Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bridesmaids and Music at a Muslim Wedding???

We have been to many Islamic weddings and we have seen many different themes. We see the bride dressed in Indian dresses, traditional white gowns, Abayas, African gowns, some with the woman absent for the nikah (ceremony) and present for the walimah (reception/ marriage feast). The groom usually goes with the flow of the theme: tuxedo and tie for the traditional western theme, kurta suits for the Indian theme, Grande Buba for the African theme, and a thobe for the low-key Islamic theme.

Okay, so the question is; Which way is the Islamic way and how much time, energy and money should we put into our weddings? Should we have bridesmaids? Should we have groomsmen? Should we have a first dance and music? Should we provide alcohol for our non-Muslim guests? Should my dowry be big or small?

The Arabic word Walima (marriage feast) is derived from the root word Walam, which literally means to gather and assemble. The Arabs used it for a meal or feast where people were invited and gathered. Later, the term became exclusive for the wedding banquet.

The Arabs used different terms for the various feasts they enjoyed. For example: al-I’zar on the occasion of a child’s circumcision, al-Khurs for a marriage not ending in divorce, al-Wakira on building a new home, al-Naqi’ah when a traveller returns home, al-Aqiqah on the seventh day after childbirth, al-Ma’duba for a general meal without any specific reason, etc.

The marriage feast (walima) is a Sunna of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace). It is an outward expression of gratitude and pleasure and a great means of publicising the marriage, which has been greatly encouraged.

Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet Muhammad(Allah bless him & give him peace) saw a yellow mark on Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (Allah be pleased with) and said: “What’s this?” He replied: “I have married a woman with the dowry being gold to the weight of a date-stone.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “May Allah bless you (in your marriage), perform a Walima, even if it is only with a goat.” (Sahih al-Bukhari,no. 4872)

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself provided a Walima after many of his marriages. He provided meat and bread on the occasion of his marriage with Zaynab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her), Hays (a type of sweet-dish cooked with dates, cheese & butter) on the occasion of his marriage with Safiyya (Allah be pleased with her) and barley on another occasion. (See: Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)

Thus, it is a Sunna and strongly recommended to have a Walima.

The Time of Walima:

The scholars have disagreed as to the correct time of this Walima. There are many opinions. For example:

1) At the time of the marriage contract,

2) After the marriage contract and before consummation of marriage,

3) At the time of the wedding procession (bride leaving for her husband’s house) (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9/287)

However, the majority of the scholars (jumhur) are of the opinion that Walima is a meal that is prepared after the marriage has been consummated. This was the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), as explicitly mentioned in one narration.

Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he was a boy of ten when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) migrated to Madina. (He added): “My mother and aunts used to urge me to serve the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) regularly, thus I served him for ten years. When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) passed away, I was twenty years old, and I knew about the order of Hijab more than anyone else, when it was revealed. It was revealed for the first time when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had consummated his marriage with Zainab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in the morning was a bridegroom, and he invited the people to a banquet. So they came, ate, and then all left except a few who remained with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) for a long time….. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4871)

Sayyiduna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) consummated his marriage with a woman (Zainab), so he sent me to invite people for a meal.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4875)

The great Hadith master (hafidh), Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“The Hadith of Anas (quoted above) is clear in determining that Walima is considered to be after the consummation of marriage.” (Fath al-Bari, 9/199. Also see: I’la al-Sunan, vol. 10, p. 11)

It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

“The marriage banquet (walima) is a Sunna and there is great reward in it. And it is carried out when the marriage is consummated.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/343)

Having said this, scholars mention that there is also scope in following the other opinions, thus if one had a Walima before consummation, it is hoped that one will gain the reward of Sunna.

How many days?
The Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) are of the opinion that, a banquet up to two days will be considered to be a Walima, after which it will no longer be considered a Walima.

It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

“There is nothing wrong in inviting people the next day after consummation or the day after. After that, marriage and Walima celebrations will come to an end.” (5/343)

It has also been reported from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he stated: “Walima on the first day is confirmed (haq), and on the second day, it is good (ma’ruf), and on the third day, it is showing off.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 3738)

Although scholars mention that if there is a need, such as not being able to invite everybody on one day, then it will not be wrong to invite them on separate days.


Finally, it should be remembered that, the simpler the Walima (and the marriage ceremony as a whole) is kept, the better it will be. At times, people spend thousands upon thousands in feeding people, a sum which can be used for other indispensable needs of the Muslims. And if the intention behind spending such an amount is to show-off, then this will be regarded a grave sin.

The idea here is to feed people with sincerity and simplicity. If one feeds people the simplest of meals but from the heart, then that is far better (and the food is also more enjoyable) than feeding them quality food, where the intention is not so sincere.

Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The most blessed marriage (nikah) is the one with the least expenses.” (al-Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman & Mishkat al-Masabih).

Excerpts taken from: Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari Darul Iftaa

Najwa& Nadira


  1. There seems to be a lot of social pressure to have huge, expensive, and elaborate nikahs. And some of the dowry demands are unbelievable as well. Islam teaches that marriage is half our deen so I keep that as my focus.

  2. I didn't know there were different views about when to do the marriage ceremony. Good info.

  3. Thanks. We are happy you found this useful!


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