Difference Between Prompt and Deferred Dower

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Muslim Law [1] recognizes marriage as a civil contract. Since there can be no contract without consideration, a Muslim marriage cannot be contracted without consideration and the consideration which is taken in Muslim marriage is called “Dower” or “Mehr”. However it is also true that non-payment of dower does not void the marriage, so dower is not purely a consideration. [1]

So, Dower under Muslim Law, may be either “prompt’ or “deferred’, according to the time when it is payable.

  • Prompt Dower (mehr e muajjal )
  • Deferred Dower (mehr e muwajjal )

Prompt Dower - Prompt dower becomes payable immediately after marriage on demand.

According to Ameer Ali, a wife can refuse to enter into conjugal domicile of husband until the payment of the prompt dower.

Prompt dower is payable immediately on the marriage taking place and it must be paid on demand, unless delay is agreed. It can be realized any time before or after the marriage. The wife may refuse herself to her husband, until the Prompt Dower is paid. If the Wife is minor, her guardian may refuse to allow her to be sent to the husband's house till the payment of Prompt Dower. In such circumstances, the husband is bound to maintain the wife, although she is residing apart from him. Also, Prompt dower does not become deferred after consummation of marriage, and a wife has absolute right to sue for recovery of prompt dower even after consummation. After consummation, wife cannot resist the conjugal rights of the husband if the prompt dower has not been paid by him. Instead of refusing to decree the suit for restitution of conjugal rights to which the husband is entitled, if marriage is consummated, the court may pass a decree conditional on payment of dower. It is only on the payment of the prompt dower that the husband becomes entitled to enforce the conjugal rights unless the marriage is already consummated. The right of restitution arises only after the dower has been paid. As the prompt dower is payable on demand, limitation begins to run on demand and refusal. The period of limitation for this purpose is three years. If during the continuance of marriage, the wife does not make any demand, the limitation begins to run only from the date of the dissolution of marriage by death or divorce. Although prompt dower, according to Muslim Law, is payable immediately on demand, yet, in a large majority of cases it is rarely demanded and is rarely paid; in practice a Muslim husband generally gives little thought to the question of paying dower to his wife save when there is domestic disagreement, or when the wife presses for payment upon the husband's embarking upon a course of extravagance and indebtedness without making any provision for her Lapse of time since marriage raises no presumption in favor of the payment of dower.[2]

Deferred Dower - This type of dower is payable on dissolution of marriage either by death or divorce.

According to Ameer Ali, generally, dower is a penal sum with the object to compel husband to fulfill marriage contract in its entirety.

Deferred dower is payable on dissolution of marriage by death or divorce. But if there is any agreement as to the payment of deferred dower earlier than the dissolution of marriage such an agreement would be valid and binding. The wife is not entitled to demand payment of deferred dower (unless otherwise stipulated), but the husband can treat it as prompt and pay or transfer the property in lieu of it. Such a transfer will not be void as a fraudulent preference unless actual insolvency is involved. The interest of the wife in the deferred dower is a vested one and not a contingent one. It is not liable to be displaced by the happening of any event, not even on her own death and as such her heirs can claim the money if she dies. The widow may relinquish her dower at the time of her husband's funeral. Such a relinquishment only must be a voluntary act of the widow.

Presumption regarding prompt and deferred dower - The amount of dower may be split into two parts:

(1) one is called "prompt' which is payable on demand and (2) other is called 'deferred", which is payable on dissolution of marriage by death or divorce.

The prompt portions of the dower may be realized by the wife at any time before or after consummation.[3] Dower which is not paid at once may for that reason be described as deferred dower but if it is postponed until demanded by wife, it is in law prompt dower. But deferred dower does not become prompt merely because the wife demands it.

If the nikah-nama[2], the marriage contract deed, fixes the amount of dower but fails to show what portion of it will be prompt and what deferred dower according to Allahabad and Bombay High Courts the proportion between the two should be fixed on the basis of (i) position of wife, (ii) custom of locality (iii) total amount of dower, (iv) status of husband".

If proportion of prompt dower is regulated by custom, and, in absence of such custom, the total amount of dower is to be settled on the basis of the status of the parties.

Shia Law- Under Ithna Ashari law, if the nikah-nama fixes the total amount of dower but does not specify as to what portion of it will be prompt and what deferred, the whole of the dower is regarded as prompt.

Sunni Law - According to Sunni Law, in the absence of any family usage and statement in nikah-nama, half of the total amount is regarded as prompt and half as deferred.

In the Madras Presidency, unless otherwise stipulated the entire dower is prompt no matter the parties are Shia or Sunni.

  1. Saburannessa V. Sabdu Sheikh AIR 1934 Cal. 693
  2. A.I.R., 1941 Oudh. 457
  3. Rahana Khattun v, Iqtidar-uddin. (943) All LJ 98