You Shall Observe the Pre-Marriage Interims
[2:234] Those who die and leave wives, their widows shall wait four months and ten days (before they remarry). Once they fulfill their interim, you commit no error by letting them do whatever righteous matters they wish to do. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
[2:235] You commit no sin by announcing your engagement to the women, or keeping it secret. GOD knows that you will think about them. Do not meet them secretly, unless you have something righteous to discuss. Do not consummate the marriage until their interim is fulfilled. You should know that GOD knows your innermost thoughts, and observe Him. You should know that GOD is Forgiver, Clement. 

Breaking the Engagement
[2:236] You commit no error by divorcing the women before touching them, or before setting the dowry for them. In this case, you shall compensate them – the rich as he can afford and the poor as he can afford – an equitable compensation. This is a duty upon the righteous.

[2:237] If you divorce them before touching them, but after you had set the dowry for them, the compensation shall be half the dowry, unless they voluntarily forfeit their rights, or the party responsible for causing the divorce chooses to forfeit the dowry. To forfeit is closer to righteousness. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. GOD is Seer of everything you do.

How do you divorce if you haven’t set the dowry?

This verse shows that the engagement process is actually part of marriage, because the header specifies “Breaking the Engagement” while the verse uses the term “divorce.” This shows the seriousness of the engagement process. Engagement starts with the intent of potentially staying together forever.

During engagement a couple are seeing if they are compatible to stay together forever. During the engagement process a dowry is set. The marriage is complete after consummation.

What does dowry mean?

Dowry is something of monetary value that a husband brings for a wife as a financial safety net for the women if the marriage doesn’t work out or if the husband passes.

In many cultures it is the woman’s family that provides the dowry to the husband’s family. Even if you look at the dictionary definition of “dowry” you will find the following definition: “money and property that, in some cultures, a woman’s family gives to her husband when they get married”

It is estimated that a women dies each hour in India because of dowry related crimes.

Reporter’s File – Dowry deaths in India

Does dowry have to be money?

No. The couple can mutually agree to what the dowry is.

[4:25] Also prohibited are the women who are already married, unless they flee their disbelieving husbands who are at war with you. These are GOD’s commandments to you. All other categories are permitted for you in marriage, so long as you pay them their due dowries. You shall maintain your morality, by not committing adultery. Thus, whoever you like among them, you shall pay them the dowry decreed for them. You commit no error by mutually agreeing to any adjustments to the dowry. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.

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