Dower: A right of wife and an obligation of husband

Last updated on 29/09/2019

Mahr or Dower is a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive
from the husband in consideration of the marriage. There can be no marriage without a dower. In Muslim law, dower is one of the conditions of validity of the marriage.

Allah Almighty stated in the Holy Quran:

And give unto the women, (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions.

Surah Nisa, verse 4

O Prophet, We have made permissible for you the wives whose dower you have paid.

Surah Al-Ma’idah : verse 33

In Shari’ah Law, Mehr belongs absolutely to the wife. Uqbah ibn Amir reported that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

The most equitable of the conditions of marriage is that you should fulfill that condition(dower) with which you have made your wives lawful to you.

The claim of the wife for the unpaid portion of ‘mahr’ is an unsecured debt due to her from her husband. It ranks ratably with unsecured debts and is an actionable claim. During her lifetime, the wife can recover the debt herself from the estate of the deceased husband. If she predeceases the husband the heirs of the wife, including the husband, become entitled to her dower.

Mehr is so necessary to marriage that if it was not mentioned at the time of marriage, or in the contract, the law will presume it by virtue of the contract itself. Dower is a legal right of the wife and if it is not fixed, the wife is still entitled to some dower from the husband, which is called “prompt dower”. This right is so important that even in case of husband’s death, the wife is entitled to dower if unpaid. Muslim law gives to the widow whose dower has remained unpaid a very special right to enforce her demand. This is known as the widow’s right of retention. A widow lawfully in possession of her deceased husband’s estate. Wife is entitled to retain such possession until her dower is satisfied.

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Fatima Tariq Written by:

Fatima Tariq, a law student at Kinnaird College for Women and a political science student at the University of Punjab. Research fellow at Insaaf Camp. Follow me at