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Dower and Maintenance - I

It is one of the most ancient traditions of the human family relations that at the time of marriage the man pays a dower (mahr) to the woman or to her father. In addition to that, he undertakes to bear the expenses of his wife and children during the entire period of his life.

What is the basis of this tradition? Why and how did it begin? Why should the husband be responsible for the maintenance of his wife? What is the spirit of dower? Are dower and maintenance still relevant, even if man and woman enjoy all human and natural rights, and the relations between them are based on justice and equity; or are they only the surviving remnants of the days when man owned woman? Does justice and the equality of rights, especially in the 20th century, demand that these outdated traditions should be abolished, a marriage should take place without a dower, woman should be responsible to bear her own expenses, and the children should be the joint responsibility of husband and wife?

We propose to answer these questions, and begin with the question of dower. Let us see how this tradition came into being, what its philosophy is and how the sociologists explain its origin.

Adapted from the book: "Woman and Her Rights" by: "Shahid Murtaza Mutahhari"

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