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Valid Nikāh as cause of inheritance

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ


In Islamic jurisprudence, a valid marital bond (nikāḥ saḥī) confers reciprocal rights of inheritance between spouses, with consummation not being a prerequisite for such rights. The establishment of mutual inheritance rights between a child and their father, as well as the father’s blood relatives, necessitates a legal blood-tie, which is contingent upon the child’s legitimacy.

The term ‘nikāḥ’ is defined as a contract that sanctions lawful sexual relations and procreation. Scholarly interpretations vary; some restrict it to intimacy, while others, such as the Shafi school, view it more broadly. Contemporary laws often encapsulate both perspectives, mandating clauses like consent and mahr (marriage gift), and optionally including terms like monogamy and property rights. In the Qurʾān, ‘nikāḥ’ has diverse meanings, at times denoting sexual intercourse and elsewhere signifying the marriage contract itself.

Legal interpretations of ‘nikāḥ’ in the Qurʾān diverge, leading to distinct legal frameworks by Islamic jurists. Consensus exists on the husband’s responsibility to provide mahr and meet material needs for sexual intimacy, without imposing financial duties on the wife. Judicial exegesis further complicates this view by considering ‘nikāḥ’ both a civil contract and a sacred covenant. As society evolves, Islamic law adapts to prioritize benefits and appropriateness. Nonetheless, alterations to entrenched interpretations can be controversial.


Pillars of Nikāh
  • A rukn (pillar, plural arkān) is an essential part of a legal reality without which the legal reality does not exist.

  • All four Sunni schools of jurisprudence (fiqh) agree that there should be a recital of the marriage contract with both definite and clear offer/ proposal and acceptance (ijāb wa qubūl) of marriage. According to Hanafi fiqh these are the only pillars of the marriage contract, and that offer and acceptance can come from either side. The offer and acceptance must take place on the same occasion and correspond.

  • The Mālikī, Shāfiʿī and Hanbali fiqh also consider a guardian (wali) for the woman to be a pillar of the marriage contract. This is the majority view.

  • Some scholars also consider the presence of suitable witnesses (2 males or 1 male plus 2 females) and mahr (dower) as pillars of the marriage contract.

Conditions of Nikāh
  1. The capacity to enter into a contract (both parties must be sane and adult, بالغ & عاقل).

  2. The capacity to marry each other (i.e. there are no prohibitions to marriage such as consanguinity and affinity).

  3. Offer and acceptance should be in one session i.e. on the same occasion.

  4. The acceptance must correspond to what is being offered.

  5. The contract is immediately binding upon acceptance, the offer cannot be rescinded. The first acceptance of an offer is binding. Repeating the offer has no effect.

  6. The marriage must be effective immediately, not to be effective sometime in the future.


When an unmarried man and woman who have been cohabiting decide to marry Islamically, scholars hold differing views on its permissibility. One group argues against allowing such a marriage, while the other considers fornication a sin but deems the subsequent marriage lawful. Regardless of the stance, it is recommended that the couple be separated temporarily to ascertain if the woman is pregnant. This distinction is crucial for inheritance implications.

Scholars also debate whether it is permissible to marry someone known to have committed fornication. The majority of scholars do not consider it strictly prohibited. However, the cautious approach suggests that a chaste Muslim man should avoid marrying an unchaste woman unless she has repented for her past actions. Similarly, a chaste Muslim woman should exercise similar discretion.