Home – Laws of Religion, Judaism and Islam


Next – 5. Harmony and Discord in Marriage


Table of Contents – Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men



Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men


4.  Wedding Practices

from the Qur’an,

major hadith collections

and Islamic jurisprudence



Wedding Practices

     From the Qur’an


The Qur’an says that upon marriage, a man should give his wife a bridal payment (mahr*) as if it were a free gift. If she chooses to return part of it, he should accept it.[1]



Wedding Practices

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim




Bridal payment – mahr (hadith)


Wedding meal (hadith)



Bridal payment – mahr (hadith). One bridal payment (mahr*) mentioned in the hadiths is the amount of gold equal in weight to a date stone[2] or a nawat weight of gold.[3]


Muhammad told a man who had paid four ‘uqyas as mahr that he must have great amount of wealth to pay such a large mahr.[4] The mahr that Muhammad paid to his wives was 12½ ‘uqyas.[5]


Muhammad said that a man should marry even if all he could give as mahr is an iron ring.[6]


When a woman wanted to marry Muhammad he decided she should marry another man. That man had nothing to give her as mahr, however, so Muhammad said that what the man had memorized of the Qur’an was a sufficient mahr.[7] In one recorded version of this hadith, Muhammad instructs the man to teach his wife some of the Qu’ran as well.[8]


When Muhammad married Safiyya, who had been captured in battle and thus enslaved by the Muslims, the mahr he gave her was her manumission from slavery.[9]


Even temporary marriage (mut’a) required the giving of mahr, when such marriages were permitted.[10]


When Muhammad found brides for two young men, he ordered that their mahr be paid out of the communal portion of the spoils of war (khums), but he did not specify the amount.[11]


A woman told Muhammad that she wanted a divorce from her non-Muslim husband because she did not like having to behave in an un-Islamic manner. Muhammad asked if she would be willing to return the garden that she had received as her mahr. When she said that she would, Muhammad told the husband to accept the garden back and divorce his wife.[12]


However, in the case of divorce resulting from an accusation by a husband that his wife had sexual intercourse with another man (a case of lian), the mahr is not to be returned to the man. Muhammad said that this is because, even if the unproved accusation against the wife was correct, the mahr was payment to the wife for the sexual relations that consummated the marriage.[13]



Wedding meal (hadith). Hadiths report that Muhammad told a man who had just become married to hold a wedding feast (walima), even if with only one sheep.[14] Muhammad gave a wedding banquet for the people[15] on the morning after his wedding[16] and consummation of his marriage[17] to Zainab. This was said to be the greatest wedding feast he had given for any of his wives.[18] At this feast, he served bread and meat,[19] including a sacrificed goat,[20] or one sheep.[21]


When Muhammad married Safiyya, no meat or bread was served at the wedding meal.[22] Dates, butter and dried yogurt[23] (or cheese[24]) were spread out for the people to eat. Hais[25] a sweet dish[26] made from butter, cheese and dates[27] was served.


A hadith reports that Muhammad served hais at the wedding feast when he married a woman who is not named in the hadith.[28] At that feast, one dish of food miraculously kept increasing to feed about 300 guests.[29]


Another hadith says that Muhammad served barley when he married some of his wives.[30]


Muhammad said that an invitation to a wedding banquet must be accepted.[31] If a person is fasting, he should attend the feast but not eat there.[32]


Abu Huraira (a close companion of Muhammad) said that the worst food is the food at a wedding feast to which only the rich have been invited[33] or a wedding feast from which people are turned away or to which people who are invited do not come.[34]



Wedding Practices

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller




Witnesses (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)


Guardians and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)


Intoxication and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)


Wedding feast (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)


Bridal payment (mahr) (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)



Witnesses (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars** agree that witnesses are required for a marriage to be valid.[35] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafiʽi school) specifies that two male witnesses are required for a marriage. A 19th century commentator cited in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller says that in the Hanafi school, one male plus two females can be witnesses to a marriage.[36]



Guardians and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Al-Shafiʽi and Malik say that, in the absence of the father, a guardian of the woman is necessary for a valid marriage contract, while Abu Hanifa says that a woman can contract marriage herself if the husband is of similar status.[37] Reliance of the Traveller explains that a marriage requires that the bride’s guardian say aloud that the marriage is effected and then the groom responds by affirming aloud his marriage to the bride.[38]


A guardian must be a male Muslim past puberty.[39] Reliance of the Traveller specifies that the bride’s guardian must be an upright, legally responsible, Muslim male with sound judgement.[40]

Various male relatives, in orders that differ from school to school, take over guardianship in case of the absence of the father or subsequent guardian.[41] Reliance of the Traveller says that the Islamic magistrate takes over as the bride’s guardian if there is no proper male relative who can do this.[42]


Al-Shafiʽi says that only the father of a boy below puberty can contract for his marriage. Abu Hanifa says that any guardian of the boy can do this. Malik says that other than the father, only the executor (agent after death[43]) of the father’s estate may contract for a boy below puberty.[44]


Al-Shafiʽi says that, besides the father, only the paternal grandfather of a girl below puberty can give her away in marriage. Abu Hanifa says that any guardian can do this. Malik says that this is permitted only to a person to whom this responsibility was delegated by the father.[45]


Reliance of the Traveller says that only a non-Muslim may be guardian for the marriage of a non-Muslim bride.[46]



Intoxication and marriage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Malik says that an intoxicated person cannot be a party to a valid marriage. Abu Hanifa disagrees and holds that an intoxicated person is responsible in such cases.[47]



Wedding feast (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Reliance of the Traveller says that in the tradition of Islam a wedding feast is held to celebrate a marriage. A 20th century commentator cited in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller says that the feast can be held at any time but the recommended time is following the consummation of the marriage by sexual intercourse.[48]


A person invited to a wedding feast is required to attend as long as certain conditions are met including: (1) that poor people as well as rich have been invited; (2) that you will not be harmed by anyone there; (3) that all attendees are of good character; (4) there will be nothing unacceptable such as flutes, wine, silk-covered mats for sitting, or pictures of humans or animals on the ceiling, walls, upright pillows, or draperies.  However, if attending the wedding feast will cause these objectionable things to be removed, then one should attend.[49]



Bridal payment (mahr) (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars** agree that a bridal payment (mahr*), given by the groom to the bride, is required for a marriage to be valid.[50] Reliance of the Traveller says that the bridal payment (mahr) may be in the form of a physical thing or object, a debt to be paid, or the right to use or benefit from something.[51]


If a man cannot pay the mahr and the couple have not had sexual intercourse, then the bride may annul the marriage. If they have had sexual intercourse, then his inability to pay the mahr is not grounds for such an annulment.[52]


Al-Shafiʽi says that the mahr must go to the bride herself. Abu Hanifa says that mahr may go to the father of the bride if the father has said that this is a condition for the marriage. According to Malik, mahr goes to the father if a stipulation to that effect is made after the contract, but it goes to the bride if the stipulation precedes the marriage contract.[53]




*Mahr is a payment given by the groom to the bride upon their marriage.


**Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the comp iled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.


§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.



Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.


Home – Laws of Religion, Judaism and Islam


Next – 5. Harmony and Discord in Marriage


Table of Contents – Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men



Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC/CMJE website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources. Part or all of the hadith collections of al-Bukhari, with somewhat different numbering systems, can also be found here, here and here.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here. Part or all of the hadith collection of Muslim, with somewhat different numbering systems, can also be found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Full text online and download for Volume 1 are here and here and for Volume 2 are here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA.  Reliance of the Traveller can be found here and here.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

[1] QR 4:4, QR 4:24

[2] BK 3:34:264, BK 3:34:265, BK 5:58:124, BK 5:58:125, BK 5:58:274, BK 7:62:10, BK 7:62:78, BK 7:62:83, BK 7:62:85, BK 7:62:96, BK 8:75:395, ML 8:319, ML 8:3321-3322, ML 8:3323-3324

[3] ML 8:3320

[4] ML 8:3315

[5] ML 8:3318

[6] BK 7:62:80

[7] BK 6:61:547, BK 6:61:548, BK 7:62:24, BK 7:62:54, BK 7:62:58, BK 7:62:63, BK 7:62:66, BK 7:62:72, BK 7:62:79, BK 7:72:760, ML 8:3316-3317

[8] ML 8:3317

[9] BK 1:8:367, BK 2:14:68, BK 5:59:512, BK 5:59:513, BK 7:62:23, BK 7:62:98, ML 8:3325-3326

[10] ML 8:3252, ML 8:3253-3254, ML 8:3255-3256, ML 8:3258, ML 8:3260, ML 8:3261, ML 8:3262

[11] ML 5:2347-2348

[12] BK 7:63:197-198, BK 7:63:199-200

[13] BK 7:63:231, BK 7:63:232, BK 7:63:261, BK 7:63:262, ML 9:3557

[14] BK 3:34:264, BK 3:34:265, BK 5:58:125, BK 5:58:274, BK 7:62:10, BK 7:62:83, BK 7:62:85, BK 7:62:96, BK 8:73:105, BK 8:75:395, ML 8:319, ML 8:3320, ML 8:3321-3322

[15] BK 6:60:314, BK 6:60:315, BK 6:60:316, BK 6:60:317, BK 7:62:84, BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:97, BK 7:62:99, BK 7:62:100, BK 9:93:517, ML 8:3328, ML 8:3330, ML 8:3331, ML 8:3332, ML 8:3333, ML 8:3334

[16] BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:99, ML 8:3334

[17] BK 7:62:95, BK 7:62:99

[18] BK 7:62:97, ML 8:3331, ML 8:3332BK 7:62:101

[19] BK 6:60:316, BK 6:60:317, BK 9:93:517, ML 8:3328, ML 8:3330, ML 8:3332

[20] ML 8:3331

[21] BK 7:62:97, BK 7:62:100

[22] BK 5:59:524, BK 7:62:22, BK 7:62:89

[23] BK 1:8:367, BK 5:59:524, BK 7:62:22, BK 7:62:89, BK 7:65:299

[24] ML 8:3328

[25] BK 1:8:367, BK 3:34:437, BK 4:52:143, BK 5:59:522, BK 7:62:98, BK 7:65:299, BK 7:65:336, BK 8:75:374, ML 8:3325-3326, ML 8:3329

[26] BK 7:62:98, BK 7:65:299

[27] BK 7:62:98, ML 8:3325-3326

[28] ML 8:3335

[29] ML 8:3335

[30] BK 7:62:101

[31] BK 7:62:102, BK 7:62:103, BK 7:62:104, BK 7:62:106, BK 8:73:241, ML 8:3338, ML 8:3339, ML 8:3349, ML 8:3353

[32] ML 8:3344, ML 8:3348

[33] BK 7:62:106, ML 8:3349

[34] ML 8:3353

[35] DJP (Vol 2, pages 19-20), SR 166 (pages 173-174)

[36] RT m3.3 (page 518)

[37] DJP (Vol 2, page 9), SR 166 (pages 173-174)

[38] RT m3.2 (page 517)

[39] DJP (Vol 2, pages 13-14)

[40] RT m3.4 (pages 518-519)

[41] DJP (Vol 2, pages 14-15), RT m3.7 (page 520)

[42] RT m3.7 (7) (page 520)

[43] DJP (Vol 2, pages 14-15)

[44] DJP (Vol 2, pages 4-8)

[45] DJP (Vol 2, pages 4-8)

[46] RT m3.4 (pages 518-519)

[47] DJP 19.2.2 (Vol 2, pages 97-100)

[48] RT m9.1 (page 536)

[49] RT m9.2 (pages 536-537)

[50] DJP (Vol 2, pages 20-21)

[51] RT m8.4 (page 533)

[52] RT m8.9 (page 535)

[53] DJP (Vol 2, pages 32-33)