While Muslims in the Western Cape appear to be reluctant to employ the services of marriage officers, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng residents have shown an assertive interest. The initiative, which was recently launched in Pretoria with the induction of more than 30 imams as marriage officials, allows marriage officers to solemnize marriages in terms of the Marriage Act of 1961.
Marriages officers, once trained by the Department of Home Affairs, may continue to perform their duties to conduct Islamic marriage ceremonies.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan explained that in terms of South African law, marriages are only meant to be solemnised by individuals who are designated marriage offices.
Imams, as part of the marriage training programme, are able to make amendments to the marriage status of individuals on the National Population Register.
While the concept of a marriage officer is gaining popularity, she said that marriages performed without the use of an official have consequences.
“Home affairs will not have any kind of information pertaining to such marriages, the National Population Register remains unaltered, and your status on the national register remains as ‘single’,” Chohan told VOC Breakfast Beat.
She said that individuals who refrain from employing the services of marriage officers appear to be concerned about the consequences relating to Islamic law.
In response to concerns relating to possible contradictions between the Marriage Act and Islamic Law, Chohan explained the Act does not prevent individuals from regulating their marriages in terms of Islamic law.
“Very much like anti-nuptial contracts, an Islamic contract can be concluded, which will ensure that the consequences of such marriages remain within the Islamic school of thought.”
She said that Department’s concern stems from legal uncertainties that may result from marriages performed by non-certified marriages officials, providing further uncertainty when the courts have to assess the implication of Islamic law.
Chohan encouraged individuals who wish to employ the services of a marriage officer to contact the Muslim Judicial Council.