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.
In a lot of predominantly Muslim cultures, it has become the norm for families to throw lavish nikkahs, walimas, engagement ceremonies and other events for their children’s marriage as means of showing off their wealth, outdoing previous weddings in the community or simply just for the sake of having a lavish wedding. Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money on wedding events, money which could be spent on sadaqa or building a better life for the new couple, individuals and their families who are planning on getting married, should attempt to spend as little as possible. The Prophet(SAW) said “'The best wedding is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed".
Personally for me, I have gone back and forth on how I would like to conduct my marriage events. I am not interested in having a large affair in which a ton of money is spent or one that takes an inordinate amount of planning. I believe that marriage is a personal and important affair. In my culture, it is normal to have various events leading up a marriage with each event being larger than the previous. These events also often include things that are not permissible in Islam such as close inter-gender mixing, alcohol, lewd dancing, inappropriate dressing(brides who are generally ‘hijabis’ are encouraged to update their dressing by wearing tight or see through clothing, traditional attire that do not conform with appropriate hijab and extreme amounts of makeup. I completely understand that women want to dress up for their weddings/walima and there’s nothing wrong with that, it just needs to be done appropriately. For instance, if I do decide to ‘go all out’ for mine, I would opt to have a gender-segregated event. This way, I can dress in a manner that I want while abiding by the deen. My "intended" and I have discussed this quite a few times and as of right now, when we do get married, inshaAllah, we will have a small nikah in which only the officiant, some members of the groom’s family, some members of my family and a few of our close friends will be in attendance. A nice sit-down dinner will then be held later in the evening for friends and family. If our friends or family do decide that they’d like to host additional events for us, we will definitely welcome and appreciate it, they would just need to keep in mind the Islamic guidelines that we choose to uphold.
I have heard from various people, and experienced it myself, that there is generally intense pressure from family to have a wedding be a certain way even if it violates Islam. Often times, culture, community expectations and family desires are used to convince the person to ignore the Islamic rules. This is one area in which I do not and will not budge on. Anyone who knows me would know that I am all for throwing a good party and hosting nice elaborate events- as long as they don’t violate my faith. Marriage is an important step and I would like all the blessings I can get from Allah(SWT). When a nikah or walimah is held, the angels are present who then report to Allah(SWT) about the ongoings at the event. I would prefer for the angels to report that my nikkah was one of iman and submission and not one in which the angels would rather not be present at.
At the end of the day, regardless of all the pressure you receive to have your wedding be conducted a certain way, ask yourself, will you be able to sincerely justify your actions on the day of judgement?
For those readers who have emailed us and commented in regards to how my situation(that was discussed in Part 1 and 2 of this series) has turned out, well….
Unfortunately, certain individuals in my family are still choosing to be difficult due to the previously mentioned ‘ethnic differences’. Instead of being kind and open, they have opted to either speak ill of the situation or remain in denial and pretend the issue does not exist. At this point, after speaking with trusted individuals, constantly making istikhara, and thorough discussions with one another, he and I have decided to go through with the nikkah, inshaAllah, sometime soon. While we both wish that circumstances were different, the stress and angst of hoping things will turn around has become too much to bear. Just make dua for us and inshaAllah, things will go well.
What are your thoughts or tips on balancing Islamic wedding practices with that of culture?
The "Muslimah Worries" section of Striving Clarity is dedicated to discussing the things that Muslimahs often worry about from hijab to marriage to how to remain spiritual when you're unable to pray. Join us!