Islamic Marriage Contract in the Hanafi Jurisprudence

Islamic marriage contracts have been disputed in US courts. There are four schools of Jurisprudence in Sunni Islam and one in Shi’a Islam. This article defines the Islamic marriage contract according to the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence.

The Hanafi School of Jurisprudence is one of the four Schools in Sunni Islam. It was founded by Nu’man abu Hanifa (d. 767) in Kufa in modern Iraq. Abu Hanifa (father of Hanifa) is considered one of the “tabieen” (followers) of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. He had the good fortune to have lived during a time when some of the companions of the Prophet were still alive
The Hanfi School became prominent under the Abbasid Dynaty and later under the Ottoman Empire, during which the Hanafi “madhhab” (school of jurisprudence) became the only authoritative code of law in the public life and official administration of justice in all the vast territories of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, the Hanafi School of thought has followers among Muslim population in Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon.

Marriage Contract in the Hanafi Jurisprudence
According to this School, the “nikah” (marriage) is a contract by which the husband gets “the intended sexual relation” from the woman. This School believes that, the husband enjoys the “bid’” (body of the woman) and all of the “badan” (organs) for the purpose of “taladhudh” (enjoyment). The right to “sexual enjoyment” is given to the man only. This “enjoyment” does not extend to the woman. According to this School, the man may force his wife to exercise his “haqq al-isstimta’a” (the right to enjoy sex), while the woman may do so “one time only.” (See Al-Jazeery, Kitab al-Fiqh, vol.4, p. 2. Dar al-Irshad lil-tibaa’a wal-nashr, Egypt ).
The marriage contract can be in writing or orally, and could also be done by correspondence.

Conditions of the Marriage Contract
A marriage contract is valid, according to the Hanafi School, if the following conditions are met: (1) “Ijab” (propose to marry) and “qubul” (accept to marry) by both parties or their “wali” (guardians). Both “ijab” and “qubul” must be expressed clearly; the term “nikah” or “zawaj” (i.e marriage) must be pronounced during the negotiations of the marriage agreement. (2) “Ijab” and “qubul” must occur in one meeting. If for example the father of the girl offers her for marriage “ijab” by saying: “I give you my daughter for marriage”, the “qubul” (acceptance of the groom or his guardian) must be pronounced in the same session. In other words, if the groom, or his guardian, responds at a later time, his response does not meet the requirements of the Hanafi; thus the marriage does not occur. (3) Bothe “ijab” and “qubul” must be in total agreement on the specifics; if, for example the father of the bride offers her for marriage demanding $200 for “mahr”, the groom agrees to the marriage but does not agree to the amount of “mahr”, then the terms of the contract is not agreed upon, and there is no marriage. (4) Both “ihab” and “qubul” must be heard clearly by the parties involved in the discussion. (5) There must be no time limitation for the period of the marriage. A marriage done for a specific period of time is called “mut’ah” (marriage for pleasure only) and is considered illegal in the Hanafi School.

Gabriel Sawma is Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic and Aramaic. A lawyer with Middle East background; admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association of Beirut; Associate Member of the New York State Bar and the American Bar Associations. Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US courts, Islamic banking and finance. Editor of International Law website at http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com. Author of the Aramaic Language of the Qur’an http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com. Email gabrielsawma@yahoo.com; Email gabygms@gmail.com.