A British Court has recognised Sharia Law for the first time in a landmark decision by the High Court.  In August 2018, a Judge ruled that a wife can claim her husband’s assets upon separation.

The decision came as a result of a Petition by the Wife, Nasreen Akhter, for a divorce from her husband, Mohammed Shabaz Khan. The couple were wed in an Islamic faith marriage in 1998.

Mr Khan tried to block Mrs Akhter’s divorce on the basis that they are ‘not legally married’ under English law and said that they are married ‘under Sharia Law only’.

However, the recent High Court ruling resulted in their union being deemed valid and recognised under English Law.  The rationale behind the Court’s decision was that it accepted that the parties vows under Sharia Law had similar expectations as that of a British marital Contract.

This means that women married in an Islamic faith ceremony will now have an easier time securing a divorce in the UK which paves the way for them to make a claim on assets which under Sharia Law were deemed to belong to the husband.

The Judge in this case had heard that the couple, who have a Pakistani background, had taken part in a ‘Nikah’ ceremony at a restaurant in Southall, west London, almost 20 years ago.  The parties then lived in Pinner, Middlesex.

Nikah ceremonies do not fall under UK matrimonial law and before the landmark High Court decision, the Courts did not legally recognise it as a valid marriage.

The judge heard evidence from Mrs Akhter, a solicitor and Mr Khan, who is involved in a property business and works in Dubai.

Mrs Akhter said the Nikah ceremony was conducted by an Imam before about 150 guests.

She said Mr Khan had become her ‘husband’ and he had considered her his ‘wife’.

She said

‘From my limited understanding of Islam at the time it did comply with all the requirements,’. ‘I saw him as my husband. There was no question in my mind at all.’ She added: ‘He always introduced me as his wife’.

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