How Do You Know If Your Nikah Is Legally Recognised In England?

If your nikah is not registered, you do not have the same legal rights as a married couple. Call our team to find out your options and how to protect your rights.


Under English law, couples who do not register their nikah are considered a “co-habiting couple” in a ‘non-marriage.’ If you divorce or your spouse dies, you do not have the same automatic rights as a married couple e.g. access to your home or pensions. If you want a nikah-only ceremony in the UK, read our guide to find out how you can protect your rights. 

Is Your Nikah Registered?

We’re often asked whether English law recognises a nikah as a valid marrige. It’s an important question. If you nikah is not valid, you may have no legal protection if your relationship ends. Everyone should know if their nikah is legally recognised under English law. In this post, we share an overview of what you need to know – and five steps to protect yourself. 

Unfortunately, many of our clients are caught off guard when they realise their nikah-only ceremony does not provide them with legal protection. For example, one of our clients had been raising her children and not working when her husband decided to end their marriage. Without legal registration of their nikah ceremony, she had no automatic legal protection as a wife, and risked losing her home. It’s important to note that an unregistered nikah is not recognised as a legal marriage under English law, which means that a religious marriage ceremony such as a nikah must take place in a registered building to be considered valid.

If you’re not sure whether your nikah is legally recognised – or are you’re planning your nikah – follow our five steps to learn more below.  Scroll down to find out what you can do to protect yourself.

  • Where did the nikah take place? – the first question is whether your nikah took place in England & Wales or overesas.
    • If your nikah took place in England & Wales, you need to check that your venue is a registered building. A nikah that takes place in a registered building is considered a legally valid marriage. If it isn’t, you will need to register your marriage through a further civil ceremony. You are then married under English law and will have legal protection if your marriage ends or your partner passes away. If you’re planning your nikah, check whether your venue is a registered building. Or have a registrar present. 
    • If your marriage took place abroad, English law recognises overseas marriages in certain circumstances. Is the nikah recognised as a valid marriage in that country? If it is, then it is also a valid marriage under English law when you return to England. When you register your nikah overseas, check that the ceremony is valid in that country.
  • What if the Nikah is not recognised under English law? – under English law, couples who do not have a registered marriage are considered a “co-habiting couple” in a ‘non-marriage.’ Your marriage is not recognised as legally valid. You will not have the same automatic rights as a couple in a civil marriage. For example, if your relationship ends or your spouse dies, you will have less rights when it comes to your home, pensions or making important decisions. 
  • Can you get a divorce if your nikah is not legally recognised? – the short answer is no – but it depends. 
    • Unregistered Nikah – you cannot file for divorce in an English court if your nikah took place in an unregistered building in the UK. That’s because the law views your marriage as a ‘non-marriage.’ The court will have no power to provide financial provision, or to override the strict legal ownership of property. At this stage, the only dissolution of your marriage is under Shariah law.
    • Registered Nikah If you performed your nikah overseas, you can get a divorce in an English court. As we said earlier, this only applies if your nikah ceremony is valid in that country. This is an important point. If your nikah is a valid marriage under English law and your relationship ends, you need to file for a civil divorce to end the marriage under English Law. Which brings us to Islamic divorce.
  • Who can file for an Islamic Divorce? – either a husband or wife can file for an Islamic divorce. Some clients get a civil divorce but their husband refuses to give them a Talaq. A wife can start an application for an Islamic divorce. One such process is Khula. Ask about our fixed fee service – we can guide on your options and prepare an application in line with Islamic principles. 
  • What are your rights if your spouse dies? – If your nikah is not legally recognised under English law, any assets will go into the estate of the deceased and divided amongst other family members. For example their brothers, sisters or parents may inherit their assets. It’s an important reason to make sure your marriage is legally recognised in the UK.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

If you’ve listened to our podcast, Family Matters, you’ll know that Sarah often talks about planning and legal rights. Here are some ways to protect yourself before your nikah, or even after your marriage. There are more options, so please contact our team if you’re concerned about your situation.
  • Nikah Nama – during your nikah, you and your partner will sign the Nikah Nama, an Islamic marriage contract. Like a prenuptial, it’s a way of planning for the future – protection during your marriage but also if your relationship ends. It covers issues such as mahr, maintenance, right to divorce or custody arrangements. Learn more the different types of Nikah Nama, and the 25 most commonly used clauses in Sarah Khan-Bashir’s ebook, Understanding Your Rights: an essential guide to the Nikah Nama is now available on Amazon


  • Cohabitation Agreement is a legally binding document between unmarried couples (or those in a nikah-only marriage) who are living together.  It sets out arrangements for your finances, property or children while you’re living together and if you split up, become ill or die. We offer an affordable cohabitation agreement drafting service. 
    • Estate Planning / Making A Will – a Will is probably one of the most important documents you can make. It is a legally drafted document that sets out what will happen to your belongings if you die, and if you have children, who will care for them. We offer a fixed fee service starting at £250 + VAT.

    We hope you found this post helpful.  Please note, it is not intended to replace legal advice. To find out your options, please call our team. Visit our My Nikah page to explore articles on the nikah nama, mahr or protecting your gold jewellery. 

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