MIHE Online PublicLecture Series 2021/2022
Nikah-only weddings and legal outcomes for couples in England and Wales
Wednesday, 22 June2022
Dr Rajnaara Akhtar, Assistant Professor, University of Warwick, delivered her first public lecture at Markfield Institute where she discussed the legal and social implications and possible outcomes of nikah-only weddings. The data was drawn from her empirical research undertaken in Australia, Qatar and the UK. In the cases under discussion, marriage has been contracted according to Islamic law without undertaking a legally recognised civil ceremony. As such marriages are not legally binding within British law, where the marriage breaks down, or a spouse dies, it is usually women who are often left in a vulnerable position, without security or access to shared assets. This is particularly problematic where children are also involved and no claim can be made on the marital home – which has led to destitution and complicated inheritance issues to resolve, with single parents often consigned to living on the poverty line.
Dr Rajnaara’s aim is to raise awareness within Muslim communities of the possible repercussions of nikah-only weddings so that informed choice can be made when couples contract marriage. A few mosques and organisations have been registered to conduct both civil and religious ceremonies simultaneously. She discussed a 2018 independent review conducted by Professor Mona Siddiqui and a bill proposed by Baroness Cox with the aim of championing the rights of Muslim women. Their recommendations included legal regulation of Shari’ah councils and possible criminalisation of Imams and others conducting a nikah without a civil wedding taking place. The presentation was followed by robust discussion as those attending the online lecture had many questions and issues to raise.