Who gets the shabka after breaking ...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Who gets the shabka after breaking off an engagement?


no. 3032 for the year 2005 which includes the following:

A couple called off their engagement. Now, the fiancé wants to retrieve the expenses of the engagement party as well as take back the shabka [jewelry traditionally presented to the bride from the groom] towards which we (the fiancée's family) made a contribution. What is the ruling for this?


Preludes to marriage
The engagement, reading of the Fatiha, payment of the dowry, shabka and gifts are all from among the preliminaries of marriage and a promise of marriage, provided the marriage contract was not conducted, fulfilling its pillars and conditions. It is customary that the engagement takes place before conducting the marriage contract to enable the two families to prepare for the necessities of the marriage. 

Rights consequent to breaking off an engagement
If one of the parties decided to break off the engagement it is legally established that:

-If the marriage contract has not been conducted, the fiancé is to revoke the dowry he paid and the fiancée is not to receive any of it.

- According to customs, the shabka is considered part of the dowry. Since it is part of the marriage negotiations, it therefore cannot be considered a gift but a part of the dowry. Islamic law takes customs into consideration. This is based on the following verse of Qur'an:

"Be tolerant and command what is right."
[Qur`an 7:199]

It has been reported in a non-Prophetic hadith from Ibn Mas'ud, may Allah be pleased with him that, "What Muslims deem to be good, then it is good with Allah and what they deem evil, is deemed evil to Allah." [Reported in Ahmed's Musnad and in al-Tayalsi's Musnad]. 

The dowry
- A woman whose engagement was called off is not considered a wife- she does not deserve any of the dowry.

- A woman whose marriage was not consummated deserves half of the dowry.

- A woman whose marriage has been consummated deserves all of it.

Based on the above and in reference to the question, since the shabka is part of the dowry, it belongs to the fiancé regardless of who was responsible for the break-up. 

As for betrothal gifts, they follow the same rulings for gifts based on the opinion of Hanafi scholars whose opinions are implemented in Egyptian courts. Law no. 1 for the year 2000 states: "A gift is recoverable according to Islamic law if they are still existent, have not been disposed of or destroyed." Therefore, it is permissible for the fiancé to ask that the shabka and betrothal gifts be returned to him and his fiancée must comply. But if the shabka and gifts were of a consumable nature such as food and drink or clothes, they are not to be returned either in kind, or value, because consumption is one of the impediments of the revocation of a gift. 

The Ruling
The fiancé is to revoke only the sum he paid for the shabka but not anything he paid for the consumable items, food and drink and the like which he bought for the engagement party.

Allah Almighty knows best.

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