Cii Radio | 06 Rabi ul Aakhir 1436/28 January 2015

In 2014, the South African Department of Home Affairs spearheaded a project which oversaw scores of Ulama across the country being trained as accredited marriage officers. This initiative was intended at making marriage registration procedures accessible for the Muslim couple, regardless of where they reside in the country.

Under the system, an Aalim who is certified as a marriage officer solicits certain details from  a couple seeking marriage registration and submits these to Home Affairs where they are logged into a centralized system.  After the necessary processing is completed, the couple would become eligible for official marriage certificates.

Cii Radio spoke to Moulana Abdullah Khan of the Jamiatul Ulama KZN about pertinent issues related to the registration of Muslim marriages in South Africa.

Is it necessary to register a marriage under South African law?

It needs to be understood that registering your marriage according to South African law is a matter of personal discretion. Additionally, it must be understood that such a registration is not a substitute for Islamic Nikah, nor has any bearing on it. Nonetheless, several Ulama do recommend registration for a variety of practical reasons.

What are the potential dangers of not registering a marriage according to South African law?

*If a person passes away and his marriage is not registered, in the event of the distribution of his estate being challenged in court, it would, by default, be distributed according to the ‘in community of property’ designation – a system that would be at odds with the Shariah and Islamic laws of inheritance.

*Without a registered marriage, one may also experience difficulty registering one’s offspring under the father’s surname. In such a circumstance, birth certificates would be issued for a child on the mother’s surname

*One may also experience difficulty applying for visas to visit certain countries, that specify that marriage certificates should accompany applications.

Does South Africa recognise Islamic Nikahs?

No. These are not recognised by South African law. However, by registering Muslim marriages in South Africa in an appropriate way, one would be able to effectively have many Shariah sensibilities respected and protected.

What are the different forms of marriage contracts one could register for?

1. Anti Neptual Contract(Without Accrual System): This system entails that each spouse is the sole owner of their own possessions which they enter into a marriage with, and even accrue(gain) for themselves after they get married. Muslims are strongly advised to register their marriages under this system, as it does not conflict with the Shariah, especially when it comes to Islamic Wills and the distribution of estates

2. In Community of Property: Under this system, on a spouses demise, 50% of a spouses possessions atomically must be give given to his/her wife/husband. The remaining 50%  of the spouse’s posessions is then distributed amongst his/her heirs. One should not register one’s marriage according to this designation, as it is at odds with the Shariah and will inevitably create huge problems in the distribution of estates

Does one have to go to the Department of Home Affairs to register one’s marriage?

No. One simply has to visit one’s most easily accessible accredited marriage officer, who will subsequently submit all the necessary documentation to the Department

So, how does one go about registering?

For marriage registration purposes, the following documentation must be in order prior to calling at a marriage officer:

a) An Ante-nuptial Contract excluding the accrual system must be drawn by an attorney. If one’s contract is uncomplicated and you would like to forgo legal costs,  one may opt to solicit a simple draft contract, copies of which are available from the Jamiatul Ulama.

b) Both spouses must be South African citizens (possessing the green coded ID Document). Marriage officers are not permitted to register a marriage of any one or both spouses being of foreign origin. In such a case, only the Home Affairs may register the marriage.

c) In the case where any one or both spouses being married (registered) previously, then a court decree of divorce must be produced.

d) In the case where any one or both spouses being married (registered) previously and a spouse had passed away, a death certificate must be produced

Once these documents are finalised, one should enquire about, and make an appointment with one’s local marriage officer. Sometimes officers may request you submit these documents online prior to an appointment.

At the time of registration, the following documents are required:

a) Both spouses must be present with the original ID documents.

b) Accompanied with three passport size colour photos of each spouse.

c) First page of the ANC Contract identifying the Protocol No.

d) Nikah Certificate

How long would a typical appointment with a marriage officer last?

Approximately 30 minutes

After applying for a marriage certificate from a marriage officer, how long would it typically take to get the certificate?

Approximately 2-3 weeks. One would have to pick up the certificate in person from a designated Home Affairs office.

For further information, or to make an appointment with a marriage officer, contact the Jamiatul Ulama KZN on 031 2077 099.

Alternatively you may contact the appropriate Ulama body or registered marriage officer in your region