Everything you need to know about marriage in Iraq

25 Mar 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Iraq 01

Iraq is a Western Asian country with unique cultures and traditions regarding marriage. The average number of marriages in Iraq each year is 39,000. Both religious and civil marriages are held in the country; however, only civil marriages are legally binding and recognized by the laws of the country. Most of the time, couples celebrate their marriages using both methods. Religious marriages are often held alongside traditional marriage ceremonies. They take place on the same day, one after the other, with the religious marriage being the first ceremony.

The predominant religion in Iraq is Islam, and most of the general rules and traditions guiding marriages in the country are under the Islamic faith. According to the legislative framework of Iraq, civil marriages may be considered a type of religious marriage based on Islamic principles. However, this rule is only applicable to Muslims in Iraq. Non-Muslims are not recognized under this law and, as such, must conduct a civil marriage and an additional religious marriage based on their preferences and religious associations.

In Iraq, the minimum legal age to marry is 18. However, an underage person may be allowed to marry provided that the union is an urgent necessity and there is approval from her father as well as court authorization from a judge. As you continue reading, you will find out more about civil and religious marriages in Iraq, as well as the laws and duties guiding marriages in the country.

Civil Marriages 

A civil marriage is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Iraq. Civil marriages are performed by state-authorized officiants and are held in the registry. All legal civil marriages in Iraq must be entered into and registered under the personal status court. Marriage contracts are used in both civil ceremonies and traditional or religious ceremonies. The wedding contract is often regarded as the most important aspect of traditional or religious marriages for both Sunni and Shia Muslims. It includes a statement about the conditions of the marriage as well as the required bride price or dowry. 

The marriage contract is usually drawn up and presented by one of the families. Once the other family accepts the conditions and is satisfied with the contract, they proceed with its approval.
The offer in the marriage contract is often accepted on behalf of the other family by an appointed person called the Wakil. In Iraq, there are several conditions that must be met by both couples under the Personal Status Law before a marriage is legally binding. These conditions are stated below:

Conditions for Marriage in Iraq

  • In Iraq, a man is only allowed to get married to more than one woman after he has gotten authorization from the judge (qadi).
  • For a marriage to take place, the marriage contract offer sent by the first family must be accepted and approved by the second family.
  • The spouses must provide at least two witnesses. The witnesses provided must have the legal capacity to act as witnesses by being of legal age in Iraq.
  • The two spouses must be mentally fit to get married, and they must be at least 18 years old. Marriages between people younger than 18 but older than 15 may be allowed if there is an authorization from the judge and the father’s approval.
  • The marriage between two people must not be forced by anyone, including close relatives. Also, if the parties trying to get married are both eligible for marriage, no one has the right to prevent them from getting married.
  • A Muslim man is permitted to marry non-Muslims (Christians, Jews, etc.). However, a Muslim woman is not allowed to get married to a non-Muslim man.
  • The couple may be permitted to get married through the use of a representative (proxy), provided that the proxy meets all lawful and legal requirements.

Required Documents 

For a civil marriage ceremony to take place in Iraq, there are certain documents that are required of both spouses. These are stated below.

  • A valid means of identification such as a national ID or passport
  • Proof of address or residence in Iraq
  • Death or divorce certificate. This must be provided by a spouse who was previously married but legally terminated such marriage due to the death of the previous spouse or separation.
  • Proof of name change This is only applicable to spouses who had their names changed due to a previous marriage or other personal reasons.
  • Payment of all the required fees for the completion of the application process
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Religious Marriages 

Over 90% of the people living in Iraq are Muslims, and religious marriages are very popular. Couples usually hold a civil ceremony first and then conclude their union celebration with a religious marriage and a wedding reception. The Islamic faith in Iraq is mostly divided into Sunni and Shia Muslims, and marriages held in the mosque are officiated by a registered imam. For a marriage contract to be registered, a statement showing and proving the respective identities of both parties involved must be submitted.

This document is quite important and must include the dowry payment or bride price and also make it clear that there are no current instructions or impediments to the marriage. The document is also signed by a Mukhtar (local community leader) or two highly respected members of society. Secondly, a medical report must be submitted by the couple to confirm that they are both in good health and that there are no medical impairments such as illnesses or diseases that can prevent the marriage from taking place. The couple has the choice of holding the religious ceremony before or after the civil ceremony, but most couples usually opt for the latter option.

Marriage traditions in Iraq

Iraq has some beautiful traditions that are unique to the country. These traditions have been passed down from ancient times and are still being practiced in modern marriages. These are stated below:

Mashaya and Sherbert

This is a tradition where the groom and his family go to the bride's house to meet her family and officially ask for her hand in marriage. The father of the bride gets to know about the intention of the groom to marry his daughter, and if he agrees, marriage preparation begins and Turkish coffee and rose water are served.

Engagement Ceremony

This is the actual pre-wedding phase of the marriage, where both families will start spending time with each other to get to know each other more. Sometimes, the engagement may last only a few months; however, some engagement ceremonies may take years.


This ceremonial rite is a popular tradition in Iraq. Here, a party is held for the bride and is attended by both family and friends, where different kinds of religious readings and traditional music are played. The bride is often dressed in beautiful new gowns, and the families exchange gifts with each other.

Wedding Ceremony 

On the actual wedding day, the procession usually involves both men and women from the bridal party. A traditional song called zaffa is played while the bride is walked down the aisle by her father. The couple is made to profess their love and exchange vows with each other. The imam offers them advice and then pronounces them husband and wife. This is usually followed by a wedding reception at a venue of their choice to feast and dance.

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Marriage Laws and Rights: Costs and Duties

Laws and rights

Marriage is a contract between two people who have mutually agreed to become husband and wife. The laws governing marriage in traditional Iraqi society are based on Islamic principles. Before marriage can be solemnized in Iraq, all requirements set forth by the law must be fulfilled.
According to the Iraqi law on marriage, the legal age of consent without parental consent is 18 years; however, a female can be married at the age of 15 with parental authorization in special cases. 

Marriage between people of different faiths is recognized by the law, except a woman cannot marry a non-Muslim; she is prohibited by law from doing so. In line with the dictates of Islam, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife; the law allows the practice of polygamy provided he receives permission from the court while giving legitimate reasons and proving that he is financially capable of taking on more wives. Forced and child marriages are frowned upon by the law, but they are still endemic to the country as proper punishment is rarely meted out to offenders.

Any couple that possesses the capability to marry must not be stopped by any outsider or relative; such a person may face punishment for noncompliance. Marriage between cousins is recognized and protected under the Iraqi law of marriage; up to 50% of marriages in Iraq are between first and second cousins. According to Iraqi laws, marriages for the purpose of ending feuds between tribes are recognized. Before a marriage certificate can be issued, both parties are required to appear before a judge and submit an application for marriage. A certificate from the Ministry of Health demonstrating that the couple has completed the required medical examination must be submitted to the court of social status; two witnesses must also be present. If an Iraqi woman is marrying a foreigner, one of her parents or her guardian must be present at the court.

A marriage certificate is then issued by the court after it has been signed by both parties and chosen witnesses. For foreigners, a passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months, passport photographs, and the Iraqi nationality certificate or a national ID of the wife must be submitted. Temporary marriages are allowed by the law in Iraq. People can decide to contract marriage for a short period of time for an amount of money; witnesses and family members are not required to be present at the registration of this contract, and it's seen as legal under religious laws.


Iraqi society is largely patriarchal and doesn't give room for equality of rights among spouses. Women's rights often get infringed upon, and they barely have a say in their marriages. While a man has the right to marry a non-Muslim, a woman is prohibited from doing the same. In recent times, both spouses have gained the right to divorce under certain circumstances, unlike before, when the man had the sole right to dissolve the marriage as he wished. The man has the right to demand obedience from his wife in all aspects. Women have the right to report cases of domestic violence and abuse, but the majority of them don't because, according to the law, spousal rape is not an offense and they are often disrespected during court proceedings. In a bid to avoid this, many women forgo this right and prefer reconciliation. 

The man has the right to stop the woman from going out; she has to seek permission from her husband before going about any social business that would take her out of the confines of the house. Women don't have the right to work because they are forbidden to by their husbands; however, those that get the chance to work are required to be subordinate and not be a threat at their place of work, which rules out the option of ambition or competition. If a woman is able to prove her case in court beyond every reasonable doubt in a divorce case, she might be granted the right to custody of the children and the right to receive certain financial rights; however, if fault is found with her, she forfeits all financial rights and is stigmatized by society. 

The man has the right to pick and get married to whoever he wishes; the woman, on the other hand, has to only give consent to the proposal accepted by her father or legal guardian. The right to participate in political and socioeconomic activities is available to both parties, but in reality, women are constantly reminded of their places in the home and are therefore discouraged from participation. Practices such as honor killings and genital mutilation, which are seen as part of Islamic culture, greatly affect the ability of women to exercise their rights.


An ordinary Iraqi wedding costs about 3 million Iraqi dinars, which is about $2,400. This cost can easily increase depending on how wealthy the family is and how elaborate the seven steps of the marriage are going to be. The bridegroom assumes all wedding responsibilities and pays a dowry to the wife's family, which is always between $400 and $8,000; she receives a portion of the money before the wedding and the remainder after. The concept of marriage in Iraq is beautiful due to the traditions and customs of the country; however, intending couples are faced with economic challenges, and the rate of constant violence and killings in the country has led to a decrease in the number of marriages in the country. Many eligible citizens are more focused on trying to get out of the country than thinking about getting married or even starting a family.


Family plays a major role in spelling out the duties and obligations of couples in Iraq. Many Iraqi couples maintain strong familial bonds; Recently, many couples have moved away from their extended families; however, they intermarry and live close to each other, in contrast to previous times when up to four generations lived under the same roof. The Iraqi family structure is heavily patriarchal, and this gives complete autonomy to the husband. The husband has total authority and is solely responsible for the welfare of the family; he is tasked with the duty of providing support for his immediate and extended family, and he is expected to provide maintenance for his wife. In return, he demands respect and total obedience and compliance from his wife, and little or no tolerance is given to any form of disrespect from her. 

He exempts himself from the upbringing of the children at the early stages; this responsibility falls solely on the shoulders of the wife, as she is seen as a homemaker. Women are seen as subordinates; they are expected to stay within the confines of the home. They are expected to give their all to their husbands in the form of total obedience and submission in all areas. The wife is expected to take on her husband's family name, and she is obligated to live under the same roof as her husband. She is tasked with maintaining family honor and respect. Failure on her part to perform her role could lead to severe punishment and ultimately death.

In Summary 

Iraq has some strict laws about marriage that are uncommon in most other parts of the world. Since the country is majorly dominated by Muslims, Sharia law is actively practiced, and all activities under marriage are protected by this law. In Iraq, a man may marry more than one woman without the need for consent or additional legal authorization. Polygamy is still widely practiced in the country.
Marriage between two people of the same sex is prohibited in Iraq. Gay men are not allowed to serve in the country’s military, and all forms of same-sex relationships, including registered partnerships, are illegal. Civil unions and cohabitation are frowned upon by the law. People who enter into this type of marriage may face up to 6 months in jail as well as additional fines. This article is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about marriage in Iraq.