Muslim weddings are much simpler than most other religions. In actuality, Islam defines marriage as a simple social contract wherein two individuals come together to share the burden of life and celebrate joyous moments. For this contract to come into being, Nikkah is the only ceremony or tradition prescribed by the religion.
However, with time, several cultures have deeply integrated into ours, thus, transforming the whole outlook of Muslim weddings. Now, this is particularly true for South Asian Muslim weddings wherein a variety of lands, groups of people, and ancestors influence the wedding culture.
From Indian to Sri Lankan and from Pakistani to Bangladeshi, we see an array of traditions being followed in Muslim weddings. Some of the most popular Muslim weddings traditions are as follow
Henna or mehndi is one of the first identifiers of a Muslim wedding. Muslim women beautify their hands and feet with intricate henna designs, which complements their overall attire as an attendee of the grand event, i.e., a wedding. Plus, it’s the bride who carries the most beautiful and intricate of hand mehndi designs.
Mehr is an obligatory amount that the groom has to pay to the bride once they are in their marriage contract. Often people confuse it with money for being. In actuality, it is the ajr that a woman deserves for all that she does as a wife. Mehr need not be in the form of money. It can be paid in any form that the bride desires.
Perhaps the very first thing that initiates the whole chain of a wedding event is the baat-pakki rasm (a Muslim wedding’s version of an official engagement). Although it’s rare, the two individuals may exchange engagement rings in the baat pakki rasam, which later gets replaced by wedding rings.
Once the two individuals are engaged, the families begin celebrating on a mini scale with dholki events — several of them!
Dholkis are usually organized after 7 pm and the event extends late into the night, sometimes until sunrise. Herein, a group (usually elderly females) take up the responsibility of enriching the environment with the beat of dholak, i.e., drum, while the young ones sing and dance to celebrate the union.
Following dholkis, Muslim weddings witness the prime event, i.e., the Nikkah. It is the actual social contract in which the bride and groom agree to spend life with one another. Usually, this is a small event with only close family and friends. Nikkah ceremonies usually occur in mosques and at the end, the Imam recites Surah Fatiha and prays for the well-being of the couple and their bond.
6. Mehndi Event
Here, the mehndi we talk about is not the one you apply on your hands. It’s the name of an event that is a combination of two traditions, i.e., the application of henna and dholki. After the Nikkah event, the groom’s family and the bride’s family arrange separate events for the two individuals, where all the guests apply a custom blend of mehndi to the bride and groom, give them good wishes, and celebrate in a dholki-like way.
Baraat is the actual event. It is also called Shaadi. In this part of the wedding, the bride and the groom host a grand dinner for all their friends, family, acquaintances, workmates, neighbors — typically, everyone they’ve ever known! It is also a common practice for guests to bless the bride and groom with gifts to congratulate them.
8. Joota Chupai
Joota Chupai is one of the fun activities that youngsters engage in at a south Asian Muslim wedding. The younger cousins, particularly the sisters from the bride’s side, playfully steal the khussa’s (traditional shoes) of the groom. Then they ask for a certain amount as a ransom for the shoes. And they do not return the shoes until the guy pays off the said amount in cash.
At times, rukhsati occurs separately. It is the event or act which marks the completion of a wedding ceremony. The girl leaves behind her house and everyday life as a bachelor to take up the responsibilities of a full-fledged house of her own. Similarly, the groom bids farewell to his liberties of youth and independence and begins on a new journey of two.
Walima is an obligatory religious ceremony that the groom or his family must conduct. In this event, close family and friends get invited for a grand dinner. It is an indirect announcement to the world for the two individuals to have officially begun with their life as a couple.
Although we as Muslims have come far from our religion-defined parameters of a wedding, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that we value marriages like we ought to. Weddings are by far amongst the most grandest and mark-making events of one’s life, and the South Asian Muslim community celebrates it as so.
With that said, it is also evident that despite the deep incorporation and integration of foreign practices in our wedding culture, we haven’t granted room for exploring practices such as drinking or replacing our glamorous traditional clothing with Westernized clothing. And that, of course, stands as a distinguishing factor of these events!
Arslan Hassan is an electrical engineer with a passion for writing, designing, and anything tech-related. His educational background in the technical field has given him the edge to write on many topics.