Missing Paragraphs in the Nikah Nama?

This post is also on ATP.

If you are married, how closely did you read the Nikah Nama before signing it?

Some time last summer my fiance decided that time had come for us to tie the knot. I was excited. So excited that I hastily agreed to do the Nikah (Katb-e-Kitaab, as levant Arabs call it) within the next few weeks. I called my trusted friend, Adil, for his advice on where to find a good scholar/Imam for the Nikah, esp someone who might be familiar with Arabic language because my wife happens to be a Palestinian. He, as always, had an excellent recommendation.

During this process is when I actually read a Nikah Nama for the first time in my life and realized that it was missing some of the key provisions that my fiance and I had discussed earlier and wanted to be included. For example, we realized that there was no provision in the agreement for a woman’s right to ask for divorce. Secondly, there was no detailed discussions of the different types of Haq Mehr, except for the very minimum required at the time of marriage. Finally, there was no discussion on how our assets would get divided in the case of a divorce, or separation.

I discussed these terms, and our mutual agreement on them, with my parents. Let me tell you it was an uncomfortable discussion. Initially, they seemed horrified that my fiance and I were discussing divorce issues even before marriage! Then their reaction turned to fear – that their son was signing his life and his possessions away without proper legal counsel. But somehow they budged. Next came the discussions with the Imam. That also took some serious convincing but he was a learned man with patience. He eventually agreed to add those terms which essentially protected my wife’s rights, though warned us that despite our Nikah agreement some of those provisions would not hold in many Muslim states, such as Saudi Arabia.

So why am I reminded of this now? No, not because it has been a year already and I am regretting all that I signed away :). But because I read in the Daily Times that the problems with Nikah Nama are confronting Pakistani couples regularly as they enter unto wedlock. The problem, of course, has greater ramifications for the bride than the groom, but in either case, this is a serious religious and legal issue. Here’s what is reported:

A large number of nikkah namas (forms declaring a man and woman husband and wife) prepared in Karachi at least if not the rest of the country are incomplete because seven out of 28 paragraphs are excluded, Daily Times has learnt.

The omitted paragraphs run from Nos. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 28 and pertain to the woman’s rights in a marriage.

Paragraph No. 16 deals with Haq Mehr, or the amount of money that a husband is required, by the Shariah and Pakistani law, to pay his wife if their marriage ends. Any other property given instead by the woman or man must be declared on the forms.

Paragraph No. 17 says that any special terms and conditions that the woman or the man puts forward should be mentioned independently. Paragraph No. 18 details the basis on which the man has allowed his wife to demand a divorce from him. These sections are, however, usually crossed out by clerics or nikkah khwans, which means that in these cases the woman is not given her right to demand divorce or to declare it herself.

Nearly 25% of the Nikah Nama is missing. This is unbelievable! Clearly such changes are not officially sanctioned by the state but there are severe problems implementing the state’s writ. Marriage registrars have considerable freedom, it seems, when it comes to this business:

The authorities have taken a stab at tackling this problem but it appears not to be high priority. The city government has formed Maslihati Anjuman and Insaaf Committees at the Union Council and town levels. It is said in Paragraph No. 21 that if a man is already married then he needs a certificate from the Maslihati Anjuman but the city government keeps manual records instead of computerised ones which makes the process of checking next to impossible.

Assuming that this is being done intentionally by selected Khateebs, I consider it a criminal act on their part. The official Nikah Nama is being modified by the Imams/Moulvis/Khateebs/Registrars without the permission of the marrying couple, and important provisions that protect the wife are selectively being removed without informing the couple. Add to this the fact that quite often these Nikah Namas are not read in that much detail, and in the absence of full information, brides usually don’t even know what might be missing. One does not have to search hard to find cases where at least one member of a family has suffered because they were not told about, and not given their full due rights in marriage.

While clearly something must be done about this selective changes in the Nikah Nama, we also need education in the society regarding the meaning of a Nikah, the rights and privileges accorded in such and agreement, and how the laws of Pakistani are technically setup to protect those provisions. In the meantime, do check what your own Nikah Nama says…

UPDATE:

Interesting to have received multiple threats and angry emails from the Dawoodi Bohra community members who seemed quite upset that I had used the following image of their spiritual leader (who was performing a marriage ceremony) with the article. I am not sure if their reaction should be considered plain knee-jerk, charmingly passionate, childishly amusing, or really alarming. One Bohra bhai told me how dare I associate Bohras with Muslims? Another threatened to sue me for copyright infrongement, and a third thought I had somehow insulted him, his faith, and his spiritual leader – I guess by connecting them to Muslims at large. I would love to know how they reached all those conclusions….Guys, chill out…I just wanted to show an image of a Muslim spiritual leader performing a religious marriage ceremony – and mea culpa if I the thought Bohris would agree that the Bohra spiritual leader qualified as a Muslim leader (the image is below – now separated from the article).  Clearly the separation between the two communities is wider than I had imagined – at least in the Bohra community’s point of view.

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11 Responses to Missing Paragraphs in the Nikah Nama?

  1. cubano says:

    I recently got married and found out that the Nikah Nama is a useless piece of paper in many foreign countries like Canada and you must register your wedding with the state marriage registrar to be legally married. I guess this post only applies to those living in a Muslim country.

  2. JMR says:

    This Certificate Certifies that you are husband & wife. As far as the Clauses you discussed which were not present or some of the clause are present dosent imply that it dosent apply to you. If you are a true Muslim and fear allah then whatever decision is (e.g In case of Divorce) Islamic law should apply. It should not be a clause which you or she has signed or not. Follow Islam to resolve the issue.

    And also in that case then you dont need a cerificate from a religous body. Get married and sign a contract with her/him in Cival court after Nikah.

    “What my belief is that I should follow Islamic rules whether I am marrying or asking for a divorce. ”

    Note : Please dont get offended.

  3. Sam says:

    well for who u dont know nikah is basic process in islam in order to get married its not a useless piece of paper!
    as for as people living abroad they can do the registration for the legal documentation n the process of nikah too.
    how much time can it take !!!!

  4. Mufaddal says:

    I respect your comments and the topic and do not want to interfere. But, the picture you ll have put up for this blog is surely not yours. So Please take down the picture, and put one that you have the rights to.
    Thanks

  5. Naqiyah says:

    Mufaddal is right…u should not be using this photo to talk about nikah in general…

  6. Murtuza says:

    PLEASE REMOVE THE PIC WHICH YOU HAVE PUT,
    I can understand that it could be a mistake, but do you have any idea whose pic is it ? It is the pic of our community’s High priest, Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb. And if you dont know what the pic you have published has done, pls visit

    http://www.petitiononline.com/apolo786/petition.html

    Regards,
    Murtuza.

  7. Sophie says:

    Take a chill pill – the gentleman has posted some sensible things up there. The photo is not desecrating any thing. It is just a photo like any other of any other human being.
    And your holiness is but another human being.

  8. yusuf says:

    hay sophie shut up..or i will,,,

  9. alefiya says:

    Some pplz jus cant understand the meanin of religion…
    no one forced you to get into a relationship by doing it in the religious way…
    you got into it with your own wish…
    if you are so damn modernizd that you wanna thynk a zillion tymz of divorse even before you get marrid…
    den why waste tym just shift onto the western culture..!!!!

    STOP BLAMING OTHERS FOR YOUR OWN FAULTS

    too bad its still not goin to get into your head’s
    so now you guys …take a chill pill!!!

  10. MurtazaB says:

    Look at the all the bohra people trying to defend their “masoom” leader- blind followers of a baseless faith. May Allah guide us all and may He give us the strength to open our eyes and realize the truth rather than blindly following what our parents did (because honestly, the only reason most all of us follow what we do is because that is all we were taught- how many actually opened the Quran and researched for themselves?). Our condition is such that had we been born into a hindu family, we’d be bowing down to idols still and be defending that now.

    Be muslims by conviction, not by convention.

    I was once part of the esteemed “mumineen”- then i realized how wrong most of the things we practiced were- borderline to absolute shirk many of our traditions are. Thank Allah a billion times over that He guided me.

    Any one belonging to the community who reads this and gets offended- before replying with insults, go pick up and read through the Quran first. I know it’s “forbidden” to read with the meaning, but that is just cause they want us to stay in the dark and not see them for what they really are.

    I lost a large part of my family and the woman i loved too- but i consider that a small price when compared to the sins that Allah has saved me from.

    May Allah shower His infinite Mercy on us all.

  11. huzaifa lashkerwala says:

    please remove this photo of dr. syedna saheb.he is our holliness and he has to power of unity..

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