A husband revoking a gift he gave his wife
My daughter was married for ten years. Two and a half months ago, her husband told her, "I divorce you!" "I divorce you!" and left the house taking a jewelry box which contains the gold he bought for her throughout their marriage. When she asked him to return her gold, he refused saying that he bought it for her with the intention of it being the deferred dowry. Please take into account that he did not previously make his intention known to her during the ten years of their marriage. What is the ruling of Islamic law for this situation?
Gifts in Islam
It is established in Islamic law that a gift is a financial contract that is executed through an offer and its acceptance; it becomes binding when the donee takes possession of the gift.
Revocation of a gift
A person who has made a gift cannot take it back except with an acceptable excuse. An exception to this is a father taking back a gift made to his offspring; the Prophet [pbuh] said, "It is impermissible for a person to give another a gift and take it back, except for a father taking back a gift he gave his son" [declared authentic by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim].
Marriage, an impediment for the revocation of a gift
Hanafi scholars maintained that marriage is one of the impediments for the revocation of a gift. Article 502 of the Egyptian Civil Code states: "The request to revoke a gift is rejected in the existence of any of the following impediments … If the gift is made by one spouse to another, even if the donor wishes to revoke the gift after the dissolution of the marriage."
Gifts cannot be contingent upon concealed intentions
The gold which the husband bought for his wife is her property since he offered it to her as a gift and she accepted it. Based on this, he cannot later allege that he intended it to be the deferred dowry. Intentions cannot be known by others if concealed and therefore, the offer of the gift and its subsequent acceptance is a proof and a manifestation of that intention. The validity of a transaction is contingent upon a clear offer and acceptance and not by the donor's concealed intention, or else the stability of life will be disturbed and people will lose their rights.
The dowry, a debt owed by the husband to his wife
It is impermissible for the husband to consider his wife's gold as her deferred dowry because the deferred dowry is part of the dowry and a debt owed by the husband to his wife to be paid either upon divorce or his death, whichever occurs first. This debt is not waived except by its fulfillment or if the recipient waives any right to it and cannot be performed except out of funds owned by the husband. But if a wife waives her right to her dowry, she must do so willingly as mentioned in the Qur`an:
And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.
[Qur`an 4: 4]
If the case is as mentioned in the question, then the wife is exclusively entitled to the gold. Her husband is not to take anything of it by coercion or consider it the deferred dowry.
Allah Almighty knows best.