Islamic marriage falls within Matrimonial Causes Act

Wife entitled to decree of nullity.

In Akhter v Khan and Another [2018] EWFC 54 Williams J concluded that the marriage is 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 effect is that the wife will be able to bring proceedings for financial remedy.

Nasreen Akhter petitioned for divorce. Her husband argued that the couple were not married under English law but only under Sharia law.

After hearing evidence, Williams J concluded that:

  • It was understood by both the husband and wife that they were embarking on a process which was intended to include a civil ceremony in which the marriage would be registered.
  • The wife’s understanding and the husband’s expressed position was that this civil ceremony was to follow shortly after the Nikah ceremony.
  • The failure to complete the marriage process was entirely down to the husband’s refusal after the Nikah ceremony had been undertaken to take action to complete the marriage process by arranging the civil ceremony.
  • The wife thereafter frequently sought to complete the marriage process by seeking to persuade the husband to undergo a civil ceremony.
  • The nature of the ceremony which was in fact undertaken bore all the hallmarks of a marriage in that it was held in public, witnessed, officiated by an Imam, involved the making of promises and confirmation that both the husband and wife were eligible to marry.
  • Thereafter the parties lived as a married couple for all purposes.
  • The couple were treated as validly married in the UAE.

“Ms Akhter and Mr Khan both knew that their Sharia marriage was not a legally registered marriage. It became vital for Ms Akhter that the English divorce court rule in her favour, that the marriage should be recognised as void, and not a non-marriage. Otherwise she would not have any rights to make any financial claims for herself.