Islam has given many rights to women when it comes to marriages. I am surprised at how some men say things such as ‘We only need Allah’s approval’. When women raise the topic of getting their marriage registered, of course as Muslims we need to have Allah’s approval ‐ but a Nikah ceremony without a registered marriage will not protect a woman and her children if the marriage ends. I have come across many such cases.
An example is Lucy*. She is in her late 30’s, a single mum who embraced Islam a number of years ago. She lives in London and grew up in Care and has no family. She was looking to settle down and met a very kind and charismatic French Muslim man. After a few months she decided that he was the man for her. He informed Lucy that they could only have a Nikah marriage as he did not have all his legal documents for the civil registration process. He promised Lucy when he did get them, they would go and get their marriage registered.
Lucy trusted him, he was good with her four‐year‐old son, he was loving and kind. She decided that she would just have the Nikah ceremony and wait for her husband to produce the documents in due course. Two years passed and the relationship was deteriorating. Lucy’s husband had changed. He did not have regular work and stayed out late with his friends, used the family home like a hotel, would get angry and irritated with her son, would argue with Lucy constantly. It became worse when she told him she was pregnant. That was the last straw. He told her he could not support her financially with another baby on the way. One day after another huge bust up, he told Lucy she was not his first wife; he had another wife in France with two children.
Lucy was devastated. She had believed in her husband and on his request, she had invested all her life savings in his idea of opening a café. Soon after this argument with him, he left her, pregnant and penniless. Lucy went into depression, just about scrapping through financially until she was helped by an organisation in the community.
Lucy realised that as a revert (Muslim convert) who was 100% invested in doing the right thing by her faith, she could not guarantee that her husband would be also doing everything correctly by his faith. In Islam it is the husband’s duty to financially support his wife and children. If she had registered her marriage, as part of the divorce settlement she would have been able to claim her savings from the café and even her legal costs if he fought the case. He would have had to support the baby as the married father. But as his name was not on the birth certificate, she could not even claim child support and faced destitution.
Lucy knows through her contacts that since she has had her baby daughter, her husband has opened a café with her life savings and is doing well financially. It has devastated Lucy to learn that he has sponsored his legally registered wife and children to settle in the UK with him. Yet he does not want to see his daughter. She may run into her husband with his family, humiliated and knowing she has no legal rights.
She is angry and upset with herself as well as with her husband. She did not investigate whether what he said about his documents was true, she just believed him. He did not have any family she could communicate with and she was vulnerable as a single revert woman without any ‘Mahram’ (Guardian) to speak on her behalf or look after her interests. She is not even sure if she can ever remarry because she is still trapped in this Nikah marriage.
Marriage is a beautiful institution, but we need to get things right at the beginning. No‐one ever marries to get divorced. But many people in the community do not realise that a Nikah ceremony or certificate is not enough to be protected under the law. We need to get our act together and make sure our daughters and sisters don’t end up like Lucy.
Saleha Islam, National Project Manager, ROM
*names and country of origin have been changed to protect identities