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Muslim Marriages in South Africa

In South Africa, the courts have faced complex issues with regards to the legal status of marriage in terms of Muslim rites, as well as the rights of spouses in Muslim marriages.

Muslim marriages in the past

In the past, traditional religious Muslim marriages were not recognised in South African law, in terms of the Marriage Act 25 of 1961.

As a result of this, Muslim spouses suffered discrimination, and children born in Muslim marriages were viewed as illegitimate.

Muslim women were also denied spousal benefits, and could not inherit intestate, or claim spousal maintenance in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990. Nor could they inherit any property at the dissolution of their marriage.

Muslim couples then had to conduct separate civil ceremonies in order for their marriage to be recognised as valid in the eyes of the law.

Muslim marriages today

On Wednesday the 30th of April 2014, more than 100 Muslim clerics (Imams) were appointed as marriage officers in terms of the Marriage Act.

These Imams had to complete a course on the Marriage Act, and pass an examination.

The accreditation of these Imams has enabled Muslim marriages to be legally recognised. Thus enabling them to officiate over marriage unions.

A Muslim marriage will only be seen as valid in the eyes of the South African law, if the marriage is solemnized by a marriage officer who is registered in terms of the Marriage Act.

Consequences of a Muslim marriage

A Muslim marriage is the same as a civil union in terms of the Marriage Act. This means that the marriage will be in community of property, unless the spouses enter into an antenuptial agreement.

In addition, a marriage officer may not marry any person who is already in another marriage, even if that marriage is not registered in terms of the Marriage Act.

It is recommended that couples seek legal advice from one of our attorneys, with regards to the consequences of their intended marriage.

Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated

If you intend to solemnise your marriage, ensure that your marriage officer is registered, or contact one of our attorneys at Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated for all the legal advice that you need to know before concluding your marriage.