Nikah has no legal effect in UK

London: In a blow to thousands of Muslim women who have no rights when it comes to divorce, the Court of Appeal has ruled that Islamic faith marriages as invalid under English law.

Overturning an earlier high court ruling that an Islamic marriage, known as a nikah, fell within the scope of English matrimonial law, the Appeal Court on Friday confirmed that nikah marriages are legally “non-marriages”, meaning spouses have no redress to the courts for a division of matrimonial assets such as the family home and spouse’s pension if a marriage breaks down.

In order to make their marriages legal, the couples need to additionally go through a civil ceremony apart from undergoing nikah ceremonies.

According to the Guardian, a survey in 2017 found that nearly all married Muslim women in the UK had had a nikah and almost two-thirds had not had a separate civil ceremony.

2018 high court case is related to a couple, Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan, who had undergone a nikah marriage conducted by an imam in front of 150 guests at a restaurant in Southall, west London, in 1998. Their relationship broke and Akhter petitioned for divorce. But Khan blocked the move, arguing the couple was not married under English law, only under shariah or Islamic law.

In 2018, Justice Williams, who heard the case in the family division of the high court in London, concluded that the marriage fell within the scope of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

But after the Attorney General appealed against the original court decision, the Court of Appeal has now said it was an “invalid” non-legal ceremony.

Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan, have four children.