Ten steps of a Muslim Nikah
1. Nikah Is The Muslim Word For A Wedding
A Nikah is the Muslim word for marriage. But it is not a sacrament as in other religions. Instead, it is a sacred social contract between the bride and the groom. The contract is described as "Mithaqun Ghalithun" as expressed in Quran 4:21.
2. First Step: Wali
The first step in the Nikah is performed by the "Wali", the nearest relative of the bride, such as her father. If an Imam performs it, he is known as the "Wakil" , or the guardian appointed to act on behalf of the best interests of the lady. It is their job to investigate the background of the lady's potential suitor.
3. Second Step: Chaperoned Meeting
After selecting the bridegroom, there is an appointment scheduled for the two of them to meet, under chaperoned supervision, to discuss their possible future together.
4. Third Step: Salat
After the initial meeting, both of them pray to Allah in the form of Salat - known as "Salatul Istakharah" - for guidance. If this is not done, it does not invalidate the marriage, but it is something that really helps both of them in their future.
5. Fourth Step: Getting Ready For Nikah
If both parties receive positive signs from "Salatul Istakharah", then they would proceed to make the "Nikah" or marriage contract. This is done under the supervision of two witnesses. It is usually attended by an Imam or any other knowledgeable person in Islam, just so that there will be no mistakes in taking care of the details.
6. Fifth Step: Presenting The Mehr
The Mehr is the dowry which is presented to the bride when she is asked if she is ready to marry the selected boy. The query, "Qabool Hai?", or "Are you willing?" is usually repeated three times in front of witnesses, but at least one acknowledgment from the lady is considered necessary to proceed.
7. Sixth Step: Making Her Decision Legal
The bride then signs the Nikah document in front of at least two witnesses.
8. Seventh Step: Witnesses Attest
The witnesses then sign and attest that they had been present at the Nikah and witnessed the acceptance by the lady of the offer of marriage by the man. The Imam might also sign, but this does not affect the validity of the marriage. Any two adult Muslims may witness the document. In the case of women witnesses, it is correct to have two in place of one. If there are to be two witnesses, one being a woman, then it would be correct to have a man and two women to sign the document.
9. Eighth Step: Man And Wife
After the lady's acceptance, the signing of the Nikah (document), the witnessing of the two witnesses and the exchange of Mehr, the man and the woman can, under Muslim law, live together as man and wife. After the signing of the marriage document, and the acceptance by the bride of the Mehr, or dowry, and the signing by the two witnesses, the groom is free to take away his bride anytime he chooses.
10. Ninth Step: Setting A Date For The Walima
Though the Nikah or legal document and Mehr adds up to a legal marriage, a date for the celebrations is still left to be set. The families of the couple need to discuss their expectations of the marriage ceremony, need to decide the budget, and do all the organising.
11. Tenth Step: The Walima
Walima is the wedding banquet, traditionally held by the groom after the Nikah has taken place. The purpose of the Walima is to allow family and friends to share in the groom’s happiness on the occasion of his marriage and to give thanks to Allah. Islam emphasies that the Walima should be held in moderation and not be wildly expensive. Gifts are also exchanged.
12. Acknowledging Allah's Role
The marriage sermon (Khutbah-tun-Nikah) begins by praising Allah. The main body of the sermon comprises three verses from the holy Qur’an and one Hadith: "O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, who created you from a single person, and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual rights. Do not cut relations of the womb. Surely, Allah is ever watching over you."
13. Accepting Community's Role
The ceremony draws to a close, with "dua" for the bride and groom, their families, the local Muslim community and the Muslim community as a whole (Ummah)...
14. Definition Of The Best Nikah
According to the Prophet, "The best wedding is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed." - Mishkat
15. Gifts Strengthen Love
The Prophet also had this to say about gifts: "Exchange gifts, strengthen your love of one another."- At-Tirmizi