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I am writing to obtain information on Muslim customs, particularly as concerns the marriage ceremony. A friend of my wife and mine is to be married in less than a fortnight, and we have been invited to his wedding. I am a Roman Catholic, my wife is an Anglican, and I must confess that we know very little of the Muslim faith.
While I found your web site to be most informative, and the information in the essay by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah to be helpful, I have several questions which remain unanswered.
For example, in reading his essay I found that the colour red is not permitted for Muslims, and so I presume that we, too, should not wear red. Also, that my wife's arms and legs should be covered before entering the Mosque. Should her head be covered as well?
When attending a Christian wedding, a gift is usually made to the betrothed couple; is this permitted/expected for Muslims as well? What, if anything, is recommended, or traditional?
I am a photographer, and usually carry a camera with me. Is photography permitted before, during or after the marriage ceremony?
Is there anything that we should know in advance, knowledge of which would save us from committing a gaucherie, or committing an action which might be taken as offensive?
I do realize that I am making a somewhat large, and probably most unusual, request. However, any information which you can provide us with would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much for your enquiry. Generally speaking, it seems that this kind of information would be hard to come by unless one happens to have Muslim friends with whom matters of this kind could be discussed in an informal manner. We also appreciate the fact that other people who find themselves in your situation would also like to have these simple yet important questions answered in order to save themselves from either personal or public social/cultural embarrassment. Who would not like to avoid the disasters of "gaucherie" and faux pas particularly when you are appreciative of the generosity of the host who may come from a different religious and/or cultural backgrounds.
With regards to your specific questions, my brief answers are as follows:
(1) Your question about dress basically deals with colour and covering. Perhaps a better way to learn about these things would be to try to get a general idea as to what the Islamic requirements are in relation to the dress code for Muslim men and women. You may be a bit curious as to how the Muslim's hijab/veil system comes to play its role in the general scheme of the Islamic social system. For instance you can click here for more information. For further in-depth study you can click here.
Generally speaking, a Muslim woman is required to cover her whole body except for her face, hands and feet. And the minimum requirement for a Muslim man is to cover his body from the navel down to and/or covering the knees. However, as we all know, Muslim men tend to cover much more than the legal minimum in their daily lives -- especially at weddings when they all appear to be somewhat overdressed ;-)
For non-Muslim guests, the Islamic dress code does not apply in the same way that it applies to Muslim adherents. However, as a matter of courtesy and deference to the social/cultural norms of the hosts, the guests might be well advised to avoid exposing their arms and legs in a fashion that is normal in our modern-day western society. In fact, it would actually be more offensive for a female guest to wear a low-cut top and mini-skirt than anything else. As for the headscarf (commonly referred to as Hijab) many European ladies are used to wearing it. I think that most Muslim hosts will generally be found to be tolerant enough to accommodate non-Muslim ladies appearing without headscarfs. Actually it would be considered quite thoughtful and respectful for the lady guests to don a headscarf, particularly when they are being admitted into places like mosques etc. In this connection, one important thing to remember is that footwear must be removed before entering such places, although these days, if you are attending ceremonies in places like banquet halls, where people do not sit on the floor, you may wear shoes.
With regards to wearing red, Muslim males are forbidden to wear this colour, whereas Muslim females have always been allowed to wear red. Non-Muslims, however, are not expected to adhere to these restrictions.
(2) As to your question about gifts, all I can say is that any useful gift would be appropriate. Muslims exchange gifts all the time. So the general rules of etiquette, decent presentation, etc. also apply here. Generally speaking, I suppose, wedding gifts at Muslim weddings are not all that different from wedding gifts of non-Muslim people. However, it must be remembered that Muslims will neither give nor receive products which contain alcohol or intoxicants or pork and pork products. Nowadays, Muslims also take advantage of the modern-day tradition of signing up with a gift registry.
(3) As for photography, generally speaking, it is permissible these days. However, there is a segment of the Muslim community who interpret the law in a way that makes it forbidden, but by and large, bridal photography seems to have become an integral part of the ceremony. However, it would be prudent and courteous to enquire with the people in charge beforehand as to whether or not photography would be permitted during the ceremony and so on.
(4) As to avoiding embarrassing
acts or situations, perhaps something that needs particular mention is
that males will not be permitted to kiss the bride or other females. These
days the husband and wife and male and female family members all sit together.
However, people who are very strict about observing purdah, which is a
strict form of segregation, and is supposed to be an orthodox interpretation
of the Islamic injunctions regarding the Hijab, do separate the men from
women. For instance seating arrangements in a banquet hall might provide
for two sections -- i.e., one for men and one for women. Click
here for more information on this.
I am writing to ask for your help. I discovered your web page whilst trying to find particular Muslim-Islamic related topics. You see, I am going to be marrying a Muslim from Jordan in the Middle East, however, I am a Christian and we have agreed that I will not change my faith, but I wanted to know if you could describe a typical traditional Muslim wedding ceremony please as my future husband tells me it has something to do with killing a camel and I am very worried about many issues relating to it.
Thank you for visiting our website. With regards to your query, there is no unique ceremonial pattern for Muslim weddings because that depends on the individual culture of the couple.
We have published an article on this website which you might like to read. Click here to go there. If you are interested in more detailed information about the marriage ceremony we would refer you to a book entitled "Dictionary of Islam" by T.P. Hughes, which is available at Kazi Publications. We would refer you specifically to the heading "Marriage" (appx. 15 pages). The book would also be useful for you so that you can separate and understand what are Islamic practices from what are cultural practices.
With regards to the camel,
without knowing any details, the only thing we could say to you is
that it is very highly recommended by Muhammad, the holy Prophet of Islam,
that a celebration should be held after the wedding (at the invitation
and the expense of the bridegroom) with a feast known as "walima". The
idea is to develop the social interaction between the members of the bride
and groom's respective families and their relatives, etc. Since a camel
is an animal which provides abundant meat for such a large feast, in Arab
countries, it would seem like a logical choice rather than going for several
cows, lambs or sheep if there is going to be a large feast.
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my question is when a person reads salah behind an imam does he himself have to recite surat al-bakhara and an ayat from the Quran paak or not, and instead let the iman do this on your behalf. as a Sunni i believe one should not recite behind the iman however i have met such people who say that this belief is wrong as one is not really doing salah as he is not saying anything they say that in the Qu'ran paak it says one has to recite surah al-bakhara for his salah to be valid on which i totally agree however it does not say that it is necessary for a mukdadee to do this also in the Qu'ran it says that when a person is reciting Qu'ran paak the people around him should shut their mouths and open their ears and listen now how is one meant to do this in salah if he himself is reading together with the iman an when the iman begins to recite an ayat of Quran paak the mukdadee could still be reciting surat al-bakhara. Also if a person comes late and manages to join the rakat before the Imam leads them into sajda the rakat is valid for that person (who has just joined in) and yet he has missed reading surat al-bakara. all these points lead me to belive that one should not recite behind the iman because the iman is doing this for you however i would be very grateful if you could give me your opinion on this matter.
Since you have written me
twice on the same point I felt I should answer your question as briefly
as possible. And my answer is that reciting Surah Fateha behind
the Imam in the third and fourth rak'ats of Zuhr,
Asr and Isha prayers and also in the third rak'at of
prayer, in a congregational prayer, by a 'mukdadee' (as you have
spelled it) is permissible. Not reciting Surah Fateha in those situations
is also permissible. In other words, both methods are correct. Since you
asked me for my personal preference, I prefer not reciting
an Imam, in a congregational prayer, by a muqtadi ('mukdadee'
your spelling). However, I would suggest that in matters of this kind,
one should try to do their own research by referring to any of the standard
books on Fiqh, for there is a wealth of knowledge in them and they
are widely available. May I suggest that you read our "Who
We Are" article. In the concluding paragraph I recommend that our readers
purchase the two volumes of Everyday Fiqh. Insha Allah
this will help you to find quick answers to the kind of simple questions
one encounters in everyday life. This would also help poor people like
myself who face an ever
P.S. We have also noticed
that you had written some time ago and that at that time we also suggested
you purchase the books "Everyday Fiqh" and "The Etiquettes of
Islam" in our previous letter to you. Please note that these books
are crucial for the understanding of Fiqh issues.
Question To print this letter click here
I am from Singapore. Last year I met someone online from Ontario, Canada. We talked almost every night and fell in love. In February, he proposed to me. I told him that I was Muslim and could only marry a Muslim man. Alhamdullilah, he is willing to convert. I am going to see him in August and we will be getting married. Can we just go to any mosque or any Muslim organisation for him to convert? Is it possible for him to convert, then we nikah and after he would study on being a Muslim? It will be my first time there and it will be great help for me to get more information on the Muslim community in Canada.
Here are two letters which we had received some time ago which may answer your questions:
As you can see from reading both those letters that it is necessary to understand what Islam means, what is involved, and what it entails as conversion is a sincere lifetime commitment to a way of life which is quite different from the one he is used to. We particularly would like to point out the caveat contained in the last paragraph of the first letter. By the way the word 'caveat' means 'warning' and is an explanation to prevent misinterpretation.
Her reply to the above letter
for your reply. I've read both letters and I for one wouldn't want my boyfriend
to convert for the sake of marriage!! I pray so that Allah will guide him
and lead him to the right path......
I'm writing from the South African government's Parliamentary Office of the Commission on Gender Equality, where I've been reading on your website with great interest about what Canadian Muslims are doing to integrate Ontario family law and Muslim Personal Law. We're working on our recommendations as to how our government should integrate the state with cultural freedom and gender equality in regard to our Muslim minority. My problem is that I've been unable to isolate the statutes and executive orders which enable Muslims in Ontario to choose Muslim laws and mediators, and therefore I can't present them to the Commission. Can someone pass on my message to Syed Mumtaz Ali, busy though he is, and ask him to contact me so that I can locate the correct information and legal authorization? Thank you -
As requested, I have passed on your message to our President, Syed Mumtaz Ali, who would like to forward the following information to you hoping that this would at least get you started in your project for further research in the matter. The following two statutes are the main resource for matters of your interest:
1) Family Law Act 1986, Statutes of Ontario, 1986 Part IV
2) Arbitration Act Bill 42, Ch. 17 the Statutes of Ontario 1991.
3) Section 27 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is the basic authority which enables Muslims in Ontario to protect their minority rights which in turn enables them to choose Muslim law in various ways: "This Charter [i.e. the Charts and Freedoms] shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." To quote from a recent decision of the Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court in the case indexed as Lalonde vs. Ontario [French Commission de Restructuracion des Services de Fanté 48 OR (3d)]: "Thus Multiculturalism is in itself a value recognized and nurtured in the Constitution generally, as well as in the Charter which forms part of that Constitution."
The judgement of the court also states, "The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference declares that the Canadian Constitution - and therefore Canada itself - is founded upon four fundamental organising principles." The court identified the other three principles as federalism, democracy, and constitutionalism and the rule of law. All laws of this country, both Federal and Provincial therefore are subject to compliance with Section 27 of the Constitution act 1982 quoted above.
Now coming to the specific provisions of The Family Law Act 1986, I would like to draw your attention to Section 3, Subsections 1, 2 and 3 which deal with Mediation.
Incidentally it might be of interest to note Section 1(2) which provides the definition of "spouse": (2) In the definition of "spouse", a reference to marriage includes a marriage that is actually or potentially polygamous, if it was celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid.
Coming back to the subject of Mediation, the Ontario Rules of Practice set out the procedures and other details and Practice Directives re: Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) are issued by the Ontario government and the courts from time to time. I would refer you to our both our News Bulletins: One | Two
Please see this pdf file (page 39, under the heading of "Importing Family Law ..."). You will find a citation for an International Arbitration case wherein Muslim Law was applied to the proceedings.
Sections 31 and 32(2) and sections 33 to 37 all deal with awards and termination of Arbitration. However, for ease of reference, we are giving you the following section, the provisions of which enable us to apply Muslim Personal Law in Arbitration Proceedings under this Act:
31 "An Arbitril Tribunal shall decide a dispute in accordance with
law, including equity, and may order specific performance, injunctions
and other equitable remedies."
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I'm writing to you from Venice-Italy and I found your site more than helpful. Once more thanks for your precious help. I am following the Hanafi School and it's difficult to have information concerning this path in Italy (where the Islamic Umma is really small and complicated too). I would like to know which magazine you suggest me to have an overview on the Muslim world. Do you recommed any long-distance course?
We do appreciate your difficulties. As a matter of fact the whole idea and purpose in establishing our website was to help out people like yourself who face your type of situation all over the world. The contents of our website is divided into two very distinct segments: (1) A General Picture of Islam and (2) Anatomy of Islam. The first segment (1) is meant to cater to the needs of beginners or young Muslims or other Muslims who have not had many opportunities to learn about the basics and fundamentals of Islam as well as those non-Muslims who would like to learn about the basics of Islam. The second segment (2) is meant to cater to the needs of students who are looking for more detailed treatment of Islamic teachings and also to the needs of readers who are looking for topics under a separate set of specific headings such as "Family Affairs" "General Essays" etc. This segment is also meant to attend to the variety of needs of non-Muslims who are particularly interested in the detailed aspects of Islam eg. for the purpose of comparative studies, general religious studies, or even for journalistic and academic pursuits.
We have tried to make it
clear on our Who We Are page that our website
deals with mainly the Sunni school of law (with
It is our considered opinion and belief that anyone who cares to read everything that is available on our website (including the links) would be able to satisfy most of their educational needs in this respect. The medium of the Internet has made it possible for one to have instant access to an amazing amount of knowledge and information through these links. Yes the world is at your fingertips! Moreover, if one were to study very seriously (and with high concentration) and digest each and every point discussed and covered by such great works as:
1) the volumes of Ihya-al-ulum
al-din (The Revival of Islamic Knowledge) by Imam Al-Ghazzali,
as stated on our Who We Are page
one would not need much else to satisfy one's needs in this regard also for the reason that the Holy Qur'an and the collection of Prophetic Traditions (Hadith) such as Bukhari, Muslim, Muwatta of Malik and Abu Dawud etc. are also available through links on this website with search capabilities. We also provide a pdf version of Marmaduke Pickthall's and Yusuf Ali's Meaning of the Holy Qur'an for research and you can download these English translations (interpretations) in seconds!!
We have also provided a search
engine on this website. This enables our readers/visitors to use this
feature as a master index of everything contained on all three of our websites.