Dower is a sum of amount or property payable by groom to bride in nikah. This amount or property can be payable either immediately after the nikah on demand which is also been called as prompt dower or payable on dissolution of marriage either by divorce or death of the husband which is also been called as deffered dower. In pre-Islamic Arabs there were different forms of marriage like Shighar Marraige, Beena Marraige and Baal Marraige. In Shighar Marriage if a person had given his daughter or sister in marriage to another person in consideration of that latter need to give his daughter and sister in marriage with the former. It is a kind of exchange. In one form of marriage the amount or property is given to the parents of the bride as compensation as the marriage will part them with their daughter.
Wilson has defined the term Mahr, as consideration for marriage whereby wife surrenders herself to her husband. Ameer Ali defines it, as consideration of marriage and absolute right of wife. Further in the case of Abdul Kadir vs. Salima Begum, it was held by the court that mahr is consideration of marriage and is absolute right of wife, even if mahr is not been specified the wife is entitled to proper (customary) dower.
Mahr is a consideration for marriage only if marriage under Islamic law is purely a civil contract. However, if nikah purely is not a civil contract than dower cannot regarded as consideration for marriage. Nikah is not a pure civil contract because if dower is consideration for nikah that means without specification of dower nikah is not valid. However, that is not correct dower (mahr) is not an essential condition of marriage. Even if dower is not specified wife is entitled to proper dower under Islamic law. The object of it is to restraint a muslim husband from using his arbitrary power of talaq against his wife. It is a kind of token of respect to wife from her husband. Dower is also a kind financial support to wife. Mahr is absolute right of a wife. She can claim her mahr in court of law also. If mahr is not paid to her she has right to retain her husband’s property. The concept of dower strengthens the position of a Muslim wife in the society.