Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
There is a great, stormy debate going on in SF with reference to dowry and whether it is allowed or not. A fatwa from Deoband is as follows:
Assalamualikum, I am going to get married this year.I want know about the dowry in light of quran & ahadith.Should i ask my inlaws about this or whatever they give me will accept.What is the sunnah of Rasulallah SAW,when they get married to ummul momineen.Plz reply ..JAzakallah
Answer: 10537 Jan 28,2009 (Fatwa: 180/137=H/1429)
You have nothing to do with dowry; rather dowry is the articles given by parents to their daughter in marriage. You can say that if they want to give any necessary article in marriage they should give it after two three months instead of giving at the time of Nikah. However, if they give anything of immediate need at the time of Nikah, it is also right. It is proved from the Hadith and from the sunnah of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم). This is mentioned in a bit detail in Bahishti Zewar, you should study it.
Allah (Subhana Wa Ta'ala) knows BestDarul Ifta, Darul Uloom Deoband
So, the general answer is that giving gifts to the girl by the father is Sunna and this is well-proven from the sources. No problems. However, the social problem that we are facing and the misunderstandings that seem to arise in well-meaning people stem from the use of several interchangeable words: jahez, dahej, dowry, dower and gifts.
What is dowry? As the answer explicitly states, for the religiously knowledgeable, dowry refers to the gifts that parents give to their daughters on marriage happily and freely. This is not the dowry of the common man though. You will find the understanding of the common man in the question he asked. Here is the first part of his question:
"I want know about the dowry in light of quran & ahadith.Should i ask my inlaws about this or whatever they give me will accept?"
He wants to know about dowry in the light of the sources. Meaning he wants to know what is due to HIM as dowry as per the Qur'an and Sunna. He further wants to know whether he can make demands on his inlaws such as a Hero Honda or a Maruti or whatever or should he throw himself on their mercy and generosity?
This is the (Hindu)concept of dowry that we are fighting. The belief that the father of the bride OWES something to the groom after marriage.
Hence the first sentence in the answer is: "You have nothing to do with dowry".
Now, this is the world of fatwas. It often does not gel well with the real world.
Let us first make some semantic corrections in the real world.
Let us call Mehr as Dower or bride-due. This is what the groom has to give to the bride.
Gifts: These are the items that the parents give to their daughter.
Dowry: This is the stuff on demand that the son-in-law gets from the father-in-law.
When dowry demands are not met, then bride torture begins. Sometimes, it ends in bride burning.
See here: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2006-09-10/india/27828744_1_dowry-deaths-cases-bench
What is the answer to this?
The answer is simple. Say No to Dowry.