Sharia law not valid in UK, says High Court in landmark ruling in Muslim couple's divorce case

Sharia law is not recognised in UK, thousands of Muslim women are tricked into Sharia marriage not knowing its implications

Nasreen Akhtar wanted a divorce from her husband Mohammed Shabaz Khan. The couple married 22 years ago in a Sharia wedding religiously known as the "nikah" ceremony. It was performed by an imam in 1998 at a London restaurant and the function was attended by 150 guests. She filed for divorce in 2018 after the marriage broke down in 2016 with no sign of things returning to normal.

Akhtar's husband is a property developer in London, and while filing for divorce, she asked for alimony through property, pension and cash. But in a landmark ruling in London, three judges including Britain's top family judge, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, said English courts do not recognise Sharia law and their marriage ''had no legal effect'' despite the two being married for more than two decades and having four children.

The judges ruled their wedding as "a non-qualifying ceremony" as it was not performed in a building registered for weddings. No certificates were issued and no marriage registrar was present and hence the marriage was ''invalid''. Announcing the court's decision, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton ruled that ''the parties were not marrying 'under the provisions' of English law".

UK laws don't recognize Sharia marriage

Muslim Woman Islamic Burka

Since the couple were married through Sharia law and did not have any legal civil ceremony thereafter, the law in the UK doesn't recognise their marriage as valid and their divorce filing has been ruled null and void. This means Akhtar is powerless under the law to claim alimony or property from her husband Shabaz Khan. She only has limited claim to his cash and is not fully entitled to any maintenance from her spouse.

Akhtar is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. According to legal experts, the ruling has implications for people of other faiths including Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

Thousands of Muslim women are tricked into Sharia marriage in the UK not knowing its implications

Charles Hale, who represents Akhtar in court, revealed that thousands of Muslim women are conned into Sharia marriage in the UK and most of them believe that it is legal because it is a religious ceremony attended by their family members, friends and other guests, but that is far from the truth.

''Thousands of women, usually Muslim women believe that they lawfully marry in this country each year by undertaking a religious ceremony only. Many of them do not know in fact that, no matter how many people attend, no matter how public expression of the marital contract, that they are not in fact lawfully married in accordance with the laws of England and Wales. This means that many have absolutely no rights at the end of what they believe to be their 'marriage'. No rights to assets in the husband's sole name, and no rights to maintenance, even if, as with Mrs Akhtar, they were married for 18 years.''