Khalid Waheed Falahi,
Student of Economics, AMU, Aligarh
The dowry has become an almost inevitable obligation on the part of the bride’s parents in the Muslim society of Indian subcontinent that led to making the wedding too difficult. Despite the fact that the dowry is forbidden, the act of giving and coercing dowry is commonplace. Perhaps it is no exaggeration to say that it takes away the humanity from the younger generation.
The severity of case is that the bride’s parents have to pay money to make the marriage possible. Unfortunately this practice has crept into the traditions of the said Muslim community which actually means the reverse of Islamic order. What is worse at the time, the marriage contract is made, a sum of money is mentioned as dower (mahr) but the bride automatically forgoes her right to it customarily as it is generally paid in the form of mahr-e muajjal (deferred payment dower) that are mostly remitted by her on her husband’s request (known as mahr maafi) or she herself withdraw from her due right in order to get the good offices of her husband. The saddest part of the story is that the dower (that Quran & Hadith enjoin it excessively & regard as a compulsory obligation for effecting the marriage contract) is considered as a mere formality in our society. It is specified but not paid and the bride is required to declare that she has forgone her right to it.
Now the point to note is: What happens in this situation is that the man gets everything; the woman and her money without giving anything in return. If the woman is divorced she has nothing to rely on. It is indeed a depressing situation that puts the whole process of marriage out of balance.
However, gifts/offering presented by bride’s parent willingly on her wedding is not pronounced as forbidden. But interestingly some people argue & put the justification in its favour by saying that a father tries to bring about the marriage of his daughter, using a financial inducement, if a suitable husband finds himself financially unable to start a family. First, they should know that a man couldn’t marry until he is able to provide the maintenance (nan-nafqah) to his wife. However, this may be considered in individual cases to a small extent but establishing it as a social tradition is indeed a reversal of Islamic order. They also advise that a young man should consider if he will get some dowry (willingly gifted), he has to pay the dowry of his sister or his daughter. At times some of them daringly suggest that when people ask for exorbitant amounts of money in dowry at the time of marriage, one may use interest money in part for payment of such dowries. Who is there that will not applaud them for their high understanding & great insight. What are their conflicting loyalties!
In view of the severity of this awful social evil, we youth community should firmly resolve not to take dowry or any sort of gift (be it in cash or kind) even if it is happily presented by bride’s parents. Tell them, you are welcome to extend such offerings to your daughter after marriage. I am sure that we will hardly receive from them even shortly after marriage petty present leave alone such expensive gifts consisting of cash and kind that offered at the time of marriage. For Muslim youth there is indeed a beautiful pattern of conduct in the life of our prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), his sahabah, Taba’een & taba-taba’een. There is no such thing found in the history that they would ever receive any gift from the bride’s parent or bride’s family themselves offer anything to them at the time of marriage whether it happened on marriage of Ummahatul Mumineen or the daughters of our prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).
As for the Dowry of Fatimah (ra), there is common misconception that our prophet (saw) gave his beloved daughter two sheets, four mattresses, one blanket, one pillow, one cup, one hand-grinding mill, one bedstead, a small water skin and an earthen pitcher etc. People thereby argue that the prophet (SAW) gave the things of basic needs to Fatimah (ra) on her marriage. So we may also give such things to our daughters. Further they argue that goods of necessaries given to Fatima (ra) were of the standard of that time, so we may give such things as many as possible regardless of their quantity & quality. Today we see that so many luxuries are included to dowry on the name of necessities. To rich many luxurious items comes under their necessities. Dowry was called jahez. Rich people developed this custom fully that led to dowry on demand.
Nowadays, whether a prospective bridegroom makes a demand or not, it has become customary to pay one's daughter or sister a dowry, which is normally more than one can afford easily. Because people think that society would look down upon them, if they send their daughters with free hands. On the other hand, some people give hefty gift involving a large sum of money to show their opulence on marriage. It is interesting to note that such kind of generosity is not ever practiced after marriage. They almost forget their daughters, even deprive them of their fundamental property rights (haq-e- wirasat) and put a lame excuse that they have already spent a lot of money on their marriage. It is pity that the girl is told by her brothers that she will not claim anything out of the residential property or movables on the death of her father, as she has already been given a dowry beyond her fair share of the estate. Most, if not all, girls have to consent to this. Anyhow such kinds of arguments & excuses have no room in shariah.
But the issue in question here is that this custom to be left as it is or it would be completely prohibited. In this matter, I am not differentiating b/w dowry on demand and dowry without demand. Both should be denounced sternly. Former has no place in shariah & so strictly prohibited, but the case of latter is of different nature. No direct proof could be forwarded from shariah. Though the principle of prevention of means (sadd-e- zariah) may be applied here i.e. a situation which may be permissible in first instance, but is calculated to lead to something forbidden. We see that this custom has paved the way for dowry on demand & other evils. If anyone wants to give his daughter something on her wedding, he may give after marriage from time to time on different occasions.
I am sorry for digressing from the main issue i.e. the dowry of Fatimah (ra). The fact of the matter is that they were bought out of the money received from the sale of Ali’s armour. Prophet did not give from his own property. Despite that if we assume that things were given by prophet himself, it may be said that both Ali & Fatima (ra) were under the support of prophet (saw). Hence prophet (saw) gave such things as maintenance of new family needs. Further we don’t find that such things to be given on the marriage of other daughters of prophet (saw). We also do not find such kind of practice among sahabah, tabi’een etc. A companion of prophet (saw) also denoted a house to which Ali & Fatima (ra) were shifted soon after their marriage. It also implies that joint family system has not been encouraged in Islam.
Here it seems to be useful to quote a story. Maulana Abdul Bar Asri Falahi who is at present the research Director, Pharos Educational Foundation, Mumbai, was my teacher at Jamiatul Falah. When he was going to be married, he strictly told the bride’s family not to give anything on marriage. Despite all that they arranged customarily substantial amount of goods including expensive ones arguing that it was their longing to gift something to their own daughter on her wedding and there is no harm in offering gift rather it is desirable. Maulana did maintain the silence. Having Nikah ceremony finished, bride sending out procedure took place. Then he broke his silence and refused to take anything even bride’s attires arguing that she is now my wife and it is my duty to provide all such things to her. If you doubt my capableness to afford the maintenance to your daughter, it means that I am not her kufoo and unable to discharge conjugal responsibilities. You are free to take your daughter. This silencing reply made the people dumb-founded and bride was sent out with her only bridal suit that she clothed in. What was the scene it defies description. One of his disciples did BUMS from AMU set the similar example. Having refused to accept the dowry gifts, he addressed the gathering with his impressive speech on sending out ceremony. This had very good bearing on people’s attitude as they never expected that a well educated youth would set such a good example. These two insignificant incidents produced pleasant consequences i.e. a number of dowry free marriages were witnessed there.
I strongly feel that if the members of Bihar Anjuman Anti Dowry Movement set such examples showing their strong disapproval against dowry on demand and the dowry made willingly by bride’s family & on the other hand paying the dower in full at the time of wedding, it will surely produce the intended results. Hope there would be conformity in our percept and practice InshaAllah.
Na tahreer se mumkin hai, na taqreer se mumkin
woh kaam jo insaan ka kirdaar kare hai
One last word: Of late months I had noticed that a heated argument was exchanged between two esteemed members of this list on the issue of marriage having tied with dowry & cast as well. I as a layman have face to say something without having any malice towards anyone that we BA members on our parts must avoid indulging in argument and have the habit to endure the bitter words of people even if they are too hard to bear. No doubt healthy debates are desirable and constructive criticism is needed but if it seems that our debate is turning unthinkingly to bitter aspects, we must leave it at once. If we continue to pen expressive writing in order to win the argument, challenge others or exchange accusation and counter accusation and thereby digress from the main subject, our movement will be jeopardized to a great extent.
We shouldn’t expect that others must accept the opinion that we consider tied with cogent reasons & they must do what we see better. Such attitude jeopardize mutual understanding & removal of misunderstanding as there is domineering tendency of making others agreed forcibly with our views, hence even our compelling argument would no more be effective to convince them. Whenever we use polemic style & way of argumentation, others will never agree with us even if we put forth very convincing points. As in argumentation, efforts are made to subdue each other. Sometimes we also observe such tendency in the speeches of well known & internationally fame orator of Indian origin Dr. Zakir Naik, so in India, some scholar criticize him on this ground. However, no one can deny his high scholarship and expertness in comparative study of religion and his ability to put logical arguments & making people silenced by apt reply.
For such work, we’ll have to crush our passions & emotions and say good-bye to egoist mindset or attitude; otherwise this noble work would suffer due to our actions.
Disagreement takes three forms: Ikhtilaf, Jidal & Shiqaq
Ikhtilaf: It is used to describe a situation in which people genuinely cannot agree on issues. The second disagreement is dialectical in nature,
Jadal: The aim of this kind of disagreement is ultimately to win an argument. At best it is fruitless and serves no higher purpose. The third type & the worst type of disagreement is dissension,
Shiqaq: This is when parties hold beliefs that are mutually exclusive. Each party has no room for the other’s opinion. It is when pride and arrogance subverts the rational mind to the lowest of the low. It may even lead to violence. (Maulana Khalid Dhorat)
First one is desirable, while other two are strongly condemnable. Disagreement won’t take the form of jidal or shiqaq in any way. That is the important thing! Ummah has suffered a lot ... ... ... that has not yet been recompensed.
Click for more on What Our Scholars Said About Debate
At the end, let me say that all above are my own views; one may strongly disagree with me on them. I now eat the humble pie saying that what infirmities & weaknesses I have pointed out, I am not free from them. To err is human and I’m also a human being.
Khalid Waheed Falahi