20200918 Dubai Courts
A view of the Dubai Courts building. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Muslim marriages in UAE

Question: I am a Muslim, residing in Dubai. I would like to marry a Muslim man, but he resides outside the UAE. My question is, do I have the right to legally marry this man while he resides outside the UAE? Is there a way to complete this matter, knowing that after completing the marriage and obtaining the marriage contract, he will come to the UAE? Please advise.

Answer: The law identifies marriage as a legal contract between a man and a woman, aimed at protecting the rights of the couple and their children. All Emiratis and expatriate residents can complete the formalities of their marriages in UAE. Islamic marriages in UAE are conducted according to the Sharia provisions, which apply in the following cases, regardless of nationality:

• Where both the groom and the bride are Muslims.

• Where the groom is a Muslim and the bride is from ‘Ahl Al-Kitaab’; such as Christian.

While the law permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, it does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man without proof of his conversion to Islam. Islamic marriages are conducted by UAE Judicial Departments and Sharia courts or through the services of authorised marriage officers (Mazoons) in each emirate.

Pre-marital general requirements should be fulfilled for a marriage to take place:

• Approval of the bride.

• In Dubai, at least one party to the marriage contract (husband or wife) should have a residence visa in the UAE. In other emirates, both bride and groom must be UAE residents.

• A positive pre-marital screening certificate for the couple issued from the concerned public health-care facilities in the UAE. By making pre-marital screening mandatory, the UAE aims to arrest the spread of communicable diseases such as Aids. Based on the medical screening certificate, application for marriage may be denied if one of the parties suffers from:

• A genetically inherited blood disease.

• Any communicable disease.

This medical screening test is a must to be done by both parties in UAE. It cannot be done by one party outside UAE. If the nonresident party has such a certificate but is not able to return to the UAE to complete the marriage formalities, then he or she can confer a power of attorney to a person in UAE to complete the marriage formalities. However, if he or she does not have such a certificate, then the marriage will be not fulfilled.

Key legal requirements for Muslim marriages:

• Marriage contract needs to be registered in a Sharia court in the UAE.

• Legal age for marriage is 18 Hijri years. Otherwise, the judge’s approval is required.

• A spouse’s age should not be twice the other. Otherwise, the judge’s approval is sought.

• A premarital screening certificate is necessary.

• Attendance of the couple is necessary.

• Attendance of the bride’s father or his proxy and two male Muslim witnesses is necessary.

• For a woman to get married, she needs the consent of her guardian.

• In case of father’s death, the presence of the next closest male guardian i.e. closest kin such as elder brother is necessary.

• Divorced and widowed women must produce a proof of their status.

There are also some special cases and provisions to be checked and taken into consideration for all Emiratis, Emirati women marrying expatriate men and for Gulf Cooperation Council nationals and citizens of other Islamic countries .

Arbitration in a contractual dispute

Question: I am the owner of a company and I have a contract with another company. Currently, there is a dispute between me and this company. Upon reviewing the contract, it became clear to me that in the event of a dispute, the matter will have to be referred to arbitration. My question is whether this condition to refer the matter to arbitration is binding on me? Will such a condition prevent me from filing a case in court? Please advise.

Answer: I would like to clarify the questioner that arbitration is a method regulated by law through which a binding ruling in a dispute between two or more parties is settled by the arbitration panel based on the agreement of the parties. An Arbitration Agreement must be in writing. Otherwise, it shall be void. It is a contract between two or more parties in which, they may agree on any condition that they deem appropriate in a manner that does not contradict public order or morals.

Arbitration is an exception from the principle. It transfers the jurisdiction from the courts in case of civil and commercial disputes. It binds only the parties and does not apply to others.

Article (8) of Federal Law No (6) of 2018 on Arbitration, regarding Resolution of a Dispute that is Subject to an Arbitration Agreement, states: ‘The court before which a dispute is brought, that is subject to an Arbitration Agreement, shall decline to entertain the action if the defendant has so pleaded before submitting any request or plea on the merits, unless the court is satisfied that the Arbitration Agreement is void or incapable of being performed. The filing of the action referred to in the preceding section shall not preclude the commencement or continuance of arbitration proceedings or the issuance of an arbitral award.’

Read more

This article shows that the court might accept your case in two conditions:

1. If the defendant accepts the case and does not plead, regarding the arbitration agreement before (and only before) submitting any request or plea on the merits. So, if the defendant misses this plea, he will lose his chance after.

2. If the arbitration agreement was void and incapable to be performed anymore according to any new regulations or laws or if the arbitration centre, whose jurisdiction is agreed upon and the rules agreed to apply, have been cancelled or does not exist at the time of signing the agreement.

It is decided by Dubai Court that “the court to which a dispute is brought for an arbitration agreement must decide not to accept the lawsuit if the defendant invokes it before making any request or arguing in the merits of the case, if it does not appear to the court that the agreement on arbitration is invalid or impossible to implement.’ Cassation No 2019/1071 Commercial.

It should be also taken into consideration that even if the arbitration award is binding on its parties, but to be enforced, a decision confirming the award must be obtained from the court. Article (52) of Federal Law No (6) of 2018 on Arbitration under Binding Force states: ‘An arbitral award made in accordance with this Law shall be binding on the parties, shall constitute res judicata, and shall be as enforceable as a judicial ruling, although to be enforced, a decision confirming the award must be obtained from the Court.”

An arbitral award can only be challenged by an action for setting aside before the court or during the pendency of an application to confirm the award. The court shall, on its own initiative, set aside the arbitral award if it finds that: (a) The subject-matter of the dispute is not capable to be settled by Arbitration. (b) The arbitral award is in conflict with public order and morality of the State. Article (53).’