Nikkah in the UK
January 9, 2017


Are you married in the UK? LEGALLY?


What is a Nikkah.

Nikkah is a marriage contract between two people under Sharia law (Islamic Law). In Islam, marriage holds a high value and is a social necessity for Muslims. Muslims believe that marriage is the only legitimate or the halal way to live with or together as a family unit. To cohabit they must enter into a Nikkah as living together as a couple outside the contract is not permissible under sharia law or haram.

There are 3 elements that form the Nikkah contract

  • Consent of both parties
  • An offer ( the groom offers)
  • An acceptance (by bride)

It is an absolute a must that the above three are present for a marriage contract to be valid.

Further there are certain conditions that must be met. These are:

1) Consent of both parties. One of the conditions of a valid marriage is consent of the couple. Marriage in Islam is a voluntary union of two people and free consent must be obtained by both parties.

2) ” Mahr” is a gift from the groom to his bride. This is also sometime referred to as the dowry or Haq Mahr.. A marriage is not valid without mahr. It does not have to be money or gold. There is no set value. It can be non-material things like teaching her to read the Qur’an or an emotional sentimental gift.  This is the brides right and a must to form the marriage contract.

3) Witnesses – the Nikkah must be witnessed by 2 people for it to be valid.

Once we establish what constitutes a Nikkh, the next question that arises is whether the parties Nikkah is valid in the UK.

Is my Nikkah valid in the UK? This is a question I am asked regular by Muslim clients, I am eager to spread awareness of this subject and hopefully educate on the law surrounding this area.

The Nikkah Contract is between the couple (bride and groom) and this is a binding contract in countries that operate the Sharia Law such as Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arab and Pakistan. So a Nikkah will be recognised if the marriage took place in a country that recognises sharia law for example if a Nikkah took place in Pakistan then that Nikkah would be recognised as a marriage within the UK, as the country in which the marriage took place recognised the Nikkah as a valid marriage.

However, saying that, this contract is not recognised in the UK as the English law does not recognise a Nikkah if the Nikkah ceremony took place alone in the UK. This is what has led to

confusion within a lot of marriages and sadly I meet clients all the time who have naively thought they were legally married and only realise that’s not the case when the couple have separated and wish to seek legal advice. The shook on the clients faces is very sad, a lot of the times the women have been made to believe the marriage is legal or at times the couple genuine thought that the marriage was registered.

During my years of practice in this area I have seen that unfortunately it is a believed by many that this constitutes a legal marriage under UK law, this is not true and is simply a myth. To assure that the marriage is recognised in the UK, a civil ceremony is an absolute must, this will then give the married couple same rights as a divorce couple and also in a position to make applications to the family courts and obtain financial remedies. A couple with just a Nikkah ceremony at home, function venue or a mosque that is not registered will be classed as unmarried under UK jurisdiction. Such a Nikkah performed while will satisfy the religious side it will not constitute as a legal marriage. There are a very few mosques in the UK that are registered to conduct legally binding marriages.

On the other hand, there are many couples I see who say that they are satisfied with a Nikkah and are not interested or don’t feel the need in having a civil ceremony, while a vast majority believe that their marriage is automatically registered in the UK by the Imam who conducted their Nikkah and I have heard many more myths which are sadly believed by many. Some of these myths are that, the Nikkah is recognised in the UK, or on having a child after the Nikkah the parties Nikkah is recognised or the Imam must have registered the couples Nikkah contract with the marriage registry office, or I have proof of the big function that took place and witnesses. These are just some of the most common myths I have heard. The truth is that it is the responsibility of the couple getting married to find out if the mosque in their area who will be conducted the Nikkah is registered under the Marriage Act 1984. The problem is that in fact the vast majority of Nikkahs are not conducted in mosques. The Nikkah usual takes place at the bride’s house, at a function centre or a banqueting suite or sometimes (very rarely) at the masjid. Culturally the parents of the couple tend to agree mehr and believe that is sufficient protection, the fact is living in the UK, the law of the country must be adopted.

I see a lot of clients on a regular basis who have no idea where their Nikkah marriage stands under English law.

Some feel it’s not important to register their marriage and are happy with complying with the religious requirements. While this is a choice a couple do make, the fact is that many Nikkah marriages are believed to be legally married. For one to make this decision it is important that the couple both are educated on the rights they will have upon marriage and only then a decision should be taken. It is best to register your marriage with the registry office around the same time the Nikkah is planned.

If a couple choose not to have a civil marriage what implications later in life does the couple face and is there any other way to protect yourself? Yes, parties can enter into a cohabitation agreement which details what would happen if the parties separated. It’s a good idea to enter into a cohabitation agreement while love is young and blissful, as on separation most parties tend to not form an agreement.

Let’s talk about what will happen if your relationship breakdown.

If your relationship breaks down and you only have a Nikkah contract you are living together in the eyes of (English) law as cohabitees and therefore will not be in a position to make a claim under family courts for financial relief. The law surrounding cohabitees is complex and can be very expensive. As the couple are not married under the eyes of law if one party decides to marry somebody else they would not be committing an offence of bigamy or even polygamy.

It is important to protect your rights, circumstances can change at any point in life, for example if your partner died you would not be the next of kin. When you sign your child’s birth certificate you cannot be named on the birth certificate as married. Birth certificates are official documents therefore the information has to be accurate which reflects the situation.

To find out where your marriage stands under English law or if your planning on getting married and wish to obtain advice contact Milson Legal Solicitors today for free initial consultation on 0113 8730032 or leave your details and we will contact you when it suits you.


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