Dower (mahr)is a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of marriage. The word consideration is not used in the sense is which the word is used in the contract Act. Under Islaimic law, dower is an obligation imposed upon the husband as a mark of respect to the wife. The object of dower is also to place a check on the capricious use on the part of the husband as divorce the wife.
The husband may settle any amount he likes by way of dower upon his wife, though it may be beyond his means, and thought nothing may be left to his heirs after payment of the amount. But he cannot in any case settle less than ten dirhams.
Kinds of Dower
The different kinds of downer are as under:
1. Specified and Proper Dower
Dower may be “specified” or “proper” according as whether the amount of dower has been fixed or not.
When the amount is fixed between the parties, it is called “specified dower”. Such settlemtn usually takes before or at the time of marriage. The amount s fixed may even tbe increased after the marriage.
If the amount of dower is not fixed the wife is entitled to ‘proper’ downer, even if the marriage was contracted on the express condition that she should not claim any dower. While determining the4 amount of proper dower, the following considerations are taken into account:-
a. Personal qualities of the wife
b. Traditions prevailing in the house of wife’s father; and
c. Dower settled upon other sisters fo the wife.
2. Prompt and Deferred Dower
The amount of dower is usually split up into tow parts one called ‘prompt’ which payable on demand: and the other called ‘deferred’ which is payable on dissolution of marriage by death or divorce.
The wife may remit the dower or any part thereof in favour of the husband or his heirs. Such a remission is valid though made without consideration .
Recovery of Dower
If the dower is not paid, the wife, and after her deathe, her heirs may sue for it. The period of limitation for suit to recovery ‘prompt’ dower is three years from the date when the continuance of the marriage no such demand has been made, when the remarriage is dissolved by death or divorce. The period of limitation for a suit to recover ‘deferred’ dower is three years from the date when the marriage is dissolved by death or divorce.
The wife may refuse to live with her husband and admit him to sexual intercourse so long as the prompt dower is not paid. If the husband sues-her for restitution of conjugal rights before sexual intercourse take place, non-payment of eh dower is complete defence to the suit, and the suit will be dismissed. If the suit is brought after sexual intercourse has take place with her free consent, the proper decree to pass in not a decree of dismissal, but a decree for restitution conditional on payment of prompt dower;
The heirs of adeceased Muslim are not personally liable for the dower debt. As in the case of other debts due from the deceased, so in the case of a dower debt, each heirs is liable for the debt to the extent only of a share of the debt proportionate to his share of the estate. Each heir can recover his respective share upon payment of the quota fo the dower debt proportionate to his share.
The widow can retain the possession of her husband’s property under a claim for her dower. But this possession does not carry with it the right to alienate the property by sale, mortgatge, gift or otherwise. If she alienate the property, the alienation is valid to the extent of her own share, it does not affect the shares of the other heirs of her husband.
The rights which dower confess on the wife are thereefold.
1. Refusal to cohabit
2. Right to dower as a debt
3. Retention of husband’s property