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Civil marriage in Lebanon between religion and law

Translated by: Manal Samhat

News…

A report handling the issue of civil marriage in Lebanon was broadcasted on a foreign TV channel, considering it of a high importance in the local community, for it is strongly subjected, according to the report, to the prevalent customs and traditions in the society…

Based on the importance of marriage as a human and social need, and considering that Lebanon embraces several minorities of different confessions, the followers of every confession instigated confessional feelings in the people following the same confession to marry someone of their same confession. Thus, the affairs of marriage have become totally under the control and supervision of the religious institutions. In the meantime, according to the report, there is a trend of educated individuals who see that there is a dire need for providing social solutions away from the confessional backgrounds that encourage fusion and transferring to a secular society based on civil rules, including personal statuses, and civil marriage that has not yet been officially recognized in Lebanon…

A Christian religious scholar notes that civil marriage contradicts with Christianity, and regards it as a form of adultery that the church forbids. Likewise, the Muslim scholars agree with this view, for they also consider that civil marriage contradicts with the Islamic Shariah. Yet, a question remains: How do those wedded in civil marriage regard the issue, and how are they regarded by the state?

The report points out that the percentage of civil marriage - according to those included in the report - is high among the new generation in comparison with the religious marriage…

The report also handles the issue of personal status in Lebanon, its laws and the phases it has gone through so far with regards to codifying it in a way that conforms to civil marriage, and that, according to some people, this civil law is not blessed by all confessions, for it takes away their jurisdiction and authority…

The report also mentioned that some civil societies are attempting to encourage fusion between all religions in Lebanon, for civil marriage enables one to get to know the other well; thus, mixed families would not be plagued with the prevalent confessional fear, and the children from such families would lose any sense of religious fanaticism, which participates in putting off the sparks of war and violence…

Comment…

On the issue of civil marriage, His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), says that civil marriage brings up three points:

Firstly: The first point has to do with the form of the marriage; i.e. the known formula of marriage based on approval from both the male and female, which constitutes the main problem of the civil marriage, for it is not subjected to a specific formula to conclude the marriage contract… Based on that, some jurisprudents regard this marriage unlawful, as it has no specific formula to conclude the marriage. However, according to our jurisprudential opinion, we rule that marriage can be concluded by any verbal expression that connotes contractual commitment to the content agreed upon by both parties, for it would be considered a voluntary binding agreement to them, just as any other contracts they conclude…

Thus, we consider that there is no problem in civil marriage from this aspect, for we consider that it documents the marriage contract between both parties in which they explicitly express their commitment to hold on to one another in their own language …

Secondly: Any marriage contract between a Muslim man and an atheist woman or a woman who is not from the People of the Book is deemed invalid, be it concluded according to the formula demanded by a handful of Islamic jurisprudents or that required by the civil marriage…

In terms of the view we adopt with regards the formula of the marriage contract, Islam considers marriage between a Muslim man and a Muslim woman or between a Muslim man and a woman from the People of the Book lawful, even if it was registered in the civil marriage institutions…

Thirdly: The marriage contract in Islam cannot be annulled except in two ways:

- Divorce, considering it a lawful means to end the marriage contract.

- Dissolution, if any of the couple have certain flaws, knowing that the Islamic judge has the right to carry out divorce and repeal the contract without the husband’s will in this case…

As for civil marriage, rescinding the marriage contract is subjected to the civil laws followed by this state or the other, according to the laws that impose annulling the marriage contract here or there; something which the Islamic law might not approve of…

Thus, civil marriage differs from the religious Islamic marriage, in both the form and content, which renders us unable to approve of civil marriage as a contractual structure that entails many legislations which differ from the Islamic legislations. In this sense, Islam might regard a marriage or divorce that is legal from the civil perspective as unlawful from the religious Islamic perspective.

[Extracted from the book “Islamic contemplations on the woman”, p: 136]

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