Is the money taken under the name of mahr (dowry) in Islam the same as bride price? What is the criterion in mahr?

One of the problems that arises during the later years of the marriage is the demand of a large amount of money that the man and his family will have difficulty in supplying while negotiating the mahr for the girl or woman; or the demand of high quality and great amount of things that will financially trouble the budget of the man or the woman and their families while buying presents, furniture and household appliances. Both parties use all of their means and financial resources and get into debt if necessary and do their best to meet the demands. Although it seems that the question has been settled and the demands have been met at the beginning, the couple or the parents will have a large amount of debts to pay in the future like a heavy load as an inheritance. Sometimes it takes years to pay off these debts. The first years of the newly married couple, which are supposed to be free of trouble and anxiety, will pass by paying installments and debts.

Our Prophet (PBUH), who always shows us the safest and the most reasonable way, said The best marriage is the easiest one in this respect and advised that everybody should spend as much as he can afford in marriage.

The amount and criterion of mahr, which is supposed to be given by the man as a right to the woman is present in the Sunnah. It can be seen both in the personal application of our Prophet (PBUH) and in the examples he showed to his distinguished Companions.

The trousseau and household things of Hazrat Fatima consisted of a few things which were required to be present in a house. Our Prophet, who wanted the marriage application to be made easy and wanted to prevent the young people from doing illegitimate things, helped his Companions who were very poor to get married. Once he said to one of his Companions Give the woman something as a mahr, even if it is an iron ring. Then when that man said I havent got even an iron ring, Our Prophet said, I will let you marry her if you teach her the chapters of the Koran that you know by heart.(2)

Hazrat Omar, who is the sun of justice, made the following speech when people wanted extreme amounts of mahr: O People! Do not go beyond bounds in increasing the mahr of women. If going beyond bounds in it were something praiseworthy or piety with Allah, the person deserving it the most would be the Prophet (PBUH). As a matter of fact he did not pay more than 12 ukiyyes (500 dirhams) for any of his wives, and he did not want more than12 ukiyyes for any of his daughters. (3)

There is no bride price in Islamic law but mahr. Some people confuse mahr with bride price. Mahr is something that is given directly to the woman or girl as a present from the man; as for the bride price, it is the money that the father of the girl wants for himself as a price for her daughter. This money that is demanded from the would-be groom turns marriage into a matter of financial bargaining.

Parts of Mahr:

According to the Islamic law a woman who marries a Muslim man has the right to get things under the name of mahr. It is recommended that mahr be mentioned when the marriage contract is signed. Whether it is mentioned or not, or even if it is denied, the woman has the right to get mahr. That is, mahr is her natural right.
It is also a divine right, but the woman can only give it back to her husband after getting married if she wishes. If she does not give it on her own accord, this right continues.

The fourth verse of Chapter Nisa is as follows: " And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer."

Mahr is divided into two as specified mahr or customary mahr depending on whether it is determined by the mutual agreement of the parties or not. The specified mahr is considered in two parts as prompt mahr and deferred mahr. Mahr given during the marriage contract or in a few days time is called prompt mahr. Mahr promised to be given later is called deferred mahr. Some of the both types of mahr can be given promptly and some later.

If a date has been determined for deferred mahr, when the date comes the woman deserves to get it, it becomes obligatory to give it.
If the man dies before the due date, the mahr promised to be given to the woman, considered to be the same as a debt, needs to be taken from his belongings and given to the woman. If a date has not been determined for the deferred mahr, it is regarded to be postponed until divorce or death. If a divorce or death occurs, it will be obligatory to give it. The man or his inheritors have to give the promised amount to the woman; they are obliged to pay it.

There is also the customary mahr; if mahr is not determined at the beginning, comparing the mahr of a woman of similar age, character, beauty, belongings, etc, a mahr is determined. The determined amount may be paid promptly or later.

As for the amount of mahr, there is not a maximum amount. However, the minimum amount is 10 dirhams of silver according to the Hanafi sect. That is about 40 grams. However, it is better to be moderate in terms of mahr, not to go extremes and respect the rights of both the man and the woman. (4)

1. Ebu Dâvud, Marriage: 31.
2. Müslim, Marriage: 76.
3. İbniMâce, Marriage: 17.
4. Reddü'l-Mubtar, 2: 329; Hukuk-u islâmiye ve Istılâhat-ı Fıkhiyye Kamusu, 2: 115-124.

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