Getting Married without a Written Contract

It is noteworthy that Islam pays great attention to marriage, taking all measures to protect the family life and relations between the spouses against any suspicion or difficulty that may arise in the future. Like all contracts, the Shari`ah demands witnesses for the marriage contract and it lays stress on announcement so as to protect the spouses against suspicion from the society and protect each partner rights for likely future disputes. In line with the aims of Shari`ah the registration of marriage in non-Muslim countries is of paramount significance in protecting the rights of the spouses.
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council, states: “Contracts at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) could be done orally. To be in writing is what the Qur’an recommends: “O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is juster in the sight of Allah, more suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves but if it be a transaction which ye carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if ye reduce it not to writing. But take witness whenever ye make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If ye do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acqua
inted with all things. If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him fear his Lord conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.”
(Al-Baqarah: 282:83)
A contract in writing is not necessary then, but guaranteeing the rights of people is necessary. Since marriage is a civil contract, it is similar to any deal or transaction.
In modern administrations, they want transactions and deals to be documented. If not, they are not protected. A marriage in this society, if not certified with a marriage certificate, it is not legal or lawful. The woman could lose anything of her rights if the marriage is not registered in the city hall or the county. I’d like you to answer these questions: Can you buy a car from a friend without a title? Can you buy a house without a deed? You will say to me, “no.” So why don’t you implement this “no” for the marriage that is not documented in writing?”
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states: “Some Muslims in the US and Canada say that in Islamic marriage paperwork is not necessary. They also say that they only care for what is Halal and want to marry according to the Shari`ah, they do not care whether the marriage is legally recognized here or not. However, there are some cases where Muslim women have greatly suffered, due to these unregistered marriages. Some Muslim men marry without any legal papers and then leave their wives. These women do not know what to do and how to get divorce from their husbands who abandon them. Upon resorting to the US and Canadian courts they are told that according to the local laws they are not considered married. These women have nothing to prove their marriage and the courts have no marriage record of these women. Even the local Islamic centers in the US and Canada are unable to help them, because the laws in these lands do not give the right of divorce to anyone except to the local superior courts. It is important for Muslim men and women to have their marriages and divorces properly documented. Islam teaches fairness and justice in all cases.”
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, adds:
“As for the issue of contracting marriages in a society where Islamic laws are not enforced or recognized, it is also highly crucial to get the legal papers before marriage contract; for legal purposes, the marriage must be solemnized by someone who has been authorized by the law of the land to perform marriage. In the absence of such legalization, there is no guarantee of legal protection for anyone in the event of a dispute.
Although some people may consider legalization as being not so crucial, I would, however, insist that it is quite crucial and essential; it is not advisable for anyone to get married without legal papers. This fact can be emphasized by referring to the fact that marriage is primarily a social contract and as such we should do so in conformity with the laws of the land we live so that such a contract can be legally enforced.
Apart from this, Islam teaches us to do what we do as efficiently, methodically and professionally as we can. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah loves you to do your work as best as you can.”