Rites and rituals - continued

Marriage

Often, marriages for Muslim men and women are arranged as there is little space for them to socialise outside a formal setting. One of the main reasons for this is that Islam teaches that the only place for sex is between a married couple. Therefore, keeping boys and girls separate prevents promiscuity.

Due to the belief that sex should be used as Allah intended (a gift from Allah), Muslims are encouraged to marry young.

A young Muslim couple at their marriage ceremony

A boy’s parents will approach a girl’s family before speaking to the girl herself. As part of the marriage, a mahr is arranged - money or possessions are paid by the groom, or by the groom's father, to the bride as a sign of appreciation.

Muslims may have up to four wives, but they must treat each wife equally:

quote
… marry women of your choice, two, three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one.Surah 4:3

A Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman, but a Muslim woman may only marry within her faith.

Muslim wedding ceremony

The Muslim wedding ceremony can differ from one Muslim society to another, but there are some common points:

  • It often takes place within the home or the mosque.
  • There must be a minimum of two witnesses.
  • The Aqd Nikah (solemn contract) is a compulsory part of the wedding – it must be said and also written down. This ensures that both parties have consented to the union.

Divorce

This is frowned upon, but it is easy for men to gain under Islamic law. Muhammad did not agree with divorce and said that a couple should try to reconcile before separating.

A couple must wait three months after making the decision to make sure that the woman is not pregnant, as it is the responsibility of the man to provide for any of his children.

More serious than divorce is adultery. To keep in line with Sharia law, married people who commit adultery within their marriage can be punished by death in Saudi Arabia and Iran.