Islamic Marriage Contracts in American Courts: Interpreting Mahr Agreements as Prenuptials and Their Effect on Muslim Women – Note by Lindsey E. Blenkhorn

From Volume 76, Number 1 (November 2002)

In 1958 in Pakistan, Parveen Chaudry’s parents introduced her to Hanif Chaudry, the man they had chosen to be her husband. In accordance with Islamic tradition, Parveen’s parents negotiated the terms of her marriage contract with Hanif, consenting to and even signing the contract on Parveen’s behalf. According to Islamic law, Parveen’s marriage contract included a mahr provision, or dower, in the amount of 15,000 rupees (approximately $1,500), to protect Parveen if Hanif suddenly divorced her. Islamic law provides that couples retain their assets before, during, and after marriage, and because Parveen would likely not be permitted to work outside the marriage home without her husband’s permission, the mahr was a nest-egg in case the marriage soured.

One year after their marriage, Hanif moved to London to pursue a career in medicine, leaving Parveen behind in her native Pakistan with her parents and one-year-old child until her parents were able to pay for plane tickets to London. Once Parveen joined Hanif in London, he moved his family to New Jersey, where Parveen gave birth to their second child. Five years later, Hanif sent his wife and children back to Pakistan with the understanding that he would join them shortly. During the next five years, Parveen, who by now had three young children, attempted to rejoin Hanif in New Jersey, while Hanif took affirmative action to prevent her return and ultimately responded with divorce proceedings.



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