BBC News reports many Muslim marriages in the UK are legally invalid.
The BBC spoke to a young student from Birmingham who learned her nikah was legally invalid when she enrolled at university and was asked to produce a marriage certificate. “It was then I realised I didn’t have one and it came as a big shock to me,” she said.
Apparently she asked her husband to register their marriage but he was against the idea. Then, a few months later, she came home and found that the locks to her front door had been changed and that she had been thrown out of her home:
“I took legal action but I got nothing. I’d paid the mortgage on the house but my husband held legal title to the property so I lost everything.
“It was as though the marriage had never happened. It was the worst time of my life.”
Family lawyer Aina Khan told the BBC:
“The problem is extremely widespread and it’s like a time-bomb because it’s affecting mostly young Muslims, who are under 30 or in their early 30s.
“My colleagues and I deal with hundreds of cases where things have gone wrong because the wedding was not registered.
“Unmarried couples only have cohabitant rights, so it’s extremely expensive and difficult to get individuals justice if the marriage ends or one spouse dies.”
Dr. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the head of Britain’s Muslim Parliament, says many Muslim women face ruin because their Islamic marriages are not legally recognised:
“It’s a major problem in the community. But it’s very difficult to say how many people are affected because there are no statistics. It could be in the hundreds, if not thousands.”
Shaista Gohir, the head of the UK Muslim Women’s Network, points out that:
“If a couple has a nikah in a Muslim country then the marriage is recognised under UK law.
“But many people do not realise that this is not the case if the nikah is conducted in this country.”
Dr. Siddiqiui believes some Muslim women are exploited as their partners promise them a civil wedding after the nikah only to refuse to go ahead with it:
“This allows Muslim men to control their wives destinies.
“It also enables some men to commit polygamy. I know of cases where men have taken on several wives because they have just had the nikah with each partner.”
He advises Muslim women to protect themselves by insisting on a civil ceremony before the nikah. He also wants mosques to register with local authorities so they can conduct civil marriages. “The problem is that only a handful of mosques across the country are registering themselves,” explains Dr. Siddiqiui.
“I don’t know why this is the case because it is very simple to do – all they need to do is fill out a form. Religious leaders must take a bigger responsibility to protect many Muslim women who are unnecessarily suffering.”
- Getting married – Some Guidelines (The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain)
- Wedding trouble as UK Muslim marriages not recognised (BBC Asian Network)
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