I am seeking clarification on whether a woman is entitled to jewellery and other valuables given to her at the time of marriage by the groom and his family, or does she have to return them in case of a divorce?
According to the Hanafi School of Sunni Islamic law, if jewellery and/or other gifts are specifically given to the bride upon marriage by a third party, then that exclusively belongs to her and for her to keep even after divorce. If they are given jointly to both the groom and bride, then the items will be co-owned, and as such, they will be split into half in case of a divorce.
As for the jewellery and gifts [other than the dowry/mahr] given to the bride by the groom or his family, there are various scenarios:
a) If it is explicitly declared by the groom’s family, at the time of giving, that the gifts are being given for the bride to own (tamlikan), then they will remain in her ownership, and as such, she does not have to return them upon divorce.
b) If it is explicitly declared by the groom’s family, at the time of giving, that the gifts are being given for the bride to merely use during the marriage (a’riyatan), then the groom and his family are entitled to take them back upon divorce.
c) If nothing is declared [i.e. whether they are for her to own or use] at the time of giving, then the custom (urf) of the families will be taken into account. If customarily, such gifts are given to own, it will be hers to keep, otherwise not.
If both customs are prevalent, or there is a disagreement between the two parties as to whether the jewellery and gifts were given to own or use, then if the bride’s family can bring evidence (bayyina) that at the time of giving it was clearly declared that the jewellery/gifts were given for her to own, they will remain with her. If her family cannot bring such evidence, then the groom’s statement will be accepted with an oath that the gifts were merely given for her to use during the marriage. As such, he will be entitled to take back items that have not been consumed like jewellery and other valuables. If an item got destroyed or the bride used it up (such as cash), then she does not have to return it. (Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar 3/151-152, Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 1/327 and Fatawa Mahmudiyya 12/106)
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK