all have a claim to and it is only a matter of taking the initiative of reading the document and putting down these rights in written form. It sounds and appears formal but it is there for your protection.

You must know your nikkah nama before signing it.

Maryam Malik

Maryam Malik

The author is a Barrister and the recipient of the Joan Denning Prize for being the top performing student in the Bar Professional Training Course amongst all Commonwealth countries. Her interests include writing, reading and public speaking.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Keyboard Soldier

    You need to address the concerns regarding fees of going to court in such cases. Many people are unable to get basic rights delivered because they are empty on the pockets to pay photogenic lawyers.Recommend

  • Concerned Citizen

    That is a very myopic and discriminating take on the Nikkah Namma. Why does the burden of providing maintenance, financial support fall upon the man?

    what happened to equality? If the women in a marriage is the main bread winner, will you encourage the men to add such clauses?Recommend

  • NECROMANCER

    Whatever you said is true an all….but but but nikah is nothing but a piece of paper with no legal value at all in light of shariaRecommend

  • mansab

    thank you for sharing insights on nakah nama.
    i wonder if this is something practically possible in pakistan, as here marriage is a way parents use their sons to gain maximum financial benefit and daughters are married to fullfill a responsibility. In middle, lower middle class which is more than half of the population, the groom and the bride has limited say and capability at the time they r told to marry.Recommend

  • pathanoo

    “You should know your Nikahnama before signing it”………Oh!! Really???? How many women are capable of understanding all there is in it and how many are allowed to read it fully and how many have ever contested what was in it? And, how often a poor illiterate woman signs the Nikahnama which she can not read nor is told what’s in it. good but useless suggestion. Unless the government makes it mandatory that a government official explains to the would be bride what’s written in it while the would be bride is alone with the officer and asks her for objections and answers questions honestly and then enforces the brides will – it is a useless suggestion.Recommend

  • pathanoo

    Nikah Nama is the 7th Century tribal society practice and is an anathema in today’s world. Even after it is signed; how many women have been able to enforce it to the letter. The marriage should be governed by the civil laws which are promulgated in the world except the Muslim countires because they (Mulism) still want to live in the cave dwelling society mores.Recommend

  • Queen

    Sadly in our society, when a girl asks the groom to get all clauses in the Nikah nama filled at the time of marriage she is termed “tez” and “chalak larki” by her in-laws.Recommend

  • MR.X

    To give a woman her right to divorce is still in the hands of husband. It is upto him to excersice his right and nobody can force him. May Allah guide us all.Recommend

  • shahryar

    Yes you are right, (good/ important information)Recommend

  • MR.X

    Im All for shariat mate in which man is resposible for her. But i agree with you the double standards these people show, disgusting !! feminism has hypocrysyRecommend

  • Malik

    Mr Pathanoo, please put your Islamophobic hat off for a second, and put on a fairly informed hat on. Because what I’m gonna tell you is going to burst your prejudiced bubble. A document such as the Nikha Nama is used in even in your so called 21st Century Western Societies today due to the deficiencies of the so called ‘modern civil law.’ Its called a “Prenup,” so please google “Prenuptial Agreement” before spending your precious time in criticising the tribal societies of Muslim countries.Recommend

  • Sami

    Did you even bother to read the above article?. I do not think so. Why you are bashing her for nothing?. It is more like a personal comment in my view. Maryam Malik tried to create awareness but she do not know that some people will bash her out of regional, ethnic and cultural bias. May be her last name would be different then you will not be bashing her for just writing this article Mr or Miss Pathano..Recommend

  • Aqazib

    The nikahnama is an almost identical document to a prenuptial agreement and far ahead of its time in protecting women. Once signed, it’s terms are enforced under contract law and therefore binding. Again, ahead of its time and with far more rights for a woman than she recieves today under western civil law. Ask any attorney schooled in both and they’ll tell you the nikahnama is a more fair and far-sighted document. Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Long time Queen.Recommend

  • MR.X

    its upto the husband to give her the right to divorce if he does not want to give it u cannot take it..my sister please read sahih bukhari for informationRecommend

  • ارشد حسین

    But Nikah Nama is just a legal or local government’s requirement. In religion it has a secondary status. The original status is of Wakeel, Gawah and the 2 Celebrities.Recommend

  • S

    No it is not, please stop fabricating Recommend

  • MR.X

    ive read sahih bukhari and and Quran ,im not, you should get your facts right. please read book of divorce in sahih bukhariRecommend

  • MR.X

    i posted all the reference from sahih bukhari but tribune manipulates what i writeRecommend

  • Nargis Danish

    It’s shocking and deeply disturbing to see the way men react when a woman asks for her rights and her due. This is not feminism. I think the article speaks for the majority of cases where women are not the main breadwinners of the family. Accept it or not, but it is a fact. If you want equality, then let it be in every facet of the husband and wife relationship. And to answer your question, if it has been agreed between the two that the wife will be responsible for affairs outside of the house i.e. providing for the family and the husband will be responsible for taking care of the house i.e. cleaning, cooking, raising children then I don’t see why such a clause shouldn’t be added.Recommend

  • Nargis Danish

    Thank you Maryam for such an informative article. I am married and was fortunate enough to come from a family where asking to read the Nikkah nama is not considered abhorrent but I still didn’t know about the various clauses there were – possibly in the stupor of marital bliss I didn’t read as much as I should have. Very good article indeed. Thank you.Recommend

  • Lamaisah Khan

    well said Nargis (y)Recommend

  • Ali

    Thank you for sharing this. I also was not aware of clauses in Nikah Nama and later on after marriage found many things which should have been discussed between spouses. Alhumdulillah it has not resulted in anything bad but it is our right and Nikah Nama should be thoroughly read by both bride and groom before the signature.Recommend