Muslims believe in one God – Allah – who has complete authority over the destiny of mankind and the prophets through whom His revelations were revealed. Muslims believe that God’s ‘everlasting message’ to man was disclosed to the prophet Muhammad.
This revelation, which was memorised and written down by the prophet, is know as the Koran (Qur’an). It is believed that none of the 114 chapters have been changed over the centuries, so the Qur’an is regarded as being the absolute unique text and is the primary source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with all the issues which concern mankind: wisdom, principles, worship and law, but the fundamental theme is the relationship between God and humankind.
UK marriage laws allow for mosques to be registered for the solemnisation of marriages according to the rites of the Muslim religion. The legal requirements to be fulfilled are those that apply to civil marriages. However, if the building in which you wish to marry is in a different registration district to where you live, you need to prove to the superintendent registrar that the building is your normal place of worship. If you cannot do this, you will be required to give notice in the registration district in which the building is situated after having met the necessary residency requirements.
If there is no mosque or registered building in the registration district in which you live, you will be permitted to marry in a building in the nearest registration district that has one.
A superintendent registrar may also need to attend the ceremony. If the building in which you intend to marry is not registered for the solemnisation of marriages, you must arrange a civil ceremony beforehand to comply with the requirements of the law.
Muslim weddings and divorce
A Muslim marriage is not a religious rite, but simply a legal agreement. Divorce is not common among Muslims, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. Before divorce is considered the couple are expected to attempt to reconcile their differences in the first instance between themselves. If this fails then a person from either family should arbitrate the situation. If these attempts at reconciliation fail and both parties agree then divorce can be considered as an option.
If after a divorce, a reunion occurs, it will be regarded as a new marriage. However, there can be no more than two reunions. The third divorce is the final one.
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.