Muslim marriage is a contract, not a sacrament. Though it has importance as the only religiously sanctioned way for individuals to have legitimate sexual relationships and to procreate, marriage is a civil agreement, entered into by two individuals or those acting on their behalf. – Kecia Ali @ The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project
Young Muslims tend to hear a lot about how great Islamic Marriage Contracts are. At conferences, lectures, and even on the internet we hear about how, because they are civil agreements, both the bride and groom can add stipulations. For instance, Fatema Mernissi made famous the story of Sukayna, the great granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad who was pretty much a badass and stipulated all sorts of things in her marriage contracts:
She made one of her husbands sign a marriage contract that officially specified her right to nushuz, that rebellion against marital control that so tormented the fuqaha. She claimed the right to be nashiz, and paraded it, like her beauty and her talent, to assert the importance and vitality of women in the Arab tradition. Admiring and respectful, the historians delight in evoking her family dramas – for instance, the case that she brought against one of her husbands who had violated the rule of monogamy that she had imposed on him in the marriage contract. Dumbfounded by the conditions in the contract, the judge nevertheless was obliged to hear the case, with his own wife attending this trial of the century and the caliph sending an emissary to keep him au courant with the course of the trial. – Fatema Mernissi, The Veil & The Male Elite, pg 191-193
Despite hearing about the awesomeness and flexibility of Islamic marriage contracts, we rarely see them being used to their full potential, and in many cases, people don’t read them, or just use whatever is available at the local mosque. Every so often we also hear about organizations like Musawah or Karamah coming up with marriage contracts that are legally enforceable in their locales, but nothing solid seems to have been published.
My wife and I were married in the state of Pennsylvania with a self-uniting, or “Quaker” marriage license. The state of Pennsylvania, due to its history of religious tolerance is one of two states in the Union which allow for this kind of marriage in which an officiant is not necessary. In fact, it resembled a simplified islamic marriage contract–with spaces for just two witnesses. It was as simple as driving over to our friend Amira’s house, signing the license, and cutting our doughnut (who needs a cake?). While I loved the simplicity of it, I wanted something that captured the spirit of our union, so I asked my buddy Na’eem if I could adapt his marriage contract for my marriage. He agreed to let me use it, and distribute it to all of you. So below are two versions of a nikah contract. One was adapted for my own marriage, and one is his. From what he told me, his original version is enforceable under South African law. It may not be enforceable in your country, so, if that is necessary for you, you should definitely go see a lawyer and tweak it.
Just one more thing: I’d like to welcome you all to the new hijabman.com virtual mosque & community center. We’re just beginning here, so a few links are still broken, but more content will be up each day. This is your invitation to register, contribute, and become an active member. By registering, you will be able to comment on this blog as well as post in the forum.
Here are two versions of an ‘Islamic Marriage Contract’ for your convenience, I’ve also included a PDF & Pages version. If you forward this, we humbly request that you keep the footer intact, so others may know where to find the originals. Thank You.
2c. HijabMan’s Adapted Islamic Marriage Contract (PAGES)