6 in 10 Muslim Women are in a Marriage That is Not Legally Recognised

Islamic Marriage not recognised in UK
Legally reviewed by: Shakeela Bi In: Family

Over 60 per cent of Muslim Women are in a Marriage that is not legally Recognised

Back in November of last year Channel 4 showcased an insightful documentary called ”The Truth About Muslim Marriage”, exploring the rights and concerns of wives in Islamic marriages living in Britain.

The programme revealed that 66.5 per cent of Muslim couples who have undergone a Nikah, an Islamic marriage ceremony, have not validated their relationship in the eyes of UK law by holding a separate civil ceremony.

Of that 66.5 per cent, a significant 28 per cent of couples wrongly believed they were legally married.

Is your marriage recognised by law in England, or are you not sure? For any help with your family legal matters,

Legal Recognition of an Islamic Marriage

In terms of rights and protections, the individuals who go through a Nikah will find that their relationship holds as much legal recognition (or lack thereof) as that of a cohabiting couple.

This means that the couple could spend the majority of their lives together, building a family or a shared business, but if for whatever reason the relationship ends, the parties do not have access to legal recourse relating to their assets.

Today we have chosen to look at the prevalent issue of unregistered Islamic marriage and how it affects the parties involved, as well as assess how the law must be changed in order to make the system fairer for Muslim couples.

How Can You Make a Nikah Valid in Britain?

Your first option for ensuring your marriage is recognised under UK law would be to hold a civil ceremony.

Parties should discuss when entering into marriage whether they would like to simply have the Islamic Ceremony the ‘Nikah’ or whether they would like their marriage to be recognised. It is the view of our experienced family law solicitor, that matters are discussed early between parties, however difficult, parties will know how to proceed forward with their relationship.

Parties will have to be more transparent about their relationship and also how financially they will meet each other’s obligations and how assets should be protected, depending upon what route they choose. An alternative option could be to create a cohabitation agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement, also known as a Living Together Agreement, is a type of document which allows both parties to regulate and state ownership of their financial assets most valuable to them, such as the shared family home or car.

If you address these matters in your cohabitation agreement, this will determine how such assets are split or shared following a divorce from your spouse.

Cohabitation agreements can also set out what each of the parties will be due to inherit in the regrettable situation that one of you dies.

Planning for the Future

Whilst it might sound unromantic to consider the end of your relationship, this kind of realistic forward-thinking could save you from plenty of emotional, and financial heartache in the future when you may no longer be able to agree with one another.

The agreement can also cover other reasonable provisions, such as childcare arrangements, expensive possessions accumulated during the marriage and even plans for managing housework or ongoing bills.

A Cohabitation Agreement Instead of a Civil Marriage

A cohabitation agreement may be more desirable to Muslim couples who do not wish to register their marriages under English law, as it allows both parties to regulate their financial affairs for themselves and for their children, provided the agreement is drafted correctly.

We are able to boast that a number of our head solicitors have been approved by the Muslim Council of Great Britain, so by working with Cartwright King you can be confident in the knowledge that your faith is being recognised and understood along every step of the way.

Obtaining an Islamic Divorce

Regrettably, divorce is the outcome of many marriages in the UK and leaves many families in a difficult position. However, it could be argued that divorce, both in civil law and Islamic law, puts the woman at a much greater disadvantage.

It is not uncommon for women with unregistered marriages to notify the sharia council of their relationship breakdown, so the council can then aim to settle any disputes using Islamic law before issuing an Islamic divorce. Sharia councils have received criticism in the past for imposing traditional rulings which seemed to disproportionally disadvantage women.

If a Husband Objects

Another situation which commonly arises is where the husband is reluctant to divorce his wife, leaving her unable to remarry whilst he is free to do so.

Polygamy is illegal under UK law, but not under Islamic law, meaning it is not a rarity for men to exploit this ‘cruel loophole’ and enter into multiple Nikahs. The original wife essentially becomes trapped in the marriage, as only an Islamic divorce would end the Nikah.

In this case, even if the marriage was registered in the eyes of civil law, and then a divorce was obtained from the court, legally ending the marriage, the Nikah would still be valid and the woman cannot remarry.

Khula or Faskh

If the woman strongly wishes to be granted a religious divorce and has the consent of her husband, this is known as a Khula, and in order to proceed with a Khula the wife must sacrifice her mahr.

If she does not have the consent of her husband, she would have to seek a Faskh-e-Nikah from the sharia council. We can assist in this process and have successfully obtained Faskh on behalf of many of our clients within a three-month period.

Are you looking to get an Islamic divorce? We are here to help.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.