An Islamic marriage contract is an Islamic prenuptial agreement. It is a formal, binding contract considered an integral part of an Islamic marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride or other parties involved in marriage proceedings.
In Sunni Islam, a marriage contract must have at least two witnesses. Proper witnessing is critical to the validation of the marriage, also acting as a protection against suspicions of adulterous relationships.
In Shia Islam, witnesses to a marriage are deemed necessary, but in case are not available then the two parties may conduct the nikah between themselves. It is also believed that temporary marriage, or Nikah Mut'ah (a type of contract which had more relaxed requirements) was prohibited in Sunni Islam, the necessity of witnessing was introduced by Sunni caliphs, specifically Umar, to ensure that no couples engaged in secret union.
Marriages are usually not held in mosques, (depending on the country and culture of both where the marriage happens and the parties involved) because typically men and women are separated during the ceremony and reception. Islam doesn't authorize any official clergy, so any Muslim who understands the Islamic tradition can be the official for the wedding. However, if a Muslim wedding is held in a mosque, then a marriage officiant, known as qadi, qazi or madhun (Arabic: مأذون), may preside over the wedding.
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Among the stipulations that can be included in the marriage contract include giving up, or demanding, certain responsibilities. The contract may also be used to regulate the couple's physical relationship, if needed.
The marriage contract can also specify where the couple will live, whether or not the first wife will allow the husband to take a second wife without her consent. The wife has the right to initiate divorce, it is called khula. She either gives back the dowry (mahr) or does not, depending on the reason for divorce. The man has the right to divorce. The marriage contract somewhat resembles the marriage settlements once negotiated for upper-class Western brides, but can extend to non-financial matters usually ignored by marriage settlements or pre-nuptial agreements.
Al-Mughni (by Ibn Qudaamah), Kitab al Nikah:
Cited in (Al Aqad,2014) the common problem of translation of marriage contracts is due to the varieties of word synonyms in the legal Arabic system which have no equivalence in the English system in terms of marriage contracts, such as; مهزٍ, شبكه, صداق. الخ , Mahr, Shabkah, Sadaq- (dowry), whereas, all of these examples attributed and affected by the culture and tradition of the Arabic language.