Is Mahr (marital gift) a price for female body?

Some Western and secular writers have grabbed the issue of Mahr (marital gift) to satisfy their unjust propensity to taint the dignified image of Islam. It is more than clear that the capitalist world backed by the secularists are exploiting the female body especially in the adverts of their industrial products and commodities in a much wicked and immoral way. 
Nowadays the display of naked or half-naked female body in the adverts on TV and some printing media is more than excessive. They are making use of the female body not only in the adverts of commodities generally consumed and 
used by women but also in such items that do not have even the remotest relation with femininity. Such abuse of woman is a crime against human valueand an utter disrespect to the dignity of women. Moreover, the widespread practice of prostitution in the name of “sex work” has rendered female body like any inanimate object to display and sell, or buy and enjoy. It sounds ludicrous and absolutely nonsensical when these people point their finger at the Islamic practice of Mahr to lay blame on the noble ideology of Islam.

Before explaining the issue of Mahr from Islamic viewpoint, let us see how the West and the secularists spread the wrong impression about Mohr and Muslim women. They term Mohr as a payment for the female body and thus pull 
the wool over people’s eyes in their effort to misrepresent the Islamic system of Mohr. In spreading the misrepresentation of Islam they usuallypick a Muslim dominated territory where maybe some people manipulate the 
system of Mahr to satisfy their lust for sex and money as well.

Commenting on the Arab world, the Danish writer Jorgen Bisch says:

“In Arabia a man of honour pays fairly and squarely for each of wife he acquires. But there are differences in the prices that he pays. A black woman (a Sudanese, say) costs from thirty-five to five hundred pounds. A Saudi Arabian girl, on the other hand, may well cost a thousand.” (Behind the Veil of Arabia; Translated from the Danish by Reginald Spink; Joppa Books Limited, 1962)

Maybe his perception of Mahr has been influenced by the dark history of European women because there was a time (in the recent history) in Europe when people used to sell their wives in the open market as it is expressed in the famous novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy. Such selling has now been stopped in Europe although the same thing is happening is a different method e.g. adverts, prostitution, etc. Being a European it is difficult for Jorgen Bisch to appreciate the Islamic system of Mahr and this is why he equates Mahr with “payment” and we feel pity for such narrow attitude of the writer.

It may happen in some society that some unscrupulous fathers exploit their own daughters and grab and enjoy their marital gift, which in Islam is considered a serious offence from the part of the father.In this respect, the secularist Egyptian feminist Nawal El Sadawi’spresentation of the issue is almost identical with her Europeancounterpart. She says,

“For decision-making in marriage is still largely a family matter and most fathers are still prepared to sell their daughters into wedlock for a good price. Parental authority is shamefully misused when thematter concerns daughters. The Arab family being highly patriarchal, both socially and legally, the authority of the father over his daughters is absolute. In the name of a good marriage young girls aregiven to old decrepit husbands just because they can pay a big price. (The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World; Translated and edited by Dr Sherif Hetata; Zed Press, 57, Caledonian Road. London, 1980, p. 47)

Whether such practice, as the writer hinted, is pervasive or rare is amatter of investigation. But Islam does not support such malpractice of the father or any guardians. Before explaining the Islamic system of Mahr,let’s see what Qur’an says about it: “And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, Take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.” (4:4).

The very tone of the verse says what Islam means by Mahr (dower). Allah (SWT) names it “gift” not price and, in Islam, the husband does not give it with displeasure, rather in a cheerful mood. The wifetakes it in the same way and, in most cases, she shares it with herhusband. Does it happen in the case of selling and buying? It is simply a sign of wish from the part of husband to marry as well as a symbol of love for his would-be wife. Commenting on the verse Dr Yousuf Al-Qaradawi says, ‘The expression "with a good heart" signifies the dower as a gift and is not a price or in return for the pleasure he gets from her, as some people have insisted.’ (The Status of Women in Islam; tr. Sheikh Mohammed Gemeaah; Cairo, Egypt, Islamic Home of Publishing and Distribution, 1997)

The marital gift from the husband cannot be termed as a return for thepleasure he get for a very understandable reason. Because the maritalpleasure (of all kinds) is shared by both husband and wife. Both of them enjoy mutual love and harmony as Allah (SWT) says,

“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from amongyourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (30:21).

The following verse establishes the point of mutual benefit of the spouses in marital bond in a more emphatic way: "How can you take it (Mahr) back  after one of you has gone in unto the other. . . .?" (4:21). So Mahr cannot be a return from husband for the pleasures he enjoys.

This financial obligation of Mahr on the husband is also a harness on him that will prevent him from deserting his wife and marrying new wives in every first opportunity. It works as a financial restraint on the husband, which will prevent him from misusing his right to divorce as well. Because if the dower is in arrears, then he has to pay it at the time of divorce; 
and if it is already paid, he has to pay again when he marries another woman. So a man will take this financial risk only when he is really serious to divorce his wife on reasonable Islamic grounds.

Mahr (marital gift) is absolutely the property of wife. Her father or any other relative cannot demand it or seize it to enjoy without herpermission. In Islam, neither father nor anyone else is the owner of the bride. Allah is the Creator of the entire universe and human beings as well. So He is the Supreme Owner of everything including the human being. So on 
which ground can a father point his hungry eye to the Mahr of his daughter?

Mahr is one of the preconditions of the validity of marriage. So if itdoes not go to the ownership of the bride, the very marriage is void. Dr Jamal Al Badawi points to the same thing when he says,

“Besides all other provisions for her protection at the time of marriage, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her Mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husbandand is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. The concept of Mahr in Islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection.” (The Status of Woman in Islam; Source:, 29.8.2001)

Some unscrupulous fathers can exploit his own daughter by using her Mahr for his own intent as an exchange for marrying the daughter of the prospective bridegroom, which is itself an abominable practice. In this respect Dr Yousuf Al-Qaradawi says, “A father is forbidden to marry his daughter to another man in exchange for being allowed to marry that man's daughter, which is called in jurisprudence as a "vacant marriage" due to its lack of dower, which is the right of the daughter, not the father.” (The Status of Women in Islam; tr. Sheikh Mohammed Gemeaah; Cairo, Egypt, Islamic Home of Publishing and Distribution, 1997)

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