So you’ve found the person you want as your future spouse, you’ve asked them all of the proper questions and you’ve decided to get married. Now it’s time to plan the wedding. According to Islam, in order for a man and woman to be married, a nikkah must be conducted. In Islam, marriage is considered a contract and there are various components of this contract.
The first is the proposal: This is when the man asks a woman for her hand in marriage, and as a form of respect, her family as well. Once the woman has accepted, they are now ‘intended’ and it is not permissible for another man to propose to her. It is important to note that although the two individuals have agreed to marry one another, they are still non-mahram to each other. The woman has no rights over the man and viceversa. They are not to be alone together or physically interact and they should still observe hijab around each other.
The second component is the mahr: After the proposal has been accepted, the man offers the intended wife a mahr. In the Qur’an we’re told:
And give women their Mahr as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result. Qur’an 4:4. "
Although in recent times, it has become common for the woman or her parents to request a certain ‘amount’ from the future husband. It is actually of the Sunnah for the intended husband to offer a certain mahr to the woman. She then has the opportunity to accept or decline it. When it comes to the mahr, a few things must be remembered, such as: that both individuals must consent to the mahr, not their parents, that the mahr is her right and she should not be made to feel guilty for wanting one and that the mahr is a gift, it is not her dowry or bride price. There is no ‘limit’ on what the mahr can be, it can be cash, a certain item or something non-tangible like the teaching of some knowledge or recitation of a certain sura from the Qur’an. The mahr can be given right away or promise can be made(prior to the nikkah) for the mahr to be given later at a certain time. It is highly recommended though, that the mahr be given prior to the nikkah or at the nikkah.
After the proposal and mahr have been accepted, the third and final mandatory component is the actual nikkah ceremony. The nikkah can take place anywhere that is halal(i.e not a bar or a club but in your home, the masjid, a hall, etc) and it is to be performed by an imam or qadi. Unlike marriage ceremonies of other faiths, there is no ‘walking down the aisle and’ there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen. The only individuals who need to be in attendance are the officiant, the two individuals that are marrying each other, two Muslim witnesses and the wali(Muslim guardian who is related to the woman-it can be her father, brother, uncle, etc) or the wakil(a Muslim guardian who is not related to the woman, generally for Muslim women who do not have any ‘practicing’ Muslim male relatives). At the nikkah, a khutbah(sermon) is usually given in which the officiant generally speaks about the virtues of marriage, the rights of the spouses and other aspects of Marriage in Islam.
After the ceremony is given, the officiant asks the woman if she has agreed to the mahr and consents to the marriage. She should respond with “I have given away myself, in Nikkah, to you, on the agreed mahr”. The man then immediately responds, “I have accepted the nikkah”. With these short statements, they are now husband and wife.
After the nikkah, either on the same day or sometime later, a walima is held. The walima is essentially a feast that the groom offers to announce the marriage. The walima is not mandatory but it is highly recommended. Regardless of the individuals’ culture, the walima should abide by Islamic guidelines. There should be no alcohol, lewd music, inappropriate attire, etc. As with all gatherings, it is advised that men and women should be separate.
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.”[Quran 17: 23]
As Muslims, we are taught that one of the most important thing a child should do is to always be obedient and respectful to their parent. To not do so, is a grievous offense in the eyes of Allah(SWT). It is important to note though that obedience to your parents is not absolute for Allah says“there is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the creator”. You should always try to obey and please your parents unless what they are asking of you is in contradiction with the teachings of Islam. Alongside this, kinship ties in Islam are also very important and to dissolve them without good reason is considered to be a sin. With that being said, it is important to remember such things when it comes to the subject of marriage in Islam.
The extent to which parents and family members are involved in the courtship process varies differently depending on the family and their cultural customs. Islamically though, the parents need to be aware of the relationship and the wali(male guardian of the girl) must be involved as his consent is needed for the marriage to be lawful(the Hanafi school of thought strongly recommends the consent of the wali but does not consider it to be obligatory, the other three schools of thought consider it obligatory).
As I stated in the part 1 of the series, it is not permissible for a parent to force their child to marry someone. Both the woman and man must express their consent to the marriage in order for it to be valid. Some Muslim parents, misusing the fact that Islam promotes the obedience of the child to the parents, attempt to manipulate and force their child to marry someone that they have chosen despite the refusal of their child. Contrary to popular belief, it is not “the job” of the parent to find a spouse for their child. If their child chooses to ask them to take on this role, it is permissible. Parents(and all family members) must remember that while the parent may suggest a spouse, it is not their right. Alongside this, it is the right of the son/daughter to choose their own spouse.
During the courtship process and prior to the actual nikkah, the main role of the parents is to ensure that the entire process is halal. Parents are welcome to get to know the individual that their child is interested in as well as the individual’s parents. As loving and caring parents should, parents should be sure to listen to the reasons why their child chose this person and learn about exactly what it is they are looking for in a spouse so that they can assist in the making of the best/appropriate decision. Parents are also welcome to give their opinions on the prospective individual and whether or not they approve or disapprove of the match. The last part, the ability to give their opinion and approve/disapprove of the potential spouse, is something that most parents take to heart and often use to try and control the entire situation.
While parents can express their opinions, it is important to note that the child does not have to agree with their decision if it is derived in a haram manner. For instance, we often hear about parents turning down a suitor because he/she is not a doctor or is not from their same community. The Prophet(SAW) says to choose someone foremost because of their deen and character and not because of tribal affiliation, skin tone, nationality or race.
Overall, parents and immediate family members should try and get to know the potential spouse but remember that ultimately, the suitor is not marrying the entire family and although they should get along, its the opinion of person looking to get married that matters most.
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