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Dowry

No marriage may be contracted without payment of a dowry (KIA#66) The Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.1.j.i.-v., summarizes the main provisions concerning the dowry. These provisions have their antecedents in the Bayan. The dowry is to be paid by the bridegroom to the bride. It is fixed at 19 mithqals of pure gold for city-dwellers, and 19 mithqals of silver for village-dwellers (see note 94). Bahá’u’lláh indicates that, if, at the time of the wedding, the bridegroom is unable to pay the dowry in full, it is permissible for him to issue a promissory note to the bride (Q and A 39). With the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh many familiar concepts, customs and institutions are redefined and take on new meaning. One of these is the dowry. The institution of dowry is a very ancient practice in many cultures and takes many forms. In some countries it is a payment made by the parents of the bride to the bridegroom; in others it is a payment made by the bridegroom to the parents of the bride, called a “bride-price”. In both such cases the amount is often quite considerable. The law of Bahá’u’lláh abolishes all such variants and converts the dowry into a symbolic act whereby the bridegroom presents a gift of a certain limited value to the bride. For city-dwellers at nineteen mithqals of pure gold, and for village-dwellers at the same amount in silver (KIA# 66)
Bahá’u’lláh specifies that the criterion for determining the dowry payment is the location of the permanent residence of the bridegroom, not of the bride (Q and A 87, 88).
Whoso wisheth to increase this sum, it is forbidden him to exceed the limit of ninety-five mithqals... If he content himself, however, with a payment of the lowest level, it shall be better for him according to the Book.
(KIA# 66)
In answer to a question about the dowry, Bahá’u’lláh stated: Whatever is revealed in the Bayan, in respect to those residing in cities and villages, is approved and should be carried out. However, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas mention is made of the lowest level. The intention is nineteen mithqals of silver, specified in the Bayan for village-dwellers. This is more pleasing unto God, provided the two parties agree. The purpose is to promote the comfort of all, and to bring about concord and union among the people. Therefore, the greater the consideration shown in these matters the better it will be... The people of Bahá must associate and deal with each other with the utmost love and sincerity. They should be mindful of the interests of all, especially the friends of God.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in one of His Tablets, summarized some of the provisions for determining the level of the dowry. The unit of payment mentioned in the extract, cited below, is the “vahid”. One vahid is equivalent to nineteen mithqals. He stated:
City-dwellers must pay in gold and village-dwellers in silver. It dependeth on the financial means at the disposal of the groom. If he is poor, he payeth one vahid; if of modest means, he payeth two vahids; if well-to-do, three vahids; if wealthy, four vahids; and if very rich, he giveth five vahids. It is, in truth, a matter for agreement between the bridegroom, the bride, and their parents. Whatever agreement is reached should be carried out.
In this same Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged the believers to refer questions concerning the application of this law to the Universal House of Justice, which has “the authority to legislate”. He stressed that “it is this body which will enact laws and legislate upon secondary matters which are not explicit in the Holy Text”.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 209)