Fatma: If the wife bases her reason for divorce on one of the criteria in the afore-mentioned annulment or divorce proceedings, will she have to relinquish some or all of her mahr?
Sayyid: The wife is entitled to keep the full mahr unless the marriage was not consummated. If the marriage was not consummated, then she is entitled to half of the mahr and must return the other portion to the ex-husband.
It is important to note that if the marriage did not fit one of the criteria (such as unconsummated marriages) and the marriage had commenced, then the marriage would be considered a standard or typical marriage.
Then if the husband issued a divorce he cannot, under any circumstances, take back any part of the mahr. The mahr is a gift to the wife irrespective whether of the marriage continues or later dissolves. If the husband has not paid the mahr in full, then he will still be held liable for the remaining balance, despite the reasons for divorce.
Fatma: Regarding the verse that states,
“It is not lawful for you that you should take women as heritage against their will and do not straiten them in order that you may take part of what you have given them, unless they are guilty of manifest indecency.” (4:19)
Would this verse not give exceptions to the mahr?
Sayyid: Withholding payment of the mahr because the wife committed adultery may sometimes be highly contingent upon the severity of circumstances that led to the affair. Not to lessen or ignore the immoral action of adultery, but sometimes people are faced with extraordinary circumstances that require in-depth analyses of the situation before a final judgment may be rendered.
Islam states that in cases where adultery has been religiously judged then, as a reluctant means of reprisal, the husband, as a last resort, may withhold the remaining mahr; still it is not recommended.