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How important is a valid marriage? Part I

The legality of Sharia ‘nikaah’ marriage ceremonies have this week been tested by the Court in the case of Mrs Akhter and Mr Khan. Mrs Akhter and Mr Khan had a religious nikaah ceremony to celebrate their ‘marriage’. But the ceremony they held did not comply with English law. Their celebration was not in a place registered for weddings, no certificates were issued and no registrar was present. 

Mrs Akhter and Mr Khan had been together for 22 years following this non-qualifying ceremony. The Sharia ‘nikaah’ marriage ceremony is very quick, and can be informally by an Imam. In situations such as this, in order to have a legal marriage, the couple must undergo a civil ceremony as well, for example by seeing the Registrar at a local registry office.

During their 22 year relationship, Mr Khan built up substantial wealth. If the parties had a legal marriage then Mrs. Akhter would have significant claims over Mr. Khan’s assets. However, the Court reinforced the fact that nikaah marriages are not valid, and therefore not considered legal. Three family Judges have confirmed that the Sharia marriage 'had no legal effect'.

As a result, Mrs Akhter’s financial claims are now limited. She is not able to make the same range of financial claims against Mr Khan’s cash, property and pensions as she would have been able to do if the parties had completed the civil ceremony.

Marriage is not just a piece of paper, it carries a whole bundle of rights for both parties. It is therefore important to check the validity of a marriage, as the consequences upon separation can be devastating, as they have been for Mrs Akhter.


If you are concerned about the status of your marriage, or are considering entering into a nikaah marriage, and would like advice, please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of our Divorce and Finance Team who can assist. We can assist you with any arising concerns regarding this subject or any other family enquiries you might have. 

If you have any other queries, please do not hesitate to contact any of our offices:  BanburyBicester and Rugby

Alternatively, you can contact us directly on 01295 270999. 

Please treat the contents of our blogs as general guidance only. Please do not take any action based on their contents unless you have sought specific legal advice. Brethertons cannot accept responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies, loss or damage in circumstances where there is no formal retainer between us and we have not given you personal and specific advice relating to a matter for which you have given us full background details.  You must also bear in mind that the contents of our blogs are based on English Law, and because they contain archival material, that material is likely to go out of date. Therefore, it is important to consider the date that the blog was posted. Please also remember that the law may differ in different Jurisdictions.