The Western sense of dowry is not an Islamic custom; instead, Islam replaces dowry with another tradition known as "Mahr" (meaning "reward" or "gift" in Arabic). Mahr is the contractual payment made to the bride from the groom, in case of a divorce. In the Western sense, this arrangement might be known as a prenuptial. In Islam, dowry, which is payment to the bride's family by the groom's family, is discouraged, as it resembles buying women. Mahr is obligatory in Islamic marriages, as it forces the husband to reconsider divorce because of the financial and social costs. Mahr has no obligatory amount; however, there are methods for determining what a good range is for the bride, as it is the woman who decides the amount she wants.
Assess the current financial status of the future husband and his family, including the groom's current salary, savings and assets he or his family might have. Add the salary, savings and assets.
Determine your future husband's estimated salary. For example, if he is just graduating from a PhD program, you can estimate how much he will make as a professor.
Estimate living expenses for both you and your husband for the next 30 years. Include the expenses that children will incur, if you want children.
Subtract the estimated expenses from the estimated savings you calculated in Steps 1 and 2.
If there is a considerable amount left over, this means your husband will ostensibly be able to save throughout his career. In that case, you should feel comfortable about demanding a large mahr. A large mahr will be the estimated expenses that you and your children will need to live a comfortable life. If there is not a considerable amount leftover, estimate the bare expenses you and your children will incur after a divorce (e.g., for another 30 years).
Be reasonable when agreeing on a mahr. The mahr is not paid until the actual divorce, and the money exists merely in a contractual form before that. So, you can add a clause in the contract that the mahr is estimated based on the number of years you and any children you have are expected to reasonably live after the divorce. For example, a divorce after a marriage of 5 years should have a greater mahr than a marriage of 30 years, unless the latter marriage has more children involved.
Sometimes, women will ask for a symbolic mahr of $1 only because they are in love. However, it is perfectly appropriate to ask for a reasonable mahr. In fact, it is your right in Islam to have this insurance.
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