I have entered into a nikah, am I legally married in the UK?

Marriage is a sacred and significant institution in every society. It plays a central role in the lives of individuals worldwide. In the United Kingdom, there are various ways to solemnise a marriage, each with its own set of rules and regulations. For many Muslim couples, this often leads to a decision-making process that involves understanding the key differences between Islamic marriages and legal marriages in the UK. In this blog post, we will explore the distinctions between these two types of unions, highlighting their respective legal, cultural and social aspects.

Legal Marriages in the UK

Legal Framework:
In the UK, legal marriages are governed by secular laws and regulations. These laws are designed to provide a structured and standardised way for couples to formalise their relationship in the eyes of the state. The Marriage Act 1836 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 outline the legal framework for marriages, ensuring that certain legal requirements are met for a marriage to be valid.

Legal rights and Responsibilities:
One of the significant advantages of a legal marriage in the UK is that it confers certain legal rights and responsibilities on the couple. These rights may include inheritance, tax benefits, and access to spousal privileges such as next-of-kin status in healthcare decisions and the exact financial claims one party can make against the other upon divorce / separation.

Divorce and Financial Protection:
Legal marriages provide clear legal procedures for divorce and the divisions of assets and finances, offering a degree of financial protection for both spouses in case of separation. The simple answer to the question headlining this post is NO.

Islamic Marriages (nikkah)

Religious and Cultural Significance:
Islamic marriages are performed in accordance with Islamic religious customs and beliefs. They hold deep cultural and spiritual significance for Muslim couples, as they are seen as a covenant with God. Islamic marriages are typically conducted in a mosque or a private ceremony with an Imam, as they involve recitation of specific religious vows.

Lack of Legal Recognition:
While Islamic marriages carry immense religious and cultural weight, they are not legally recognised in the UK unless they are also registered as civil marriages. This means that couples who only have an Islamic marriage do not receive the same legal benefits and protections granted to those who have legal marriages.

Limited Legal Rights:
In the absence of a legally registered marriage, spouses may not have access to certain legal benefits, such as inheritance rights or the ability to make medical decisions for their partners.

Divorce and Financial Considerations:
In the event of a divorce, the legal system will not automatically recognise the dissolution of an Islamic marriage. This can lead to complications in terms of financial settlements especially for the “poorer” party. They will find their right to claim financial relief extremely limited and in same situations as non-existent as compared to a legally married spouse.


The difference between Islamic marriages and legal marriages in the UK lies in their legal recognition and the rights and protections they offer. While Islamic marriages are religiously and culturally significant, they lack legal recognition and will not provide the same level of legal security as civil marriages. For Muslim couples in the UK, the decision to have both can offer the best of both worlds. Understanding these differences is essential for informed decision-making when it comes to marriage in the UK, as it ensures that couples are fully aware of the legal and cultural aspects of their commitment. Should you require further detail in respect of the above then please do email on Shabana Walayat, Director, Shortlands Law Firm Ltd
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