Muslim weddings are usually conducted solemnly, with the family members and friends of the couple present, as well as officiating clerics.
There are various stages involved in the process, and everything is done according to the guidelines provided in the Holy Quran.
With excerpts from reputable Muslim wedding websites, we present to you all the details you should know about theNikkah ceremony and activities leading up to the wedding itself:
Selecting a potential spouse: This is the first stage in planning a Muslim wedding. In choosing a potential partner, religion is the first and foremost thing to be considered. However, this does not negate the role that other qualities such as family, education and beauty can play in making a decision. In fact, it is strongly recommended for the bride and groom to look at one another and find mutual attraction, but religion is an essential foundation. If adhered to sincerely, religion provides a comprehensive way of life and leads an individual to have other good qualities, such as honesty, patience, kindness, etc.
The engagement (Khitbah): Once the groom and bride (including the bride’s Wali, or legal guardian) agree on the marriage, then the Khitbah (or engagement) can take place. This is just a promise on both sides to agree on the marriage. After the proposal has been accepted, no one else can subsequently propose to the girl. It is important to note that the khitbah (engagement) period still does not allow the engaged couple to speak to each other without necessity, whether in person, online, or via text (sms). It also does not allow any type of physical touching, or for the couple to be in seclusion.
Nikkah (Wedding contract): All of the actions mentioned as impermissible during the engagement phase (above), only become permissible once the nikkah (contract) is concluded. The consummation can take place right after the nikkah, at which time all of the responsibilities of providing for the wife become the responsibility of the husband. Alternatively, the consummation can also be delayed until a later time after the nikkah.
The Nikkah process itself includes the following are the essential components:
The Wali (Guardian): The bride requires a Wali (legal guardian) to be a part of the nikkah. This may be her father, uncle, brother or any such elder. The wali should also undertake the responsibility of examining the qualities of the potential husband to ensure he is a good match. If a Muslim man is marrying a Christian orJewish woman, the woman is required to have a wali from her particular religious faith, and a Muslim cannot be the guardian of a non-Muslim woman, just as a non-Muslim man cannot be the guardian of a Muslim woman. A convert sister should also have a wali, which can be a trustworthy member of her community or family who ensures that her rights are respected and upheld throughout the process.
Witnesses: At least two witnesses are required for the marriage. Although not required, witnesses often consist of one from the groom’s side and one from the bride’s side. In addition to having the quality of trustworthiness, it is a wise practice to choose witnesses that may serve as arbitrators for the couple in the case of conflict or dispute.
The Mahr: The Mahr is a cash or other non-monetary gift by the groom to the bride and intended as a symbol of commitment and acceptance of the responsibilities of marriage; it can be paid at the time of the wedding or delayed, but is an agreement which must be honoured and it is recommended that it be specified within the marriage contract. The mahr is exclusively owned by the bride to utilize however she chooses. It is also important to note that the mahr amount does not have to be extravagant, and in fact the lower the mahr, the more theBarakah (blessings) in the wedding. While the giving of gifts is encouraged, and a beautiful practice which helps build a loving relationship, part of the wisdom behind a modest mahr is the idea that a marriage should never be motivated by a love of wealth for its own sake. The mahr is also never intended to be a roadblock that prevents the young or less-wealthy from being able to marry.
The contract: It is highly recommended for the marriage contract to be written. While the contract can include additional stipulations, at a minimum, the contract needs to include the names of the groom, bride, and witnesses, and it is strongly recommended that it includes the details of the mahr. The marriage contract is not valid without the consent of the bride.
Acceptance: As a part of the nikkah process, the Wali should make a verbal proposal to the groom (Ijaab). Upon hearing the proposal, the groom is required to voice his acceptance verbally (Qabool) which must be voiced using definitive language. Regarding the language to be used, the strongest opinion is that ijaab and qabool can be in the parties’ primary spoken language such as English, just as long as both parties consent to doing so and the groom utilizes definitive language.
Declaration (‘ilan) and wedding feast (Walima): A declaration (‘ilan) which publicly shares the fact that the marriage has officially occurred is a required part of the process. It is highly encouraged for the announcement to take place as a part of a Walima. The walima can be hosted at the time of the nikkah or at the time of the consummation. It consists of a meal that people from the bride and groom’s community are invited to share and enjoy as guests. As is the case with the mahr, the walima can also be simple and is never intended to be a roadblock that prevents the young or less-wealthy from being able to marry.