Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals (its intermediate appellate court) issued an opinion on April 7, 2020 that addressed the issue of the enforceability of Islamic marriage contracts in two separate, yet consolidated, cases.
Nouri v. Dadgar and Ghazirad v. Mojarrad set forth the premise that mahr (a provision in an Islamic marriage contract for a husband to pay a wife a sum of money) is not per se unenforceable. In fact, if the contract can be interpreted based on neutral contract principles, and does not touch upon ecclesiastical law, the court can address the contract’s enforceability. The court, however, went a step farther and set a higher standard for these particular marriage contracts because they are entered into between two individuals in a confidential relationship. On that basis, the enforceability of the contract should involve a more stringent standard such as that which would apply in the situation of a premarital agreement and look to whether there was unfairness or inequity in the result of the agreement or in its procurement.
In this case, both couples were married in a civil ceremony and in an Islamic ceremony. In connection with both Islamic marriage ceremonies, each couple entered into an Islamic marriage contract that contained a mahr provision.
The appellate court remanded both cases back to the trial court to determine, based on the more stringent standard, whether the provisions are enforceable.