What is the Concept of Dower under Muslim Law?
Hedaya provides that, “the payment of dower is enjoined by the law, merely as a token of respect for its object (the woman), wherefore the mention of it is not absolutely essential to the validity of a marriage, and for the same reason, a marriage is also valid although the man were to engage in the contract on the special condition that there should be no dower.” In other words, under Muslim law, there cannot be any marriage without dower.
In a marriage, the husband must pay ‘something’ to the wife as a mark of respect towards her whether this liability has been expressly referred to at the time of marriage or not. If there is an agreement between husband and wife that wife would not claim her dower, the agreement is void and the wife’s right to dower exists despite such an agreement.
According to Mulla dower is consideration of the marriage contract. The Calcutta High Court has also observed that Muslim-marriage is like a contract of sale in which the wife is the property and dower is the price for this property.
These opinions are based on the argument that’ a Muslim marriage being a civil contract, there must be some consideration in this contract; dower fulfils the requirement of consideration. But, it is respectfully submitted that it is wrong to regard dower as consideration of the marriage- contract because, even where no dower has been specified, the marriage-contract is not affected the least. Even in such cases, some dower (proffer dower) is made payable to the wife by operation of law. Explaining the concept of dower, Abdur Rahim correctly observes:
“It is not a consideration proceeding from the husband for the contract of marriage, but is an obligation imposed by the law on the husband as a mark of respect for the wife as is evident from the fact that the non-specification of dower at the time of marriage does not affect the validity of the marriage.”
It is, therefore, clear that essentially, the dower is the fundamental feature of a Muslim-marriage because it is to be given by husband to his wife as a token of respect towards her.