Dower and Dowry

The word for dower generally used in the Koran is ajr (pl. ujur), meaning reward or the gift that is given to the bride. The word saduqat (pl. of saduqa) is also once used in the Koran to denote the nuptial gift (4:4), and the other words from the same root, signifying dower are sudaq and sidaq. The verbal root word sadaqa means he was truthful. Another word sometimes used in the Koran to indicate the nuptial gift is fariza means what has been made obligatory or an appointed portion. The word mahr used in the hadith means dowry or nuptial gift. It is a free gift by the husband to the wife at the time of contracting the marriage: “And give women their dowries as a free gift” (4:4). The setting of a dower on the woman at the marriage is obligatory: “And lawful for you are all women besides these, provided that you seek these with your property, taking them in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit (by marrying) give them their dowries as appointed” (4:24). The payment of dower is also necessary in the case of marriage with a slave-girl: “So marry them with the permission of their masters and give them their dowries justly” (4:25); and also in the case of a Muslim marrying a non-Muslim woman: “And the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you, when you have given them their dowries, taking them in marriage” (5:5).

The dower is a bridal gift on the part of the husband on the marriage. It is necessary even though it might be a very small sum. In exceptional cases, the marriage is legal even though the amount of dower has not been specified at the time of nikah, but it is obligatory afterwards. The later jurists divided dower into two portions: One is called mahr mua’jjal (lit., that which is hastened) or prompt, and the other mahr muajjal (lit., deferred for a time). The payment of the first part must be made immediately on the wife’s demand, while the other half becomes due on the death of either party, or on the dissolution of marriage. Whether a dower should be entirely or in part eligible or deferred depends on the contract of the parties. No hard and fast rule has been specified in the Koran about the amount of dower. It is to be determined in accordance with the social status and the circumstances. According to Daim al-Islam (p. 821), the Prophet treated all his wives alike in respect of mahr and married them for twelve and a half uqiya of silver each. One uqiya of silver is 40 dhirams, and thus 12