The Muslim population is rising in the UK forming about 5% of the whole population.
Many Muslims living in England and Wales marry according to Sharia Law (“The Nikah”) and do not feel the need to enter into a civil ceremony as they feel married in the eyes of God. However, the Nikah, although recognised as wedding ceremony in Islamic country, does not constitute a valid marriage for the purposes of English Law. The Nikah ceremony is an informal arrangement and has no status in law.
This is because the ceremony usually takes place in a non-registered location or without the attendance of a registered official.
The consequence of this is huge in the event of Islamic divorce especially so for the vulnerable partner. Any claims for financial relief cannot be made under Divorce Law. The “wife” (as it is usually the woman seeking relief) is left look to relief under the harsh Cohabitation Law or Property or Trust Law. This means that her claims are limited. This is a real and significant problem. The “wife” maybe “married” to a wealthy man with a high income but her claims are usually limited to only those on behalf of her children- no more. This could leave her destitute when the children attain age 18 or leave university.
Therefore it is wise, in England and Wales that Muslim couples, as well as entering into the religious ceremony enter into a civil ceremony in any authorised place in the presence of an authorised person separately. This would ensure that the marriage is recognised under English Law and hence the couple will have full rights under the Divorce Law in this country and in the unfortunate event of the marriage breaking down.
NB, However, if the couple conducts a Nikah overseas in a country that recognises the islamic marriage ceremony as a valid marriage and the ceremony is conducted in accordance with the laws of that country eg in Dubai then England and Wales will recognise this marriage as valid under the English Law. The couple should ensure that the marriage certificate is obtained and stamped by the registrar of marriages in that country so at the point of separation/divorce no confusion arises.
Shortlands is a boutique family law firm with over 12 years of experience in dealing with family separation issues and cultural marriages. Shabana Walayat is an expert family solicitor with over 25 years experience in dealing with these issues as well as being well conversed in Islamic and Sharia Law.