Mahr al-Sunna (Arabic: مَهرالسُنَّة) is a mahr that the Prophet (s) specified for his wives and daughters. The amount of Mahr al-Sunna was 500 dirhams equal to 1500 grams of silver. In hadiths, mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) is mentioned to be an armor, cotton from Yemen or things other than dirhams to an amount ranging in price between 400 to 500 dirhams. Imam al-Jawad (a) specified the mahr of his wife, Umm al-Fadl, Al-Ma'mun's daughter, 500 dirhams, equal to the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a).
According to the fatwa of some jurists, specifying mahr more than Mahr al-Sunna is disapproved. On the contrary, some people say that today, 1500 mithqals of silver does not have a value good enough and has had more value at the time of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a). So, they believe that Mahr al-Sunna does not have a financially fixed value and tried to determine its present-day value; however, they say Mahr al-Sunna is not a costly mahr.
According to hadiths, the amount of Mahr al-Sunna was 500 dirhams. These hadiths have been considered Mutawatir hadiths. In some hadiths, it is mentioned that the Prophet (s) did not specify mahr for any of his wives or daughters more than 500 dirhams.
In hadith references, there are several hadiths different from the hadiths of Mahr al-Sunna, including a hadith which al-Shaykh al-Saduq narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a), where the mahr of Umm Habiba (one of the Prophet's (s) wives) is mentioned four thousand dirhams. It is said that in this hadith, Imam al-Baqir (a) has considered this mahr an exception made by al-Najashi, the monarch of al-Habash who undertook the Prophet's (s) agency in marriage proposal to Umm Habiba and he himself paid the mahr and the Prophet (s) did not oppose it.
Also, there are different reports about the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) such as 480 dirhams, 400 mithqals and 500 dirhams. In al-Manaqib, Ibn Shahr Ashub (b. 488/1095 - d. 588/1192), among Shi'a hadith scholars, mentioned that the reason for the disagreements in reports was because the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) was something other than money and the disagreements in reports is over its price. Then, he has mentioned some hadiths, based on some of which, the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) was cotton from Yemen, non-tanned skin, a fragrant plant and according to some other sources, it included an armor and non-tanned skin of sheep or camel.
Some authors studied all the mentioned hadiths and with regards to the conduct of the Prophet (s) and also a hadith in which Imam al-Jawad (a) specified the mahr of his wife, Umm al-Fadl, al-Ma'mun's daughter, 500 dirhams, equal to the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a), they concluded that the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) was not more than 500 dirhams.
Obligation or Recommendation of Mahr al-Sunna
According to the Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, the author of Jawahir al-kalam, among the jurists of 13th/17th-18th century, the common view was that mahr did not have a permissible maximum and specifying the mahr more than Mahr al-Sunna is also permissible. According to their fatwas, specifying the mahr more than Mahr al-Sunna is just disliked.
According to him, only few jurists including Sayyid Murtada, among the jurists of 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries, considered the mahr more than Mahr al-Sunna legally void and said that if mahr is specified more than Mahr al-Sunna, only an amount of which equal to Mahr al-Sunna is upon the husband to pay.
The Present-Day Equivalent of Mahr al-Sunna
The amount of Mahr al-Sunna, i.e. 500 dirhams, equals to about 1500 grams of pure silver which has a value today much lower than its value at the time of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a). Since the value of 500 dirhams at the time of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) was much more than its value in later periods, some scholars believe that Mahr al-Sunna does not have a fixed financial equivalent amount and it should be calculated based on the present-day value. Thus, they have tried to calculate its current equivalent value.
For example, in the past, some jurists evaluated 500 dirhams using dinars; and because at their time, every 10 dirhams was equal to one dinar, they considered Mahr al-Sunna equal to 50 dinars, i.e. equal to 50 mithqals of pure gold. Also, some scholars suggested to calculate the present value of Mahr al-Sunna based on its purchasing power at the time of the Prophet (s); because, based on some hadiths, with the mahr of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a), the Prophet (s) bought the furniture for her marital life with Imam Ali (a), and by considering it, the present value of Mahr al-Sunna can be calculated. With regards to the value of 50 mithqals of gold and the fact that the furniture bought for Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) were very simple and to the minimum requirements, they have concluded that it was not a costly mahr.
- Ṣadūq, al-Muqniʿ, p. 302.
- Shahīd al-Thānī, al-Rawḍa al-bahiyya, vol. 5, p. 344.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from مهر السنة in Farsi WikiShia.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī. Manāqib Āl Abī Ṭālib. 1st edition. Qom: ʿAllāma, 1379 AH.
- Ḥimyarī, ʿAbd Allāh b. Jaʿfar al-. Qurb al-isnād. Edited by Muʾassisat Āl al-Bayt. Qom: Muʾassisat Āl al-Bayt, 1413 AH.
- Shahīd al-Thānī, Zayn al-Dīn b. ʿAlī. Al-Rawḍa al-bahiyya fī sharḥ al-lumʿat al-Dimashqiyya. Edited by Muḥammad Kalāntar. 1st edition. Qom: Kitābfurūshī-yi Dāwarī, 1410 AH.