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Marriage: Right of Choice, Divorce & Dower

Freedom in Choice of Spouse:
Islam grants freedom of choice to woman in selection of her spouse. When a woman told the Prophet (peace be upon him), that her father forced her into a marriage with a cousin of his, hoping to achieve a better social position for himself, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made it clear that this was wrong and nullified the marriage. The woman then declared that she approved what her father had done, but she wanted to make clear to all Muslims that men have no power over women. If a father marries his daughter to someone without her consent, a Muslim judge must nullify that marriage if she puts the case to him. In some rural tribal communities the custom of marriage of women with Qur’an for the purpose of keeping the property with in the family is not only sacrilegious but shameful, reminding the days of ignorance (jahliyah).

The dower is the right granted to the women by God: “At the time of marriage, give the women their dower as a free gift; but if they, by their own free will, give up to you a portion of it then you may enjoy it with pleasure.”(Qur’an;4:4). Taking back the dower under normal circumstances is forbidden, the amount of dower is not fixed, it my vary according to the financial position of the groom, sky is the limit: “If you wish to marry another wife in place of the one you already have, do not take back anything of what you have given her even if it be a heap of gold. Would you take it back through slander and open sin (accusing her unjustly)?”(Qur’an;4:20); “O believers! It is not lawful for you consider women as a part of your inheritance and retain them against their will in order that you may force them to give up a part of the dowry you have given them, unless they are guilty of proven fornication. Treat them with kindness even if you dislike them; it is quite possible that you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good. If you wish to marry another wife in place of the one you already have, do not take back anything of what you have given her even if it be a HEAP OF GOLD. Would you take it back through slander and open sin (accusing her unjustly)?”(Qur’an;4:19-20). Regrettably in some places specially in the Indo-Pak subcontinent under the influence of local culture, the parents of a women have to make arrangements for the dower (Jahaiz) which is totally against the spirit of Islam. Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab: AbulAjfa' as-Sulami said: Umar (Allah be pleased with him) delivered a speech to us and said: Do not go to extremes in giving women their dower, for if it represented honour in this world and piety in Allah's sight, the one of you most entitled to do so would have been the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) did not marry any of his wives or gave any of his daughters in marriage for more than twelve uqiyahs. (Sunnah Abu Dawood:859).

Status of Widow or Divorce:
Among many nations, including Arabs in the Days of Ignorance, the widow was considered a part of her husband's property to be inherited by his male heirs, a step-son or brother took possession of a dead man's widow or widows along with his goods and chattels. This shameful custom was forbidden by Islam, Allah says:” And marry not women whom your fathers married except what is past: it was shameful and odious an abominable custom indeed.”(Qur’an;4:22). The widows and divorcees have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. There is no stigma attached with divorce or widowhood in Islam (Qur’an;2:231,232, 234, 240). The western tradition of adoption of her husband's family name by a woman when she marries him is a token of her subjugation to him. If divorce takes place, she returns to her own family. It is very strange that in some Western countries, even after divorce, a woman may continue to be known by her husband's family name. Historically speaking, a woman in the Western society was in a position of total subordination to her husband. In Islam, she retains her own family name because she is allowed to retain her identity. 
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