Legal Position of Islamic Marriages in the UK


In the landmark ruling of Akhtar and Khan[1], the legal position for individuals married under Sharia Law, but not UK law, could alter considerably.

Prior to this case, individuals who were married solely under Sharia Law by way of a ‘Nikah’ ceremony were treated as cohabitees for the purposes of financial matrimonial proceedings. The rights that married individuals have compared to the rights of cohabiting individuals are significantly different. According to an article by the Guardian, ‘nearly all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious marriage ceremony, but 61% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal under UK law.’[2] In not undergoing a separate civil ceremony, women often found themselves vulnerable and robbed of rights afforded to them upon a breakdown of marriage if there had been a civil ceremony in place. If parties had only had a ‘nikah’ ceremony, prior to this case, the women would not have had grounds to make an application to the family courts to seek a division of financial matrimonial assets as their marriage would not have been recognised as valid.

In Akhtar v Khan[3], the Judge was of the view that the parties’ union was to be recognised because ‘the couple lived as man and wife introduced each other as such and had expectations similar to a British marriage contract.’[4]  The husband in this matter, Mr Khan sought to block Mrs. Akhter’s application for divorce in the UK court on the basis that they were never legally married. The Judge was of the view that the marriage was "void" and that Mrs Akhtar is entitled to a decree of nullity.

Should the case have been treated as a ‘non-marriage’ Mrs. Akhtar would not have been able to make a case in the British divorce court. To view the judgment for the above case please visit:

If you would like to discuss this article or require advice and information on any aspect of Family Law please contact Mitali Zakaria, Linda Lusingu or Somia Siddiq at ITN Solicitors.


[1] Akhter v Khan [2018] EWFC 54


[3] Akhter v Khan [2018] EWFC 54


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