Seeking Marriage and the Marriage Ceremony in Islam (Islam 5.1)

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Objectives: Recall the main parts of the marriage ceremony and consider the importance of marriage in Islam.

Marriage is a legal union between a man and woman without which they cannot be together. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) considered marriage to be a part of Sunnah, then added: “whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me.” In another narration, he said: “O young people, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for marriage controls the gaze and protects the private parts from prohibited acts. And if one is unable to marry, he should fast for it is a shield.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This narration is guidance from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) directed towards the Muslim youth specifically, due to the fact that desires and lusts in the young adults are stronger and thus the need for them to marry is greater. For this reason, he (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged them with marriage. Allah stated, “Say [O Prophet] to the believing men to lower their gazes and to guard their chastity for that is purer for them. Indeed Allah is all-aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and to guard their chastity..” [An-Noor: 30-31] So looking at the opposite sex has inherent dangers that a person cannot escape from except by three affairs:

  1. To lower the gaze and not to hold glances.
  2. Marriage for the one who is able to do so.
  3. Fasting for the one who is not able to marry, for it is a shield.

Allah (the Most High) stated: “And let those who cannot find the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste until Allaah enriches them from His Bounty.” [An-Noor: 33] And from being chaste is lowering the gaze and keeping away from the places of tribulation, and to avoid freely-mixing with the opposite sex as all of these are means to tribulation as is known to every intelligent and wise person. Allah stated, “And marry those amongst you who are single and the righteous of your male and female servants. If they are poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty.” [an-Noor: 32]

Marriage is strongly recommended in Islam and most Muslims believe that it is their duty to marry and have children as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did. Marriage is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the Muslim world as we’ll see in a later article (inshā’ Allāh).

There are common key features legislated in Islam: The willing consent of both parties, the consent of the guardian for his ward (usually a daughter) to marry, the presence of two just Muslim witnesses, and the giving of the dowry to the bride by the groom.

1. Willing consent: Both parties must willingly agree to the marriage in front of at least two trustworthy Muslim witnesses. This is to make sure that no one is forced to marry because forced-marriages are forbidden in Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed a woman to have her marriage cancelled when she complained that she was married to a man without her consent. The Prophet stated: “A previously married woman cannot be married off until she is consulted, and a virgin cannot be married off until she gives her consent.” He was asked: “And how does she give consent?” He replied: “By her silence (if she is shy to speak).” (Bukhari and Muslim) The Scholar and Jurist, Sālih Al-Fawzān stated: “This narration is also a proof that a woman is not compelled or forced into marriage, regardless of whether she is a virgin or previously married.

And those who make a difference between a virgin and a woman previously married by saying: “It is allowed to compel the virgin into marriage, but not a woman who has been previously married”, then this distinction is not correct and opposes the evidence.” Ibn ‘Abbās said: “A virgin girl came to the Prophet and stated that her father had married her off against her will. So Allah’s Messenger allowed her to choose [to either stay with him or to leave him].” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Mājah) Yet you still find those who oppose this claiming that the guardian has a right to compel a woman under his care. So this narration is a clear evidence in this matter.

Each person is simply asked if they will accept the other as their husband or wife. When they answer “yes”, and the guardian agrees, the witnesses bear witness, the dowry is stated and accepted, then two copies of the marriage contract are signed by all those involves. One copy is kept in the Mosque or Islamic centre and the other with the married couple. Though the signing of the contract is not a condition, it is however deemed to be better since a record of the marriage contract is useful when disputes arise over what was agreed, or when travelling to other lands or when a written proof is requested by a judge etc.

2. The contract: The marriage contract is drawn up by the couple and their families. It sets out what each partner can expect from the other. Some modern-day contracts mention what will happen “if the marriage fails” and ends in divorce. Traditional contracts see no need for such additions since the success and failure of a marriage in the Hand of Allah and then upon the couple to make it work. And if it fails, then Sharī’ah Law decides the course of action. Marriage contracts, written or otherwise have existed since the earliest of times. A husband may include in the contract that she lives with his elderly parents, or assist him with children from a previous marriage. A wife may request in the contract that she is allowed to drive or get an online degree or request from her husband that he provides for children from a previous marriage.

Roles in Marriage:

Role of the wife:

  1. Bring up her children as Muslims.
  2. Run the home efficiently.
  3. Obey her husband unless he orders her to break God’s law.
  4. Dress with a correct hijāb when outside the home.
  5. Be faithful and not have prohibited relationships with men outside of marriage.

Role of the husband:

  1. Always act towards his wife according to the teachings of Islam.
  2. Support his family and provide them with food, clothing, shelter and access to education.
  3. Be faithful and not have prohibited relationships with women outside of marriage.

3. The dowry: The husband is commanded by the Quran and Sunnah to give a dowry which is a wedding gift of money or possessions to his wife. She may do with it whatever she pleases.

4. The permission of the guardian. The presence of a “walee” i.e. a guardian. So a marriage is not sound and correct except with a guardian who contracts the marriage for the woman and gives his permission. If she was to marry herself, then the marriage would be invalid. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) stated, “There is no marriage except with a guardian.”(Ahmad and Abu Dawood) And in a narration, he said, “There is no marriage except with a guardian and two witnesses.” (Ibn Hibbān and others). The guardian is the closest male blood relative on her father’s side beginning with the father. As for her blood relatives through her mother, such as the maternal uncle, or her grandfather on her mother’s side, or her brother through her mother but not through her father, or the son of her maternal aunt, then all of these are male relatives from her mother’s side – and from this side they are not considered as her guardians. Rather her guardians are males from the father’s side beginning with the closest (i.e. her father) then the next in closeness. And if she does not have a guardian, then her guardian is the Muslim ruler, as will be discussed later – and this is due to the fact that the ruler is the guardian of the one who has no guardian. A non-Muslim cannot be a guardian in marriage.  The Prophet stated, “Any woman who gets married without the permission of her guardian (walee), then her marriage is invalid.” He repeated it three times. Then he said: “If he consummates with her, she is entitled to the dowry due to his making permissible her private parts. And if they dispute over her guardianship, then ruler is the guardian of the one who has no guardian.” (Abu Dawood and Ibn Mājah)

Shaikh Al-Fawzān and other jurists state: If a woman’s guardians dispute, and differ between themselves or the woman differs with her guardians over a marriage partner – and she is in the right (after investigation), then the guardianship transfers to the ruler or to the deputy of the ruler (such as a governor, minister or a court judge). In the non-Muslim countries, it is those who take the role or the place of the ruler in this affair, such as the Islamic centres (i.e. those in charge of them). So that would be the head of an Islamic organisation, or the head of an Islamic centre, who takes on the role of the guardian, because he has the role of religious responsibility, and takes on the role of guardianship. So this would be the case for women who convert to Islam.

If her father prevents her from marriage, then guardianship is transferred from him to another near relative. And if there is no near relative, then it is transferred to the ruler and so on. So the affairs are under the guidelines of the Sharī’ah, not disorderly or chaotic.

5. Witnesses: The presence of two witnesses to the contract of marriage. And they must be trustworthy.

The Pillars of the Marriage (Nikāh) areMaking the proposal of marriage and accepting it; both parties, the bride and groom are free from any impediment or obstacle that prevents the marriage from going ahead and being concluded.

The Conditions of Marriage are four:

  1. The guardian’s permission – and he is the father or whoever he appoints, or whoever takes his place (if the father has died or is a non-Muslim).
  2. Two just Muslim witnesses.
  3. The willingness of both the bride and the groom, each one being pleased with the other and making that known at the time of the marriage (i.e. the aqd an-nikāh)
  4. That both parties are named, the groom is named and the bride is named. It is not sufficient that the guardian merely states: “I have hereby married my daughter to you.” Rather he must name her specifically because it is possible that he has a few daughters, so it is not known which one he has married off. Likewise, it is not said, “I have married her to your son,” because he may have a few sons, so it is not known which one. So it is necessary to name each of them.

6. Spreading news of the marriage: Sheikh Al-Fawzān stated: It is obligatory, or even a condition according to some of the Scholars to spread the news of the marriage. Either way, it is a must to do so – and the intent behind announcing the marriages is that they are not kept secret.

The Prophet said, “Announce the marriages.” (Ahmad and Al-Hākim) He also said, “Announce this marriage and strike the drum for it.” (Tirmidhi and Ibn Mājah) The beating of the “duff” (drum) by the women is a type of announcing because whoever hears it, comes to know that a marriage has taken place – and they rejoice, and the people supplicate for the marriage to be blessed. This is not to be accompanied by other musical instruments as that is prohibited by textual evidence. As for specifically playing the drum, then it is allowed on the occasions of marriage for the purpose of announcing the marriage and happiness.

From the types of announcing is to carry out a “waleemah” (a meal or feast for invited guests), either upon the contract of the marriage or upon the consummation of the marriage. The Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) said: “Perform a waleemah (a wedding feast for guests) even if it is with one sheep.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The wedding ceremony and waleemah in Islam take place in an environment of segregation between the sexes – in separate rooms or halls. A marriage unites two families and brings together communities and strengthens bonds of brotherhood in Islam. In British law, this contract is not legally binding. There will have to be a civil ceremony as well if the husband and wife want the rights that British law gives to married couples.

Muslims are strongly encouraged to treat marriage as a lifelong commitment. They are required to keep to the marriage contract. Islam allows divorce if the marriage breaks down.


  1. What is the meaning of a marriage contract?
  2. What is the dowry?
  3. Why is it important that witnesses are present?
  4. Give two points that a husband may add to the contract?
  5. Give two points that a wife may add to the contract?
  6. “Muslims can divorce whenever they want. This means that they do not take marriages seriously.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain.


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