Upgrade to ChromeUpgrade to FirefoxUpgrade to Internet ExplorerUpgrade to Safari

Islamic faith marriage alone not valid under English law

An Islamic couple who marked their wedding with a traditional ‘nikah’ ceremony but without a civil service were never legally married, the Court of Appeal has decided in a landmark case.

It ruled the marriage was ‘invalid’ under English law as the ‘nikah’ wedding was a ‘non-qualifying ceremony’ with no legal effect.

This was because, said the court, it was not performed in a building registered for weddings, no certificates had been issued and no registrar was present.

‘Not legally married’

Overturning a 2018 High Court decision that the ‘nikah’ ceremony falls within marriage law, this move has huge implications for thousands of Muslims in England and Wales.

The ruling, in effect, means that couples who marry with only a ‘nikah’ ceremony to mark the occasion, and don’t go through an additional civil ceremony, do not count as legally married and can therefore not divorce.

In many cases, this leaves the parties in a vulnerable financial position if the relationship breaks down without redress to the courts for a division of the matrimonial assets, such as the family home or a spouse’s pension.

Background

Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Kahn married in London in 1998 at a traditional Islamic ‘nikah’ ceremony in the presence of an imam and around 150 guests.

The couple, who went on to have four children, always intended to follow it up with a civil ceremony but never did so.

They separated in 2016 and Mr Khan tried to block his wife’s divorce petition on the basis they had never been legally married in the first place.

Nasreen Akhter argued their Islamic faith marriage was legal, as was her application for a divorce, and that she was entitled to the same legal protection and settlement offered in the UK to legally married couples.

Initially, the High Court judge agreed with her ruling the marriage did indeed come under the scope of the 1972 Matrimonial Causes Act. This decision has now been reversed by the Court of Appeal.

Specialist help

Relationship breakdown is one of the toughest, most emotionally testing challenges any of us ever has to go through, particularly when there are children involved.

At a stressful and exhausting time, you need clear thinking, straight talking and understanding legal professionals who can steer you through the process with expertise and compassion.

Wards Solicitors has an experienced team of eight family and divorce law specialist solicitors ready to help and 11 local offices for face to face meetings.

For help and legal advice on this area of the law, please contact our Family Law and Divorce team or pop into one of our 11 local offices.

Get in Touch

Request a call back

If you’d prefer us to call you back, just use the form below to give us your number and the best time to call. It would also be useful if you could give us some idea of what you’d like to discuss.

    Close

    April 2021: Covid-19 arrangements

    Wards Solicitors remains open for business and we are taking on new cases.  We are available for video call and telephone meetings but cannot currently offer face to face meetings with clients except in some specific emergency situations and at court hearings.

    How to get in touch:

    • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
    • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, Mondays to Fridays.
    • Alternatively, email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

    A list of our 12 branches is available here. Our telephones lines are operating as normal behind closed doors.

    Important Warning: Cyber-crime is very common including email interception. We will never tell you of changes to our bank details by email.  Please be aware that we accept no responsibility if you transfer money to a bank account which is not ours. If you receive an email giving our bank account details, please telephone us immediately without replying to the email or sending money.