Maher (alternately transliterated as mahr, mahar, mehr, or mehrieh) is a contract some Muslims enter into upon marriage. In Islamic law, it is a gift or contribution made by the husband-to-be to his wife-to-be, for her exclusive property, as a mark of respect for the bride, and as recognition of her independence. It is not, however, a gift in the traditional sense, but is in fact obligatory and the wife-to-be receives it as a right.
In many marriages, a portion of the Maher is paid promptly, that is, before the marriage is consummated, and a portion, often the larger portion, is deferred to be paid on demand by the wife, or upon divorce, or upon the death of the husband.
In the case of such deferred payment, the portion deferred had the effect of helping look after a wife after divorce or after her husband’s death. Although a wife can waive payment of the Maher, she is entitled to it as a matter of Islamic religious principle.
Trial judges have upheld maher contracts in Canadian courts.
Canadian cases that deal with the issue of Maher:
- Nathoo v. Nathoo, 1996 CanLII 2705
- Kaddoura v. Hammoud (1998), 168 D.L.R. (4th) 503
- Amlani v. Hirani , 2000 BCSC 1653
- M. (N.M.) v. M. (N.S.), 2004 BCSC 346
- Marcovitz v. Bruker, 2005 QCCA 835, 2007 SCC 54
- K. (M.A.) v. B. (E.I.), 2008 NBQB 249 (French version A.K. c. I.B., 2008 NBBR 249), 2008 CarswellNB 671, 2008 CarswellNB 673
- Nasin v. Nasin, 2008 ABQB 219
- Khanis v. Noormohamed, 2009 CanLII 27829; 2011 ONCA 127
- Al-Mahamid v. Peart Estate, 2009 NSSC 285
- Ghaznavi v. Kashif-Ul-Haque, 2011 ONSC 4062
- Aziz v. Al-Masri, 2011 BCSC 985
P. Fournier, “In the (Canadian) Shadow of Islamic Law: Translating Mahr as a Bargaining Endowment” (2006) 44 Osgoode Hall L.J. 660 (available in the Vancouver Courthouse Library)
D. Gradley, “The Contract of Maher” (2009) 120 The Verdict 24. (available in Vancouver and regional courthouse libraries)
M. S. B. Jaffer, “Vertical Mosaic from South Asian and Ismaili Muslim Point of View” Continuing Legal Education Family Law Conference. (Vancouver: CLE, 2001) at 13.3.1 (available in most BC courthouse libraries)
G.D. Sanagan. Sanagan's Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims, Canada, 5th ed, c. M, p. M-5 (available in Vancouver and regional courthouse libraries)