Wedding Ceremony Tradition (In My Country)
I was already married when I converted to Islam and although my husband and I “re-married” one another before the Imam and witnesses after I took shahadah, I didn’t get to experience the joy of a traditionally Islamic wedding. Islamic wedding ceremonies within the melting pot of the U.S. often reflect the diversity of the Muslim population, as there are Muslims from various countries around the world with differing wedding traditions here, but some aspects of an Islamic wedding are fairly consistent among all Muslims.
Generally, men and women remain separate during the wedding ceremony and reception, and since Islam doesn’t sanction any official clergy, usually an Imam or any Muslim who understands Islamic tradition can officiate a wedding. Many mosques, however, do employ marriage officers, called qazi or madhun, who can oversee the marriage.
The marriage contract is signed in a nikah ceremony, during which the groom or his representative proposes to the bride in front of at least two witnesses and provides details of the maher. The bride and groom demonstrate their free will by repeating the word qabul (“I accept,” in Arabic) three times and then the couple and two male witnesses sign the contract, making the marriage legal according to civil and religious law. Following traditional Islamic customs, the bride and groom may share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date and if men and women are separated for the ceremony, a male representative called a wali acts in the bride’s behalf during the nikah.
The officiant may add an additional religious ceremony following the nikah, which usually includes a recitation of Al Fatihah and the durud (blessings). Most Muslim couples do not recite vows but rather listen as their officiant speaks about the meaning of marriage and their responsibilities to each other and to Allah (SWT). Some Muslim brides and grooms do say vows. An example which is a common recitation is:
Bride: “I, (bride’s name) offer you myself in marriage in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife.”
Groom: “I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband.”
As mentioned above, the marriage contract sometimes includes a maher or a formal statement specifying the monetary amount that the groom will give to the bride. Traditionally there are two parts to the maher: a prompt due before the marriage is consummated and a deferred amount given to the bride throughout her life. Today many couples use the ring as the prompt because the groom presents it during the nikah ceremony, and the deferred amount can be a small sum of money, land, jewelry, or even an education. The gift belongs to the bride to use as she pleases, unless the marriage breaks up before consummation. The maher is considered the bride’s security and guarantee of freedom within the marriage.
The Holy Quran states in Surah An Nisaa 4:4:
And give the women (on marriage) their dower as an obligation: but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.