Halal Money Matters

Episode 26: Navigating the Practice of Mahr with Yaser Birjas

Shaykh Yaser Birjas joins Halal Money Matters to discuss the many nuances of the practice mahr, the Islamic bridal gift tradition.

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Halal Money Matters Podcast

Episode 26 - Navigating the Practice of Mahr with Yaser Berjas

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Narrator:
The thoughts and opinions expressed on Halal Money Matters do not necessarily reflect the views of Saturna Capital, Amana Mutual Funds, or their affiliates.

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Monem Salam:
Welcome to Halal Money Matters, sponsored by Saturna Capital. I'm Monem Salam and I am the only one today.We don't have a co-host this time around. Our guest is Yaser Birjas. And he actually studied in Medina, came back to the US and was an imam in El Paso before moving to Dallas and becoming the imam of the Valley Ranch Mosque. The topic today is about mahr or the wedding gift that a Muslim gives. And so there's a lot of, you know, cultural nuances that are there. And so we really wanted to dig a little bit deeper to figure out, you know, what's required, what's not required, what's mythology, what's cultural, those type of things. And I think, this was a great show. So let's get into it.

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Monem Salam:
Shaykh Yaser, thank you very much for joining us today. It's really an honor to have you here.

Yaser Birjas:
Barakallahu Feek (Allah bless you), Jazakallahu khair (Allah reward you with good). The honor is mine.

Monem Salam:
When I was thinking about this topic of mahr and how it applies from a complete perspective, in fact, you were the first person I thought of. Let's maybe just jump right into it. You the idea of mahr itself, right? Where does it show up in either Quran, Sunnah, and a little bit of a history in those type of things.

Yaser Birjas:
So the word mahr itself, it's a trilateral in a root word, which has come from the meem (m) ha (h) r mahr. Basically it's kind of like more like the price, the value. That's what it means. And it has multiple words in the Arabic language. There are words such as sadaaq (gift) is also used for the mahr, for example. There is ajar (reward) which is another word for it as well too. So different word that was used for that. It's not really about the word itself, it's the concept of it that mattered to them at that time. So it's more like the in good faith that you're providing symbolic value to show the commitment for the relationship.

Monem Salam:
Did it used to be around before the time of the prophet as well, or was that something that was instituted with Islam?

Yaser Birjas:
It was. It was actually before the time of the prophets sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) it was a cultural thing at the time. And in Islam, of course, anything that is considered cultural and valuable and endorsed by Sharia will usually endorse it, it would accept that. But if anything would be offensive or run contrary to the principles of Sharia, I would cancel that. So this principle of mahr doesn't sound to be like contrary to any of the rules of the Sharia. As a matter of fact, it's enforcement of it. So the man, the gentleman comes, of course, and his family, they come in good faith showing, you know, that they would like to present something of value for the family of the bride. For the bride, obviously. So it's a symbolic thing. Allah subhanu wa ta'ala (Glorified by HE) mentioned that in the Quran as well, too. He says in Sura Nisaa (Chapter on Women) Allah says (wa aatunnissa wa sadaqatu annihla.) And the word that was used was sadaq. Allah says to the awliyaa (believers) (wa aatunnissa wa sadaqatu annihla,) Give the women adaqatu annihla which means their mahr, nihla as absolute gift. What does that mean? So the command from Allah subhanu wa ta'ala (Glorified by HE) comes to speak in the third party in a plural form. Wa aatunnissa. You, all of you give the women their sadaq, their mahr, as a bridal gift. So who are these people? Allah subhanu wa ta'ala their command to? The two categories, the two parties. Number one, the wali, which means her family and her father or whoever is actually representing her in the relationship in the marriage, and also the husband and his family. So Allah subhanu wa ta'ala commanding everybody who was involved in that to observe that haqq (right) and the right of the woman. And he says nihla which means absolutely pure gift, meaning there is no strings attached. No one has any affiliation with it, no one has the right to access that except for that lady. So the bridal gift is actually the bridal gift. It's her haqq (right) and it's her right. So overall, we say that the mahr in itself was made a symbolic thing when the family of the groom they come and they'll propose to the girl, and the lady, they would like to show in good faith, of course, you know, they would like to present something symbolic. Unfortunately, over time, obviously, the symbolism of mahr died out and it became more of like there is a so much emphasis on the amount of mahr itself. It became itself the value of the family and the value of the girl herself. So people, they start kind of like showing how much they value your family, how much they value the girl by gouging the prices, of course and the amounts of mahr, to the extent that it becomes astronomical numbers that no one can afford anymore, unfortunately. So it's not good to do that.

Monem Salam:
Looking at it just purely time of the prophet perspective, what form of gift did it take? And I think we have examples, of some people giving very little and other people giving a lot. And it wasn't only money if sometimes it was like a memorization of an ayah (verse) or something like that. I think.

Yaser Birjas:
Different values for the mahr. I mean, let's first of all talk about what's mentioned in the Quran. We see the example of the prophet of sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) in the context of the mahr he says, wa ataytahunna qintara. And if you've given one of them a qintar. It's just like saying a treasure. So from that the ulema (scholars) they says there is no really specific maximum to it. You can give as much as you want as long as a person can comfortably afford that. So qintar. That's an example. From the sunnah (life) of sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) there are multiple examples. So some that were big and some that were small. The amount that is considered big as well is the example of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas. When you got married, you know, at some point his wife was not happy with this relationship, she came to the prophet of sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him). Qaala ya rasoolullah, Thabit, wallahi laa atib alayhi khuluq iddeen. I have nothing against his akhlaaq (character) because he, Mashallah, is an amazing man. Wa lakini kufru bil islam. I'm concerned about myself. If I stay in this relationship I might commit kufr. Now the ulema (scholars) says what kind of kufr you're talking about? Some they say the actual kufr, like I'm going to lose it. I'm going to lose my deen (religion) because of that. Others they say what she means by that I won't be able to give him his haqq (rights). She denies her husband's rights because I can't stand him. I don't like him. So the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) he did not scold the lady and says, come on and what are you talking about? A thousand women would wish to have a man like him as a husband. He didn't say any of that stuff. He reached out to him. He goes, your wife, she's asking for khula' to divorce her. So the first thing, Thabit, he said. Qaala rasulullah, hadi khati (he said, oh messenger of Allah), what about the mahr I gave her? I gave her an entire garden. When he said, an entire garden, you talked about an orchard like, God knows, thousands, probably maybe, of dollars of our times value. So it is a big thing. So the prophet told the lady, would you give it back to him? She said, yeah, sure. I give it back to him. He goes okay, Bismillah and thus the divorce was done and it was over. So the idea here from this, hadith is the Rasulullah, sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him). He I mean that sahaba (companion) he offered an entire garden, an entire orchard as a bridal gift. But there's also another narrations inside Bukhara Muslim as well, in which the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), he was sitting with a group of sahaba (companions), a lady approached and she offered herself in marriage to the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) which was allowed for the prophets allalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) to accept or to consider, I would say, if he was wanted, as was mentioned in Sura Ahzab. So the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) this lady approached the prophet qaalat, ya rasulullah (she said oh messenger of Allah) you know, I would like to approach you in marriage. Imam Bukhari Rahimahullah (Allah's mercy be on him) and he goes, this is a chapter on the permissibility of a woman approaching a man in marriage if she sees goodness or righteousness in him. So eventually she came to the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), she offered herself in marriage and the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) kind of felt a little bit shy, meaning that he wasn't interested and he kind of looked down. She said that three times. And the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) kept kind of looking down, feeling so shy to tell her yes or no. Right. Let her go. Eventually the lady, she kind of got the message, but then she didn't go anywhere else. She sat down. When she sat down, I mean, it was kind of like an awkward situation. A man was sitting there with the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him). Ya rasullah, illam yalku be haajaka ankiha, be.  Like if you are not interested, can I marry her? And the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) looks at the lady. I mean, if you're if you're interested, this guy's proposing and the lady, she said, yeah, I mean, she doesn't have any problem either. So the prophet told him, go and get her something as a bridal gift. So the man, he went looking around. He couldn't find anything. He came back, qaal ya rasulullah (he said, O messenger of Allah), I have nothing. So the prophet idhab wa low khatamum alhadeed, if it was just a steel ring, what value of steel ring is going to be anyway? He said, go, anything. So the man he went and qaala yaa rasulullah (o messenger of Allah) the only thing I have is my loincloth, the one that I'm wrapping my waist with. And the brother says, what is she going to do with this? If she takes it away from you you're going to walk around naked. The man also was frustrated, so he sat down. Then the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) told this man, he says, hal tarifusaymal quran, do you know anything from the Quran? The man said, Yeah, I know sura such and such and so and so. The prophet says zawajtuka wa maka . You marry her with the condition, you teach her what you know what you know from the Quran. So the mahr can be of monetary value as little as something of steel. Very, very low value. Could be a treasure such as a garden or as Allah says in the Quran qintaar, which means treasure. And it could also be some sort of like a moral value such as suras from the Quran, a promise to take her to hajj which also involves, of course, you know, monetary value, these kind of things, or teach her something and so on. So again, it goes back again to the principle of mahr being symbolic. That's the meaning of it.

Monem Salam:
But just one question I had in the first hadith that you mentioned about the garden that was given. Right. And this will come back to what we're talking about in this modern age, when Thabit, radhi allahu anhu (may Allah be pleased with him), when he gave the gift over to his wife, and you said it has to be an absolute. Do we know was she kind of in charge of that garden from then on? What was happening to the garden and those type of things? Or was Thabit still in charge of it, the ownership, with the wife?

Yaser Birjas:
Well, Islamically speaking, as Allah says about the mahr, it's nihla, which means it becomes her pure ownership. She owns the mahr completely. What she's going to do with the money, that's her business. If she's going, for example, to give that mahr in charity, if she's going to keep the money for herself, if she's going to give it back to her father, or if she decided to give back some of it to her husband, as Allah says in the continuation of the aya. If they, the lady basically are from good heart, they give back something for you. You can consume it. It's okay for you to do that. So from the story itself, we already know how what exactly that arrangement was, except that he gave her a big garden and it was hers. It was hers. When the thabit was concerned about his garden, obviously, that he gave her as a gift, of course, it's not his anymore, but it was given to her in good faith, again, as a condition for the relationship. Right? So she decided, you know what, I don't want that anymore, I quit. Okay so why are you going to keep the garden for? And that's where the khula' is established in the fiqh alislami (understanding of Islam). So again, it's her money, it's her wealth. She can do whatever she wants to do with it.

Monem Salam:
We talked a little bit about now, historically, progression of the idea of mahr going from what you talked about before to now sometimes becoming more about the worth of the individual more than anything else. But I do remember either one of the companions there was a prophet that mentioned that you should give a mahr that's of a status for the woman. Because in story that you mentioned when the companion gave the ayah (verse) or teaching the ayah of the Quran, it's supposing that he had nothing else to give.

Yaser Birjas:
Well, it's true. But once again, the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned the Hadith. The less the expenses, the more the Barakah. So the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) himself, he was encouraging people to take it easy with the mahr. The mahr is not the value of the lady or her family. But culturally speaking, people started looking at it that way. If someone wants to show them how much they value, they value their family, their daughter. So they're going to bring a big gift, for example. And then also the family of the girl, they start also considering proposals based on how much people value them. Therefore, they are not going to give their daughter, for example, for $1,000 mahr for instance. Yeah, and they're not going to give her for $10,000 you know, mahr, if someone can pay 50,000 or 100,000. Outrageous amounts, sometimes this is unfortunately, and that discourages people from getting married, obviously, because it's too much, too much of a burden. And the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) asking people to take it easy on each other. Sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) The highest mahr that he paid to one of his wife was actually was paid on his behalf, was paid on his behalf by najashi who was the king of Abyssinia when the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) proposed to Habiba. So it was the king who offered the mahr on behalf of the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) So obviously it was a status of a king. So he gave her gold, obviously. But the other was with the prophet sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) so it was something symbolic as well.

Monem Salam:
We kind of fast forward throughout history and is there like a time period when it actually shifted over to the idea of demanding much more than that?

Yaser Birjas:
I think it's evolved over time and it fluctuates, of course, throughout the history of the ummah (community) depends on the economic status and the situation. But we see that one of the spikes maybe that happened in the time of Umar bin khattab immediately, although the stories got disputable in terms of authenticity, but just give a window about the situation, the economic situation, or can remember the time of the prophets of sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him). Economically speaking, the society was, you know, very simple and basic, but with the conquests, especially in the era of Umar radiallahu anhu the treasures of Egypt and Shaam and the Yemen and Iraq and Persia all arrived in Medina, so they would have so much money. It seems at some point people started kind of like raising the prices of the mahr. That the situation was given Umar radiallahu anhu and he wanted to cap the amount of mahr. So the story goes on that when Umar he mentioned that, one of the ladies, she got up and she said qaalata, yeah, how dare you, how dare you put a cap on the mahr when a Allah subhana wa ta'ala (glorius and high) in the Quran. Well, I told them wa aytaytuhunna qintaaara and you've given one of them a treasure. So Umar radiallahu anhu he remember. He goes, you know what? I take it back. Umar lied or Umar was mistaken and the lady was correct. Again, depends on the authenticity of the story. But it shows how the economic situation immediately pushed people to offer more and demand more. How far it would go up high? Allahu aalam (Allah knows). But then I would assume it fluctuates based on the economic status of the area and the community and the geography of the land.

Monem Salam:
The mahr is not actually a sum that's given for some future event, like a divorce where the wife can be sustained. It seems like what you're saying is it's basically just a symbolic gift that you're given at the time of marriage, irrespective of what happens in the future.

Yaser Birjas:
That's the original idea of the mahr itself. That it's supposed to be given as a bridal gift in advance. I mean, even that can be a notice from the hukm (wisdom) of the mahr itself as a rukn. Is it that a mandatory aspect of the marriage contract of the nikah? Is it an annexed amount that just doesn't really affect the validity of nikah. So the ulema has a difference of opinion on that regard. The majority of the fuqaha (Islamic judges) they say it's not one of the pillars of the nikah, which means if the nikah happens and the mahr wasn't paid, the nikah is still valid. However the mahr still needs to be paid anyway. Why? Because they believe it to be one the automatic consequences of a valid nikah. So in the case when a mahr was not paid, out of maybe ignorance or maybe whatever the reason why, how do we calculate the mahr? They automatically say you calculate the mahr by mahr mithl method, meaning you look at what is customary in that area, what is customary in the family of that bride, what is known to be the common standard of mahr in that region. Then we pay that amount, or at least we mandate that the bride, he pays her that amount. So from this example, as you see, the mahr is not necessarily a pillar of the nikah that makes it valid or invalid, but it's still one of the consequences. Some of the fukaha, the say, no like in the maliki school for example, school they concern to be an integral pillar of the nikah itself. It was in pain. Then the nikah starts falling apart. Because of that a lot of a lot of matters of the mahr can also be cultural. What does that mean? The idea is to give the mahr. Now how much, when to be to pay that, and how much do you owe the beginning and so on, that's an issue of different cultural arrangement. And fukaha, they have difference of opinion in regards to splitting the mahr to an advanced amount and a deferred amount. So but the majority said it's okay, you can defer an amount of mahr but it's still considered part of the mahr anyway. Okay. So usually, culturally speaking and many, many people, what they do at the beginning, they, they put a symbolic amount. This is, you pay for example, $100, for instance, or prayer rug or something like that, or give out a copy of the mushaf (quran). But then they put at the end, you know, and that mahr or that actually the first mahr an outrageous amount. Say 150,000, 200,000, something like that. Why? Because they want to use that amount as an alimony for her. So the concept of the deferred mahr is what is known today as an alimomy in the case of divorce. The difference is that in the Islamic system it's better to pay it once as a one lump sum and get it over with it. Here in the American system, the alimony is for as many years as needed based on, of course, the court order with a specific amount. So honestly, the alimony system is really slowing down a lot of healing, ya'ni, and heart healing relationships. Because if a person, if they get divorced and now they realize they have to pay for the next seven years. We're not talking about child support, we're talking about alimony, for example. So they're going to have to keep paying it for five years every month, they keep seeing that coming out of their paycheck, for example, and so on. It's really painful. It's kind of detrimental to the whole process of divorce and healing, and moving on. Versus if someone they have $20,000 as a deferred mahr, for example. An entire lump sum of 20,000, here you go. And we're done with that. So we don't have to go after each other for a very long time.

Monem Salam:
So now we are coming to the modern concept and really talking about mahr in this case. And that's, that's a good point that you mentioned, where now the distinction is made that it is somewhat of a future protection for the wife in case of divorce. So, or next wife at the time when however you're looking at it. So now it's become more common you would say to be able to have what's called I think in Arabic mu'akhar which is you pay towards the end of it.

Yaser Birjas:
It's perceived to be in the case of divorce. But Islamically speaking, it's still part of the mahr which means that if a person dies and he had not paid that amount, it goes from the inheritance actually before they even start distributing the, the mirath (inheritance).

Monem Salam:
Okay. Interesting. That's a good point to distinguish between culture and Islamically because that is a right on the woman to be able to get that sometime while she's alive.

Yaser Birjas:
Unless she prefers that right herself.

Monem Salam:
Her perfectly right to do because it's her property anyway.

Yaser Birjas:
Absolutely. One thing I want to mention about the whole concept of mu'akhar, because many people think of this as a as a more of like a safety net, so that in case of divorce, you know, if this was my daughter, she would have something to land on. That was in a time when most women, they were stay at home moms. So they don't have any specific profession, no, maybe education, no income outside, of course, of what the husband provides and so on. So obviously that made a lot of sense. Today, when you have dual income household and the lady, she still also has an income and so on. So the high amount of mahr and the deferred mahr is really counterproductive. As a matter of fact, it's even unfortunately, it slows down the divorce of a dysfunctional relationship that makes it even more much more painful. How so? You see, imagine someone who feels entrapped in a relationship that he needs to pay $100,000 as a mu'akhir, a deferred mahr if La qadr divorce happens, for instance. I mean, if that divorce was going with ihsaan, meaning that Hamdullah the tasreehun bil ihsan in goodness and they don't want to torture  each other because it's not working so they're going to go separate ways, Hamdullah. That's good. So in this case, he believes that he still owes her the money because that was the original agreement and everybody goes separate ways. So that's easy to be done, Hamdullah. But imagine if the man feels that he was wronged in the relationship and she's the one who's asking for divorce. He's not going to let go of it. It's not just that. He probably going to, unfortunately, going to abuse her and put so much pressure on her until she forfeits that mu-akhir. She would call for khula. And when she calls for khula, she's going to be the one who's going to be paying him back what he paid as a mahr instead of him paying her back or paying that actually that deferred mahr. So having that amount so high, with the perception it's going to be a safety net for her, that's a false, really false perception. It's not supposed to be the case because we are now starting the relationship with a bitter taste, even because the guy they, look, they don't trust me. Maybe rightly so in our time unfortunately, because of those situations that we're going through, the immaturity when it comes to how we conduct our relationships, how we understand our marriages and so on, nevertheless, still, it's not supposed to be that very high so that people don't start going after each other, unfortunately for a long time, and we never really get to that tasrihun bilihsaan divorce for good.

Monem Salam:
That's true. Okay. So let's kind of break it down, into if you want to call it quote unquote, negotiation and those type of things, right? So you said a future husband's family is the one who basically has to pay to the wife because it becomes her property. What is the best method of being able to decide what the mahr is today's modern world?

Yaser Birjas:
I want to comment on one thing before we get to this point. That it's the groom's family, the one that is offering this, of course, mahr. There are some cultures in some Muslim communities and some Muslim societies around the world where the mahr is paid from the woman to the groom's family.

Monem Salam:
Yes, that's a traditional dowry.

Yaser Birjas:
That's traditional dowry in some cultures where the lady actually is the one who pays the husband as if they're saying to him, thank you for taking care of our daughter for us. Thank you for helping us to get over with this and just taking our daughter from us. Like as if the man he has, he has a favor upon them to come and take the daughter away from them and take care of her and spend all his money and so on. Maybe that was in some certain areas because of, you know, economic issues and so on. But Islamically speaking, it's absolutely wrong. Is completely, completely wrong. Now, is it wrong for the woman to bring something with her, you know, once she buys, let's say some items, some furniture, some kitchen gadgets, stuff like that, etcetera, brings with her, there's nothing wrong with that. But to mandate that as being the mahr and the man doesn't pay anything for her, he just comes back Mashallah as the husband, that's it. That is not acceptable. That's not actually how Islamic marriages are performed.

Monem Salam:
That practice was actually a non-Muslim tradition that got embedded within the Muslim culture of the culture we're talking about.

Yaser Birjas:
The sad part is it still exists today.

Monem Salam:
Yeah, that's right.

Yaser Birjas:
And culturally, in some Muslim communities, they are still practicing the same tradition, which is absolutely unacceptable. Jazakallahu Khair (may Allah reward you). Now we say that the groom's family is the one that presents the mahr for the bride. Who decides how much and the value of it and so forth? Well, technically speaking, it's actually it's supposed to be in good faith. And in good faith, you give whatever you can afford. So if the man Mashallah is coming from a very wealthy family, the expectation is to offer something of significance of their own status. Right? But if the person comes from a very humble background, we're not going to expect from him to pay something way beyond his means. It shouldn't be beyond his means. So how do we decide that? The fair assessment is by a system what they call mahr method, meaning how much mahr do they receive within their family, that's cousins, her sisters, for example, her sister-in-law, this and that, within that kind of, you know, family. How much do they usually receive? We look at the average. Like one of the sisters maybe she receives 15,000. One receives 10,000. One receives 5,000. The average is 7,000. So it's around that figure, between seven, five all the way up for example, 15 and so on. What if a man wants to go beyond and give 50,000? Again, in good faith from the willingness of his heart, that's fine. If he can afford that and Hamdullah without any hardship, that is okay. That should be okay and inshallah tabaraka wa ta'ala; God willing.

Monem Salam:
Is it the responsibility of the family or is it the responsibility of the man? And the reason why I ask this is because at the time a person is 22 or 23 and getting married, you know, Mashallah, maybe the family is doing really well. But the son actually is still just beginning to start off in life, might still be making a small amount of money eventually to be able to earn more. When I'm looking at it from my daughter's perspective, should I be looking at it from a perspective of the family or the individual person himself?

Yaser Birjas:
That's a very good question, actually. As a matter of fact, there is no real determination from the Sharia where would you look in this regard? So it goes back again to the culture. But the standard from the prophets of sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), the less the burden, the financial burden to initiate a relationship, the more Barakah you'll find in that relationship. So we look maybe at both. The young man and his family. My concern with that and that is what is something I always tell the young men when they go propose, said, make sure that your family does not put too much money into your marriage because if they own the economy, they will own the policy.

Monem Salam:
(laughs) Good one. Okay.

Yaser Birjas:
The more contribution they put into your relationship, the more say they think they have in it. So how are you going to run the marriage? How are you going to have the wedding? Is it going to be this way or that way? So there are so many investors, let me put it this way, in the relationship. So if the man can independently take care of himself and pay for his mahr, that would be awesome. So no one will have a say in this relationship because they feel, well, I paid the 10,000, I contribute 50,000 to the mahr, for example, or to the wedding. So it's always better to be at that level. But nowadays, obviously, how many you know, fathers do you think will accept that the man will come to give his daughter a mahr, based on his standard, not his family's standard? So it goes back again to the cultural standards nowadays, the whole sallalahu alayhi sallam (peace and blessings be upon him) is the less the amount, the less the burden, the better it is, the more Barakah you'll find in the relationship, Inshallah wa ta'ala (most high). But come back again to okay, who decides on the amount right now? Usually nowadays you know the groom's family, they ask the bride's family, how much would you like us to offer you? Obviously, the girl's family, they would say whatever you guys can offer from Inshallah from your heart would be good. So that's when the negotiation begins, obviously. Sometimes the family might be blunt about it, says, you know what, her sister? They get married for $20,000. So I don't think we're going to give less than that. Or, sometimes they say, well, how much did you receive for your daughter's mahr? So we want to not going to make our daughter less than yours for example. So therefore, you guys give our daughters what you get what your daughter's received from her husband, for example, and so on. So there are a lot of actually arrangements that but all are cultural arrangements. But if there was dispute over what the amount that we should pay, that's when we go to mahr mithl, the custom within that family. So we go by the average.

Monem Salam:
And one thing that I wanted to add to that is we're just talking about dollar amounts, but maybe even like the wedding ring itself sometimes is very expensive, could be considered part of the mahr as well. Or anything else that's non-monetary in nature.

Yaser Birjas:
So anything the groom pays during that engagement period towards the marriage in terms of giving her, giving the girl, that's part of the mahr. So if you pay for example, if you pay $5,000, let's say diamond ring, and he gives her $5,000 cash to go and buy, for example, clothes and stuff of that and so on. They call it kiswa in the Arabic language. And he give her $5,000 for maybe for the furniture so she could go and furnish the apartment the way she wants it to be, for example. Some people they do that. And then she receives maybe another $5,000 cash in her hand. So if you look at all these amounts right now but some people they only calculate the final 5,000 cash as the mahr. As for the furniture and the ring and all that stuff. No, no, no. They were just gifts. Well, yeah, but he's not going to give her a gift because of who she is. He's giving her a gift of what she is to him in that moment, which is his wife right now. So therefore, this needs also to be taken into consideration.

Monem Salam:
For me as a guy, I'd be like, you know what, I'm perfectly fine going to the masjid, you know, having Shaykh Yaser do the nikah and let's call it a day and have the walima. Usually, and I don't want to speak for everybody, but usually it's the woman who wants an elaborate wedding and, and you know, parties and those type of things. Could we consider that as part of the mahr as well?

Yaser Birjas:
No, that doesn't go into the mahr. These are just general expenses. He has all the right to say, you know what? I can't afford this. I'm sorry. If you guys want to do this big, your family has to pay. Does he have the right to say that? Yes. Is it a good move? I don't think it's a smart move. Because once again, the more people put into your marriage, into your wedding, the more say they think they have in it. So they're going to influence in saying this and saying that and so on. So it's always better to have subhanAllah very simple and make it with full Barakah. But once again, culturally speaking, if people want to make it elaborate, it's up to them. But I don't want people's subhanAllah to put so much money into it and then to start delaying their growth. Why? Because they still have to pay for their catering. They have to pay, you know, of course, back payment for the banquet hall and the rentals and this and that. So eventually they're going to probably need two or three years before they're able to recover from that. Add in their student loans that they have to pay, their Hawaii trip that they have to go through with, and so on. All this kind of thing's a problem. I mean, I've seen a lot of young, young people suffer in the first few years of their marriage because of the financial burden they had to carry along with them to get married.

Monem Salam:
Yeah. You're saying that I could not consider more elaborate wedding as part of the mahr? Can I do a vacation in Hawaii as a honeymoon, part of the mahr?

Yaser Birjas:
If that's what she wanted. Like, if she said, my mahr, I want you to take me to Hawaii. So in this case, you take her to Hawaii. If she says I want my mahr to, you know, pay off my student loans, that becomes a mahr. If he agrees. She might say, I want you to pay off my car. And if he pays off that car, for example, that's part of the mahr as well, too. As long as explicitly it was asked to be the mahr, then we are okay with that. Maybe she says, look, I don't want anything from you, but my mahr I want you to make my wedding in such and such, for example, banquet hall. If that's what she asked for. And he agreed to this to be the mahr, then we're good.

Monem Salam:
Okay. Now I know, Mashallah, you have a lot of experience in the community and doing nikah and also just
with couples and those types of things. So what have you seen is the common practice and what do you think is the best practice?

Yaser Birjas:
You know, we're a very diverse community, so we have the Arab, that the Pakistanis, the Indians, the Bengalis, Africans, you know, many, many different backgrounds. I cannot say that there is one standard, really one standard way of doing the mahr. Every culture has its own unique flavors in it. But overall they all agree that the mahr is supposedly to be paid of, or the majority at least, to be paid from the groom to the bride. And usually the most common is two things. Cash and jewelry. Few people would ask for monetary value, a non-monetary value. A mahr. So example promise to umrah, going to Hajj or something of that, and so on. I haven't seen any many of these examples lately, but it's all about cash or jewelry. Now, sometimes people, they just give the full cash and the expectation is that you're going to use this cash to buy the ring that you wanted from me. So if that was the case, then yeah, that the ring, even though he didn't give it as part of the mahr, but he gave the cash to buy that mahr, then in this case it counts as part of that. So honestly to say the best practice, I can't say there was any specific. It really depends on the culture and the cultural stand. But overall, the best practice is to make it an easy process.

Monem Salam:
So one thing that I've been thinking about a lot and I've mentioned this in some other podcasts as well as talking about the mahr versus doing it upfront in giving the payment. And if you look at it from the perspective of somebody asking for, and I don't know the math on this, but assuming that if you ask for $5,000 today, as an example, and you say, you know what, as a bride, I'm going to take the money, I'm going to invest it. Right? Just the growth of that is going to be more than if you say, you know what, I'll just take the mahr part of it and I'll take, let's say $20,000 you know, later on down the road. From a compounding growth perspective, it actually makes more sense for the bride to say, you know what, I'll take a smaller amount now and I'm just going to invest it or do whatever I want with it and then have the nest egg to be able to fall back on.

Yaser Birjas:
That's one of the smartest thing that people should do. She puts the mahr in an investment account, for example. Or maybe if she has an opportunity to put it in a business, for example, and Bismillah, let it grow. That's the best thing that she could do. The problem with that, in some cultures, the mahr unfortunately, does not go to the bride. It's taken by the father of the bride. And that is dhulm.

Monem Salam:
Oppression, basically.

Yaser Birjas:
Oppression. Absolutely. It's injustice. It's adul, as it's called in the Quran, which is meaning, again, oppression and injustice as well, too, because the mahr supposed to be hers and only hers. If she willingly decided to give it back, that would be okay. You know, sometimes I've heard from some sisters when unfortunately, some of the guys after the marriage is done, they agree to a high amount. They agree to pay 20,000 because her father says we want like 50,000 for her. Yes, but that wasn't her request. It was her father's request. But his family agreed to it, although they thought that was a big amount, and so on. And so they accepted that. But then later on in the first maybe weeks or months of the marriage, every time she asked him, hey, can we go to Hawaii, can we go to this place, he goes, I can't afford this. You know I paid so much money for the mahr. I don't have anything left. So what is he telling her exactly? Give me something back. And the Allah subhanu wata'aala banned us from trying that, as he says, Allah subhanu wata'aala. Do not oppress them, do not pressure them, do not abuse them until they give you back some of what you have offered them for the mahr. That's injustice, that's oppression. That's unacceptable.

Monem Salam:
I think it just goes back to the fact that it has to be, without any questions, unequivocally, the property of the wife.

Yaser Birjas:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Monem Salam:
I know some people like the jewelry aspect of it, but again, I would say from a financial perspective, taking the cash is better than the jewelry. And the reason is because even if you get gold and diamonds and like that, it's very difficult to be able to sell all that jewelry and you're probably not going to get the price you paid for it whenever it was bought, so.

Yaser Birjas:
I want to also bring one of the unfortunate practices that happens in some cultures, which is un-Islamic practice, obviously. So the mother-in-law, she gifts the daughter-in-law her gold. So she gives her the gold as a bridal gift. So the bride wears the gold on the wedding day, for example, in the walima and then the next day that gold disappears and she never see that again until she has a girl. And she has actually a boy or a girl. And she gives that to her in her wedding. That is not acceptable. If you give your wife gold or jewelry, even though it was an ancestory property. That was from my great great grandmother that was given to my grandmother to give it to my mother and that was given to me. So I could give it to my wife so I can give it to my daughter. No, no, no, no, no. If you consider this gold to be mahr to your bride, it's hers. You have no right to take it back or make it conditional that, hey, we gave it to you as a mahr. Yes, we'll give it to you as a mahr, but only so that you give it to your daughter in the future. Or daughter-in-law when you get married. That's unacceptable. That is not mahr anymore.

Monem Salam:
You know, nobody wants to think about getting into a marriage and then the first thing you think about is how to get out of it. Right, that type of thing. But it's important to prepare for it and unfortunately, living in the age we're living in, that's more of a possibility than maybe it was the past.

Yaser Birjas:
For this, we have prenuptial agreements.

Monem Salam:
What I've seen from the divorce cases that go into courts and for money is because the wife feels cheated. But if there was a large enough mahr to be able to maybe not feel that way, maybe that's something that could alleviate some of that as well.

Yaser Birjas:
That is in the Malachi school, there's a concept called haqqul kaddi wa si'aaaya in which they say that if the lady, let's say, participated in helping her husband with his earning, or the least she did for him is she took care of him and the household on his behalf while he's building his empire. So obviously she doesn't receive any cash value in her hand except for the husband's provided for her so she can spend on the household, right? But he's, Mashallah, he's now building astronomical figures. So does she have any rights in the amount of money that he's collecting once she is taking care of his kids and his household and so on? This becomes much more important to understand in context of a man who gets married and after 20 years he divorces his wife, who has no education, no degree, no job before that, to go and marry someone who's 20 years younger than him. It could happen. That's a situation that could happen. Right? So in this case, does she have the right to take more from the money more than just a mahr, especially if the mahr or deferred mahr was a very symbolic amount as well, too. And maybe it was even mentioned in a foreign currency that has no value today. So therefore, she feels cheated, obviously. So that's what the argument's today, if she has a dollar value for all the services that she provided basically during that time, and that's an issue of argument among the fuqaha today. I don't want to give a conclusive, ya'ni, answer to this, to this mas'ala, because it's still an issue of debate now, Allahu aalam.

Monem Salam:
But you said the Malachis had an opinion on this, right?

Yaser Birjas:
They do, absolutely. They are the one who said actually she does. Because they go back to refer to the aya, which means actually, you give them like a parting gift or a parting amount. Bil ma'roof, according to the custom. That is due in the amount in the wealth of the believers or the muttaqqeen. So the culture back and then for a very very long time was to pay her the mahr, the deferred mahr. We live in a time that is different. Back in the days women, they had divorcee awqaaf, they had widows awqaaf, they had the Islamic Mashalla treasury taking care for their expenses and so on. From the welfare and all the stuff and so forth. Today we live in a different society. The family structure is not like before. It's not like there's the tribal system taking care of the widows and divorcees when they actually when they leave their homes. So therefore, there's a power shift here in the relationship as well, too, and also the financial arrangement is different. So can we apply now bil ma'roof, the new customs of our time into this discussion. That's when haqqul kadi wa sa'a comes in handy, actually. Many fuqaha.

Monem Salam:
Wow. This has been a really great discussion Hamdullah jazakAllahu khair for taking the time. Can you think of anything that maybe I haven't thought about?

Yaser Birjas:
The very important thing obviously is making sure that when people think about mahr they don't they should not be thinking of it as a Social Security or a safety net or any of that nature. They should really, really look at it as just like the prophet Sall-Allahu alay-hi wa sallam, ya'ni, wanted it to be, to be a symbolic thing, just a show of commitment. And that would be it. Like in the story of AbdurRahman ibn Auf when he came from Mecca to Medina and he had nothing during the hijrah. In one week he was wearing nice and he was smelled beautiful. And the prophets said bakhin bakh Mashallah, Mashallah, what's going on? Ya rasulullah, tazawajuf I got married. He was Mashallah, in one week, that was great. Said, did you give her something? Fa qaala, na'am, he gave her the amount the weight of a date stone in gold, which means he was, Mashallah, wealthy enough to give this amount in such a valuable way. I just want to emphasize again on the idea of keeping it simple and keeping it, Hamdullah, for the intention of the Barakah. It's not really about, you know, a bargaining chip in the relationship. It's rather just a sign of good faith and commitment, wallahu alam.

Monem Salam:
On one side of it is do it in good faith, something that's reasonable and with the family. On the other side, is we talked about this idea of in current times, the woman does need a nest egg. How do you balance the two? Right? That's the whole argument. Somebody might say, if I'm doing it in good faith, maybe, you know, a token of $500 as a mahr would be fine. But $500, to be honest with you, like ten years from now, is still not going to be worth enough to be able to to do it.

Yaser Birjas:
Absolutely.

Monem Salam:
But you need that in today's modern society because of the social benefits that were there before are not there anymore. How do you weigh the two?

Yaser Birjas:
It's different because, again, ya'ni, you need to keep in mind we don't want also ruin the relationship from the very beginning, because everybody is freaking out because the high rate of divorce right now. So we have to secure our daughters and then you have to pay, you know, higher amounts in the deferred mahr to deter the guys from divorcing them. Easily understand that. It's counter-productive. Really. It's not going to happen.

Monem Salam:
And it's also a negative feedback loop, right? You give a lot thinking of divorce. You're living in resentment and you get a divorce.

Yaser Birjas:
It's a vicious cycle, unfortunately.

Monem Salam:
Maybe what happened was that, you know, bride doesn't ask for the mahr or doesn't pursue it. And then later on, let's say ten years, 15 years from now, she's like, wait a minute, I never asked for it in the very beginning. I demand this now. Is that something that's valid?

Yaser Birjas:
It happens. And I've received many cases like these when in which the lady, she never issued a mahr because she didn't know any better. So later on when she understood that there's something called mahr. So she was asking for it. Also, another example is that the guy he promised to give the mahr, but he never give the mahr. And now it's been years. And the man is now saying that, well, I spent this for you, I take you on these vacations and give you these gifts and so on. So should it be that sufficient to come up with a mahr? The answer is no. Because again, the mahr has to be what? Complete gift for her. So it's still considered a debt that he needs to pay her even if it actually goes ten, 15 years later in life.

Monem Salam:
What about the first point, which is she didn't know she could have asked.

Yaser Birjas:
He still owes her the mahr. Because again, the mahr is actually a natural consequence of a valid nikah.

Monem Salam:
I think we're misunderstanding here. What I'm saying is like the wife never knew to ask, so she didn't ask. Ten years later, she's like, oh, I didn't know there's such a thing as mahr. I should make it 10,000.

Yaser Birjas:
She can't decide on the amount, actually. But she definitely has the right to demand it because, hey, I didn't know back then. Now I know better that I actually I should have actually received a mahr, but I never received anything. No one told me anything about this. So in this case, if her case is proven to be true and the husband says honestly, yeah, but she never asked for it, then in this case he agrees that he never paid the mahr. So in this case, you need to pay her a mahr. You pay a mahr, there's an amount, of course there was, maybe at that time. Give the average amount then.

Monem Salam:
Okay. So what you're basically saying is like, for example, the wali of the wife negotiates on behalf of her and says, okay, the mahr is going to be X amount of dollars. The wife never knew that this was negotiated. She just signed the nikah contract and was done. Ten years later, she's going through her paperwork and says like, oh, what is this? This is my nikah contract. Wait, this says $10,000 was supposed to be owed to me, I didn't know about it. Now I'm demanding it.

Yaser Birjas:
Like, for example, convert sisters who they get married and they have no idea how the Islamic marriage works. So the man doesn't bring the issue of mahr, you know, at the time of the nikah. It was never mentioned to her and then later on she gets to become more educated and she was like, wait a minute, what is it? I don't think that he gave me anything on that day. And when she asks him and he goes, well, you never ask for anything. But remember he's also maybe ignorant, didn't even know that he has supposed to give her mahr. So we go back again to the mahr mithl. What is customary in that situation? We give her an amount equivalent to that.

Monem Salam:
Okay, there are times when you're young and you're in love or whatever it is, you know, you say, well, okay, I'll marry you only for a dollar. Right? And later on, ten years, 15 years, you think back and you're like, well, that wasn't really just. I should have asked for more or you should have told me because you were more, more educated or older than I was, or my wali should have done this. They should have asked for more. Can we change then at that time?

Yaser Birjas:
If the wali approved it at that time then no. Because we assume that it was given in good faith and they didn't want to have any burden on the on the groom at that time. But if the groom of course you know, ya'ni, you realize how she was gracious with him, that not to ask for so much for the mahr, he should be very gracious with her and give her a gift for a lifetime. Forget about mahr right now. But of course, being very kind to her for the rest of his life yeah, wallahu alam.

Monem Salam:
Are there any aspects of mahr that people don't think about Islamically or just totally forgot about that you want to comment on?

Yaser Birjas:
Yes, SubhanAllah. A lot of us living in this materialistic world, we always have our relationship with a transactional relationship. And we think of our relationship with Allah Subhanatallah in numbers like one plus one equals two, ya'ni, you need to read the Quran to Allah Subhanatallah and so on. So even sometimes when we deal with people, we also deal with the same formula like we expect one plus one equals two. But with Allah Subhanatallah things don't work like that. One plus one does not have to be two, really. It could be a million. It could be a thousand. Why? Because there is an element called Barakah. So when we put the amount of mahr, people always think of the numbers. At 10,000, 5,000, you know, 100,000, because it's all what's on their mind is just the actual monetary value of the mahr, of the relationship of that stuff and so on. What we don't pay attention to is the nondisclosed amount of Barakah that would come with a less mahr. So as a Muslim, whenever I decide on the mahr, I need to put that into consideration as well, too. Would 10,000 give me Barakah better than 5,000 or 100,000. So I need to also keep in my mind the concept of Barakah, this is why we say that the prophet sallallallahu alayi wasalam recommends for us, the less the burden, the financial burden, obviously, the more the Barakah, the more the blessing. So that's something people need to take into consideration whenever they decide on the mahr.

Monem Salam:
I mean, we talked about this earlier, just the Barakah and the fact that there's the groom doesn't feel a burden, you know, that there can be a better marriage when there's no resentment or anything along those lines. A simple aspect of that which is which is very true.

Yaser Birjas:
Hamdullah.

Monem Salam:
I really appreciate your time in spending it with us and really explaining that the concept, the practice and what is fair and what's not fair. Jazakallahu khair for that.

Yaser Birjas:
Barakallahu feekim. As-salam alaikum.

Monem Salam:
Thank you for listening to Halal Money Matters. If you like what you hear, please do rate us on the app stores. And also leave us a review. It helps other people find us a lot easier.

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