Laws of Religion
Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men
4. Wedding Practices
From the Qur’an
From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim
Muhammad said that a man should marry even if all he could give as mahr is an iron ring.
When a woman wanted to marry Muhammad he decided she should marry another man. That man had nothing to give her as mahr, however, so Muhammad said that what the man had memorized of the Qur’an was a sufficient mahr. In one recorded version of this hadith, Muhammad instructs the man to teach his wife some of the Qu’ran as well.
When Muhammad married Safiyya, who had been captured in battle and thus enslaved by the Muslims, the mahr he gave her was her manumission from slavery.
When Muhammad found brides for two young men, he ordered that their mahr be paid out of the communal portion of the spoils of war (khums), but he did not specify the amount.
A woman told Muhammad that she wanted a divorce from her non-Muslim husband because she did not like having to behave in an un-Islamic manner. Muhammad asked if she would be willing to return the garden that she had received as her mahr. When she said that she would, Muhammad told the husband to accept the garden back and divorce his wife.
However, in the case of divorce resulting from an accusation by a husband that his wife had sexual intercourse with another man (a case of lian), the mahr is not to be returned to the man. Muhammad said that this is because, even if the unproved accusation against the wife was correct, the mahr was payment to the wife for the sexual relations that consummated the marriage.
Wedding meal (hadith). Hadiths report that Muhammad told a man who had just become married to hold a wedding feast (walima), even if with only one sheep. Muhammad gave a wedding banquet for the people on the morning after his wedding and consummation of his marriage to Zainab. This was said to be the greatest wedding feast he had given for any of his wives. At this feast, he served bread and meat, including a sacrificed goat, or one sheep.
When Muhammad married Safiyya, no meat or bread was served at the wedding meal. Dates, butter and dried yogurt (or cheese) were spread out for the people to eat. Hais a sweet dish made from butter, cheese and dates was served.
A hadith reports that Muhammad served hais at the wedding feast when he married a woman who is not named in the hadith. At that feast, one dish of food miraculously kept increasing to feed about 300 guests.
Another hadith says that Muhammad served barley when he married some of his wives.
Abu Huraira (a close companion of Muhammad) said that the worst food is the food at a wedding feast to which only the rich have been invited or a wedding feast from which people are turned away or to which people who are invited do not come.
From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§): The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller
Witnesses (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars** agree that witnesses are required for a marriage to be valid. Reliance of the Traveller (Shafiʽi school) specifies that two male witnesses are required for a marriage. A 19th century commentator cited in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller says that in the Hanafi school, one male plus two females can be witnesses to a marriage.
Guardians and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Al-Shafiʽi and Malik say that, in the absence of the father, a guardian of the woman is necessary for a valid marriage contract, while Abu Hanifa says that a woman can contract marriage herself if the husband is of similar status. Reliance of the Traveller explains that a marriage requires that the bride’s guardian say aloud that the marriage is effected and then the groom responds by affirming aloud his marriage to the bride.
Various male relatives, in orders that differ from school to school, take over guardianship in case of the absence of the father or subsequent guardian. Reliance of the Traveller says that the Islamic magistrate takes over as the bride’s guardian if there is no proper male relative who can do this.
Al-Shafiʽi says that only the father of a boy below puberty can contract for his marriage. Abu Hanifa says that any guardian of the boy can do this. Malik says that other than the father, only the executor (agent after death) of the father’s estate may contract for a boy below puberty.
Al-Shafiʽi says that, besides the father, only the paternal grandfather of a girl below puberty can give her away in marriage. Abu Hanifa says that any guardian can do this. Malik says that this is permitted only to a person to whom this responsibility was delegated by the father.
Reliance of the Traveller says that only a non-Muslim may be guardian for the marriage of a non-Muslim bride.
Intoxication and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Malik says that an intoxicated person cannot be a party to a valid marriage. Abu Hanifa disagrees and holds that an intoxicated person is responsible in such cases.
Wedding feast (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Reliance of the Traveller says that in the tradition of Islam a wedding feast is held to celebrate a marriage. A 20th century commentator cited in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller says that the feast can be held at any time but the recommended time is following the consummation of the marriage by sexual intercourse.
A person invited to a wedding feast is required to attend as long as certain conditions are met including: (1) that poor people as well as rich have been invited; (2) that you will not be harmed by anyone there; (3) that all attendees are of good character; (4) there will be nothing unacceptable such as flutes, wine, silk-covered mats for sitting, or pictures of humans or animals on the ceiling, walls, upright pillows, or draperies. However, if attending the wedding feast will cause these objectionable things to be removed, then one should attend.
Bridal payment (mahr) (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars** agree that a bridal payment (mahr*), given by the groom to the bride, is required for a marriage to be valid. Reliance of the Traveller says that the bridal payment (mahr) may be in the form of a physical thing or object, a debt to be paid, or the right to use or benefit from something.
If a man cannot pay the mahr and the couple have not had sexual intercourse, then the bride may annul the marriage. If they have had sexual intercourse, then his inability to pay the mahr is not grounds for such an annulment.
Al-Shafiʽi says that the mahr must go to the bride herself. Abu Hanifa says that mahr may go to the father of the bride if the father has said that this is a condition for the marriage. According to Malik, mahr goes to the father if a stipulation to that effect is made after the contract, but it goes to the bride if the stipulation precedes the marriage contract.
**Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the comp iled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
BK: Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.
DJP: The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.
RT: Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.
SR: al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
 QR 4:4, QR 4:24
 BK 3:34:264, BK 3:34:265, BK 5:58:124, BK 5:58:125, BK 5:58:274, BK 7:62:10, BK 7:62:78, BK 7:62:83, BK 7:62:85, BK 7:62:96, BK 8:75:395, ML 8:319, ML 8:3321-3322, ML 8:3323-3324
 ML 8:3320
 ML 8:3315
 ML 8:3318
 BK 7:62:80
 BK 6:61:547, BK 6:61:548, BK 7:62:24, BK 7:62:54, BK 7:62:58, BK 7:62:63, BK 7:62:66, BK 7:62:72, BK 7:62:79, BK 7:72:760, ML 8:3316-3317
 ML 8:3317
 BK 1:8:367, BK 2:14:68, BK 5:59:512, BK 5:59:513, BK 7:62:23, BK 7:62:98, ML 8:3325-3326
 ML 8:3252, ML 8:3253-3254, ML 8:3255-3256, ML 8:3258, ML 8:3260, ML 8:3261, ML 8:3262
 ML 5:2347-2348
 BK 7:63:197-198, BK 7:63:199-200
 BK 7:63:231, BK 7:63:232, BK 7:63:261, BK 7:63:262, ML 9:3557
 BK 3:34:264, BK 3:34:265, BK 5:58:125, BK 5:58:274, BK 7:62:10, BK 7:62:83, BK 7:62:85, BK 7:62:96, BK 8:73:105, BK 8:75:395, ML 8:319, ML 8:3320, ML 8:3321-3322
 BK 6:60:314, BK 6:60:315, BK 6:60:316, BK 6:60:317, BK 7:62:84, BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:97, BK 7:62:99, BK 7:62:100, BK 9:93:517, ML 8:3328, ML 8:3330, ML 8:3331, ML 8:3332, ML 8:3333, ML 8:3334
 BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:99, ML 8:3334
 BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:99
 BK 7:62:97, ML 8:3331, ML 8:3332BK 7:62:101
 BK 6:60:316, BK 6:60:317, BK 9:93:517, ML 8:3328, ML 8:3330, ML 8:3332
 ML 8:3331
 BK 7:62:97, BK 7:62:100
 BK 5:59:524, BK 7:62:22, BK 7:62:89
 BK 1:8:367, BK 5:59:524, BK 7:62:22, BK 7:62:89, BK 7:65:299
 ML 8:3328
 BK 1:8:367, BK 3:34:437, BK 4:52:143, BK 5:59:522, BK 7:62:98, BK 7:65:299, BK 7:65:336, BK 8:75:374, ML 8:3325-3326, ML 8:3329
 BK 7:62:98, BK 7:65:299
 BK 7:62:98, ML 8:3325-3326
 ML 8:3335
 ML 8:3335
 BK 7:62:101
 BK 7:62:102, BK 7:62:103, BK 7:62:104, BK 7:62:106, BK 8:73:241, ML 8:3338, ML 8:3339, ML 8:3349, ML 8:3353
 ML 8:3344, ML 8:3348
 BK 7:62:106, ML 8:3349
 ML 8:3353
 DJP 22.214.171.124 (Vol 2, pages 19-20), SR 166 (pages 173-174)
 RT m3.3 (page 518)
 DJP 126.96.36.199.1 (Vol 2, page 9), SR 166 (pages 173-174)
 RT m3.2 (page 517)
 DJP 188.8.131.52.2 (Vol 2, pages 13-14)
 RT m3.4 (pages 518-519)
 DJP 184.108.40.206.3 (Vol 2, pages 14-15), RT m3.7 (page 520)
 RT m3.7 (7) (page 520)
 DJP 220.127.116.11.3 (Vol 2, pages 14-15)
 DJP 18.104.22.168 (Vol 2, pages 4-8)
 DJP 22.214.171.124 (Vol 2, pages 4-8)
 RT m3.4 (pages 518-519)
 DJP 19.2.2 (Vol 2, pages 97-100)
 RT m9.1 (page 536)
 RT m9.2 (pages 536-537)
 DJP 126.96.36.199.1.1 (Vol 2, pages 20-21)
 RT m8.4 (page 533)
 RT m8.9 (page 535)
 DJP 188.8.131.52.5.3 (Vol 2, pages 32-33)