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January 04, 2004 

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Your Advocate

This week your advocate is M. Moazzam Husain of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. His professional interests include civil
law, criminal law and constitutional law.

Q: Would you please let me know the legal procedure in Bangladesh
if a non-Muslim man would like to get married a Muslim woman.
Thanks & regards.

Your advocate: Your question is of general type. Since this is a problem-oriented column a general discussion on a major topic is not called for as the same leads us nowhere. You may have gone through the ''Your Advocate" columns of 21st and 28th December last which cover much of your area of interest. You will notice from the reply given there that this a topic replete with controversies claiming extensive discussion which is not possible in this short span. I will simply try to address your interest area on a broader outline. Under the Muslim law more or less agreed upon position is that a Muslim female cannot contract a valid marriage except with a Muslim. There is a serious controversy upon the question whether her marriage with a Christian, Jew, idolator or fire-worshipper would be irregular or void. The majority view is that it is void. A Muslim male of course, can contract a valid marriage with a Muslim, Jew or Christian woman and not with an idolatress, i.e., Hindu or fire-worshipper. His marriage with an idolatress or fire-worshipper is not void but irregular. The main effects of irregular marriage are, a) the issues of the marriage are legitimate b) the wife is entitled to dower and c) it does not create mutual rights of inheritance between husband and wife. In our country , a marriage between a Muslim male and Christian female must be solemnised in accordance with the provisions of the Christian Marriage Act,1872. But since a Muslim woman cannot contract a valid marriage with a Christian, such marriage therefore, cannot be solemnised under that Act. In Shia law a marriage between a Muslim male and a non-Muslim female is unlawful and void.; and so also is a marriage between a Muslim female and a non-Muslim male.

With the passage of time the issue of inter-religious marriage is gradually coming to the fore. In view of the peculiarities of the personal laws in more cases than not it is impossible to arrange a valid marriage between the intending parties maintaining their respective faith. The Special Marriage Act, 1872, provides a form of marriage which may be celebrated under this Act between persons neither of whom professes the Christian, the Jewish, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Parsi, the Buddhist, the Sikh or the Jaina religion or between persons each of whom professes one or other of the following religion, that is, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion. The law also legalises the marriages of doubtful validity. For a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Parsi, in order to marry one belonging to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion, or conversely for one belonging to either of the latter four religions but intending to marry a Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Parsi, there is no other accepted way but to renounce their respective faith and declare that none of the parties to the marriage professes any religion so as to bring the marriage within the sweep of this law.

You will have to find your way out from the maze of the complicated body of personal and secular laws governing the area.

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