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UK Court Ruling on Islamic Marriages Divides Muslims

In 2018, the High Court ruled that a Muslim couple’s ‘nikah’ ceremony fell within English marriage law – a much-needed recognition, given that 80% of British Muslim marriages are not registered.

However, just a few days ago, 14 February, the Court of Appeal, reversing that decision, held that the marriage is ‘invalid’ on the basis of it being performed in a non-legal ceremony.

A number of individuals, and mostly men, have expressed their frustration at the court’s ruling.

R. Ansari, for example, said, “Stupid judge. No one can over-rule another religious path just to accommodate their own man-made law.”

By contrast, there is a recognition that the court has acted favorably.

Suniya Q said, “This is the right decision, so much abuse of the nikah process has gone on leaving women vulnerable.” Shoro S. added, “Great! Wonderful decision.” And Sara H said, “Good as they are inadequate and do not protect women.”

Others have been more vocal, and very angry at men who allow this to happen in the first place. For example, Asiyah A said, “Because brothers don’t want to adhere to what Allah says but quick to tell a sister she IS supposed to be doing.”

It is unsurprising that it is mostly women who have been in support of this ruling, and this is a reflection of how British Muslim leaders have failed to ensure that Muslim women’s rights are maintained in and outside of marriage.

What is a Nikah?

The marriage ceremony adopted by Muslims all over the world follows a near-identical model: a religious leader, witnesses, and the couple providing consent.

In most of the Muslim world, when the nikah ceremony takes place, processes are in place to ensure that a certificate of marriage is provided and that legally, the marriage is documented.

In England, however, this is not the case.

For whatever reason, British Muslims have found themselves in a situation where the nikah can take place, however, to register the marriage legally according to the law of our land, a civil ceremony must also take place.

Some Muslims are unaware of this requirement, while other Muslims seek to exploit this requirement.

What is clear is that there is a disconnect between the practice of Muslims marrying in England vs the practice of Muslims marrying across the Muslim world, and in other parts of the Western world, such as Canada, where this issue of unregistered Muslim marriages does not exist at this scale.

Reaction from a British Imam

Muhammad Amin-Evans, a British Muslim convert, and a very popular imam in Birmingham, said, “This has always been the situation in the UK, as I discovered over 20 years ago, and was the reason I removed the word ‘marriage’ from nikah certificates that I used.

“Marriage or Civil Partnership is not compulsory and adult couples are free to live together under whatever terms or none they think are appropriate. Marriage, in itself, does not protect anyone from exploitation or abuse within an intimate relationship but its dissolution does provide a substantial income to divorce specialists.”

Placating Responsibility

From the example and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the very objective of a nikah is to codify the legal rights of Muslim men and women in marriage.

A valid nikah protects women (and men) from injustices during or after marriage, or in the case of death, impacting inheritance laws. If a nikah does not comply with delivering the legal rights to the marrying couple, then it fails to deliver the objective of a nikah.

It can, therefore, be argued, that in England, for a nikah to be valid, it must go hand in hand with a civil ceremony so that in the eyes of the law, the rights of women and men are protected and guaranteed.

That, in 2020, we still have religious preachers comfortable to perform a nikah ceremony without providing the legal framework the nikah is meant to offer –delivered by a civil ceremony here in the UK — is shameful.

We often speak of Islam liberating women, granting them rights which they did not have prior to Islam in Arabia. By not insisting on the fact that rights are protected with a civil ceremony, any spiritual leader performing a nikah ceremony demonstrates how unfit they are to be in a position of leadership in the Muslim community. They fail both society and the faith in whose name they behave.

And in the absence of decency and dignity from these spiritual leaders, it is certainly right for the Courts to reject the validity of nikah alone.

Source – About islam

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UK Court Ruling on Islamic Marriages Divides Muslims
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