Question: Some people exaggerate the dowries of their daughters to assure themselves of one of two things: first, that the husband will be unable to divorce his wife, and second, if the husband does divorce his wife, she will get enough money that she can live without troubles. Are these motives justifiable whereas they are contrary to the Prophet’s opinion?
The answer: Excessive dowries change marriage into a trade made for material motives, whereas easy and small dowries bring spouses closer to each other from moral and humane motives. In the first case, marriage is carried out with the mentality of traders, and then a woman is considered as any kind of goods. In the second case, marriage is carried out according to morals and values, and the woman’s actual value is realized.
We can close our eyes and say that a wise man does not say anything unless it has wisdom and benefit, that we may know some of it and not know most of it. This is for an ordinary wise man, then how about the wise Prophet (S), who did not say anything except that it came from the Wisest One of all?!
Yes! The Prophet (S) said, ‘It is from the good fortune of woman that her engagement is made easy, her dowry is made easy, and her pregnancy is made easy.7’
What people imagine then is definitely not true because first, they are not more aware than the Prophet (S), and second, when someone wants to divorce his wife, he does that either due to his shortcoming and injustice or due to other justifiable reasons. If he is unjust to his wife, he will leave her alone without divorcing her in order to force her to give up her dowry, and then she will accept divorce without getting a bit of her dowry; otherwise she will suffer until the end of her life, and in this case her dowry will be of no use to her at all. But if the husband is not neglectful of his wife’s rights, people will consider the wife to be mistaken and erroneous. Will she be happy with her dowry when people consider her so? Will someone come to marry her after her reputation becomes tainted, and it is said that she has mistreated her first husband? I think that no one would marry her except if he looks for wealth and lust, and these things do not make a happy marriage and a good life.
Third, why, at the beginning of marriage, which is a sacred and heavenly supported relation, does the family of the girl, who is about to be a wife, think of the guarantees of divorce? Does pessimism not kill the spirit of delight and joy of the ceremonies of marriage?
I think that the high ratio of divorce in our countries is due to the materialistic view, commercial thinking, and pessimistic spirit surrounding marriages from the start.
Thus, many people throw themselves and their daughters into what they would like to escape from because they mistrust what their great Prophet (S) has said to them.
At the same time, while Islam recommends low dowries, it recommends Muslims to not marry their daughters except to religious and honest persons. There is no guarantee better than faith and morals to prevent the occurrence of divorce and injustice after divorce, if it takes place, due to legal excuses.
If the husband is religious, he will fear Allah and refrain from acting unjustly towards his wife, and if he has good morals and treats his wife fairly and kindly, he will not divorce her if she is similar to him in faith and morals. Therefore, a high dowry is of no importance here.
If the wife deserves to be divorced and the husband is faithful but he cannot afford to pay the dowry because of need, the wife will remain suspended until she submits to a divorce without the dowry that she has looked forward to.
Would that these people ponder on this Verse, (And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then take it and enjoy it with right good cheer)8.
Here, there are three questions:
1. What does “free gift” mean?
It is the gift that a husband gives with his own free will to his wife that is called a “dowry”.
2. What does “but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it” mean?
It means that the wife can give that gift back to her husband with her own free will.
3. What does “then take it and enjoy it with right good cheer” mean?
It is the fruit that comes out of the love that is founded by the mutual exchanging of gifts between the spouses where they enjoy it blissfully.
Therefore, the purpose of the dowry is to achieve true love that will not shake before the problems of life or the mistakes that often happen between spouses. If the dowry is given from a husband unwillingly, shall he love his wife sincerely?
Certainly not! The Prophet (S) said, ‘Be lenient in dowries, because a man may give a dowry to a woman (wife) but it may be as a cause of hatred in his heart against her.9’
The Prophet (S) also said, ‘The best of dowries is the easiest of them.10’
Imam Ali (a.s.) said, ‘Do not exaggerate in women’s dowries, lest enmity comes out!’ 11
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, ‘…As for the evil omen of woman, it is her high dowry and disobedience of her husband.12’
You will notice that a high dowry of a wife is compared, in an evil omen, with disobedience of her husband.
From that, we note that the excessive dowry is as an evil omen in marriage and a cause of disagreement and divorce, unlike what people think. I ask: can ignorance succeed before the fact that Islam has already announced?