The Islamic religion recommends that a couple get to know each other before marriage is considered, however they are not permitted to be alone in a closed room or go out together unchaperoned. The parents usually arrange marriages through recommendation, but the couple must both be in agreement to the union.
Mahr is the marriage gift that a new wife is entitled to and no marriage is regarded as being valid without it. It is a token commitment of the husband and may be paid in cash, property or material goods or can be non-material such as a commitment to teaching his wife to read the Qur’an. The mahr may be paid immediately or deferred to a later date. However, a deferred mahr is still due in the event of death or divorce.
The Marriage Ceremony
Marriage is considered to be a social activity as well as an act of worship (ibadah). A Muslim marriage ceremony (called Al Nikah) begins with an address of a marriage sermon (khutba-tun-nikah) by the officiator, who can be any worthy Muslim. The sermon invites the bride and groom, as well as their guests, to a life of piety, mutual love, kindness and social responsibility. Beginning with the praise of Allah, His help and guidance is sought. This is followed by the Muslim confession of faith that ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His servant and messenger’ is declared. Then the three Qur’anic verses (Qur’an 4:1, 3:102, 33:70-71) and one prophetic saying (hadith) forms the main text of the marriage. This hadith is:
‘O by Allah! Among all of you I am the most God-fearing, and among you all, I am the supermost to save myself from the wrath of Allah, yet my state is that I observe prayer and sleep too. I observe fast and suspend observing them; I marry woman also. And he who turns away from my Sunnah has no relation with me’. (Bukhari).
The officiator concludes the ceremony with prayer (duOa) for the bride, groom and their respective families, the local Muslim community and the Muslim community at large (Ummah).
After the consummation of the marriage, the groom holds a celebration banquet called a walima. The relatives, neighbours and friends are invited in order to make them aware of the marriage.