Islamic weddings vary from community to community, with different traditions reflecting the cultural heritage of varying Muslim countries around the world. This article looks at some of the different laws, customs and celebrations that are found in Muslim marriages in the UK and the US.
1. Laws and formal celebrations
Certain things are essential to all Muslim marriages, no matter where in the world they take place. The marriage has to be declared publicly and this is often done by having a large feast or walimah, which announces that the couple are married and entitled to one another. Cultural trends depend on where the Muslim family originates from.
In the UK the dominant Islamic culture is that of the Indian sub-continent, which often favours a bright, colourful wedding with the bride wearing a scarlet and gold shalwar-gameez and having her hands and feet patterned with henna. In the US the majority of brides favour a traditional white wedding dress.
Some communities prefer simple celebrations with close friends and family while others prefer huge feasts with hundreds of guests. In the US celebrations often include dancing, firing of guns and lots of noise and hilarity.
In the UK weddings are often celebrated on a grand scale – lasting several days and including a henna/mehndi ceremony as well as the nikah and the walimah. In the UK Muslim marriages are not recognised unless they are registered at a civil ceremony, as well as being celebrated at the nikah.
2. Cultural codes and conduct
Muslim marriage is still a very traditional, patriarchal affair. A male guardian has to grant permission before a woman’s consent can be asked for. Witnesses to the marriage are only allowed to be men and a woman is expected to live with her in-laws after the ceremony.
In the UK a new marriage contract has been drafted which seeks to do away with these cultural inequalities, which many modern Muslims feel are outdated in the modern world.
The contract stresses loyalty, mutuality and equality between husband and wife and protects the woman’s financial rights. Although many Muslims of the younger generation were enthusiastic about these changes, they are finding the community as a whole is still hostile to it and so most marriages stick to the traditional customs.
3. Mixed-religion relationships
Although interfaith marriage has become more and more popular in the UK and the US, it is still met with disapproval in the majority of Muslim communities. In the US around a third of Muslim men and almost half of Muslim women say they oppose interfaith marriage, with the Arab-American population being most averse to the unions.
Many followers of Islam believe that the Quran forbids mixed-religion marriage for women while allowing it for men, and so it is much more common for a Muslim man to marry outside of faith than for a woman to.
This is one of the reasons why a lot of Muslim women find it hard to gain a marriage partner, as, particularly in the UK, the amount of single Muslim women significantly outnumbers single Muslim men.
4. Online dating trends among Muslims
Online dating has started to gain more and more importance for single Muslims in the UK and the US because they are finding it harder to meet a partner from within their local Muslim communities.
Sites such as eHarmony.co.uk help Muslim singles build the foundations for a successful Muslim marriage by matching them up with other singles based on the most important lifestyle values including spirituality, traditionalism and intelligence.
If you are interested in finding out more information about online dating then follow eHarmony on Twitter.
Muslim marriage customs vary from community to community and some Muslim couples find it hard to marry their modern Western lifestyle with their traditional Islamic heritage.
Muslim singles in the US and UK are starting to search for singles online and to consider interfaith marriage as they seek to adapt their traditional values to a contemporary lifestyle.
Tracey Chandler is a freelance writer travelling the world and reporting on city culture, expat life, female lifestyle issues (including love, sex and the trials of dating), online marketing and volunteer projects abroad. She speaks four languages, studies Fine Arts, is allergic to wheat and never stops reading.