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Void Marriages in Shia Law in India

Void Marriages in Shia Law
Void Marriages in Shia Law


Void Marriages

Void Marriages under Shia Law:

Marriages void under Shia law due to "relative bars" include those:

- In violation of incapacity.

- With one's own divorced wife when legally prohibited.

- Prohibited by unlawful conjunction.

- With a fifth wife.

- During pilgrimage.

- With any non-Muslim.

- With a woman undergoing iddat.

Irregular Marriages under Sunni Law:

Under Sunni law, marriages are considered irregular due to "relative bars" in the following cases:

- Prohibited by unlawful conjunction.

- With a fifth wife by someone already having four wives.

- Without two competent witnesses.

- With a woman who is neither Muslim nor Kitabia.

- With a woman undergoing iddat.


Classification of Muslim Marriage 

  • Valid (Sahih): A marriage that is true and lawful in all respects.

  • Void (Batil): A marriage that is inherently flawed in its foundation and is considered invalid.

  • Irregular/Invalid (Fasid): A marriage that is considered valid in its foundation but unlawful in its attributes. Sunni law recognizes this classification, but Shia law does not distinguish between irregular and void marriages. Under Shia law, marriages are either void or valid, and what is considered irregular under Sunni law may be void or valid under Shia law.

Effects of valid marriage 

  • Conferred Status of Husband and Wife: A valid marriage confers upon the parties the legal status of husband and wife. However, the status of the woman remains unchanged, and she remains subject to her premarital school of law.

  • Legitimacy of Children: Children born within a valid marriage are considered legitimate.

  • Mutual Rights of Inheritance: Both parties acquire mutual rights of inheritance, although they do not gain rights or powers over each other's property.

  • Husband's Right to Restrain Wife: The husband gains the entitlement to reasonably restrain the movements of the wife.

  • Wife's Rights: The wife acquires rights to maintenance, dower, and residence.

  • Obligation to Allow Conjugal Union: The wife becomes obligated to allow conjugal union, obey the commands of her husband, and observe Iddat.

  • Creation of Prohibited Degrees of Relation: Prohibited degrees of relation are established between the parties.

  • Other Rights and Obligations: Any other rights and obligations agreed upon in the marriage contract also come into effect.

Effects of a Void Marriage

A void marriage is one that is inherently unlawful due to perpetual and absolute prohibitions, such as those based on consanguinity, affinity, or fosterage. Such a marriage holds no legal validity whatsoever.

  • No Legal Consequences: A void marriage does not result in any legal consequences. Despite the formalities being undergone, it does not confer any rights or obligations upon the parties involved. There is no dower or Iddat, and the children born from such a marriage are considered illegitimate.

  • Cannot be Validated: A void marriage cannot be validated or rectified through legal means. It is considered null and void from its inception.

  • Freedom of the Parties: Since the marriage is void ab initio (from the beginning), the parties are free to go their separate ways without any legal repercussions. If the wife enters into another marriage, she will not be charged with bigamy.

  • Customary Dower: If a void marriage has been consummated, the wife may be entitled to customary dower only, but this is not a legal requirement.

In summary, a void marriage holds no legal weight, and the parties involved are not bound by any marital obligations or rights.

Effects of irregular marriage  

An irregular marriage is one that is not inherently unlawful but is prohibited due to temporary, relative, or remedial reasons, or due to accidental circumstances like the absence of witnesses.

  • Nature Compared to Voidable Marriages: Unlike voidable marriages in English or Hindu law, an irregular marriage is neither valid nor void. It can be remedied to become a fully valid marriage by addressing the prohibition.

  • Remedying Prohibitions: Certain irregularities can be rectified to make the marriage valid, such as divorcing one of multiple wives to marry again or converting the spouse to a permissible religion.

  • Termination: Either party can terminate an irregular marriage through verbal renunciation, divorce, or court intervention, either before or after consummation. It is considered an unholy union, and it's the duty of the court or Kazi to dissolve it.

  • Legal Effect Before Consummation: Before consummation, an irregular marriage has no legal effect. If consummated, the wife is entitled to dower, and she must observe Iddat. Children from such a marriage are legitimate and have inheritance rights. However, mutual rights of inheritance between husband and wife are not established by consummating an irregular marriage.


Leading Case Law

In the case of Chand Patel v. Bismillah Begum, the Supreme Court addressed whether a marriage between a Muslim man and his wife's sister, while his earlier marriage with another sister was still valid, is void, irregular, or voidable. Bismillah Begum sought maintenance under Sec. 125, Cr.P.C., claiming to be the appellant's wife.

The court observed that while Muslim law prohibits unlawful conjunction, rendering such marriages irregular, the marriage subsists until declared void by a competent court.

Thus, the wife and children are entitled to maintenance under Sec. 125 until the marriage is declared void. The court analogized the situation to provisions under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

It distinguished between void and irregular marriages, with only void marriages being null from inception.

Irregular marriages, while prohibited temporarily, may become lawful. Therefore, the court concluded that the marriage in question was irregular, not void, allowing maintenance under Sec. 125.

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