Re-contextualising Dowry in the Modern Era from Family Economic Perspectives
Re-contextualising Dowry in the Modern Era from Family Economic Perspectives
Siti Zulaikha
Abstract: Dowry is considered one of the requirements for marriage. It is a form of commitment and appreciation from the husband in building a household, which means that a larger dowry payment signifies the seriousness of the husband in building a household and honouring the wife. However, marriages with very little and often very trivial items given in dowry are also observed. These unions have been criticised as demeaning for the dignity of women, with some people even challenging their legal validity. This article analyses the changing meaning of dowry from the early period of Islam to the modern era based on the perspective of family economics. It uncovers that the concept of dowry has constantly evolved from the period of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic Arabia before the advent of Islam in 609 CE) to contemporary times. The interpretation of dowry became more rigid and inflexible during the classical age of fiqh (jurisprudence). However, classical interpretation still carries the message that dowry must be beneficial to the wife in the way to create a marital tie based on mutual respect and equality. Additionally, dowry in the modern context is also considered one of the wasilah (means) to realise the maqasid (objectives) of marriage, namely sakinah (tranquillity). It is, therefore, necessary to consider these values when determining the type and amount of dowry and for better understanding of its appropriate function as a wasilah mawashid al-nikah (means of realising benefits of marriage).

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