Hmm I think we heard of this contract vaguely when they were putting it together. Has anyone seen it? Perhaps the Islamic organizations behind it should create a website along with the evidences and scholars behind the things in the contract. When anyone is confronted with something different I think it's fine for them to question it, but true religious scholars know to go back and study the opinions on these issues. Like a certain school does allow a woman to marry herself and actually allows no witnesses required if the marriage is public and so on!! --J.
How I gave up on a modern Muslim marriage
I swore I'd marry under the new Muslim marriage contract. But it was such hard work convincing other people that I broke my vow
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 October 2011 04.00 EDT
A Muslim bejeweled bride makes an entry on a paper during a mass marriage ceremony in Ahmedabad
The Muslim marriage contract 'has been endorsed by the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, the Muslim Law Council, the Imam & Mosques Council and the Muslim Women’s Network'. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters
Three years ago, I read on Comment is free about the launch of a new Muslim marriage contract. The contract would "change the face of British Muslim family life"; it would confirm and re-establish the Islamic rights for women upon entering marriage that some cultures had blurred along the way.
The contract, which was relaunched this summer, does away with a lot of old cultural baggage. It stresses loyalty, mutuality and equality between husband and wife, protects the wife's financial rights and points out that there is no obligation for a bride to live with her in-laws.
It goes further. As someone who is determinedly independent, it baffled me why I should need a wali, a male guardian, to grant his official permission for me to marry before my consent was asked. I'd come to accept that was just the way it was. But the new contract confirms that in Islam, a woman of adult age doesn't need a wali; she can declare her own intention to marry without someone else's official permission being given first.
Like most Muslims, I'd also assumed that witnesses to the nikah (the Muslim marriage) always had to be men, but the new contract states that Islamic law only says a witness to marriage should be a sane, responsible adult, with no conditions on gender or faith – meaning women and non-Muslims can be witnesses too.
To me, this new marriage contract was symbolic: it gave recognition and respect to British Muslim women of my generation and to British Muslim couples too. So, reading about the contract in 2008, I vowed that the day I would get married, I would marry under this contract and sign my name to the rights my religion afforded me.
Fast forward three years, and my wedding day is nearly here. In three weeks' time, I will be signing my civil ceremony papers, as well as my nikah contract.
My fiance and I read the contract through online. Since my father had passed away and a wali wasn't necessary anyway, we wanted my mother to be a witness for the nikah. I felt it was meaningful, respectful and reflective of our close relationship for her to play a key part in our marriage proceedings, and hoped to set a positive precedence among our family and friends (we don't know anyone who has married under this new contract). My fiance in particular felt strongly about setting an example by including a female witness. We also thought that it would be nice to include one of my fiance's parents (he's a convert to Islam) as the second witness, so that they'd be involved in the Muslim ceremony too.
But it hasn't turned out that way. We asked the imam at our mosque in Regent's Park for his thoughts. He hadn't heard of the contract; I emailed him a copy, along with links to the Comment is free pieces, explaining the changes and the Islamic basis for them. He said that it was "probably best" if my mother wasn't a witness and concluded without providing any religious basis for it, that it was "better" if both witnesses were Muslim.
My mum, who felt touched to be a witness, asked family friends for their opinion – the overwhelming majority said my marriage contract would be void if I a) didn't have a wali and b) had my mother as a witness. They said we should do it the way it's done. The doctor who is conducting our Islamic marriage (it doesn't have to be overseen by an imam) says my fiance's father can be a witness, but that my mum probably shouldn't be. He also says I need a wali. No one we have talked to has even heard of the new Muslim marriage contract.
The Muslim Institute took four years of extensive and careful Islamic research to come up with the marriage contract, seeking clarification between cultural assumptions and religious facts. It's been endorsed by the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, the Muslim Law Council, the Imam & Mosques Council and the Muslim Women's Network – so surely, if the contract wasn't Islamically valid, then none of these bodies would have put their weight behind it.
But the Muslim Institute's good and hard work seems to have achieved little. Despite investing in a website and relaunch this summer, it's astonishing and disappointing that so few people appear to have even heard of the new contract.
Those my mum, my fiance and I have spoken to seem reluctant, nervous and wary to embrace something which isn't in line with what has always been. It's in turn made my mum now feel anxious over signing the new contract too, which means she's decided not to follow through.
Some people will think my fiance and I have been fussing over nothing; that a signature is just a signature (if that's the case, if it's really not that big a deal, then why not just let my mum sign the papers?). My future father-in-law will be my fiance's witness. My fiance feels frustrated that we've given up trying to prove a point; that things will never change if no one takes the first step; that it's the principle of it. As for including my mum – well, there's still the civil ceremony, where at least UK law will validate her gender as a witness without it being subjected to debate.