Islamic Marital RightsIslamic law provides Muslim women with the right to own property, receive a dowry, and the right to work. Financially, Islamic law ensures the financial support of Muslim women throughout their lives, including a right to retain their dowries, earned income, and property ownership. The property and wealth of a bride does not automatically transfer to her husband unless she signs over ownership rights.
Islamically, a mehr or dowry is required either immediately upon marriage, or as an agreed upon debt the husband must pay his wife during a specified period of time. The dowry is meant to serve as a source of financial security for the bride. Dowries may be as small as a nominal sum of money, or as large as an estate. Ideally, the dowry should be reflective of the geographic norm and the socioeconomic background of the bride’s family. The bride is free to use her dowry in any way she sees fit whether she chooses to save it, spend it, or invest it for long-term personal sustainability. The dowry can also be divided into an immediate and deferred amount to be paid upon divorce to the wife to ensure she is financially cared for.
All ownership rights for property that Muslim women inherit or purchase remain their own. Owning property allows Muslim women to retain an ongoing source of disposable income. Muslim women are entitled to save or spend their property and earnings as they choose, and bear no Islamic obligation to spend it on their husbands or children. Under Islamic law, men are required to financially sustain their wives even if their wives are employed and earning income. This provision allows women to stay home and raise their children, engage in charitable volunteering, or pursue a career.
U.S./Canadian Marital RightsIn the U.S. and Canada, each state and province has laws that help determine spousal relationships. Marriages are registered with each state and/or province in the form of a marriage license. Many couples choose to also sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, much like the Islamic marriage contract. The pre and postnuptial agreements proscribe the financial relationship between spouses and include guidelines for property rights, spousal support, inheritance, and divorce. Pre and postnuptial agreements must be in written form, be fair and reasonable, involve full disclosure by willing partners, cannot predetermine child support or custody, and ideally are signed before an attorney.
Financially, in terms of property brought into or acquired during a marriage, states and provinces tend to emphasize common or community property laws in their courts. Common law dictates that property belongs to the spouse who acquired it, while community property dictates that marriage is a partnership where each spouse owns half of the assets acquired during the marriage.
The Pakistani Nikah is legal in the US and Canada, but you must register your marriage upon arrival in the USA or Canada. A sample copy of the Nikah Nama is available, at www.sdpi.org/nikahnama.htm There are five copies of the Nikah Nama contract two for the wife and her family, two for the husband and his family and one for the office where the marriage is registered.
Initial AdjustmentMost marriages flower into happiness. Women feel the pangs of being separated from their parental home and their home country, and in time, they adjust to their new lives.
How will a new wife feel when she comes to the United States and/or Canada? Excited to be in a new place, starting a new life. Eager and anxious to fit in. Happy with her husband. Homesick for family and friends. Worried about being accepted by the community. A little lonely.
But life is a continuous adjustment to people, places and things. You can reduce the extent of culture shock if you read about and familiarize yourself with life in the U.S. and/or Canada.or comprehensive orientation guides Living in the United States, view this online brochure in Urdu from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: www.uscis.gov Information on life in Canada for newcomers can be viewed here: www.cic.gc.ca Order a copy of ‘You Can! A Guide for the Immigrant Woman to Live Independently in the U.S.’ saheli-austin.org
Advice for New Brides
Participate in the communityDon't become isolated. Be familiar with where you live. For women who are not going to work, this is especially important. Go to the local library, explore the neighborhood, learn how to get around, look through the telephone directory and its "yellow pages" to learn about different organizations, community centers, etc.
Keep a record of the following information
Phone numbers of your own home, husband's work, family in Pakistan and in the U.S. and/or Canada, mosque, doctor, Pakistani Embassy, Desi women's groups (often referred to as 'South Asians'). Your (and your husband's) passport number & expiration date, residency card (also known as green card), and/or the number of the Visa in your passport and its expiration date. Your (and your husband's) driving license number and expiration date. Your (and your husband's) Social Security Number (SSN) and / or the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Marriage related information
Copy of your marriage certificate; records of your wedding (you may need to show proof of a good faith marriage), such as photographs, videos, and definitely the invitations from both families; photographs of jewelry you received at your marriage and of other gifts
It is important to have identifying information issued in the state you live in with a picture on it (the passport does not suffice). Most Americans use a Driver’s License for this purpose or you can get an identity card from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) which is issued to individuals who do not drive. You will be asked to show it often, to prove where you live, your age, etc., and even when you are using a credit card.
Take driving lessons and get a driver's license.
Learning to type is very useful
Even if you do not intend to work, it is useful to have some skills in case it becomes necessary and it also prevents isolation. If you have a professional degree from Pakistan, you can obtain credentials to work in your field but it depends on many factors and can be a lengthy process (e.g., if you are a doctor, you have to study for and take certification exams). Find out about volunteering in your field so you become familiar with how things work and begin to establish some contacts. If you do not have work skills, you can get training to learn new skills through area universities, community colleges, and community education, which is often offered to adults through public school systems.
through the mosque, Offer to do some voluntary work there so you can meet other women and develop a network. Get to know your neighbours, and invite them over to meet you and your husband.
Be knowledgeable about financial matters: ask your husband to set up a joint account and open your own account (if possible), learns how to operate a bank account and read credit card and bank statements, know where the cheque book is kept, and participate in the monthly task of paying bills.
Store important belongings and valuables
Open a Safe Deposit Box in your own name only and keep the key in a safe place. Store your important papers, jewelry, an extra set of house and car keys, some money, and definitely your and your children’s (if applicable) passports. Your passport is your legal property, be sure you are in possession of it and that your husband does not keep it inaccessible or hidden from you.
Become actively involved and stay informed about your immigration status. Be sure you understand the application process: its procedures, deadlines, documentation required, etc. Your husband should have submitted an application to make you a legal permanent resident, so track this application to ensure he is following through. Many men don’t take these actions, or say they have, and then threaten deportation. Women's organizations in the U.S. and/or Canada can give you referrals for information about your immigration status.
Ask for help
If you are being abused, tell your family, a friend or a neighbour, ask them for help. Call one of the numbers listed at the end of this pamphlet under Resource: Domestic Violence Organizations.