Last summer, the Guardian reported on a legal proceeding in the United Kingdom that explored the extent to which UK law recognizes a marriage conducted according to Islamic law, yet unaccompanied by a civil law marriage. As described in the article, the husband contended that the couple was never married, and the wife—petitioning for divorce—insisted that they were. As outlined in a SHARIAsource case brief authored by Professor Intisar Rabb, Editor-in-Chief of SHARIAsource and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, the basic question the court thus takes up is “whether a Nikah marriage ceremony creates an invalid or void marriage in English law.” This question is paramount to determining whether or not the wife may seek civil law remedies. With a growing number of nikāḥ-only marriages in the UK, this court case sets an important precedent.
The matter of legal recognition of Muslim marriages in secular courts is not isolated to UK law. Guest contributor Dr. Waheeda Amien of the University of Cape Town provides an analysis of the matter in South Africa.