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Divorces are now easier for wives trapped in Islamic marriages

A British High Court has given recognition to some aspects of sharia law in a maiden decision when a Judge ruled that any wife married through “nikah” or Islamic marriage ceremony could claim the assets of her husband when they split. The couple in question was Mohammed Shabaz Khan and his now ex-wife Nasreen Akhter. The couple wed via nikah in 1998.

Matters moved into the legal arena when Khan wanted to stop Akhter from divorcing him. He argued that their marriage cannot be termed legal as the ceremony was not conducted under English laws but as per sharia law. The High Court, in its August 1 ruling said the union should be recognized and considered valid as the vows made were similar to the UK marriage contract. This ruling means that British women married through Islamic faith ceremonies will now have a much easier time to secure a divorce in Britain. Wives can now claim 50 percent of the husband’s assets. The nikah is now firmly included in British matrimonial law.

According to the judge, the union must be given recognition as the couple, after they married in 1998, subsequently co-habited and introduced each other to friends and in professional circles as a couple. Their mutual expectations were similar to an English marriage couple. This case bears considerable implications for women who get married under the Islamic sharia law and not under British law. They now enjoy the right to formally split from their husbands and also split assets linked to the union. Divorces could now be secured much more easily.

As per sharia law, the woman in a marriage must appeal to the sharia councils. These councils are generally staffed by men and many women are compelled to make concessions if they want a somewhat favorable outcome. In the case of men, such procedures are not needed. Khan tried to block Akhtar’s divorce application in the UK courts by providing the argument that they cannot be considered legally married.

The judge, in his judgment, said that the marriage was signed in disregard of a few requirements needed to form a marriage. He then declared the marriage “void.” He said Akhtar is fully entitled to a nullity decree. Conversely, if the judge has declared it a non-marriage, then she could not have made her case in any British divorce court.

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