Islamic Marriages, Culture and Traditions
The institution of marriage is considered to be amongst the most significant and dynamic social institutions in a ‘civilized’ society. It has been accorded as one of the most important stage in one’s life. The institution of marriage – as a way of organizing relations in the society – enjoys wide social, legal and religious mandate. Since time immemorial, marriage has been considered a social obligation and a finale of an eternal happiness. Different societies and culture have different views towards marriage; some consider it to be a union of two individuals while others consider it to be a union of two families. Nonetheless, there exists abroad consent on the role of marriage as a means of lifelong companionship, procreation, and carrying forward the family lineage.
Neither any old nor any recent trend seems to have the power to beat this social construct, completely. Despite all negative notions, crimes, violence, deception and hatred involved with the institution of marriage, this social construct refuses to fade away. It survives among all odds and continues to bloom and blossom. Marriage has remained and will remain an integral part of our civilizations and society – maybe forever!!!
Weddings everywhere are defined by different rituals and traditions. They all have the same result, uniting two people that love each other and want to spend their lives together. However, no wedding is exactly the same. Aside from these rituals and traditions, personal preference and religion also take part in the entire process. Across the globe, there are various versions of this universal phenomenon.
With approximately 1.6 billion Muslims across ranging the world from different states and backgrounds, their traditions and customs are anticipated to be a unique blend of religion and culture – making the traditions all the more exciting! Similarly, Islam also stretches across an assorted terrain of culture and politics with supporters and practices carrying in accordance to the countries from which they hail. Marriages in Islam are considered as a religious commitment, an agreement among the couple and their God i.e. Allah.
Meaning/Connotation of Marriage in Islam
The teachings of Quran (the holy book of Muslims), states that both wife and husband are paralleled with clothing. This implies that both the wife and husband are each other’s guardian and comforter, similar to the clothing which covers and conceals the human body, thus, protecting and comforting it. The Quran states, "And among His Signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]…". Marriages hold much significance in the Muslim community and its main purpose is to ensure the sanctuary of the religion by the means of the formation of a family. The family unit in Islam is destined to be productive, facilitating, inspiring and respectful towards each other.
The Concept of Islamic Marriage
Islam strongly advocates the institute of marriage and strictly prohibits celibacy. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said “There is no place for Celibacy in Islam”.
Marriage serves as a channel to fulfill the sexual cravings and controls it so one is not subjugated to their desires. Marriage is a social necessity as through this process families which are the basic unit of a society are established. In addition, the institute of marriage is the one and only legitimate method to indulge in relationship between two genders.
The purpose of marriage is that the sexes can offer company to each other, procreate lawful offspring & live in peacefulness of fulfilling the directives of Allah. Marriages also serve as a mean of gratifying to sexual and emotional desires and as a mean of reducing tension by sharing the issues with the better half and finding a solution together.
Although Islamic marriage allows polygamy under numerous conditions as stated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) yet it completely forbids polyandry.
Marriages Before the Advent of Islam
Before the advent of Islam, several unethical traditions and practices prevailed in Arab. These traditions included
(i) purchasing girls from their parents in exchange of money.
(ii) Momentary marriages.
(iii) simultaneously marrying two real sisters.
(iv) no restriction in aborting and again accepting the same woman.
These immoral customs had to be eradicated and Islam with its advent brought an extreme change in the conception of marriage.
The Compulsion of Marriage in Islam
According to the religious leaders like Malik ibn Anas, Imam Abu Hanifa, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal wedding in Islam is not compulsory but it is preferable and recommendatory and yet, in some cases it is considered to be obligatory. In the case where a person doubts that if he does not marry he’s compelled to be involved in committing fornication, then marriage is considered compulsory. On the other hand, according to Islam a person should not marry if he is incapable of maintaining the expenses of his wife or future family or if he is sexually unfit or if dislikes children, or if he thinks that the marriage will have a serious impact on his religious duties.
The marriage is an essential institute in Islam and its considered as half of an individual’s faith.
The Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) said: -
“When a man marries he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half.”
Prerequisites for Marriage in Islam
The prerequisites for marriage in Islam are as follows: -
- The person should be capable of maintaining the expenses of his wife or future family.
- Every person of healthy mind and body who have attained puberty is capable of marrying.
- A slightly insane person who not reached puberty can also be authentically contracted in marriage by their respective guardians.
- approval of both the parties involved is a must.
- Marriages are required to announced publicly and should not be observed in secrecy
Dating Practices in Islam
In majority of the Islamic communities and civilizations it is not acceptable and permitted that young people are actively involved in the search for a partner by adopting rites and means like dating. Islam encourages the young men and women are intensely encouraged to marry as soon as they reach the ae of puberty, as the foundation of family is identified as the basis of Islamic society. The traditional Islamic regulations does not permit the boys and girls to date or intermix, which brings forth a more drawn-out and cautious practice. Majority of Islamic marriages are an outcome of the decisions taken by the children’s guardians or parents. The parents select suitable matrimonial companions for their children. Some essential characteristics in selecting a mate are chastity and faith. Forced’ marriages, where the bride has not given her consent or is excessively pressurized to accept the proposal is well-thought-out to be illegitimate in all schools of Islamic regulations. Thus, in Islam, forced marriages are unquestionably and explicitly prohibited.
As traditional Muslim societies are normally homogeneous religiously which makes it easier to find socially acceptable partners via traditional ways and means. The setup of the Islamic communities is that the friends, families, and social services are utilized to facilitate people in finding their better half. On the other hand, in non-Muslim states like the USA, there is no universal process for seeking a spouse or matchmaking. Thus, the Muslims in these countries are bound to utilize substitute means to seek a companion in a manner that meticulously simulates the conventional Islamic process. The Muslims in such countries seek help from the Islamic organizations or imams. The different Islamic organizations like Nation of Islam, Islamic Society of North America, and Muslim Alliance of North America allows people to encounter each other at their yearly annual concords. For a person who values religious piousness in a companion but is not a part of Muslim social setup, the imam, who is a part of these communities serves to be a treasured source of direction.
Nowadays, even the internet also provides chances for Muslim individuals to come across each other. Over the last decade, the matchmaking websites have emerged as a popular means to come across other people and seek the best suitable spouse. Adeem Younis, started the initial Islamic matchmaking website named SingleMuslim.com. this website was in conformity with the Islamic principles and it gained much popularity. Similarly, other Halal websites like helahel.com and SingleMuslim.com offer the info about the person’s religiousness, about his prayer habits, fasting, observance of other pillars of Islam, hobbies, political views, family values etc. Thus, these websites help to develop individuality while preserving traditional Islamic principles of matchmaking. The Islamic theological scholars, however disagree over the rationality of these websites; nevertheless, these sites carry on to increase in numbers and are being avidly adopted and considered as mean to broaden the depth of selections for people searching for a companion.
The Right to Divorce
Islam requires a person to be married in accordance with the legal and religious necessities of their country. Islam does not consider the marriage to be established in heaven amongst the soul-mates meant for each other. Instead marriage is taken as a social contract that brings rights and responsibilities to both parties involved, which can only be successful if the partners mutually respect and cherish each other. Thus, it is important that married couple should try their best to make their better half contented and gratified in every respect. A true Muslims will follow the Islamic rules and most of the times they only marry once in their lifetime.
However, if such agreements are broken, either partner is permitted to seek out divorce. Islam is based on realistic grounds and thus, it is not presumed that a married pair will remain wed locked together till death apart them. Islamic teachings reflect that in case things go wrong the marriage contract can be ended for different type of reasons. However, marriages in Islam are supposed to be commenced with the best of intents, and it is considered as the ultimate model of leading a peaceful life. Although divorce is permitted, the best is to settle the issues with the better half, yet of all the halal things Allah likes the act of divorce the least.
Before the advent of Islam, it was considered a normal practice for men to marry more than once and have many wives which he can physical and financially support. Similarly, influential and rich women also married more than one person. One main difference among Islam and other religions is that Islam till this day allows a man to have more than one wife. In Islam a man is allowed to have simultaneously four wives – but it is not done to the harm and hurt the other Muslim partner.
The denial of hurting or abusing another Muslim is a rudimentary condition in Islam, and is also presumed in polygamous marriage concerns. If an individual feel that he would not be able to treat all his wives with love, kindness, and conscientious impartiality, he is forbidden to marry more than one women. On the other hand, it is compulsory for the Muslim women to marry only one man at a time – however, they can marry other man after ending the contact (Nikkah) with the first husband.
Islam inspires its followers to seek for their companion on the basis of compatibility through piousness, rather than falling for wealth, appearances, or status. Individuals originating from varied backgrounds can also lead a happy life together if their comprehension and practice of Islam is well-matched.
Choosing of Significant other
Islam permits polygyny with specific limits but polyandry is strictly prohibited. The Quran directly addresses the matter of polygyny in Chapter 4 Verse 3, "...Marry of the women that you please: two, three, or four. But if you feel that you should not be able to deal justly, then only one or what your right hand possesses. That would be more suitable to prevent you from doing injustice." Thus, Islam approves the multiple marriages but only in the case where the husband is able to do justice amongst all his wives.
Even though the practice of polygamy has experienced a declining trend and many Islamic countries including Tunisia and Turkey have entirely banned it, yet, it still holds legitimacy in more than 150 countries including Middle East, Africa, and mainly the third world countries. Ever since the twentieth century and the growth of several feminist movements, female empowerment, the fluctuating economic circumstances, and recognition to the family planning practices, the polygamous wedding have sternly deteriorated and is no longer taken as a feasible marriage exercise in the Muslim world.
The homosexuality of both the female and male are forbidden and openly condemned in Quran and Islamic law. Regarding the interfaith partners and marriages, the rules are much stern for Muslim women as compared to Muslim men. The principal schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept Shari'a guidelines which explicitly state that a Muslim man or women may marry a Christian or Jewish person (non- Catholic, non-Moronist, and non-Jesuit) but no other unbeliever. Although regarding this perspective there exists a substantial amount of disagreement arises from the mainstream of conformist Islamic intellectuals and interpreters.
The Muslims usually have arranged marriages which is although not an Islamic requirement, but then again parents should make efforts and do their utmost to ensure that their children settle with virtuous life-companions. These arranged marriages are to be observed with the willingness consent of the couple. The couple is allowed to accept or reject the proposal with any valid reason. The Muslim youngsters are not allowed or encouraged to mingle with the opposite gender - and thus are secure from the effects of inappropriate relations and their tragic consequences. A Muslim boy or girl is anticipated to be a virgin on their first marriage. On the other hand, Islam forbids the parents to force or hoax children into marriage. Regrettably, there have been cases around the world but better understanding of Islam through acquiring Islamic education from an authentic source are bound to improve the situation. Even though many marriages are decided by the parents, the willingness of the couple is also essentially involved.
The marriage agreement take account of a Meher, which is an official declaration specifying the financial amount which the groom presents to the bride. The husband is supposed to make a payment to his future wife before the marriage. The bride usually keeps the amount with herself and uses it as she please. There are basically two parts to the financial deal known as Meher: an instant amount is consummated afore the marriage and a deferred quantity that is given to the bride during the course of her life. The main aim of Meher is to offer the bride security and assurance of independence in the marriage.
Nowadays, numerous couples present a ring to their wife and it is considered as the prompt Meher. The deferred sum can be minor, a formality, or a gift of cash, land, jewels, or anything valuable. The gifts are considered as the bride’s belongings which can be used in any manner she wishes. Numerous Muslim women bigheartedly use their Meher money in supporting their partners in some manner, though it is not mandatory for them. Islam considers it the obligation of the husband to support his family at his personal expense.
If the bride at any point in life seeks a separation or divorce for which the husband is not willing, she will have to return the Meher and seek for Khula (divirce) through court. However, if the divorce occurred for some reasons, the bride would be permitted to keep the Meher. Although Islam permits divorce but still it is considered best to find ways to settle the issues. Of all the halal things and actions, divorce is the least approved aspect by Allah.
Nikah or Katb El-Kitab
The main requisite of an Islamic weddings is the signing of a marriage agreement lso known as “Nikkah”. Marriage traditions vary and are reliant on Islamic sect, culture, and adherence to gender separation rules. Majority of the marriages are not held in mosques, and in Islamic marriage it is a general practice that men and women remain isolated during the reception and ceremony. As Islam does not permit any official clergy, any Muslim having an understanding of Islamic traditions or an Imam of a nearby mosque is capable of officiating a marriage.
It’s quite valid to claim that without undertaking this ritual, the Islamic marriage theoretically does not occur! The Nikah or Katb El-Kitab is the Islamic marriage observance that is of extreme spiritual significance. The ceremony of Nikkah is conventionally prepared by the bride's side. Groom along with his friends and family arrives at the bride’s house in the form of a procession called Barat. After the reception of the Barat, the couple is seated in the company of a Muslim cleric and two male witnesses for both the bride and groom. It is also not necessary for the bride to be present and she can send two witnesses from her side to the drawn-up contract. It is essential that the Nikkah ceremony is held under the supervision of a Qazi, an officiant, or an Imam.
Nikkah usually starts with an Istikhara ritual, in which the religious leaders in the Muslim community pray to Allah and ask for His blessings. Different Quranic verses are recited on the vital obligations of marriage. This ritual can be thought of a “for health or for sickness, for good or for bad, for poor or for better” sort of exchange of oaths in front of witnesses from both parties. Finally, a prayer is delivered and it is essential that both parties show their consent to the marriage.
Finally, the couple signs the obligatory agreement which certifies the civic and religious sanctity and authorization of the marriage. The ceremony in which the marriage agreement is signed is known as Nikah. In this ritual, the groom or his representative proposes the bride in the company of two witnesses testifying the particulars of the Meher. In this ceremony, the couple express their free will by reiterating I accept, three times. Then the officiant, the couple, and the witnesses sign the contract. If the ceremony is held separately for men and women then a male representative identified as a wali performs on the bride's behalf during the NikKah. As per the traditional Islamic practices, after the Nikkah the couple share a piece of date or sweets. In the end, the couple receives blessings from their family and friends and the couple is showered with lots of gifts.
The officiant/Imam/Qazi may incorporate an extra religious ritual following the nikah, which typically take account of a reading of the first few verses of Quran and durud (blessings). Majority of the Muslim pairs only listen and pay attention to the officiant’s sermon about the purpose, importance of the matrimony and their accountabilities to each other and to their God. On the other hand, some Muslim couples utter their vows in the following manner:
Bride: "I, offer you myself in matrimony that is in conformity with the guidelines of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH). I pledge, in righteousness and with genuineness, to be for you a faithful and obedient wife."
Groom: "I pledge, in sincerity and honesty, to be for you a helpful and a faithful husband."
After this couple is declared husband and wife. As soon as prayers, the celebrations start the guests hug and congratulate the couple and their extended family members. After the nikkah is announced sweets including almonds, dried dates, and sweets are distributed among the guests. The Nikkah of numerous weddings is held at a mosque and if not, after the ceremony the groom is lead to the mosque where he prays and thanks to Allah for a healthy, wealthy, and happy future.
In Islam, not every individual completes their wedding physically instantly; at times the bride may be too young, and at times the couple might not be able to start new life instantly for some reasons. In such a case, a wedding contract (Nikahnama) can be prepared, signed and observed without the presence of the bride and the departure of the bride can be planned later as suited.
It is choice and affordability of the couple that this event might be a close one with limited guests or an extravagant affair. Of course, Islamic staple food, dates, and delicious sweets are served to treat the guests.
After Nikkah, the Valima is the second main aspect of a traditional Muslim marriage ceremony. The lunch/dinner reception after the wedding is known as Valima. This banquet is arranged and hosted by the groom's family. The ceremony of Valima is observed as following the Sunnah of holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). The conventional wedding feast consist of family, friends, relatives, and neighbors. The ceremony of Valima is arranged to wish the wedding couple a healthy, wealthy and successful life. However, for some visiting Valima ceremony for the first time, it can be a cultural shock as it’s a loud and colorful feast to the senses, with the charms of music, cultural food, and festivity.
Islam is a complete code of all life for all Muslims. It offers guidance and direction in leading a happy and satisfied life. However, nowadays, many Muslim wedding traditions only appear to be a substance of culture and not of Islamic features.