islamic topics

Muslim divorce settlements in non-Muslim countries and USA

Muslim divorce settlements in non-Muslim countries and USA

No one likes divorces, but it is an unfortunate fact of life. Whether for Muslims or non-Muslims, divorce can have disastrous consequences. For Muslims living in western countries, these cases can become even more problematic, especially when Muslim husband and wife try to seek settlements in western or non-Muslim court systems, which are forced to look at these cases in light of both Islamic Shari’a laws and western secular laws.

For example, let’s review this real life divorce case of a Muslim couple – A US court ruled in favor of the husband that his ex-wife be granted only the Mahr (a few hundred dollars) that was agreed to at their marriage in their home country precluding her from any portion of her husband’s property and wealth in the US.  

First – let’s straighten some terminology. Mahr, in a Muslim marriage context is a wedding contract that guarantees the bride a gift from her husband. A portion of this gift may be given at marriage (Muqaddam) and a portion of which may be delayed until later (Muakhhar), at the husband’s death or after divorce.  

A prenuptial agreement on the other hand is a pre-marriage agreement that seeks to protect the assets of one spouse from the other in case of a divorce.  

The problem is (as in the case mentioned above) that certain courts in western countries have ruled that Mahr is almost a prenuptial agreement thus denying one spouse (usually a wife) from any assets of the other (usually a husband).  

These cases get even uglier and more complicated for Muslim couples who got married in their home countries but immigrated to western countries where they now seek divorce.  

Numerous other divorce cases in the west also suggest that unless the Mahr promises the wife a large sum of money, divorcing wives invoke western and secular laws to get a portion of their husband’s wealth while the husbands try to enforce the payment of Mahr (usually a symbolic sum agreed to at the marriage).  

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There are other twists and turns to Muslim divorces in western countries. Another recent case is that of a couple in Ohio, USA, where the woman demanded Mahr as part of her divorce settlement, while the man refused to pay as there was no official “secular” contract. The court in Ohio ruled in favor of the husband, while the woman later appealed the court ruling.  

We should note that under Islamic law, other than the stipulations of Mahr, spouses are usually entitled to retain their own assets without the need of distribution. However, specific cases and situations can make the rulings go differently.

An excellent paper on “Islamic Marriage Contracts in American Courts” provides examples of rulings of many Muslim marriage cases that have ended up in divorce. As the paper highlights, these cases have been argued in the US courts for many years and the rulings have ranged from granting the wife a few dollars negotiated part of the mahr to the wife being granted a large portion of a multi-million dollar estate.  

This obviously is a very deep subject that does not necessarily have clear and concise answers. However, a mere knowledge of the subject can prevent numerous headaches (not to mention heartaches) in the future. To those who are interested, the article provided in the link above provides a lot of examples.

Some of the issues to consider are the following:

  • The importance of Mahr as part of a Muslim marraige contract

  • The viability and reality of enforcing Mahr agreements in non-Muslim countries

  • Technical differences between Mahr provisions and prenuptial agreements

  • Interpreting Mahr agreements as prenuptials – pros and cons.

So, the issue is this – Some divorcing husbands (especially those who negotiated a small amount for Mahr) say that wife should be entitled to what was agreed at marriage. On the other hand, the divorcing women (especially the ones living in western countries) argue that as they leave their families and homelands to come with their husbands in the new country, they deserve a bigger piece of the husbands’ wealth pie.

What do you think? Do you know of any such cases? Submit your comments or feedback by scrolling to the end of the page below.

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19 comments… add one
  • Calista

    I think the problem is, is that they bring their wives over and now they (wives) have to meet the economic strain on their own with children. And the husband isn’t helping or sends them back to their country of origin and never pays another dime while their wives are left to support the children on their own. And most often the divorce is due to extra marital affairs, and troubles with porn and drug addiction only furthering the man to want his money all to himself and not thinking about others.

  • Mohammad Anwar

    Dear Brothers in Islam

    Assalaamu Alaikum Warahmatullah

    Sub: Marriage, Meher dowry money and
    Divource

    While we all feel it is a religious obligation to conduct Nikah in the presence of witnesses and pronounce the amount of meher, it is a life long obligation on the part of the life partners to offer sacrifices all their life time to make their marriage life and their children lives successful.

    Again it is easy to conduct a marriage as per sharia but difficult to make a settlement same way when it comes to Divorce. Reason for it is the lack of respecting and honouring the mutual trust as A Muslim, which forces either of the party to approach the Non Muslim Court of Law of their country in Non Muslim Countries. There the Muslims demand the compensation according to the law of their land and not shariah, by which people make fun of Islam and Muslims.

    I have also witnessed that it is easy for a husband to divorce a wife in Islamic Countries and the women land into their father’s house empty handed as their husbands had already paid their dowry money before marriage to Father in Law.

    Most pitiable situations are, when the husband dies and leaves the wife and many children nothing for their survival.

    I have also witnessed rare cases, where the wife desert her husband with children and marries another man.

    All of these ills and their effects are the result of we the Muslims not following Islam and its commandments fully and try to exploit the situation by making use of the part of Islamic Shariah only for their own benefit, which makes the parties to approach the Court of Law of the Non Muslim Countries.

  • iqbal husain

    According to Islam “Divorce is a curse”. Unfortunately non-islamic countries are making fun of Muslim communities in respect of Divorce. And the electronic medias are making worst publicity of divorce among Muslimes. Muslims also are to be blamed for such acts. And the reason is that many Muslims are ignorant regarding knowledge about Quran and Shariya.

    The best way is that Muslim laws must be explained in their respective languages on the Auspicious days of Friday prayer.

    I have found Imams in many countries who are not well versed in Quran and Hadith and these matters. If they do not know the basics, how can they teach others?

  • Jauharah

    As salaamu alaikum

    While I’m not painting myself as an “expert” in this matter, one thing bothers me; and that is that Muslims going to secular courts to resolve any dispute, especially divorce, makes a mockery of our Islamic existence especially in Western-oriented countries and yet we wonder why we face such dfficulties and opposition from non-Muslims.

    Whenever a Muslim man or woman feels it essential to seek “fairness” from a secular divorce judge it suggests that they placed no value in the fairness and equity that already is embedded within Islamic law as given to us by Allah and calls into question the individuals’ committment and adherence to Islam.

    We are obligated to treat people fairly and with honesty thus who more important to do so with than those with whom we have an intimate relationship with – our spouse. Even in the unfortunate instance where we find that we can no longer exist as husband and wife, we should not allow western ideals of greed and rudeness (amongst others) enter into our consciousness and direct our behavior and attitutes towards one another.

    In Islam we are not to speak of “bedroom secrets” nor any other things within the marital relationship, yet when one seeks divorce in a secular court, one often must have grounds for seeking the dissolution of a marriage and people tend to get quite “cutthroat” and do not hesitate to speak on those “secrets”. Even if there is major “inadequacy” how can one feel comfortable speaking on it in a public forum?

    Secular courts, like Western society itself are male-dominated and so it is really only rare instances (in the grand scheme of things) where women ultimately come out on top, so is it worth the risk? The marriage contract is the time to address all things, so women shouldn’t be concerned about “insulting” or “upsetting” by stipulations they feel are important especially since it is she that is giving up the most in entering a marriage and must therefore be sure that her knowledge of her rights are made clear from the beginning; besides men don’t worry about “insulting” or “upsetting” with provisions they seek to include.

    As salaamu alaikum

    J

  • Aisha Noor

    I read this article and it is so true that western courts do not take in consideration of Islamic law. There is a more important point though….Muslims, and in many cases Muslim men, living in the West selectively forget their Islamic morals. Western courts do not follow Islamic law but as Muslims we know the laws. Sometimes living in the West Muslims forget to act like Muslims, living by the holy Quran and the values the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) taught us through his examples.

    It is easy to blame the western culture but really isn’t “us”, Muslims, being weak and not living as Allah told us to live. It’s that free will thing, we know the truth but sometimes the truth does not give us the result we want…….

    The answer is simple, live a good live and above all, follow the law of the Quran and strive to be a good Muslim in all ways.

  • Tijan Wally Bahoum

    The solution to the problem of divorce in particular and our lives in general, is that we must never forget that we are Muslims and our fist point of reference is the Holy Quran and the Sunna of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).

    We must therefore have faith, respect and trust our Imams (and scholars) and allow them to mediate between us according to Islamic Laws. If we do not trust the rulings of Islam, then we deserve whatever we get from the secular courts.

  • Ayesha

    In Islamic countries the laws that govern the people are formed by the laws of the religion of Islam. This situation creates the atmosphere of not being exposed to tempation in order to keep the people strong in resisting sin. In the Western culture people are constantly being exposed and tempted to commit sin and are taught by their religions to resist this tempation. When people come from Islamic countries to the West , most times they are not prepared for the temptation that they will be surrounded by and the lack of Islamic support in their daily lives ( just for instance the sound of Azan will never be heard again when they arrive on our shores) (and they will not hear anyone saying Allahu Akbar or Alhamdolillah in conversation unless they are at home or in a Masjid, which in itself may be hard to find)

    These things being said, it is understandable regarding the rising divorce rates of Muslims in the Western culture. Muslim marriage is governed by religious laws and in the West, marriage is governed by civil law. So tell me how do you expect to get a divorce from a foreign civil court? The family is the strength of any country or religion or any group of people. If you take the mother out of the house and send her to work and you allow divorce you destroy this strength. The family suffers, the children suffer, the society suffers and the country or religion suffers and is made weak and will surely disappear in time. If you don’t believe me then look around the West and see with your eyes what has happened.

  • Ishaq, London

    Asalam alaekun,

    Sometimes divorce between married couples is the only solution. For the purpose of this discussion, we might want to limit ourselves to divorce between married muslims. Anything goes when the man and woman have different faiths. Anything may also go when one or both parties only identify themselves as muslims because they were born as muslims hence have muslim names, brought up as muslims (arguably), and have not declared any other faith.

    Back to the argument: Islamic law realised that divorce at times is inevitable….humans transgress and act outside the norm, islamic or otherwise. thats the reality, and reality is good, bad and ugly. May Allah guide us aright. First of all, humans are selfish. When unfortunately it finally comes to divorce between couples, human tends to think as he/she feels (even if he/she dont say it out) and attempt to seek the best alternative way to formalise the divorce (Sharia or secular), … i think that’s the reality too. The most aggrieved of the parties want the most out of the divorce while the other party want to lose as little as possible. I think all jurisdiction (Western or Sharia) attempts to seek some justice between divorcing parties. I also tend to think that justice is sought by asking both parties certain questions (by Islamic scholars or Western judges) in order to reach a conclusion, a fair conclusion.

    At this juncture, I like to ask questions on what I do not know. I hope someone will enlighten me on them.

    My questions are:

    Does Sharia ascertain who has treated the other person unfairly so that some justice can be done in some way? For example, does one party want a divorce at all cost in order to become independent by sharing or even take over the partner’s riches and assets? Or has one party found someone else who is far better in some or many ways than the boring partner? Would I choose the Sharia or the Western law if I feel the outcome of one might put me in an unsecured situation economically with its attendant suffering, mockery and humiliation? Or should I as a muslim or ‘muslim’ accept that Allah will certainly take care of my situation and let the other party have it his/her way?

    And if my situation goes worse after the divorce (God forbid), do Sharia or muslim community have a way to rescue or resuscitate me? That’s the way humans (maybe not true muslims) think. Who is that true muslim who does not sometimes give in to his/her emotions? I think only Allah can tell.

    We shouldn’t also forget that one way or the other, many of us are part of the western world we have chosen to settle down and live. We are bound by western laws the moment we entered western nations. No doubt, relationship or marriage is a very important matter in Islam, i dont know if we can dictate (as oppose to suggest) how and where muslims would choose to seek justice when it comes to divorce considering my earlier human questions. Once again humans are selfish. I like to give another example: If a muslim committed adultery or kill for whatever reason (knowingly or unknowingly, even in self defense), he/she might likely prefer that western law is applied because a lawyer might help waive or lessen the punishment. Is that not seeking a better alternative?

    Finally on the subject matter of divorce – May Allah guide us singles aright in choosing who we settle down with. May Allah resolve situations of married people who are going through difficult times. And may Allah guide those seeking divorce to separate amicably if divorce is inevitable whatever means(Sharia or otherwise) they choose. Allah knows best.

    Ma salam.

  • Mishkath

    Assalamualaikum Wr Wb

    Dear Brothers n Sisters,

    May Allah protect each and everyone of us from this forbidden word ‘talaq’. Let us really strive to save the divine marriage bond that allah swt has created. Talaq is not the solution for the issues that arise in marriage. If you happen to face any diffculty in your marriage, kindly please do lots of tahajudd prayers, read the quran extensively and increase ‘sathakathul zaariya’ in your life. Turn to allah, the almighty for all your problems, make lots of dua, ‘talk’ to Allah, tell him all your problems, ask HIM to change your spouse in the way that makes you happy. Instead of telling 3rd parties about marriage issues which actaully leads to more problems. Shaitan gets the most pleasure in separting husband and wife. Let us not let the shaitan come in. Duas have the power to change one’s takdir, Allah knows best. Pls, pls do not resort to talaq and avoid it. Allah n rasul (saw) has showed us the beautiful way to lead our lives. Let’s follow that. I personally feel, we are responsible for our actions, if we adhere to the right islamic rulings, such a situation would not rise.

    Wassalam

  • Rabiya Hanif

    Assalam alaikum,

    Marriage is a sacred union of two people and if possible divorce
    should not be seen as the solution to marriage problems. If we learnt
    to respect the teachings of ilsma whereever we are we could avert some
    of these causes. It is acceptable to Allah but does not bring joy to
    him. when marriages break, consider the plight of children it is a
    different issue if parents die. I strongly feel divorce should be the
    last thing to be pondered over. Among other issues, divorce shakes the
    muslim society. the strength of a muslim community more especially
    in a non muslim societies.

    A step further, when divorce has taken place which usually is without following the islamic teachings, the issue of property usurping/grabbing is rampant.

    the husband who most of the times was is responsible for generation of
    wealth in the family feels has a right to all the wealth, despite the
    wife’s contribution directly and otherwise. she goes back to her
    parents empty handed, often a subect of ridicule in her community to
    which she is sent back. and with the case of some of our cultures, it
    becomes the responsibilty of the mother to take care of the children
    from what sources? How do we guide these children?

    Lets uphold and practicse our Islamic teachings, lets live Islamic life lets not
    mix or be guided two diverging principles, and lets be submissive to Allah,
    Verily Allah will bless our homes with love, kindness and patience.

  • jegede ibrahim

    asalam alaykum – Divorce, despite the fact that the ways and manners in which
    it should be done is clearly stated in the Quran, yet it is not being followed properly – rather Muslims are going to the western courts, which know little or nothing about Muslim divorce rules. maa salam.

  • Muhammad Alhassan

    I read the articles submitted in respect of ‘Muslim Divorces in Secular countries. I completely aggree with Aisha Noor, May Almighty God Reward her. The problem can be best solved when we the muslims look inwards and practice Islam completely. thanks.

  • Jasmine

    Well Islamically Allah deals with intenions and you have to think of what
    Allah considers fair and what we all know our concious say is right
    and wrong, after all out concious is Allah’s built in answer sheet to all
    of us regardless of what denomination of Islam we practice.

    We all get angry in divorces and just want to hurt the other as we are hurt
    but we MUST remember that we all have Allah to answer to at the end and will
    be taking nothing with us but our deeds as we also came were born with nothing.

    As for bitterness left behind well we have to believe that what goes around
    comes around and Allah will even it all out as long as we do the right thing
    even when it is the hardest thing to do.

    This is not something we should even
    ALLOW the western courts to deal with it is something we should have the
    control and piety to deal with among ourselves.

  • bappa

    Assalamu alaikum
    my dear brothers and sisters in islam.
    it really pains me that nowadays some muslims always prefer the non Islamic routes
    instead of the Qur’an. Allah Has explained every aspect of our life (from birth to death)
    in the Qur’an. We can therefore find our guidance in the book.

  • lujain

    Slm alkm. Many muslims do not follow the Islamic teachings. If one reads the ahadeeths
    of our beloved Prophet(saw)concerning the marriage life or how a man and a woman should
    live together, Wallahi he/she will get touched and change their attitude!! Marriage life
    is so beautiful with full of love, understanding, cooperation….and the list goes on, only
    for those who have strong faith in Allah and follow Prophet Muhammed’s (saw)teachings.
    Anyways divorces happen and is allowed in Islam, but hateful to Allah (swt).
    Muslims should let the Quran be their guide, why run to non-muslim courts?
    Lack of faith and knowledge in Islam is a source of problem. May Allah always guide us to
    the truth and fill our heart with strong faith. Ameen.

  • tahmeena sarvath

    salam alikum ,
    if you are not bold enough atleast try to be at the time of marrieage because finally its you whose going to face.and also if are already facing the situation leave everything in Allah’s hand and try to follow the right path and ask alone to allah the solution rather than taking a 3rd persons opinion,as you alone and Allah knows whats best for you!but my humble request dont resolve to divorce its finally your loss.from all angles!

  • Carol

    I have read these respones with great interest. I am a recent convert to Islam although I have always been a monetheist. Unfortunately my husband and I recently completed a secular divorce Islamic divorce is not complete as yet. I have been bombarded over the past 2.5 years will bullying and ignorant understanding of the practice of Islam (which I personally believe to be a very loving and respectful religion i carried out as prescribed in the Quran). However many people do not do this and twist words to suit their circumstances. During this time my spouse consistenly flouted islamic laws of behaviour despite demanding my behaviour to be at the highest level. I lso believed that I was a ‘badge’ and a ticket to the family’s entry to heaven because I was a convert. The crux of my message here – which has not been addressed – Firstly I received no Mahr, my spouse and family decided that any assets I brought to the partnership were his and therefore theirs. My opinions were never respected and neither did they respect each other. Ultimately I have had to ‘buy’ my divorce and find myself in a foreign country releived of the assets I had worked for all my life. My spouse has not worked since I met him. Any comments please. Allah Knows Best.

  • I think that Muslim women that leave their countries to become stable in another, and then file a divorce, or husband files a divorce, should get more money than the one established by the Shari’a so that they are not left without a good financial support…after all, they did leave their families to follow their husbands, as should be.
    Some of the advantages of women in this community provided by The Muslim Women/Protection of Rights on Divorce Act of 1986 state that:
    • If the women is the one to stay with the children of the marriage a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance must be made and paid by her former husband for a period of two years from the respective date of birth of such children.
    • The amount of mahr or dower agreed to be paid to her at the time of her marriage or at any time thereafter according to Muslim Law should be provided to her.
    • And, all the properties given to her before at the time of marriage or after the marriage by her relatives or friends or the husband or any relatives of the husband or his friends, belong to her.

    This topic is more complex than any other issues faced by these minority women, and should be given the importance it deserves. Hopefully, oppressed Muslim women (which is a large population) one day could be able to educate themselves on these matters so that they could contribute to their own cause, and know that you are not alone, there are many people that support you.

    Here’s a link to a video that expresses opinions on the subjects concerning Muslim women:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfZjWonDX64

  • G

    When Muslim men start respecting rules of Islam themselves-when they don’t cheat on their wife online and otherwise, when they pay their wife for breastfeeding the children or let the wife keep her earned money, then perhaps the rules of an Islamic marriage contract could suffice to come to an agreement. However, when that husband has broken every rule of Islam including all above, then the rule of the land should apply to them and having an enforcement body to it is needed.
    The problem with current Muslim men is that they want to pick and choose which rules in Islam best SUITS them and forget about the complete fairness IF all the rules are followed!

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