An Islamic Prenuptial – why does the Nikah Nama matter?
In many ways, the Nikah Nama is like a prenuptial agreement. It contains a series of terms which apply during marriage, death or divorce. I don’t remember talking to my husband or my parents about which clauses we should include in our Nikah Nama. I didn’t know we could do that…or should do that. But put it this way. You wouldn’t sign a mortgage agreement without reading it. So why is your marriage contract any different?
Your Nikah Nama protects you during your marriage but also if your relationship ends. Like a prenuptial, it’s a planning tool. Each Nikah Nama is personal to you as a couple. You can record issues such as your mahr, maintenance or right to divorce. It’s a powerful document. You can set out fair terms. It can reduce potential areas of disagreement in the future. It can safeguard a woman’s rights in marriage and divorce proceedings.
And like a prenuptial, we know there’s still so many taboos about discussing them. Planning what happens if your relationship ends isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re about to get married. But let’s start by talking about some of the issues and your rights.
We spoke with Vishal Shakir, a lawyer in Pakistan, about his views on the topic:
“In Pakistan, discussing the Nikah Nama among spouses is still considered taboo among the majority of the society. People believe that it is the duty of the elder members of the family and not those going through the marriage. Most of the spouses whom I have encountered have not even seen their own Nikah Nama unless, or until, it was required for some other legal documentation. A discussion about the Mahr is also not the prerogative of the couple but the elders of the family, who decide among themselves that what is the best amount to be written as the Mahr. Some families take advantage of the groom and some just forgo their daughter’s Islamic rights by specifying a less than a reasonable amount, not realising that this is a sheer violation of the rights of rights of the bride.
People don’t realise that the Nikah Nama is the most important social contract a person can have during their lifetime.
Also, in the matter of Divorce, the majority of people have no idea about the Talaq-e- Tafweez (the bride’s divorce), which entitles women to divorce their husband the same way as the groom. There are plenty of other sections available to empower women as a wife by providing enough financial and social security, which are being sometimes disregarded at the time need to be addressed. Nikah Nama conversations are still taboo.
I am getting married and currently discussing the Nikah Nama with my fiancée who is also very well educated. However, at first she was hesitant to discuss it since it is not a common practice and I had to put in effort to con- vince her that we need to discuss it in order to make our future life free from all the legal complexities. Now think that if a well-educated girl is hesitant to discuss the Nikah Nama, how can someone less informed have the confidence to safeguard their future position in the marriage?”