Why Mahr is given by the husband?

Question

Mr Ghamidi writes in his tafsir under 4:24

یہ مہر کیا ہے؟ مردوعورت نکاح کے ذریعے سے مستقل رفاقت کا جو عہد باندھتے ہیں، اُس میں نان و نفقہ کی ذمہ داریاں ہمیشہ سے مرد اٹھاتا رہا ہے، یہ اُس کی علامت (token) ہے۔

But the classical Islamic literature has a very strange concept of Mehr, giving an impression that it is given for fulfilling one's sexual desires (like in prostitution)

For example,

قَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَالِي‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ مَالَ لَكَ، إِنْ كُنْتَ صَدَقْتَ عَلَيْهَا، فَهْوَ بِمَا اسْتَحْلَلْتَ مِنْ فَرْجِهَا

You are not entitled to take back any money. If you have told the truth, the Mahr that you paid, was for having sexual relations with her lawfully

(Sahih Bukhari)

أَيُّمَا امْرَأَةٍ نُكِحَتْ بِغَيْرِ إِذْنِ وَلِيِّهَا فَنِكَاحُهَا بَاطِلٌ فَنِكَاحُهَا بَاطِلٌ فَنِكَاحُهَا بَاطِلٌ فَإِنْ دَخَلَ بِهَا فَلَهَا الْمَهْرُ بِمَا اسْتَحَلَّ مِنْ فَرْجِهَا

Whichever woman married without the permission of her Wali her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid. If he entered into her, then the Mahr is for her in lieu of what he enjoyed from her private part.

(Tirmidhi, hasan)

Also the name Mehr itself is disgusting because the same word Mehr is used for the money given to a prostitute woman.

نَهَى عَنْ ثَمَنِ الْكَلْبِ وَمَهْرِ الْبَغِيِّ وَحُلْوَانِ الْكَاهِنِ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي بِمَهْرِ الْبَغِيِّ مَا تُعْطَاهُ الْمَرْأَةُ عَلَى الزِّنَا

forbade the sale price of a dog, the earnings of a prostitute and the earnings of a fortune teller.

By the earnings of a prostitute he meant what a woman was given for fornication. (Muwatta)

Also the verse 4:24

فَمَا ٱسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهِۦ مِنْهُنَّ فَـَٔاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةًۭ

Here again the Mehr is linked with fulfilling one's sexual desires, that when you have fulfilled your desire then pay money!

Verse 2:237 also makes Mehr half when no desire is fulfilled.

This concept of Mehr in my view is so impure and so similar to prostitution that it destroys the sacredness of Nikah itself.

As far as I have studied, Islamic literature has no mention of Mehr defined as "a token of bearing responsibility". Please share if there's any. It is only defined as اجر الاستمتاع . Giving money for fulfilling one's desires, ( like in prostitution).

I would be really grateful if Mr Ghamidi responds to this criticism, especially how he sees and interprets the quotations above...


Answer

Salaam

Marriage is not prostitution and I am sure everyone knows it. What is also well known is that a dominant part of marriage is sexual relations between the married couple. So, many times marriage is viewed from this perspective. There is no problem in this. This is how it is referred to in the narratives you have cited from hadith books. The Prophet (sws) has alluded to this dominant aspect in the case that is discussed in the hadith narrative cited by you.

The Mahr that is paid by the man is not a price for having sexual relations, because the relationship of marriage is long lasting and this price cannot be a price for this duration.

Since, marriage is a contract, it is done by the mutual consent of the people involved and is ratified by the husband paying a token amount to his wife, which indicates that it is his responsibility to bear all the expenses of the wife and the family. The wife is giving the man a right on her and the man has taken her responisility on himself. The children are born out of their physical relationship.

Interestingly, the Qur'an has not used the word Mahr anywhere. It uses words like Sadaq and Ajr. But Mahr has been used ore predominantly in the Muslim community.

In 4:4 when marriage to mothers of orphans is discussed, the Qur'an exhorts men who marry them to given them the dowers graciously. The Qur'ānic word used is نِحْلَةً. It is declined in the accusative because it is a verbal noun. The implication is that the dower should be given to these women the way it is given to common women. This plea cannot be taken that since marriage is being contracted for the welfare of the orphaned children, no responsibility remains.

Does this description of the dower make it like prostitution, where no element of responsiblity is involved?

Similarly in 4:24, it says

فَمَا ٱسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهِۦ مِنْهُنَّ فَـَٔاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةًۭ

"the pay them their dowers as [your] obligation for the benefit you have derived from them."

A man gets many benefits from his wife and a great part of that is companionship including sexual companionship. And in reciprocation, the husband is ordained to spend on the wife and take care of her needs.

The word Ajr is used in an extended sense like we say the Ajr of a teacher. The teacher gives all his knowledge to the student and the student owes the teacher everything. Even if he gives the teacher some fee, it is inclusive of respect and regard. Just the use of the word Ajr in this case does not reduce the status of teacher-student relationship to some ordinary business transaction.

When the subject of divorce is discussed in 2:229, the Qur'an exhorts men to separate with kindness and not take back any gifts they have given to their wives.

Where does prostitution fit in here? Are we saying that the husband should not be made responsible to spend on the wife and take care of her needs or that the wife should not provide physical companionship to the husband?

Hope this helps.

Regards,

About the Author

Mushafiq Sultan


Mushafiq Sultan, born in Kashmir in 1988, has been studying world religions from his school days. In 2009 Mushafiq came across the works of Ustaz Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and since then has been highly influenced by his thought. He has an exceptional interest in world religions, their philosophies and their mutual relations. He formally joined Al-Mawrid in 2016 as Assistant Fellow (Honorary). Presently, he is in charge of Al-Mawrid’s query service. In 2016, he published his first book ‘Muhammad (sws) in the Bible- An Exposition on Isaiah 42’. He has written articles on Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. He has also translated several articles of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi into Hindi.

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