Islamic Wedding Traditions

by Ronald Fisackerly - Date: 2010-09-29 - Word Count: 556 Share This!

There is a tremendous cultural diversity within the Islamic world. This diversity is also reflected in wedding ceremonies, which vary from region to region and sect to sect. My purpose here is to find the common threads in Islamic weddings as practiced today.

The Islamic marriage is known as Nikaah, which, incidentally, is from the Arabic word akd for "to unite". Marriage in the Islamic faith is not only a social agreement but also a legal contract. This implies a "sterile", perhaps even "cold" ceremony. This is not the case. Beyond the actual formalities that must be met, Muslim weddings are actually quite festive.

The first thing I wanted to learn was who officiates an Islamic marriage since Islam does not recognize any official clergy. I was surprised to learn that any Muslim with a thorough understanding of Islamic tradition may perform the wedding ceremony. Many, however, choose to engage the services of a marriage officer, called qazi. He acts as the supervisor of the marriage.

The formalities of the wedding are threefold, consisting of the proposal, the mahr and the nikaah.

The proposal frequently goes beyond the man asking the woman for her hand in marriage, it extends to her family also. Islam does not require this but it is considered an act of respect to the woman and to her family and is strongly encouraged.

The mahr is, in its simplest terms, a gift, freely given, to the bride by her husband. Unlike the proposal, this is mandated by the Quran in Surah 4:4. Quoting from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's English translation, "And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer." Clearly, the mehr is a gift to the bride. In the course of my research, I discovered conflicting traditions that suggested the gift was to the bride's family. Dower, by definition, is a gift from the groom to the bride. I believe these are cultural differences, but, bottom-line, such gifts to the family are not mandated in the Quran. The mehr is thought to be an insurance policy of sorts, to provide for the financial security of the bride in the event of the death of the husband or divorce. The couple, not the parents, must agree upon the mehr. The mehr is the bride's right as stated in the Quran and it is a gift, freely given and not the bride's price.

The nikaah ceremony, the equivalent of vows, is very simple and straightforward. The bride says, I have given my self away in Nikaah to you, on the agreed Mahr." The groom immediately responds, "I have accepted the Nikaah." The marriage contract is signed and they become man and wife.

In some cultures, the wedding festivities last five days. Day one is dinner with the girl's family and day two is dinner with the boy's family. Day three is the Mehendi ceremony, which is for the bride and her female friends. This ceremony typically takes place at the bride's home. Mehendi (henna) patterns are used to adorn the feet and hands of the bride. Day four is the actual Nikaah ceremony. Day five, the couple dines with the bride's parents and the groom's family hosts a feast (Valimah) for friends and family.

Ronald Fisackerly is a writer for Skylighter which sells confetti cannon , confetti cannons and punk sticks as well as a variety of other items.n
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