Islamic marital practices

Islamic marital practices
A Sundanese wedding ceremony held inside a mosque in Java, Indonesia.

Muslim marriage and Islamic wedding customs are traditions and practices that relate to wedding ceremonies and marriage rituals prevailing within the Muslim world. Participants in these rites belong to communities of people who have Islam as their faith.

According to the teachings of the Quran, a married Muslim couple is equated with clothing. Within this context, both husband and wife act as each other’s protector and comforter, just the way real garments “show and conceal” the body of human beings. Thus, they are meant “for one another”.[1]

In Islam, Polygyny is allowed with certain restrictions, however Polyandry is not. Even so, the number of Polygynist families amounts to a very small minority with the majority of Muslims practicing monogamy.


Arranged marriages

Arranged marriages although young people are at liberty to express their preferences and state what they are looking for in a prospective partner, it is not the usual practice for them actively to seek a partner for themselves. This is mostly done by their parents or other elders within the family. In other words, it is usually an ‘arranged marriage’. Arranged marriage must fulfil the basic condition of the freely given consent of both the bride and the groom. A ‘forced’ marriage, where consent has not been given by either the bride or the groom, or is given only under excessive pressure, is a different matter; this would be contrary to the teachings of Islam, and would immediately call into question the validity of the marriage.[2] Arranged marriages are the general custom among Muslims as the best way to find, vet and meet potential husbands or wives within the overall context of the Islamic way of life.

Community programs

There has been a recent[when?] emergence of events and programs held by community groups and organisations aimed at helping single Muslims to find prospective partners[citation needed]. These events and programs have mostly been found in non-Muslim countries, mainly in the USA and United Kingdom, due to the fact that there is growing concern from the organisers that the Muslim youth in non-Muslim countries are struggling to find prospective partners.[3] The programs and events differ from traditional marriage bureaus and match making websites for the reason that participants can meet real people face to face and that the events do provide a platform for single Muslims to meet in a environment that is conducive to their faith.[4]

Choice of partner

With regards to freedom of choice when marrying within their religion, Muslim men and women are given the right to choose who they want to marry.[1] When marrying outside the religion, Muslim men may marry Christian or Jewish women but not other religions. Muslim women are not allowed to marry outside of Islam.

In relation to women, men are encouraged to get married to religiously devoted women.[1]

Same-sex Marriage is not allowed in Islam.

What to look for in a man

According "Initiating and Upholding an Islamic Marriage", Hedaya Hartford states that there are many significant factors to consider prior to getting married. When looking for a potential spouse one should look for specific virtues- In a husband these are: Piety, A halaal (lawful) income, sufficient to support his household, basic Islamic knowledge, because Allah says in the Quran, "Protect yourself and your family from the fire" (Qur'aan, 66:6)., contentment, ability to make mature judgments, ability to understand and think soundly, a forgiving nature, tolerance, an even temper, patience, generosity, responsibility, protectiveness, cooperation, being from a decent stable family, and good appearance and bodily cleanliness (Hartford 50).

What to look for in a woman

According "Initiating and Upholding an Islamic Marriage", Hedaya Hartford states the qualities you look for in a woman to make your wife and the mother of your children are: Piety, affectionate and easy going nature, ability to make mature judgments, ability to understand and think soundly, obedience, patience, contentment, being from a decent stable family, good appearance and bodily cleanliness (Hartford 52-53).


At the wedding, a Muslim husband typically gives a gift, known as the Mahr or dower, to his wife. This type of dower, based on what was agreed upon by the couple, could be in the form of any item and “in any amount”. An example is a cantar or a “great amount” of gold. However, the man can also marry a woman based on the amount of knowledge he has about the Quran, even though he has no material possessions.

After the consummation of their marriage, it is customary for the male spouse to give a wedding reception, known as the Walima, to family members and friends. Such a reception serves as a celebration of the couple’s happiness.

In Islam, both husbands and wives are described to have equal duties and rights, although men are further described as having a “degree above” their wives. The Islamic rationale for this is that the husband is given authority within the household because he has received a heavier load of responsibilities, which include taking care of the woman who has become his wife, and that he also provides financial support to her. Wives are expected to respect their husbands wishes. On the other hand, men are expected to safeguard their women, because they were married to women with God’s trust. Yet, both man and woman, once married, are expected to act as responsible guardians. Married men are to act as guardians of their families. The women, in turn, become guardians of the home and their children.[1]

Muslim weddings


Muslim General Ma Jiyuan's wedding with a Kuomintang flag in the background.

Prominent Muslims in China, such as Generals, followed standard marriage practices in the 20th century, such as using western clothing like white wedding dresses.

Chinese Muslim marriages resemble typical Chinese marriages except traditional Chinese religious rituals are not used.[5]


A Muslim wedding in India.

Muslims in India normally follow marriage customs that are similar to those practiced by Muslims of the Middle-East, which are based on Islamic convention.[6] These Islamic traditions were first handed down to medieval Indians by propagators of the Islamic religion that involved sultans and Moghul rulers at the time.[7] The blueprint is the same as the Middle-Eastern Nikah,[6] a pattern seen in marriage ceremonies of Sunnis and Shias.[7] Traditional Muslim Indian wedding celebrations typically last for three days.[6] Prior to the observance of the wedding ceremony proper, two separate pre-wedding rituals, which involve traditional dancing and singing, occurs in two places: at the groom’s house and at the bride’s home.[7]

On the eve of the wedding day, a bridal service known as the Mehndi ritual or henna ceremony is held at the bride’s home. This ritual is sometimes done two days before the actual wedding day. During this bridal preparation ritual, turmeric paste is placed on the bride’s skin for the purpose of improving and brightening her complexion. Then henna or mehndi, is applied on the bride’s hands and feet, by the mehndiwali, a female relative.[6][7]

The Indian Islamic wedding ceremony is also preceded by a marriage procession known as the groom’s baraat. From this convoy arrives the groom, who will share a sherbet drink with a brother of his bride, while at the place of the marriage ceremony which could either be at the house of either groom or bride or another venue. This drinking ritual happens as the sisters of the bride does some tomfooleries and playfully striking guests using flower-filled cudgels.[6]

The wedding ceremony, known as Nikaah, is officiated by the Maulvi, a priest also called Qazi.[6][7] Among the important wedding participants are the Walises, or the fathers of both groom and bride.[6] and the bride's legal representative.[7] It is the bride's father who promises his daughter's hand to the groom, a ritual known as the Kanya-dhan.[7] Also in this formal occasion, particularly in conventional Islamic weddings, when men and women typically have separate seating arrangements. Another common practice are wedding sequences that include the reading of Quranic verses, the groom’s proposal and bride’s acceptance parts known as the Ijab-e-Qubul[6] or the ijab and qabul;[7] the decision-making of the bride’s and groom’s families regarding the price of the matrimonial financial endowment known as the Mehar[6] or Mehr (a dower no less than ten dirhams[7]), which will come from the family of bridegroom. Blessings and prayers are then given by older women and other guests to the couple.[6] In return the groom gives salutatory salaam wishes to his blessers, especially to female elders.[7] The bride also usually receives gifts known generally as the burri, which may be in the form of gold jewelries, garments, money, and the like.[7]

The marriage contract document is known as the Nikaahnama, and is signed not only by the couple but also by the Walises and the Maulvi.[6]

After the Nikaah, the now married couple joins each other; to be seated among commonly separately-seated male and female attendees.[6] The groom is customarily brought first to the women's area in order for him to be able to present gifts to his wife's sister.[7] Although jointly seated, the bride and the groom can only observe one another via mirrors, and a copy of the Quran is placed in between their assigned seats. With their heads sheltered by a dupatta and while guided by the Maulvi, the couple reads Muslim prayers.[6]

After the wedding ceremony, the bride is brought to her new home: the house of her husband, to be welcomed by her mother-in-law who will be holding a copy of the Quran over the bride’s head.[6]

The wedding reception hosted by the bride’s family is known as the Valimah[6] or the Dawat-e-walima.[7] Then, as custom dictates, the groom will stay in his wife's home overnight, but will be lodged inside a separate room and not with his wife.[7] On the fourth day after the Nikaah, the bride performs the Chauthi, a trip to her parents' house.[6]


Malay wedding traditions, such as those that occur in Singapore, normally include the betrothal, the determination of the bridal dowry known as the hantaran agreed upon by both the parents’ of the groom and the bride (usually done one year before the solemnization of marriage), delivery of gifts and the dowry (the istiadat hantar belanja), the marriage solemnization (the upacara akad nikah) at the bride’s home or in a mosque, the henna application ritual known as the berinai, the costume changing of the couple known as the tukar pakaian for photography sessions, a Sunday feast-meal for guests, and the bersanding or the sitting-in-state ceremony of the couple at their own home. Prior to being able to meet his bride, sometimes a mak andam, a “beautician”, or any member of the family of the bride will intercept the groom to delay the joining of the would-be spouses; only after the groom was able to pay a satisfactory “entrance fee” could he finally meet her bride. The wedding ceremony proper is usually held on a weekend, and involves exchanging of gifts, Quranic readings and recitation, and displaying of the couple while within a bridal chamber. While seated at their “wedding throne”, the newly-weds are showered with uncooked rice and petals, objects that signify fertility. The guests of the wedding celebration are typically provided by the couple with gifts known as the bunga telur or “flower and egg”. The gifted eggs are traditionally eggs dyed with red coloring and are placed inside cups or other suitable containers bottomed with glutinous rice. These eggs also symbolize fertility, a marital wish hoping that the couple will bear many offspring. However, these traditional gifts are now sometimes replaced by non-traditional chocolates, jellies, or soaps.[8]

The marriage contract that binds the marital union is called the Akad Nikah, a verbal agreement sealed by a financial sum known as the mas kahwin, and witnessed by three persons. Unlike in the past when the father of the bride customarily acts as the officiant for the ceremonial union, current-day Malay weddings are now officiated by the kadhi, a marriage official and Shariat or Syariat Court religious officer.[8]

The Philippines

Muslim communities in the Philippines include the Tausug tribe, a group of people in Jolo who practice matrimonial activities based on their own ethnic legislation and the laws of Islam. Their customary and legal matrimony is composed of negotiated arranged marriage (pagpangasawa), marriage through the “game of abduction” (pagsaggau), and elopement (pagdakup).[9] Furthermore, although Tausug men may acquire two wives, bigamous or plural marriages are rare.[9]

A Filipino Tausug lady performing the traditional pangalay dance.

Tausug matrimonial customs generally include the negotiation and proclamation of the bridewealth (the ungsud) which is a composition of the “valuables for the offspring” or dalaham pagapusan (in the form of money or an animal that cannot be slaughtered for the marital feast); the "valuables dropped in the ocean" or dalaham hug a tawid, which are intended for the father of the bride; the basingan which is a payment  – in the form of antique gold or silver Spanish or American coins  – for the transference of kingship rights toward the usba or “male side”; the “payment to the treasury” (sikawin baytal-mal, a payment to officers of the law and wedding officiants); the wedding musicians and performers; wedding feast costs; and the guiding proverb that says a lad should marry by the time he has already personally farmed for a period of three years. This is the reason why young Tausug males and females typically marry a few years after they reached the stage of puberty.[10]

Regular arranged Tausug marriages through negotiation are typically according to parental wishes, although sometimes the son will also suggest a woman of his choice. This is the ideal, esteemed, and considered “most proper” in the legal point of view of Tausug culture, despite of being a time-consuming and costly practice for the groom. If the parents disagree with their son’s choice of a woman to marry, he might decide to resort to a marriage by abducting the woman of his choice, run away, run amuck, or choose to become an outlaw. In relation to this type of marriage, another trait that is considered ideal in Tausug marriage is to wed sons and daughters with first or second cousins, due to the absence of difficulty in negotiating and simplification of land inheritance discussions.[9] However, there is also another way of arranging a Tausug marriage, which is through the establishment of maglillah pa maas sing babai or by “surrendering to the lady’s parents”, wherein the lad proclaims his intention while at the house of the parents of the woman of his choice; he will not depart until he receives permission to marry. In other circumstances, the lad offers a sum of money to the parents of the lass; a refusal by the father and mother of the woman would mean paying a fine or doubling the price offered by the negotiating man.[10]

“Abduction-game marriages” are characteristically in accord with the grooms’ requests, and are performed either by force or “legal fiction”.[9] This strategy of marrying a woman is actually a “courtship game” that expresses a Tausug man’s masculinity and bravery. Although the woman has the right to refuse marrying her “abductor”, reluctance and refusal does not always endure because the man will resort to seducing the “abductee”. In the case of marriages done through the game of abduction, the bridewealth offered is a gesticulation to appease the woman’s parents.[9]

Elopements are normally based on the brides’ desires, which may, at times, are made to resemble a “bride kidnapping” situation (i.e. a marriage through the game of abduction) in order to prevent dishonoring the woman who wished to be eloped.[9] One way of eloping is known to the Tausugs as muuy magbana or the "homecoming to get hold of a husband", wherein a Tausug woman offers herself to the man of her choice or to the parents of the man who she wants to become her spouse. Elopement is also a strategy used by female Tausugs in order to be able to enter into a second marriage, or done by an older unwed lady by seducing a man who is younger than her.[11]

During the engagement period, the man may render, although not obligatory, services to his bride’s parents in the form of performing household chores.[12] After the period of engagement has lapsed, the marital-union ceremony is observed by feastings, delivery of the whole bridewealth, slaughtering of a carabao or a cow, playing gongs and native xylophones, reciting prayers in the Arabic and Tausug languages, symbolic touching by the groom of his bride’s forehead, and the couple’s emotionless sitting-together ritual. In some instances when a groom is marrying a young bride, the engagement period may last longer until the Tausug lass has reached the right age to marry; or the matrimonial ceremony may proceed  – a wedding the Tausug termed as “to marry in a handkerchief” or kawin ha saputangan  – because the newly-wed man can live after marriage at the home of his parents-in-law but cannot have marital sex with his wife until she reaches the legal age.[12]

Tausug culture also allows the practice of divorce.[12]

There are also other courtship, marriage, and wedding customs in the Philippines.

United Arab Emirates

A bride's palm decorated with henna.

Generally, wedding ceremonies in the United Arab Emirates traditionally involves scheduling the wedding date, preparation for the bride and groom, and carousing with dancing and singing which takes place one week or less prior to the wedding night. Bridal preparation is done by women by anointing the body of the bride with oil, application of perfumes to the bride's hair, use of creams, feeding the bride with special dishes, washing the bride’s hair with amber and jasmine extracts, use of the Arabian Kohl or Arabian eye liner, and decorating the hands and feet with henna (a ritual known as the Laylat Al Henna or “henna night” or "night of henna", and performed a few days before being wed; during this evening, other members of the bride’s family and guests also place henna over their own hands). The Emirati bride stays at her dwelling for forty days until the marriage night, only to be visited by her family. Later, the groom offers her items that she will use to create the Addahbia, a dowry which is composed of jewelry, perfumes, and silk, among others.[13]

In Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the UAE, the traditional Bedouin wedding is a ceremonial that echoes the earliest Arab concept of matrimony, which emphasizes that marital union is not simply a joining together of a man and a woman but the coming together of two families. Traditionally lasting for seven days, Bedouin marriage preparations and celebration starts with the marriage proposal known as the Al Khoutha, a meeting of the groom’s father and bride’s father; the purpose of the groom’s father is to ask the hand of the bride from the bride’s father for marriage; and involves the customary drinking of minty Arab tea. After this, the negotiating families proceed with the Al Akhd, a marriage contract agreement. The bride goes through the ritual of a “bridal shower” known as Laylat Al Henna, the henna tattooing of the bride’s hands and feet, a service signifying attractiveness, fortune, and healthiness. The Al Aadaa follows, a groom-teasing rite done by the friends of the bride wherein they ask compensation after embellishing the bride with henna. The ceremonial also involves a family procession towards the bride’s home, a re-enactment of a war dance known as Al Ardha, and the Zaahbaah or the displaying of the bride’s garments and the gifts she received from her groom’s family. In the earliest versions of Bedouin wedding ceremonies, the groom and the bride goes and stays within a tent made of camel hair, and that the bride is not to be viewed in public during the nuptial proceedings. The wedding concludes with the Tarwaah, when the bride rides a camel towards her new home to live with her husband. After a week, the bride will have a reunion with her own family. Customarily, the groom will not be able to join his bride until the formal wedding procedure ended. The only place where they will finally see each other is at their post-wedding dwelling.[14]

Established Bedouin wedding customs also entail the use of hand-embroidered costumes, the dowry, and the bridewealth. Islamic law dictates that the jewelry received by the bride becomes her personal property.[14]

See also


External links

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