Dower in English Law is defined as the portion which a widow hath of the lands of her husband at his decease, for the sustenance of herself and the education of her children. Marriage in Islam unlike other religions is treated as a social necessity. The purpose of Islamic marriage is the creation of families which are considered as a basic or fundamental unit of society. In Mohammedan law, this term is explained as the money paid by the intended husband to wife at the time of marriage and in consideration of marriage. Section 285 of Mohammedan Law defines dower as a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of marriage. Under Muslim law, dower means money or property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of the marriage but this consideration is not the same as that of the civil contract. Dower is an obligation under Muslim law, imposed upon the husband as a mark of respect for the wife. The major object of the dower is to provide a wife for her subsistence after the dissolution of her marriage so that she may not become helpless after the death of the husband or termination of a marriage by divorce.
Dower has also been considered as part of maintenance under section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973, If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain— (a) his wife, unable to maintain herself, or (b) his legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, unable to maintain itself, or (c) his legitimate or illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who has attained majority, where such child is, by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself, or (d) his father or mother, unable to maintain himself or herself. Therefore, there is no clear definition as per Muslim Personal laws regarding the dower amount, different High Courts and Supreme Court of India in different cases rendered different conceptions relating to dower. Dower is a sum of the amount or property payable by the groom to the bride in nikah. This amount or property can be payable either immediately after the marriage on demand which is also been called as prompt dower or payable on dissolution of marriage either by divorce or death of the husband which is also been called as deferred dower. Muslim law recognizes marriage as a civil contract.
There can be no contract without consideration therefore a Muslim marriage cannot be contracted without consideration and the consideration which is taken in a Muslim marriage is called Dower. Dower is a unique concept under Muslim law.
TYPES OF DOWER
Muta marriage is a marriage that is there for a specific period of time. This marriage if not consummated then the woman is authorized to take only half the dower. And if otherwise, meaning if the marriage has been consummated between the husband and the wife, then the wife is entitled to the entire dower payable by the man. Nevertheless, under circumstances, if the wife leaves the marriage before the duration or limitation of the marriage then the woman shall not be entitled to the dower or ‘Mehr’.
The other type of payment is a specific amount of sum of money or property as decided specifically between the parties of the marriage. Hence, there lies no scope of interpretation of the amount of the dower required to be paid. The dower to be paid is different in Sunni Law and Shia Law. Under Sunni law, the lower amount to which the woman is entitled is at least 12-13 Rupees. This is at least 10 Dirhams. But there is no upper limit of the dower. On the other hand, Shia law does not prescribe any specific lower amount to be paid to the woman. And the maximum amount of the dower in both the Sunni and Shia law is not provided for. But what needs to be asserted is that the payment of dower is on the basis of the economic background of the man. And hence, a poor man shall be liable to pay only as much amount of money or property as much he is able to.
If the amount of dower has been fixed by the parties prior to the marriage or at the time of the marriage, it is called a specified dower or Mahr-i- musamma.
In the case Kukkiya Begum vs Radha kishan, AIR 1944 All 241, the Allahabad High Court held that amount of dower fixed earlier may be increased after the marriage by mutual consent.
The dower is specifically divided into two modes of payment, prompt payment, and deferred payment. A prompt dower as the name suggests needs to be paid promptly. This means the husband is liable to pay the dower as soon as the demand for it is made. The prompt dower is usually paid just before the marriage or as soon as the marriage is over. This dower is required to be paid before the consummation of marriage is made. Hence it can be said that the man has the right to restitution of conjugal right only after the payment of the dower is carried out. Therefore, it would not be wrong to infer that the dower.
A specified dower that is payable promptly after the marriage or at any other time on the wife’s demand is known as a prompt dower. It may be realized prior or after consummation and it does not get deferred after consummation of the marriage.
In the case Rabia Khatoon vs Mukhtar Ahmed, AIR 1966 All 548, the Allahabad High Court held that the wife may refuse to live with her husband and to admit to sexual intercourse until prompt dower has been paid. It was further held that prompt dower is payable on demand and proof of sexual intercourse between the parties is not necessary for claiming payment.
When a dower is not payable immediately after the consummation of marriage and becomes payable only after
- The occurrence of a certain incident.
- After the expiration of a particular period.
- After the dissolution of marriage either
- By death
- By divorce.
Deferred dower is also called Mahr-i-Muwajjal. The wife here is not entitled to demand for payment of such deferred dower unless otherwise, it agreed upon by the parties.
Proper dower, as the name, suggests that when the parties to a marriage, the husband and the wife have not pre-decided the amount or the sum of dower payable to the wife then, the woman or the wife can decide upon her own reasons the dower to be paid which would be proper. It is also believed that even if the parties had decided that no dower shall be paid to the wife, later she can decide what shall be the proper dower to be payable to her. It also needs to be asserted that proper dower is not decided on the basis of the earnings or the ability of the husband.
 Section 125, Criminal Procedure Code 1973, https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1974-02.pdf.
 A.I.R. 1944 All 241.
 AIR 1966 All 548.
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