Praise be to God! There is no other god except God. As you might remember, in one of the Friday sermons, I talked about what the appropriate age of marriage for each man should be to a corresponding age of the woman, supposing that they are equal in every other aspect. This promotes fairness between the parties, but it reduces the possibilities of whom can marry whom, which is a bad thing, because then much less people would be married, because they would expect only the appropriate age. God provides a solution for this in the Quran, by mentioning dowry. One of the reasons for the dowry, is to make it possible to marry across all legal ages, simply by adjusting the dowry amount to such a high or low level which would be acceptable to the party which gains less from that marriage. So, the dowry traditionally was a substantial financial amount which the groom would give to the family of the bride or the bride, as consolation for their family separation, and they would adjust it in accordance with what the difference between the age of marriage was, until the party which did not win as much from that marriage got satisfied, and this adjustment would be quite large. So, the dowry increases the possibilities of marriage, which helps promote marriage in a variety of different circumstances without worrying that someone is going to be taken advantage of. And the variation between one dowry to another dowry would be maybe to a hundred times larger or smaller, if not more, in cases where it was clear that one party was not as good as the other party, for whatever reason, in rare circumstances. The dowry would be negotiated with the guardian of the woman.
According to the Quran, women are always under the guardianship of someone else. If they don’t think that they are under the guardianship of someone else, that’s because they are under the guardianship of the state, even if they don’t know it. They would be savaged either by animals or be abused by other men, in the past, if some other man did not protect them, if they were not under the guardianship of someone. Today, they would be abused by other men, if they were not under the guardianship of another man or under the guardianship of the state. Whenever states fail in any region, usually during wars, the women always end up being abused and unprotected. So, for most educated women today, at least for those who are older than let’s say 25 years old, the state is their guardian. And for a man to marry a woman, he must seek the permission of her guardian – whichever guardian applies, either the state, or her father, or her adult brother).
So, if the woman is independent, (especially financially or residentially independent), which is in most cases, you can ask the permission of the state to marry her. And this simply means that you will do the marriage in the official state offices, a state registered marriage. Basically, you have to register the marriage in the appropriate state office, and if the state registers it, they automatically gave you permission to marry her. They officiate the marriage; they do the marriage.
Now, because the dowry is a financial agreement between the potential husband and the guardian of the potential bride, in cases when the state is the guardian, the dowry is actually already paid through taxes, through which the financial and legal safety of the women is guaranteed, and even potential protection by state authorities in extreme cases. If anything happens to her, she has the support of the state to guarantee her safety, alimony, and her rights. So, for independent women, this makes the dowry kind of obsolete, or already paid. In this case, the dowry should be just a symbolic gesture, of something which a man gives to a woman, to symbolize their marriage, maybe a ring, or bracelet, or a necklace, or things like that, but not necessarily anything financially substantial.
Now, if the woman is still under the guardianship of another man (like a very young woman who still relies financially and residentially on her father, for example), in that case the dowry may be discussed between them. However, discussing the dowry is actually not mandatory in the Quran. The dowry is mandatory, but discussing the dowry is not mandatory. So, what happens, if a couple wish to get married, and they never discuss the dowry. Well, if they get married in state official marriages (registering their marriage with the state), in that case it is automatically implied that that was the dowry, and the dowry has been fulfilled, through the state. Now, there are cases when the people might not register a marriage for whatever reason, which is their right, if both parties agree, in that case a financial dowry applies, even if they did not discuss it. These days, many girls or families of girls would rather say “No”, than ask for a dowry, in a culture where money is exchanged only for evil deeds of this nature, and it is understandable if none of the parties never wish to bring this topic up, and especially because this topic these days would be discussed with the woman herself, having become sufficiently educated in school to have received her father’s implicit agreement that she can make her own decisions, it will simply ruin the romance, if you discuss it with her, and not bring any substantial benefits to the situation. And I can understand all the women of today, if they would rather say “No”, than ask for a dowry. So, let me help all the young men of today with this unromantic situation. Let me “take a bullet” on your behalf, by telling you what is the amount of dowry which you should give her, even if you never talked about it, even if she never requested it, you still have to give it to her, if you did not register the marriage with the state.
So, let’s calculate it. Before we calculate it, let show you where I base my calculation on. In verse 28:27, God informs us how big the dowry was which Moses gave for his wife. And it is interesting that it is expressed in “years of labor”. And economists know that money is just a representation of the value of labor. It has no value on its own. It’s just a piece of paper which you can not eat, and the value of money is not comparable across different times and places. But, the value of labor is comparable across times, which means that we can take what Moses gave, and still use it for today, without any need to adjust for inflation, and purchasing power parity and things like that. And of course, because he was Moses, he agreed to a fair amount. But, we will have to make adjustments to apply it to our times. So, according to verse 28:27, Moses agreed to work for the dowry for 8 years. However, Moses lived 120 years, and we today live 70 years, so let’s adjust it. 8 times 70 divided by 120, equals to 4.6 years. We also need to make another adjustment. Moses in that story had free housing and basic living expenses from his employer, while men today don’t get free housing and basic living expenses from their employer. Today, usually, only half of your income is left after you pay for housing and basic living expenses, so we should reduce those years by half. So, 4.6 years divided by 2 is 2.3 years. So, if you did not register the marriage with the state, and you did not discuss the dowry with her, then you are in debt to your wife equal to working for 2.3 years of your net income, and giving all that money to her or her family. This is the starting point, and then you make the adjustments from that. For example, if she is more than let’s say seven years younger than she should be for you, double that amount, which is 4.6 years of your net income. If she is more than about seven years older than she should be for you, half of that amount, which is 1.2 years of your net income. If she is a divorced woman, (but of the appropriate age for you), then half of that amount, which 1.2 years of your net income. If she has children from a previous marriage, half of that previous amount, which is about 7 months of your net income. If she is older, divorced, and with children from a previous marriage, that is half of the half of the half, which is about 3 months of your net income. If you yourself are currently already in a marriage and with children, quadruple that, which is about 10 years of your income. This should prohibit polygamy almost always. If a divorced woman with children wants a state registered marriage, she actually got a dowry twice as big as she deserved, in which case she should give back part of the dowry, to adjust it back to the fair level. Anyway, all of these are approximations, not laws.
Oh, and by the way, people have the right to know how much debt you have, before you get married, and it is better to tell them, even before they ask you. If you don’t have debt, you don’t need to say anything, but if you have substantial debt and you don’t say anything, then your partner has the right to consider it a manipulation, because anyone can pretend to be reach with debt. So many young women are fooled today by men with Ferraris, who actually have negative wealth, who have more debt than wealth, and then once they get married, the woman realizes that she will have to work for the rest of her life to help her husband pay his debt. That’s not fair. She should have known in what kind of trouble she was getting into, and vice-versa. Someone might say, but that’s my debt. Well, while you pay back that debt, that will disable you from sharing the expenses with your partner, and indirectly it also becomes their debt.
But anyway, back to the dowry. So, the purpose of the dowry is not to complicate marriage. It is to enable marriage in all kinds of circumstances and still keep it fair. One of the additional benefits of the dowry is that because it is a substantial amount, a man would never propose marriage, unless he was really serious. A lot of girls today will reject a boy, simply because they have no guarantee that he really means it, because so many men will tease girls and insinuate such a situation, without even having decided themselves. So, because she can not be sure whether he really means it, she would rather say “No”, then get disappointed later. However, if she knows for sure that every submitter who proposes to her is going to guarantee his proposal financially, “put his money where his mouth is”, or guarantee his proposal in the legal state offices, then she will know that he is serious. And especially with young couples, in most cases, the dowry for a woman means that the man gives her everything he has. He must be serious.
If the woman wants both a financial dowry, and a state registered marriage, that is unfair to the man, because she is getting double dowry. And if the man wants to get married, and does not give her the appropriate financial dowry, neither does he want to register the marriage with the state, then he is being unfair to the woman. The only way to keep it fair and safe for both parties, is to either involve the state, or use an appropriate financial dowry as a guarantee for the woman. And by the way, she has the right to choose whether she wants state guarantee for her marriage, or a financial guarantee for her marriage. It should not matter to the man, if he is honest.
At the same time, let me remind you that, in today’s circumstances, where all financial aspects are intertwined, where you never really know who has what for sure, because of state interference, then in most cases the financial dowry is just going to complicate things, because no amount of finances can really make it fair, when ultimately the state will interfere with what can happen even after marriage. So, the most reliable option in democratic states is to just register the marriage with the state, and that is the dowry. If the man still wants to give a nice gift to his wife or potential wife, that’s voluntary, just like Moses worked for 10 years, even though he had agreed for 8 years. And a state registered marriage is win-win situation for all parties. So, don’t overthink this issue, because the challenges after marriage are bigger than the challenges before marriage. So, just make sure that you are willing to keep the marriage, and be a good and fair person during the marriage. You don’t need to be exceptional. Save your exceptionality for God. Just be normal and fair, and make reasonable efforts to continuously deserve the marriage. It’s a privilege, not a right, and you should enter it with lifelong intentions. Think of yourself being old. Would you still befriend that person, if he or she was 70 years old? Would you still have a friendly enjoyable conversation with them, and help each other, especially in bad situations? This should help you decide, and the most important thing is to find someone who will not divert you away from the cause of God, but will actually support you and encourage you in the cause of God. The other things are details.