With the exception of the Hanafis and the Malikis, among whom a minimum amount (though not maximum) of dower is laid down, Muslim law-givers do not fix any minimum or maximum amount of mahr.
The Hanafi fix the minimum amount at ten dirhams and the Malikis at three dirhams. In India, the value of ten dirhams is between Rs. 3-4. Thus, the minimum of mahr in both schools is nominal.
The peculiar feature of Muslim law of mahr is that no maximum amount of mahr is prescribed, and, therefore, a husband is free to fix any amount of mahr, even though it is beyond his means or ability to pay or earn. Whenever a claim is made to enforce the payment of the amount of the dower, the court ordinarily awards the entire amount stipulated in the contract. Sometimes, with a view to preventing the husband from divorcing his wife, the amount of mahr is deliberately fixed very high. The husband cannot plead in equity and say by way of his defence, that the amount is too excessive and beyond his means. In only two States, Oudh (now part of the Uttar Pradesh) and Jammu and Kashmir, it has been laid down statutorily that the court may not award the amount of dower as stipulated in the contract if it fronds it too excessive, and may award an amount which it considers to be reasonable with reference to the means of the husband and the status of the wife at the time of payment of mahr. It is surprising that under either statute, the court has no power of raising the amount of mahr if it finds it to be too low, considering the means of the husband and the status of the wife.
Mahr need not be a sum of money; any type of property can be conferred by way of mahr. Anything, which falls within the meaning of mal, and has value, may, according to the Hanafr law, form the subject of dower. Even instructions in the Koran may be the subject-matter of mahr. It may, on the other hand, be immovable property, land or house. If immovable property of the value of Rs. 100 or more is given by way of dower, and the wife is put into possession, she cannot be dispossessed even if there is no registered deed, as S.
53-A, Transfer of Property Act, 1872, will apply. Usually a written deed of mahr known as mahr-nama is executed; but no deed is necessary. It has been earlier stated that when dower is fixed by a contract between parties, it is known as specified dower; when dower arises by operation of law, it is known as proper dower.