Muslim world marriage customs
by Amber Rehman

In the Muslim world, marriage customs and traditions vary as much as the colors in a rainbow.

All retain the Islamic obligatory acts, which make a marriage valid and include other practices, which are individual to their surrounding cultures.

Here are customs from some parts of the Muslim world. Please note: not all Muslim marriage customs are necessarily in line with Islamic values.

India and Pakistan

In the Indian subcontinent, a marriage is reserved to three days of customs and traditions.

The Mehndi is the event where you put henna on the bride and groom's hands. Marked by traditional songs and dances, it sometimes extends to two days - one day over at the groom's place to put henna on his hand and the second day over at the bride's house to put henna on hers.

The actual Nikah is called a Shadi, which is traditionally done by the bride's side. This is the signing of official paperwork in the presence of an Imam.

After signing these papers and doing some religious ceremony, the couple is declared husband and wife. To celebrate, guests eat of the many lavish dishes that are served.

To announce the marriage officially the Walima takes place as a feast given by the groom's family. Both husband and wife welcome the guests and mingle with them while people eat dinner.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

As a tradition in the UAE, the setting of the wedding date marks the beginning of the bride's preparation for her wedding.

Although the groom is also put through a series of preparations, the bride's are more elaborate and time consuming.

She is lavished with all sorts of traditional oils and perfumes from head to toe. Traditionally, she is not seen for forty days by anyone except for family members as she rests at home in preparation for her wedding day.

During the week which precedes the wedding, traditional music, continuous singing and dancing take place, reflecting the joy shared by the bride and the groom's families.

Laylat Al Henna (literally, the night of the henna), which takes place a few days before, is very special night for the bride, since it is a ladies' night only.

On this night, the bride's hands and feet are decorated with henna. The back-to-back feasts and celebrations involve both men and women who usually celebrate separately.

Egypt

Egypt has been exposed to many civilizations, such as the Greek, Roman and Islamic ones. The marriage customs of Egyptians make it easy for a couple to get to know one another, for the families meet often.

It starts by the suitor's parents visiting his fiancee's house to get her family approval to complete the marriage and reaching an agreement, which contains two main items: an amount of money, called Mahr, paid by the suitor to his fiancee's family to help them prepare the furniture of their daughter and a valuable jewelry gift, called Shabka, given by the suitor to his fiancee. The value of this gift depends on the financial and social levels of the suitor's family.

When the two parties complete the agreement, they fix an appointed date for the engagement party.

When the house of the new family becomes ready, the two families fix a date for the wedding party.

The night before wedding day, the relatives, friends and neighbors get together to celebrate "the Henna Night".

The next day, the marriage contract is signed and registered. After sunset, the wedding party starts and the couple wears their best dresses and jewelry.

Malaysia

In the Malaysian tradition, the bride and groom are treated as "king and queen for a day".

During the betrothal, the pre-wedding meeting between the bride and the groom's parents, the dowry that will be given to the bride is determined as well as the date of the solemnization.

The berinai (henna application) ceremony is held prior to the wedding. The bride's palms and feet are 'decorated' with the dye from the henna leaves.

Akad Nikah, which is the signing of the contract, is normally presided over by a Kadhi, a religious official of the Syariat (Shariat) Court. A small sum of money called the Mas Kahwin seals the contract.

The recent trend is to hold the solemnization in the mosque as was performed during the Prophet Muhammad's (peace and blessings be upon him) time.

Singapore

In the tradition of Singapore, the Mak Andam (beautician) as well as members of the bride's family will waylay the groom and ask for an 'entrance fee after the bride is ready.

Only when they are satisfied with the amount would they allow the groom to see his bride.

After successfully overcoming the 'obstacles', the marriage ceremonies take place. Relatives sprinkle petals and rice (fertility symbols) on the couple seated on the 'throne'.


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