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Estranged pair await court ruling on whether Islamic ceremony was legal marriage

Mohammed Shabaz Khan says he is not married under English law (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

An estranged couple who took part in an Islamic wedding ceremony in a London restaurant are waiting for a High Court judge to decide whether they were validly married under English law.

Solicitor Nasreen Akhter says her 1998 “Islamic faith marriage” to Mohammed Shabaz Khan constitutes a valid marriage and wants a divorce.

Mr Khan, who was involved in a property business, disagrees and wants to stop Ms Akhter staging any fight over money in a London court.

Lawyers say the case could have implications.

Mr Justice Williams has finished analysing evidence and legal argument at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He said he would announced his decision at a later date.

Nasreen Akhter says the marriage is legal and wants a divorce Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

The judge heard that the couple, who have a Pakistani background, had lived in London, Birmingham and Dubai.

They had taken part in a “nikah” ceremony at a restaurant in Southall, west London, nearly 20 years ago.

Mrs Akhter says the nikah ceremony was conducted by an Imam before about 150 guests.

She says Mr Khan became her “husband” and he had considered her his “wife”.

Mr Khan wants to block Mrs Akhter’s divorce application on the basis that they are “not legally married” under English law.

He says they are married “under Sharia law only”.

Barrister Paula Rhone-Adrien, who is leading Mr Khan’s legal team, said the case could have implications for people of a number of faiths.

She told the judge: “If the High Court decides that the parties were married, then that means potentially all Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs could seek for their religious ceremonies to be recognised as legally binding.”

:: An experts’ review into the application of Sharia law was published in February after being commissioned by the Home Office. Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a review when she was Home Secretary. She wanted to explore whether Sharia law was being applied in a way that was incompatible with domestic legislation. A panel of experts, which included an academic and lawyers, said Muslim couples should be required to undergo civil marriages in addition to Muslim ceremonies to bring Islamic marriage legally into line with Christian and Jewish marriage.