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All about Marriage Under Shariah Law and Co-Habitation in the UAE

Home / Family Law / All about Marriage Under Shariah Law and Co-Habitation in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a nation where tradition and modernity coexist harmoniously, offering expatriates an exciting and diverse cultural experience. With a significant percentage of the population comprising expatriates, the UAE has become a melting pot of cultures, religions, and traditions. However, living in a country governed by Islamic principles requires an understanding of certain norms and regulations, particularly when it comes to relationships and cohabitation. 

Marriage in the UAE is governed by the principles of Islamic Shariah law, which emphasizes the sanctity of the marital bond and the rights and responsibilities of both spouses. The Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, also known as the Personal Status Law, outlines the legal procedures and requirements for marriage in the UAE.

  • Consent: One of the essential requirements of marriage under Shariah law is the mutual consent of both parties. The bride and groom must voluntarily agree to the marriage, and any form of coercion may render the marriage contract invalid.
  • Guardian (Wali): The bride must have a legal guardian, known as a wali, who represents her in the marriage contract. The wali can be her father, grandfather, or any other male relative. In the absence of a male guardian, a judge may act as the wali.
  • Dowry (Mahr): The groom is required to provide a dowry to the bride, which is a financial gift agreed upon by both parties before the marriage. The dowry may be paid in part or full at the time of marriage, or it may be deferred to a later date. The payment of the dowry symbolizes the groom’s commitment to the financial well-being of his wife.
  • Witnesses: The presence of two male witnesses, or one male and two female witnesses, is required during the marriage ceremony. The witnesses must be of sound mind, and they must not have any vested interest in the union.
  • Marriage Contract: A written marriage contract must be signed by the bride, groom, wali, and witnesses. The contract outlines the terms and conditions of the marriage, such as the dowry amount and other stipulated agreements. Once the contract is signed, it must be registered with the relevant court or marriage authority in the UAE.
  • Polygamy: Under Shariah law, a Muslim man is allowed to marry up to four wives, provided he can treat them all equitably. However, a Muslim woman can only have one husband at a time.
  • Interfaith Marriages: Muslim men are permitted to marry non-Muslim women who are monotheistic (i.e., Christians or Jews), while Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men. For non-Muslim couples, it is possible to marry under their respective religious laws at their embassy or consulate in the UAE.

Co-Habitation in the UAE

The UAE is a Muslim-majority nation, and its legal system is heavily influenced by Islamic law. Prior to the recent amendments, cohabitation between unmarried couples was considered a crime under the UAE Penal Code. This meant that couples who were found living together without being married could face fines, imprisonment, or even deportation.

In November 2020, the UAE announced a series of legal reforms aimed at modernizing the country’s laws and promoting a more tolerant and inclusive society. One of the key changes was the decriminalization of cohabitation for unmarried couples.

Under the new Federal Decree No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of Crime and Penalties Law, cohabitation is no longer considered a crime in the UAE. This means that unmarried couples can now legally live together without facing any penalties.

The Bottom Line

When considering marriage, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria, understand the process, and register your marriage correctly. As for cohabitation, be aware of the potential legal consequences and stay informed of any changes to the law. By understanding the legal landscape, you can navigate your personal life in the UAE with confidence and peace of mind.

Finding the right family lawyer in Dubai, UAE, is crucial to ensuring that your family disputes or legal issues are resolved efficiently and professionally. With that in mind, Kabban & Associates is a reliable and experienced law firm that can help you navigate the complexities of the local legal system. Contact us today to discuss your family law needs and find the right legal support for your unique situation!


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