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The Philosophy of Mahr
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Response: In one of your responses, ie. the philosophy of mahr, you quoted verse 4:25 ‘pay them their dowers according to the custom’. I have read other translators that interpret the word that you have translated as ‘custom’ as ‘equitable’, ‘reasonable’. Can you give me the reason why you chose the word ‘custom’?

Comment: The word ma‘rūf in the Qur'an as well as in Arabic has two meanings:

1. the good, the equitable, the right

2. the custom, the tradition, the convention

For example, it is said in the Qur’ān that Muslims enjoin the ma‘rūf and forbid munkar:

And believing men and women are friends to each other. They enjoin what is ma‘rūf and forbid what is munkar. (9:71) 

Since the word munkar means ‘evil’, one can easily conclude that here the word ma‘rūf is used in the first meaning ‘good’ given above.

Similarly, it is said in the Qur’ān that if a Muslim has murdered a Muslim and if the family of the slain person forgives him, then he should that pay Dīyah (fine) to them according to the ma‘rūf:

Then for whom there has been some remission from his brother, [the remission] should be followed according to the Ma‘rūf and Dīyat should be paid with goodness. (2:178)

Here the word ma‘rūf is used in the second meaning ‘custom’ given because firstly the imperative verb used is ittibā‘ (to follow) which collocates with this meaning and secondly, the second part of verse 2:178 (pay it [--the Dīyah--] with goodness) becomes redundant if the first meaning is thought to be implied.

Now as far as the verse in question is concerned, I admit that the word ma‘rūf can be translated in both meanings given above. My reason for preferring the second meaning is that for dowers, the real thing is the custom and tradition of the society. I do not say that the other meaning is incorrect when used here. I only say that the latter makes the directive more meaningful and relevant to every society.




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