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Dower in the Islamic System of Rights

There is a fifth stage also about which the sociologists and other commentators have observed silence. During this stage man gives a present to woman herself. Neither of her parents has any claim to it. Woman receives the present, but she preserves her social and economic independence. She chooses her husband of her own free will, not with the sanction of her father or brother. Furthermore, neither has her father nor her husband any right to enslave or exploit her. The proceeds of her work and labour belong exclusively to her. In financial matters she does not require anybody's supervision or patronage.

The husband has only one right. He can enjoy sex with his wife. As long as the conjugal relations are intact, he is under obligation to meet all the legitimate requirements of his wife within his own financial limits.

This is the stage which is recognised by Islam and on which Islam has laid the foundation of matrimonial relations. Many passages of the Qur'an emphasise that the dower exclusively belongs to woman. Besides, the husband has to maintain her and meet her expenses. At the same time, whatever woman earns belongs to her and not to anybody else, not even to her father or husband.

It is here that the question of dower and maintenance becomes a little puzzling. As long as the dower was paid to the father of the girl and she went to the husband'5 house just like a slave and the husband could economically exploit her, the question was easy to understand. The dower was then paid as a price of the girl and she had to be maintained like any other slave. But, if nothing is to be paid to the father of the girl, the husband is not allowed to exploit his wife; woman has complete economic independence, and as far as her rights are concerned, she does not require the supervision, control or patronage of anybody. Then what is the sense of a dower and maintenance allowance being paid?

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

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