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In Islam, a mahr (in Arabic: مهر; also transliterated mehr, meher, or mahrieh) is a mandatory required amount of money or possessions (usually a combination of the two), paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage, (nikah), for her exclusive use. While the mahr is often money, it can also be anything agreed upon by the bride such as jewelry, home goods, furniture, a dwelling (the husband is already required to provide a home for his wife, but in this case she would retain ownership of it and he would pay for it), or even a viable business that is put in her exclusive ownership and can be run entirely by her if she chooses.
Mahr (donatio propter nuptias in Latin law) is often mistranslated into English (as in the Quran translations below), from a translator's lack of knowledge of the true meaning of the word dowry, or is mistranslated into the word gift. The mahr is not a gift, but a mandatory requirement for all Muslim marriages. 
The terms "dowry" and "bride price" are sometimes used to translate mahr, but these are misleading. There is no concept of dowry in Islam. The term dowry (Latin, dos dotis) is inaccurate, as strictly speaking it is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage, usually provided by her parents or family. In Islamic marriages, such assets brought into the union by the wife may only be accepted by the husband after the mahr has been paid by him to her.
In the event the marriage contract does not contain an exact, specified mahr, the husband must still pay the wife a judicially determined sum, typically based on the mahr amount that women of equivalent social status receive.  The requirement of a mahr is mentioned several times in the Quran and Hadith and although there is no maximum limit, it is at a minimum an amount that would be sufficient for the woman to be able to survive for a while if her husband dies or they divorce.
The mahr may also be paid to the bride in parts with prior mutual agreement. In such an agreement, an amount is given by the groom to the bride at the signing of the marriage contract, also called a mu'qadamm (in Arabic: ; مقدم, literally translated as forepart presented), and the latter portion postponed to a date during the marriage, also called a mu'akhaar ( in Arabic: مؤخر, literally translated as delayed), with various Romanized transliterations of mu'qadamm and mu'akhaar accepted. Such an agreement does not make the full amount of the mahr any less legally required, nor is the husband's obligation to fulfill the agreement waived. To note, the husband's fulfillment of the mahr is not remove or lessened as he fulfills his obligations to reasonably house, feed, or cloth the wife and any children produced from the union during the marriage.
References in other Islamic texts
The Encyclopaedia of Islam's entry on mahr states: "According to a tradition in Bukhari, the mahr is an essential condition for the legality of the marriage: 'Every marriage without mahr is null and void'."
According to Islamic teachings in the hadith (sayings of Muhammad), mahr is the amount to be paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage (nikah), some of which may be delayed according to what is agreed upon by the spouses. The mahr is for her to spend as she wishes.  It can be cash, jewellery or any other valuable gift.
Mahr is a means of sustenance in case of a sudden death, divorce or other emergency.
- Kecia Ali, Marriage in Classical Islamic Jurisprudence: A Survey of Doctrines, in THE ISLAMIC MARRIAGE CONTRACT: CASE STUDIES IN ISLAMIC FAMILY LAW 11, 19 (Asifa Quraishi & Frank E. Vogel eds., 2008).
- PEARL & MENSKI, supra note 11, ¶ 7-16, at 180.
- The Islamic Institution of Mahr and American Law by, Richard Freeland, Gonzaga University, http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/academic-program/Files/GJIL/Volume4/Vol4-TheIslamicInstitution.pdf
- M. Th Houtsma (31 December 1987). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. BRILL. p. 137. ISBN 978-90-04-08265-6. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, 2nd impression, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 167
- Mehdi, R (2003). "Danish law and the practice of mahr among Muslim Pakistanis in Denmark". International Journal of the Sociology of Law (Elsevier) 31 (2): 115–129. doi:10.1016/j.ijsl.2003.02.002.
- "Mahr" in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- L-Moriscos - Page 137, M. Th. Houtsma
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