Mahr (Arabic: ???; also transliterated mehr, meher, or mahrieh) is gift, mandatory in Islam, given by the groom to the bride upon marriage in Islamic cultures. (This is in contrast to other cultures' bride price, which is paid to the bride's father.) Some Muslims insist that the mahr should be paid by the husband to his wife before they have sexual intercourse.
The gift can be intangible or negligible, or it can be a valuable gift of real property or investments. The mahr may also be divided into portions, one to be given the bride at marriage, the other to be given the wife if she is widowed or divorced. It should be given according to the social status of the bride.
Islamic scholars consider it a way of showing importance of marriage contract and a preparation on behalf of husband to fulfill his marital responsibilities. It also can be a form of protection against arbitrary divorce.
Mahr is mentioned in the Qur'an, verse 4:4. The Encyclopaedia of Islam's entry on mahr states: "According to a tradition in Bukhari, the mahr is an essential condition for the legality of the marriage: 'Every marriage without mahr is null and void'."
Also, a narration in Sunan Abu-Dawud (a lesser collection of Hadith, in that it contained some narrations of weaker verifiability) suggests that the mahr must be given prior to consummation:
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