'The first time his family asked for my hand in marriage was during my exams. I wasnât ready for that commitment during such a stressful time, so they agreed to come back. Like me he was educated, brought up in Britain and practiced law. He sounded liberal and I thought we had something in common. So I said yes. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
'Following a short engagement, we had a traditional Islamic wedding. The Muslim priest came to my house and married us and then I was taken to the groomâs home to complete the ceremony. We both signed a Muslim marriage certificate. Thatâs how people "tie the knot" Islamically. My parents assumed at some point we would legally register the marriage in order for it to be recognised by British law. That never happened. When I got married, I expected to be with my husband for the rest of my life. I expected a normal relationship between a husband and a wife.
'The trouble started when I wanted to pursue my pharmacy career which Iâve always dreamed of. Prior to the marriage, my parents discussed this with his parents and he was made fully aware of my intention to study. He agreed, but once we were married and I started applying to universities, he wasnât happy. Instead of enrolling, I decided to defer for a year to give him time to think about it. He didnât change his mind, so I applied for my degree without his permission. During enrollment, I stated my marital status as "married". As standard procedure of proof of identity, the university requested a British civil marriage certificate. I didnât have one.
'I asked my husband to provide me with a civil marriage certificate but he told me we didnât need one. He said although our Muslim marriage was "common-law", it was legally recognised. Unconvinced, I did some research and realised we had to register the marriage at a registry office in order for it to be legal. The certificate given to me by the Muslim priest was invalid in the eyes of the law. Had I not enrolled at university, I would have been none the wiser. I asked him to officially register our marriage, but he refused.
'My dad had invested over ÂŁ7,000 in our marriage in terms of the ceremony and gifts. He paid for my gold and gave us household appliances. He also gave us money to refurbish the house because it was in a terrible state. My husband boasted heâd bought us a nice place in London, but it was absolutely disgusting. It was dirty, totally bare and infested with mice. It was an empty shell - a complete tip. The day after we got married, he went to work and left me all alone. I cleaned the entire house and painted it. I decorated it and furnished it with my dadâs money plus my wages from shop work which was tiding me over until I went to university. He didnât help me whatsoever and told me I was lucky to have a house at all.
'Initially he paid the mortgage and most of the bills. I always paid for the food. When I started my shop work he expected me to pay half the mortgage even though his salary was over ÂŁ40,000 and I was on ÂŁ6 per hour. I simply couldnât afford it. Although we were supposedly married, he lived like he was still single. We hardly saw each other because he was "on duty" most nights. He also suggested I look after his mother in Birmingham while he lived in London during the week, so we would only see each other at weekends. I said no. He forbade me to go to university and the fighting continued. His behaviour became threatening. He turned violent and put his hands around my neck. Once he even tried to push me down the stairs.
'Neither of our parents knew what was happening, but I couldnât take it any more. Eventually I told them that he refused to register the marriage and how heâd completely changed. It was as if he had a split personality. At first they didnât believe me and my mum encouraged me to make the marriage work. It didnât take her long to realise I was going through hell. I only wanted him to meet me half way, but he never compromised. I asked myself if I could take this for the rest of my life and have his children.
'We had a big family meeting in Birmingham. My dad lost his temper and my husband got up and left the house. Heâd returned to London with his family and I stayed in Birmingham with mine. After giving him a couple of days to cool down, I went back to London, put my key in the lock, but couldnât get into the house. How can a husband lock his wife out of their home? I told the police my husband had changed the locks. They said it was a civil matter and that I had to sort it out myself. I felt so helpless. I had no choice but to leave all my belongings behind and go back to Birmingham.
'I pleaded with my husband to sort things out and asked him whether we had a future. He was still adamant that I shouldnât go to university, but I wasnât prepared to give that up. I no longer trusted him and couldnât imagine having a family with him. I knew we had no future whatsoever. It was over. The police accompanied me to my home and my husband looked on while I collected my things. He arranged for a total stranger to drop off the remainder of my belongings.
'My dad hired a solicitor which cost ÂŁ5,000. Even though my solicitor was threatened by my husbandâs family, the case still reached the courts. The judge threw it out because my marriage wasnât recognized by British law and I therefore wasnât entitled to anything. I went to the Shariâah Council and they couldnât help me either. My mum sought help at several mosques, but there wasnât anything anybody could do. I still havenât been compensated for what Iâve lost and itâs unlikely I ever will be. I had no idea my marriage would end like this. As a legal practitioner, he knew exactly what he was doing and led me to believe that our marriage was legal. I didnât have a leg to stand on.
'After the marriage ended I was quite depressed. It hasnât been easy for my family either. Iâve lost a lot of time and money and I couldâve qualified as a pharmacist sooner. The worst thing was being deceived from day one, entering into a marriage which I thought was legal. After everything Iâd invested in the relationship - emotionally and financially - I thought Iâd be entitled to something, but he didnât even care. He was happy to see me walk away with nothing.
'Although Iâve picked myself up and moved on, Iâll never forget it. It will always be at the back of my mind. Itâs been a struggle, but my family has supported me throughout. Iâve had to show the Muslim community I donât need him and that Iâm strong enough to come through this. I will qualify as a pharmacist next year.'
GS: âOne day I received a call from a revert (former non-Muslim). She said, âMy husband has disappeared, abandoned me. I want help to have a divorce.â
GS: âWas your marriage through a nikah or a civil ceremony?
âNikahâ, she said.
GS: âDo you have the certificate?
âNo. My husband had it and he has gone away.â
GS: âWho was the qadi?
âA friend of my husband.â
GS: âDo you remember who the witnesses were?
âThey were all friends of my husband.â
GS: âThere was no way we could help her.â
âA very intelligent woman telephoned asking for help.
âShe said, "I was married through an Islamic ceremony. I knew it was not recognized. My husband and family insisted: He said, Let us first marry in the eyes of Allah. Perhaps later on we can have a civil ceremony as well.â
âAfter the marriage she reminded him of his promise. He said âWe are only married a couple of months ago. Letâs see if it works out then we will.â So after that, she knew she was on trial.
âBecause of her constant insistence on a civil ceremony, things became tense and one day, when she came home, the locks had been changed and there was a note from her husband to say, âItâs all over. Your things are with my sister.â
âThere are loads of women suffering like that.â
âThere was a very highly qualified woman who went to deliver a talk in the Islamic Academy, where a young trainee solicitor approached her and showed an interest.
âHe started visiting and proposed to marry her after a few weeks. He also insisted that the lady should introduce him to the family - and everybody like him.
âShe was not sure that he was the right man for her.
âWhen she met his family she realized that his family was looking for a domestic daughter-in-law.
âOne evening he dropped in, saying, âI have come to persuade you to accept my proposal.â
âThen he jumped on her and raped her.
âNow there was a crisis. In the situation she forgot the first thing she should do was contact the police. She forgot to have the morning-after pill.
âBecause of the shame, the consequences of pregnancy overwhelmed her and she agreed to marry him because she thought that that was the best way. Subsequent to that rape, he said âI really love you.â She believed him and this whole idea of civil ceremony was forgotten at that time.
âThe parents asked the local imam to come and perform the nikah
âJust before the birth of their second child the husband said to her, I am going to have another wife.
âThis was very shattering.
âHe managed to convince her, âI am going bankrupt.â
âHe convinced her, âI need your money, let me have this property in my name. The next house will be in your name if I go bankrupt.â
âShe put everything in the kitty for the house. When he left this woman for another, the matter went to court.
âBut this man, because he was a solicitor, his plea was that âAll along our relationship was very casual.
ââI only accepted to go through the nikah when she became pregnant and that is the reason for not having a civil ceremony. We were not sure we were having a permanent relationship."
'So this girl lost the house and was left on the streets with two children.
âThe husband sold the house and bought a bigger one for himself and the second wife.â