Last week I met a woman – she was going through turmoil. She turned to me for advice because the life she built bit-by-bit was crumbling down.
Her home life was a wreck and children heart-broken.
Not because she decided to get a divorce from her husband. But, because she couldn’t find a way to support the whole process. Reason?
The legal rights she should’ve had access to, weren’t applicable because she overlooked one simple move – getting married legally registered.
In fact, it wasn’t until she went to file for divorce that she found out that a religious marriage alone (without the legal registration) did not provide her with the same rights that a spouse has.
In the eyes of the law, she and her spouse were co-habitants. Not husband and wife.
How could she let that happen?
She had asked her husband a few times to get registered legally, but she had no idea that NOT getting registered would become the biggest mistake of her life. She could not make financial claims – a fact unknown to her when she was spending half her income paying mortgage for the house.
I was numb. How could I help this woman? Apart from providing support, pointing out a few legal technicalities that might work in her favor, I was pretty useless.
I could not help her get one hundred percent of what she deserved.
But, I can do that for women who are entering marriage from this point onwards.
For a marriage to be valid in Western law, a civil registry marriage has to be performed.
I know the culture. I am aware of the different stages of awareness in certain Muslim families. I am aware of the fact that in many families, girls get married by their parents between the ages of 18-22, even younger
In some families, you are supposed to sign the Nikkah agreement without reading (or even looking) at it (while ignoring the many rights that Islam provides a woman). They rely on their wali, which is their father, brother or a male closest of kin.
I know that if a girl asks to get access to those rights – or wants a certain clause added – she gets frowned upon.
Why can’t she?
It’s her legal right. Islam has given her that right.
Allah has given her that right.
Sadly for many, cultural costumes and traditions stand in their way to fully understand what they are inheriting.
Many have no idea that legal registration of marriage is another right that every woman should have. But the number of unregistered Muslim marriages is painstakingly high. According to the data collected in 2015 here are the numbers:
Some reasons for such a high number of unregistered marriages include:
- Unawareness of the fact that a religious marriage does not automatically gets you registered.
- Unawareness of the fact that cohabitants have the same rights as those between legally married spouses.
- Fear of commitment on the part of the spouse and the idea to see where it goes before tying all loose ends.
- Fear of disapproval or loss of proposal upon insistence of getting the marriage registered.
- Fear of the fifty-fifty split of property and a settlement complying with the English law in case of divorce.
- The idea that a religious marriage is all that matters.
When you live in a country where the laws of Sharia are not practiced, it is your duty to abide by the laws of that country. This marriage system is put in place to protect couples from ever being disadvantaged.
The Solution – Get Your Marriage Registered ASAP
Lucky for me, I recently came to know about Register Our Marriage campaign initiated by Aina Khan OBE on Twitter (the link has all the details). They are providing some astounding information about registering Muslim marriages.
Eighty percent of unregistered Nikkahs put eighty percent of women (and men) at a disadvantage. It goes both ways.
This is not just a women empowerment concern – it is about spouse empowerment.
Register Our Marriage Campaign – What You Need to Know
Register Our Marriage campaign is aimed towards raising awareness for this very purpose. The founder; Aina Khan OBE is an International and Islamic family law expert. You can follow her campaign on Twitter or reach out to her to discuss your marriage registry issues.
They are educating the masses by raising awareness about the basic rights that a spouse should have access to. This is their message and basically everything you need to know about it a nutshell.
Some Personal FAQ’s About Legal Registration of Marriage
Down below I answer some of the FAQs I received after I talked about this to a few affected women.
- My husband does not want to get our marriage registered – what should I do?
Women upon being asked for their hand in marriage should do their homework on the man. Consider him like a prospective long term employee. You want a man who is honest, has integrity, compassion and loyalty.
Ask people about his character, google him, review his social media, request his resume to see his employment record and get references from family members, colleagues and friends. If a man says let’s get married Islamically and we’ll register our marriage later in civil court, that is a red flag,
Have him explain his reasoning to delay.
- I don’t think I’ll get a divorce ever. Do the benefits of getting registered still matter?
The benefit of being registered will secure your future if the husband passes away, they will inherit possessions and no fear battling his family.
In addition, you would be included in your husband’s health insurance, retirement plan for a pension and social security.
All this can only happen if their marriage is registered in a court of law. So it’s not just about making sure you end up okay after divorce.
- I am a man/woman. I’m not married. I do not face this situation but would still like to raise awareness. What can I do to help raise awareness?
Understand the consequences. Educate fellow women. Learn about women’s rights in Islam when it comes to marriage. Talk about these rights to your daughters, sisters, and friends. You will be surprised at how many rights Islam has bestowed for women to exercise for their own integrity and security.
You should also support the organizations that are educating people about the danger of being in an unregistered marriage. Spread the word through social media. You can also share this blog post on social media for the sake of awareness. Send it to your friends and family – get to know about the technicalities of law, marriage, and your religious rights.
A Final Word…
As a Muslim woman, registering your marriage in a court of law is equivalant as an Islamic marriage. Women in Islam have rights over their husbands and one of those rights is to be recognized as a partner in marraige.
Any man seeking the hand of a woman only officiating it with an Imam islamically short sells his new wife leaving himself open for suspicion.
Some men who do this may already have a wife and seeking the new wife to be his 2nd or 3rd wife islamically.
This is not right in Western countries, it leaves the new wife at a great disadvantage. I don’t want to see any woman in such a situation.
It is our duty to raise awareness and educate women about their rights. Which is why, I hope you will spread the word on social media and talk about this issue wherever – whenever you can.