Pakistani women are battling with an extremely crucial issue i.e. understanding the Nikkah Nama before signing it.
The Nikkah Nama is an Islamic marriage contract. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of the bride and the groom along with the other parties involved in the marriage proceedings. Generally, women sign these in the presence of the male members of their family and her to-be in-laws. Despite having the right to read it and add demands on it, it is still seen as morally inappropriate when a girl wishes or requests to read her Nikkah Nama. In most cases, women do not even know that they possess the legal rights to read and fill it before signing it.
In Pakistan, people intermix culture with religion. Marriage in Islam is a simple event that is supposed to take place with the will of the bride and groom. However, culturally, people usually tend to get married to people whoever their parents chose for them. Moreover, it is deemed societally disgraceful to go against your parents wishes and consider a love marriage. This lack of choice serves as the the first obstacle in -what most women consider as confinement- a marriage.
The second barrier is when women is not allowed to read the Nikkah Nama.
Females are, from an early age, told to never question the traditions that are followed. Fortunately, things are gradually changng. But even though voices are being raised for feministic issues, there is a lot of work to be done in this regard. Most importantly, it is of utmost need that the ‘elders’ in Pakistani society let go of the traditions they are holding onto so tightly. These same values that they religiously stand by have hindered and bruised them.
Clauses of Nikkah Nama Every Woman Needs to Read Before Marriage
According to the Islamic law or Sharia, a man and woman both have the right to choose a life partner as well as the right to add to the Nikkah Nama before signing it.
Clauses 13 and 14 refer to mehr. It refers to the amount a woman can ask from her potential husband before marriage and after divorce. The ‘how much’ and ‘when’ depend on the bride. There are two types of it. Mehr Mu’ajjal (prompt) is given at the time of the marriage or before consummation. Whilst, Mehr Ghair Mu’ajjal (deferred) is refered to the amount paid at the time of a divorce, death or any time the wife asks for it.
Clause 17 of the Nikkah Nama is where the bride or groom can add in their demands. For example, a girl can demand a separate house, or she wants to work after marriage, or even if her husband can or cannot marry until she is his wife, etc.
Clauses 18 and 19 are for divorce. The woman has the right to a khula i.e. a divorce. Alarmingly, clause 18 is often remitted, hence the wife cannot demand for a khula. The husband, though, still retains his right.
Clause 20 allows a woman to ask for particulars like child support, property, etc.
Clauses 21 and 22 says that a man can not marry a second time without a signed document from the first wife. This is viable for further marriages as well. If this article, in particular, is violated, the husband can be imprisoned or fined with Rs. 500,000.
Unfortunately, most of these rights in almost all Pakistani marriages are snatched away from the bride and the groom. Most of the clauses are crossed off before the contract reaches the family.
Hence, it is imperative that both the parties read and fill out the Nikkah Nama accordingly.
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"Don't underestimate this dull-looking, often poorly printed document as it is perhaps the most important piece of paper you will ever hold in your life. Once you [sign this paper], there is no looking back and, yet, most couples only see the document seconds before it renders them man and wife. In fact, many families leave the nikah at the mercy of a moulvi who is hired to conduct the ceremony and fills the form as he sees fit. Little or no consideration is given to the terms and conditions the nikahnama includes; couples commence their new lives together unaware of their marital rights." ~Decoding:The Nikahnama by Mehreen Ovais