Dowry

M is Hubby’s cousin. She is 29 years old, and works as an x-ray technician in a small clinic near her home. Her father has been very abusive to the wife and children, so M’s mother decides to leave her husband. She brings the kids with her – 3 girls and 1 boy – and settles in another city. She sends her children to school by sewing people’s clothes. The children graduate high school, but unable to pay for college, they take up 2-year technician courses.

There has been tremendous pressure from family and friends concerning M’s marriage. After all, the ideal age in our culture is between 20 to 25. Moreover, marriages are mostly arranged. Her mother and other relatives look for a suitable match. Offers are turned down because the father doesn’t live with them or because they do not own the house they are living in. They have been looking for 2 years now.

A few weeks ago, an uncle finds another match. This man is an engineer, earning 25,000 rupees, and is an only child. Uncle invites him and his parents over for lunch at his home. M and her mother also arrive. Guy meets girl. He talks to her. She talks to him. Food is served. Families talk. Guy likes girl. Girl later tells her mother she likes him too.

M’s mother asks her younger brother, “How much money will be needed for a wedding?”

Uncle replies, “Wedding costs plus dowry will be approximately 400,000 rupees.”

M’s mother fells silent. Anxiety is all over her face. “But we don’t have that much. All the children are earning, but we can’t come up with that amount.”

Uncle reassures her, “Don’t worry. We will all work together to make this happen.”

Earlier today, Hubby receives a phone call from India. The guy’s parents have certain demands. They are asking for a dowry: 500,000 rupees in cash, a car, and complete furniture.

“That is totally absurd and un-Islamic,” I tell hubby.

“He’s an only child, an engineer, and is earning a decent income. Plus M’s already 29.” I can’t make sense of what Hubby is saying.

“That’s the way some people are,” he tells me.

I remember when we were getting married, my Mother asked Hubby what he wanted for dowry.

“Whatever you wish to give to your daughter as a wedding present is fine with me.” Hubby kept his word. Neither he nor his Mom asked for anything.

 

Dowry as practiced in India and Pakistan:

Dowry are gifts given by the parents of the bride. The point of the dowry system was to provide for the bride should something unfortunate occur, like her husband’s death or divorce.

The dowry system was something originally honorable in intention and provided for the independent wealth of the bride in a time when she was unlikely to work outside of the home.

Like many customs and traditions, time has altered the dowry’s original meaning and purpose. While the dowry system is still in place, it has become more of a “bride-price” system.

 

Dowry in Islam:

Contrary to the current practice, Islam encourages the groom to give a ‘Bridal-Gift’ or ‘Dower’ as a token of love and assurance to his would be wife at the time of marriage. The Holy Qur’an instructs the believers:

And give the women (on marriage) their dower with a good heart … Surah An-Nisa: 4

Dowry is paid by the groom to the bride and to her only as an honor and a respect given to her and to show that he has a serious desire to marry her and is not simply entering into the marriage contract without any sense of responsibility and obligation or effort on his part.

Regarding one of the companions who was poor and wished to marry, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to him:

“Search for something (to give as a gift).”

He said, “I have nothing.”

“Search for something, even if it just a ring made from iron.” – Bukhari & Muslim

The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act (India):

This act prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, “as consideration for the marriage”, where “dowry” is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage.

Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry, and are legal. A

Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs. 5000.

I am not sure when the dowry system will end. Probably never. A girl’s family do not usually pursue legal battles concerning dowries because that in itself costs a lot. Apart from financial concerns, there’s also the bad reputation. There’s this mentality that people suing other people and dragging them to court hurts a family’s reputation in the society.

I just feel bad knowing that even educated, professional people make unlawful demands like these. It’s either total ignorance of the Islamic guidelines and principles, or pure greed.

 

 

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14 Responses to Dowry

  1. Jus says:

    i never could understand Indian (have not seen it in Pakistan for myself) dowry system. Why is it that the BRIDE has to give?? How can it provide “security” in the event of unfortunate accidents on her husband to be if procuring them would certainly cause GREAT financial grief? *shake head*

    On the other hand, the Malay muslim’s customs in the South East Asia is also getting out of hand. The brides are asking for SGD 10,000 (roundabout USD 7,000) plus other jewellery sets and gifts (tt could well amount to another 5,000) as dowry! RIDICULOUS!

  2. nadia says:

    It is a Hindu custom, which has been adopted by Muslim Indians and Pakistanis. I have seen worse in Karachi. The bride’s family gave a completely furnished apartment (including fridge, oven, washing machine, flat screen TV) and a car, aside from clothes and jewelery. And to make matters worse, the girl’s family provide for the expenses of the birth of the first grandchild. That I find totally ridiculous.

    Malay customs are similar to the one’s I’m seeing here in the U.A.E. The result: Emirati men are marrying foreigners. They stress that they have no choice, they can’t afford to marry a local girl.

    I expect the new generation to be sensible enough to break free from these pointless customs.

  3. Haleem says:

    In Bangladesh dowries are reverse problem when bride’s parents (usually father) demands HUGE amounts for daughters. It’s supposed to be decided by the girl.

  4. sana saleem says:

    Its a sad tradition , which has no basis in Islam . Also is morally incorrect .

  5. nadia says:

    Yes, Sana. It surely is a sad tradition, which unfortunately has become an integral part of our society 😦

    But hey, thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. Serene says:

    This is totally ridiculous, how can a woman provide for a man all this amount of money. It’s like your buying your husband from his family. I think this is injustice, what if you are a poor girl from a poor family, how can you be able to get married if this is the system. It doesn’t make sense at all!

  7. nadia says:

    The bride’s family eventually has to sell off their property or get a huge loan (and end up paying interest for life) just to please the groom and his family. If the groom’s side is not satisfied with what the bride brings, he may remind her of this shortcoming all the time.

    It’s utterly ridiculous, but the system works that way; it has been for centuries.

  8. BholiBhali says:

    This is so sad and unfortunate hmmm.. Only if we could follow our Religon bit better.. Its extremly pathetic and ppl having such demands and thoughts should be ashamed and really need 2 get their “zameer” 2wake up from where they have buried it..

    Allah give hidaiyat 2 such human beings (if i so can call them that) and guide them 2the rite path, Ameen!

  9. nadia says:

    Summa Ameen! This is a much-needed dua for a lot of Muslim brothers and sisters.

  10. majid says:

    thanku nadia to bring awareness to this unfortunate unislamic custom, may allh guide us, ameen, Iam proud of my parents who never demanded Dowry as a precondition for me and my brothers arranged marriage.

  11. Majid says:

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    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,445545,00.html

  12. nadia says:

    Majid, this has been a very sensitive issue, not only in Islam but other religions as well.

    In Pakistan, it’s quite common to do Nikkah without the rukhsati. And when it comes to only nikkah, without actually consummating the marriage, it’s legal in Islam even for young children, as long as the father approves of it. However, it is not allowed to have intimate relationship until both the girl and the boy have reached puberty.

    In this particular situation, the parents apparently decided to wed their children off to end a family feud. We really don’t know the exact story, but it may be possible that the parents of these children just wanted Nikah, and wait off for rukhsati until the children have both grown up.

    But marriage is a commitment and a big responsibility, something that young children won’t be able to comprehend. And this practice is still quite common in Pakistan, so I assume that’s the reason why the police has been quite strict about it.

    I personally do not know of any underage married couple, or an adult man marrying an underage girl in my family or friends.

    If it were my kids, I would rather have them enjoy their childhood days in a carefree manner, rather than worry about marriage.

  13. adeelkunwar says:

    This is a very important issue, everybody talks about it but no one takes any practical step to stop it,
    i can understand the misery of girls parents, they are incapable of doing anything, but the boys parents should think about it, isn’t it interesting that they too have daughters,
    anyways, this bad practice should be stopped,
    many girls are sitting on doors just because of this filthy ritual and we all are responsible.

  14. nadia says:

    Welcome to the blog, Adeel! Yes, I agree. I think a lot of our brothers and sisters from the newer generation abhor this dowry system, so inshaAllah I hope everyone takes a stand to abolish it.

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