Marriage of Convenience
In some cases a man and a woman tend to get married to obtain certain benefits. Scholars are unanimous that such a marriage is forbidden as it is not permissible to go through a marriage contract for false pretenses.
Marriage of Convenience
• Unintended marriage;
• Marriage to obtain a permit of residence in non-Muslim countries;
• White marriage;
• Paper marriage.
A man and a woman agree to go through a marriage contract so that he can present the contract to a government department to obtain certain benefits. The marriage contract will be merely a document presented to officials but there will be no real marriage between the couple. In most cases, such a marriage contract is made in order to obtain naturalization, or a permit of residence, or a visa, or some other social benefit given to families. The contract is registered with the relevant government authority.
A sham marriage, with no intention to make it a real and permanent marriage as required by Islamic law, is forbidden. According to Islam marriage is a firm pledge, described in the Qur’an in such terms:
‘How can you take it away when each of you has been privy with the other, and they have received from you a most solemn pledge?’
The prohibition is even stronger if the marriage contract is between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man, entered into to enable her to get certain benefits.
Such a contract is devoid of content and runs against the purpose of marriage endorsed by Islamic law. Moreover, it creates a practical problem as it makes each of the two parties a spouse to the other and a marital relationship is created even though the contract itself is flawed.
Scholars are unanimous that such a marriage is forbidden. Decisions by Fiqh councils are also clear that it is forbidden. The concluding statement of the second convention of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America states: ‘A sham marriage is a marriage contract when the two parties do not intend it to create a marital relationship between them. As such, it does not conform to any essentials or conditions and is only used as a means to obtain certain benefits. As such, it is forbidden from the Islamic point of view because it is not intended as a marriage but aims to serve other purposes. It includes conditions that are in conflict with the purpose of marriage and its practical status depends solely on the proof of it being merely a paper contract. If it is proven in a court of law that it is nothing but a paper contract, it is ruled invalid. Otherwise, it is ruled as correct and valid if it fulfils the essentials of a marriage contract and there is no reason to prevent such a marriage between the two parties.’
The European Council for Fatwa and Research issued a fatwa on 10 March 2009 declaring such a marriage forbidden. The Council received a question on this matter and it said in its reply:
The first case sets the duration of this marriage, ending it once the husband obtains a residence permit or obtains naturalization. This is forbidden and the two parties commit a sin by going through with it, because such a contract makes a travesty of the Islamic objectives of marriage. It goes through the procedure of a marriage contract but is intended for something other than marriage. Even though it may fulfil the conditions of a proper contract, it remains forbidden. Moreover, as the law of the land does not permit making such a contract, its prohibition from the Islamic viewpoint is strengthened. In this the law of the land is in full agreement with Islamic law. Furthermore, this case is similar to the mit[ah, or temporary, marriage which the Prophet has forbidden, as confirmed in a hadith reported by Saburah ibn Ma'bad: ‘I was with the Prophet when he announced:
“People, I had given you permission to have temporary marriage with women, but God has forbidden this until the Day of Judgement. Whoever has a woman on such an arrangement, let her go free, but do not take back anything you have given them.”’
(Related by Muslim, hadith No. 1,406)
The similarity between this case and mit'ah marriage is that it is made for the duration it takes one party to obtain a permit of residence. It will terminate after that.
The second case is forbidden like the first one. It involves a situation that is absolutely forbidden, which is a marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man. The very contract is flawed on two counts: the purpose for which it is made and the marriage itself which is unlawful from the Islamic point of view.
The third case is that of marriage with a man intending to divorce the woman once he obtains his residence permit, but he does not inform the woman of his intention when they marry. Although this contract is formally correct, the man is committing a sin by cheating the woman, concealing his original intention to divorce her. Islam views marriage as intended to last for life and divorce is something that comes up after the marriage is in place. Hence, a temporary marriage is forbidden and its contract is flawed. In an Islamic marriage contract, commitment and acceptance are essential conditions. When a woman accepts a man as a husband, she is taking him as a real husband for life. Had she known that he intends the marriage to be temporary and that he will divorce her whenever he wishes, she would never have accepted him. If at the time of making the marriage contract the man has the intention to divorce the woman, his intention affects the validity of the contract because the woman accepts it on a different basis. There are several hadiths on this subject, reported by a number of the Prophet’s companions.
The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa also issued a fatwa making clear that such a marriage is forbidden. It says: ‘A marriage contract is given great status by God, as he describes it as
“a most solemn pledge.”
Therefore, it is not permissible to go through a marriage contract for false pretences, in order to obtain a permit of residence.’ The Committee was asked about making a sham marriage contract in order to obtain nationality. Its answer was: ‘Such a contract is not permissible; as it involves lying and cheating.’
The late Shaikh Abd al-Azeez ibn Baz was asked about this type of marriage contract and he said: ‘This does not come into the purpose of marriage in Islamic law. It is a marriage intended to obtain a permit of residence then divorce. It appears to me that this is not permissible in Islam.’
• Home page for the website: www.binbaz.org.sa
• Fatawa by The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa.
• Al-Rajhi Center for Studies and Consultations website: www.shrajhi.com.sa.
• The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America.
• The European Council for Fatwa and Research.
• Salim ibn Abd al-Ghani al-Rafie, Ahkam al-Ahwal al-Shakhsiyyah lil Muslimin fi al-Gharb.