Is my Nikah legally recognised in England?
The question we’re asked the most is whether a nikah is legally recognised in England. We’ve shared the legal position here and advice on how you can protect yourself under English law. This post is part of our #MyNikah and Women&Divorce series.
Please note this is general guidance. If you need support or have a question, book your free 30 minute legal advice call today on 01274 727373. Alternatively, you can reach us on WhatsApp Business 01274 732482, or complete our contact form and a member of our will be in touch. Please note that everything you share is treated in confidence.
What is a Nikah?
A Nikah is an Islamic religious marriage ceremony.
Is a Nikah legally recognised in the UK?
The short answer is no…but it’s not always straightforward.
- If your marriage takes place in England & Wales. To be legally valid, a religious marriage must generally take place in a registered building. If your place of worship, or elsewhere, has not been registered for marriage, you must go through an additional civil ceremony in order to be legally married.
- Overseas. Marriages which take place overseas will be recognised in the UK in certain circumstances. English Law recognises any marriage that takes place abroad, as long as it is recognised as a valid marriage in that country. For example, if your nikah is a legally recognised marriage in Pakistan, it will be legally recognised under English Law as a valid marriage.
What Are My Rights If My Nikah is Not Legally Recognised in the UK?
Your rights are limited. Find out if your Islamic marriage / Nikah is legally recognised today. If you’re not sure, we recommend speaking to our legal team today.
- Non-Marriage: couples who do not have a civil marriage are considered to be a “co-habiting couple.” Legally, your marriage will be considered a ‘non-marriage’ – it will not be recognised as legally valid. You will not have the same rights as couples in a civil marriage. So in the event of death or divorce, you will have less rights e.g. access to pensions and benefits.
Can I File for Divorce?
The short answer is no. You can read the legal decision here.
- Religious Wedding conducted in the UK with no civil ceremony: if your religious marriage ceremony is not legally recognised under English law (a “non-marriage”), you cannot file for divorce in an English court. If your relationship breaks down, the court will have no power to afford financial provision, or override the strict legal ownership of property. At this stage, the only dissolution will be under Shariah law.
- Legally Recognised Overseas Marriage: if the marriage ends and the Nikah was performed abroad then you will need to file for a divorce to end the marriage under English Law. Your marriage will not have ended according to Shariah Law.
We know many women who obtain a Decree Absolute (divorce), but their husband refuses to give them a Talaaq. The woman may need to approach a Shariah Council to obtain one on her behalf from her husband; many women are unaware they can obtain a Khulla. Shariah Councils are there to offer women protection, guidance and a helping hand. SKB Law works with a confidential and trusted local council. If you need advice, please call our team on 01274 727373.
What Are My Rights If My Spouse Dies?
In the unfortunate event that one spouse dies, their assets do not automatically transfer to the other spouse (under English law there is no legal marriage). Any assets will go into the estate of the deceased and could potentially be divided amongst other family members such as brothers, sisters and the parents.
We hope you’ve found this post helpful. As a law firm, we aim to help more people access legal information. SKB Law is led by Sarah Khan-Bashir MBE – a solicitor with over 20 years experience. Our team supports clients across England & Wales with divorce, finances, children’s matters, wills and immigration. If we can help you, please reach out in confidence to our team on 01274 727373.