British court recognises Sharia Law for first time in landmark ruling

LONDON: For the first time, Sharia law has been recognised by a British court, after the Honourable Justice made a landmark ruling.

The ruling came on Wednesday after an estranged couple’s religious marriage called ‘nikah‘ falls under British matrimonial law despite it not being legally recognised as such, reported The Telegraph.

Justice Williams in his ruling said that their union of ’20 years’ should be valid and recognised because their vows had similar expectations of a British marriage contract.

“Those who have religiously married and have lived here for many years, raised families and been treated by the family community and state authorities as married, should not have the term ‘non-marriage’ applied to them,” Justice Williams said in a written ruling this week.

Mrs. Nasreen Akhter, a qualified solicitor, wanted a divorce from her businessman husband Mohammed Shabaz Khan, who had block his wife’s application for divorce on the basis that they are their marriage was in “sharia law only” and not valid under English law.

The Pakistani-origin couple, both 46, got married in 1998 in an Islamic wedding ceremony under Sharia law in the presence of an Imam and about 150 guests. Soon after a ‘walima party’, Mrs Akhter wanted to have a civil ceremony to bring Islamic marriage legally but her husband had fobbed her off.

Justice Williams notes in his judgment that “this marriage falls within the scope of Section 11 and was a marriage entered into in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage. It is, therefore, a void marriage and the wife is entitled to a decree of nullity.”

The ruling could have significant implications for sharia law, especially those, like Akhtar and Khan, who marry under sharia law but not UK law. If the precedent set by Akhtar’s case is followed, it could allow wife married in Islamic ceremony for easier divorces and pave the way to claim half their husband’s financial assets.