FAQ's on marriage in Islam
By Imam Yusuf Ziya Kavakci

What are the very basics of a Muslim marriage?

The very basics of a Muslim marriage are the following:

a. Nikah is a contract (Aqd) between a man and woman who are not prohibited to marry each other.

b. Consent: Bride and groom expressing their will to marry each other in public. Consent must be expressed in understandable way.

c. Wittnesses: There must be at least two Muslims wittnesses present in the couple's declaration of marrying each other.

c. Mahr Gift: This is a gift given by the groom to the bride either at the wedding.

Mahr can be gold, silver, money, land, a car, an apartment, a house which will be given by the would-be-husband to his would-be-wife. Mahr is the property or the wealth of the bride. The bride owns the Mahr. She will dispose of it as she wishes.

Who is a Wali in marriage and what do they do?

Wali in English means guardian or custodian. A woman's Wali in marriage is a person responsible for that sister. If there is none available, then the Wali is the Imam.

Although Hanafi school of Islamic law does not make wali's consent a condition of marriage, some of the other Madhabs (schools of thought) say if there is no Wali, then a sister cannot marry. But there are also minority views that say it is okay if the sister directly gives her consent without a Wali. In other words, if there is no Wali the marriage is okay. This is mainly a saving point which brings easiness to sisters who have converted to Islam or those whose families don't accept whom they want to marry. It is also for those where suitable Imams are not present.

What is a Walima?

Walima is Sunnah. This is a feast given after the marriage by the couple, which the husband pays for. Walima is a party of joy for the celebration of the newly formed family and for announcing that this couple are now husband and wife.

During the celebration, relatives and friends of both the husband and the wife, as well as community members are invited to get acquainted with each other, to enjoy food and to relax and begin a nice relationship through the marriage.

Where should the marriage ceremony be held?

Islamically, no space is fixed for Nikah, for contract, for wedding, or for the party. Any decent, Islamically acceptable place, house, home is fine.

If the Nikah is held in a Masjid, the prayer hall cannot be used for an elaborate wedding party because that is dedicated for Salah and Ibadah in the strict sense.

But the part that is not dedicated to that, like meeting places and classrooms can be used for the reception. Of course this is part of the bigger picture of what is the definition of Masjid.

Is it Haram (forbidden) to have Mehndi/henna party?

I cannot say it is Haram because Haram is something that needs to be based on Nass (evidence expressed clearly in the Quran or Sunnah). I would say it is cultural, it is okay.

As long as it fits in general restrictions, observes Islamic rules and regulations in general terms, I would say it is okay for sisters to have a celebration to prepare the bride for this big responsibility she is getting ready for. Henna is allowed.

Is it Halal to have bridal shower?

I know in this country there is something called bridal shower as there are other (i.e. baby) showers taking place. I could not say it is Haram because the definition of Haram needs to be based on evidence in Quran and Sunnah.

At the same time I would not say it is Sunnah. But I would say it is okay that a bridal shower is specially done for that sister who is getting married by her friends as long as Islamicity is observed in general terms.

I am not going to ascribe to that view that it is Haram because it looks like the practices of Christians and non-Muslims.

Considering the Hadith which says that anyone who imitates a people is of them, one must not forget that the term used in this Hadith "Tashabbaha" has a "shadda" in it. This comes from Baab TafaÕul which is for Takalluf which basically means anybody who does something with the intention of looking like others.

This refers to the ones who want to look like non-Muslims in religion, in Deen, in their rules, that is the subject here, not the cultural, not general appearances.

Who is qualified to officiate marriages?

According to Islamic law, there is no required officiating person fixed for marriage. You may have noticed that in the requirements of the marriage contract, we did not mention the presence of an Imam.

In Islamic law, marriage is a contract between a man and a woman.

So if would be husband asks for marriage to a marriageable woman in front of two Muslim male witnesses and she accepts, that is a marriage.

It is not necessary to have a written marriage contract, however, it is recommended to write it down.

Is it Haram to offer food on marriage day (Nikah)?

It is not Haram to offer food on the wedding day or any other day. One may offer food, one may not offer food. This is not something binding in Sunnah but it is not Haram, it is cultural.

It is totally okay to eat as long as the food is Halal, the earning of the person who offered this food has no Haram in it, but it is not Haram as long as the food is Halal and the environment is okay.

Is it Halal to do paper marriage?

I find it difficult to answer this question. There is a conflict of laws involved here. But I will give you my personal interpretation, and I totally understand if someone disagrees with me.

First, decency and truthfulness are the bases of human relations as well as according to Islamic law between men and women, husbands and wives. Truthfulness, keeping the promise and loyalty are very very important, especially for the husband and wife.

From that point of view, something with a hidden agenda in those contracts is not something encouraged by Islam. The persons who are doing any type of marriage relations between each other, men and women, according to Islamic law, even if they do it jokingly that is to be taken as a valid one because there is a Hadith which says Nikah (marriage), Talaq (divorce) and emancipation of slaves, the joking one (Hazl) and serious ones (Jidd) are the same.

Because of that, I feel personally, difficulty in qualifying marriage on paper for the purpose of green card only or other purposes as invalid in Islamic law, nonexistent in Islamic law or nil as they say, void or Baatil. I would say yes it is a marriage, there is a Nikah (Aqd) between this man and woman since they have this agreement with each other, even if it is in appearance.

So all of the obligations and duties of marriage must be applied by the husband the wife involved in a paper marriage. They need to become serious about the marriage, seek forgiveness from Allah for this deception and fraud, and live as husband and wife.

If a woman becomes Muslim who is happily married to a non-Muslim husband, what should we advise her to do if he does not want to become Muslim or wants to take time to think about it?

First, in Islamic law, a sister who becomes Muslim, having married earlier, she becomes automatically divorced from a non-Muslim husband and no procedural things are needed for that to happen.

I would say of course, if the husband accepts Islam, they can continue living as husband and wife. If they simultaneously become Muslim, no new Nikah is necessary.

But if she became Muslim earlier and it took time for him, then a new Nikah is necessary.

But practically struggling with these issues here and knowing other brothers who are struggling with these issues here longer than me, I would say we need to find a soft way of tackling this subject, like giving this sister a chance to to tell her husband, 'I cannot be your wife anymore if you donÕt accept Islam. I donÕt want to be your wife anymore if you donÕt accept Islam'.

We need at least a separate room if not house for the wife to go to to give some time to that husband to think about it and adjust himself to the situation.

Is a civil marriage valid Islamically if the bride and groom were married in front of witnesses?

I would divide this answer into two perspectives.

If it is done anywhere with Muslim witnesses, and with Ijab (offer of marriage) and Qubool (acceptance) with the announcement consent, I think that is an Islamically acceptable marriage.

From my perspective, marriages done in the presence of a judge here in this country, if witnesses were there, from my perspective that is an Islamically valid marriage.

According to the Hanafi Madhab, the civil marriage could still be valid if Mahr was not fixed in the contract since the default Mahr rule is in effect.

However, other Madhabs would not recognize the civil contract due to the lack of Mahr, for instance.

But if the marriage is done by the authority of another religion, other than Islam, like marriages done in churches, synagogues, Buddhist or Hindu temples, by the authority of that religion, who observed the rules of their own religion, other than Islam, I feel difficulty in qualifying these types of marriages as Islamically acceptable or valid marriages according to Islamic law.

A note on prenuptial agreements

Since this is a country where Islamic law is not the law of the land, it is always good to take measures where Islamic law could be applied as much as possible and the rights of Muslims, husbands and wives, could be guaranteed as much as possible.

It is good, I would say necessary, to benefit from the law of the land and to get their protection, the protection of the law of the land, in terms of documentation, in terms of court systems.

For this purpose, I think no Muslim marriage must be performed without having a marriage license given by marriage offices of the state. These marriage licenses with their blank spaces may be used by Islamic centers, by Imams in their marriage contracts and everything could be recorded on that paper.

'In this context, Muslims could benefit from the prenuptial agreement system by writing down all conditions they would observe in their married life including following Islam and Shariah and that conflicts will be solved by Muslim courts. In case there are none, then by Muslim mediators and arbitrators who would be selected by the parties and Islamic law would be followed in the solution of these conflicts.

So couples may prepare these prenuptial marriage agreements, with their signatures on them and get them notarized. Then the rights of couples according to their belief system will be guaranteed and practiced in any condition everywhere in the world.

Prenuptial agreements come before the law of the land when conflict arises. So this is a nice opportunity for Muslims to guarantee their rights of Islamic belief and also to let Islamic law be applied on their family life.

Imam Yusuf Ziya Kavakci is Imam of the Dallas Central Mosque in Richardson, Texas.

He memorized Quran before the age of 10. He is originally from Turkey and has studied Islam in a traditional Ottoman Madrassa. He has a Ph.D.. in Islamic law from the Institute of Islamic Research of Istanbul University in Turkey.

Sound Vision interviewed Imam Kavakci, who has specialized in the Hanafi school of thought of Islamic law, about a number of questions relating to marriage in Islam, and some current issues facing Muslims in North America.


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