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Mahr (Arabic: مهر) or Ṣidāq (Arabic: صداق) is anything of value (a certain amount of money, possessions, or etc.) man take the responsibility at the time of marriage to pay to the woman. Mahr is among the rights of a woman and she can ask for it just after the marriage contract is made. This right is given to the heirs of the woman after her death and they can claim it.
The Qur'an advises men to pay the Mahr of their wives with total consent and should not bother them so that they give up or return a part of it.
In hadiths, high amount of Mahr is considered evil and little Mahr and "Mahr al-Sunna" (the Mahr of Lady Fatima (a)) has been advised which was about 1250 to 1500 grams of silver (equal to about 170 to 223 grams of gold).
Mahr is a anything of value which is taken in husband's debt upon marriage to give to woman and the woman owns upon marriage.
Before Islam, fathers and mothers regarded Mahr as the caring wage or milking wage; thus, in Shighar marriage which was a custom at the Age of Ignorance, exchanging one's daughter or sister in return would be considered Mahr while the woman would receive no benefit from that. Islam canceled this custom.
In Islam, after the marriage contract is made, the marital relation establishes between husband and wife and rights and responsibilities are considered for both among which is the payment of Nafaqa and Mahr.
It is not obligatory to specify the mahr before permanent marriage and so the two parties can agree on it after the marriage bond ('aqd). However, in the case of temporary marriage, if the mahr is not specified, then the marriage will be invalid according to the majority of Shiite marja'
In Verses and Hadiths
The word "Mahr" (Arabic:مهر) is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but words such as "Saduqat" (Arabic:صُدَقات) and "Ujur" (Arabic:اجور) (mostly about Mut'a and marriage with bondwomen) and "Sidaq" (Arabic:صداق) and "Farida" (Arabic:فریضة) have been used for Mahr.
Not paying the Mahr which is the woman's own possession is called an evident oppression in the Qur'an.
In the verse, "Give women their mahr as an obligation…" , Mahr has been referred to as "Saduqa" which is derived from the root (s-d-q) (Arabic: ص-د-ق; meaning: truthfulness) which suggests the truthful nature of marital bond and the love of the husband.
Secondly, by bringing the pronoun "Hunn-a" (Arabic: هنّ; meaning: them), considers Mahr belonging to the woman not to her father or brother so that they take it as wages.
Thirdly, using the word "Nihla", it says that Mahr is a gift and not the value of woman; thus, Mahr is a right entitled to her by God and by paying it, the man does not make her indebted.
Imam al-Baqir (a) said, "what the two sides of marriage come to agree, whether little or great is Mahr. The maximum of Mahr cannot be limited by religion.
Imam al-Sadiq (a) said that one of the things which would not be forgiven is unpaid Mahr of woman.
In hadiths, high amount of Mahr is considered a sign of a woman's evil and has been considered a cause of hatred in the family.
The Prophet (s) said, "three groups of women are not subject to pressure in the grave and will be resurrected with Lady Fatima (a): a woman who gets along with the poverty of her husband, a woman who does not lose her patience with the bad temper of her husband and a woman who remits the Mahr for her husband."
Historical sources have mentioned the Mahr of Lady Fatima (a) (daughter of the Prophet) between four hundred and five hundred Dirhams. In a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a), the amount of Mahr which is known in traditions as "Mahr al-Sunna" (Mahr of tradition) is set to five hundred Dirhams.
Five hundred Dirhams is equal to about 1250 to 1500 grams of Silver. Since at that time, ten Dirhams of silver was equal to one gold Dinar, "Mahr al-Sunna" had been 170 to 223 grams of gold (this is an approximate amount regarding different opinions about the weight of Dirhams and Dinars.)
Types of Mahr
There are three kinds of mahr in Islam:
Mahr al-Musamma (mentioned mahr) is a type of mahr on the amount of which the man and the woman agree before 'aqd and mention it in their 'qad or on which they agree after 'aqd. The Mahr should be specified by the two parties in such a way that they do not remain ignorant of and should not be indeterminate or vague.
According to hadiths, it is mustahab (or recommended) that the two parties determine the mahr in accordance to mahr al-sunna (the traditional mahr).
If at the time of the permanent marriage, no agreement is made on the mahr, or the determined mahr is invalid, and there was a sexual intercourse between the wife and the husband, then a mahr will be determined as equal to the mahr of women of the same status according to the common sense, with respect to the place and other conditions such as family, education, age, job, and the like will be determined. This type of mahr is referred to as mahr al-mithl (mahr of counterparts).
If the mahr is not specified in 'aqd and the man divorces the woman before sexual intercourse and the determination of the mahr, then the woman will be entitled to mahr al-mut'a.
It is valid to assign one of the two parties with the decision on the amount of the mahr within the 'aqd, which is called “tafwid al-mahr” (the assignment of the decision on mahr). In this case, the woman cannot determine a mahr greater than mahr al-mithl.
- It needs to have financial value.
- It needs to be possessable and transferable.
- It needs to be specified and determined.
- It needs to be definite.
- It needs to be legitimate.
- The Husband needs to be capable of submitting it.
Mahr needs to be specified to some extent that there would be no ignorance about it between the two parties and it should not be something vague.
Cases in which Half of the Mahr is Effective
If the mahr is determined in or after 'aqd and then there is a divorce before sexual intercourse, the woman will be entitled to half of mahr al-musamma.
If the mahr is not determined and the marriage is annulled because of the man’s sexual dysfunction, then the woman will be entitled to half of the mahr.
Balancing and Calculating the Mahr at the Rate of the Day
If the mahr is a coin or a specific object, then it will be paid with the same object or number of coins. However, if the mahr is determined with the day's currency, then since economic conditions and the inflation rate change, the Iranian law calculates the mahr at the rate of the day for purposes of defending women’s rights. The index of annual prices is announced every year by the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The procedure has been criticized by some jurisprudents who take it contrary to jurisprudential principles.
- This article is mainly taken from مهریه in Farsi WikiShia.
- Qur'an 4:4