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Getting married – Some Guidelines

The Validation of the Marriage

The ‘normal’ nikah ceremony, although valid in the Islamic sense, is not a valid marriage on its own in the UK. It is a solely religious ceremony, and is not accepted in the UK as a legal ceremony.

For the marriage to be properly valid in the UK, it must be registered according to UK law. No Muslim should seek to contract a marriage without the full protection of the law of the land. If the marriage is not registered in a civil ceremony it is not recognised legally, and although the couple may feel married before Allah, they are in effect committing zina (adultery) so far as UK law is concerned. The husband, wife and children would therefore have no rights in law as regards pensions, benefits etc, and the children would be regarded as illegitimate.

If any of the intended partners, or a relative, or an Imam attempted to coerce either spouse into resting content with the nikah religious ceremony, they would be acting in direct opposition to the law of the land. Persons most likely to be harmed by avoiding the civil registration would be the wives, who would only then have the status in the UK of unmarried ‘partners’ – a status forbidden in Islam. The children would be illegitimate. No Muslim man should wish to put his spouse or offspring in such a dishonourable position. A Muslim man doing so would certainly be accountable for this in the Life to Come, even if they ‘got away with it’ on this earth.

Guidance for Imams

The following six-point plan is suggested for Imams to consider prior to any marriage for which they are responsible:

  • Arrange to meet the prospective couple, and make absolutely certain that they are both genuinely happy to get married
  • Have the courage and integrity to be prepared to take on the parents of the prospective couple if you are in any doubt about the free agreement of either of them to the wedding
  • Provide some sort of basic guidance for their marriage. Better still, if circumstances permit, consider organising courses for young people on the principles of marriage in Islam.
  • Ask the couple if they have discussed with one another things they hold as important, and encourage these issues to be aired while you are present with them, or on some other occasion prior to the marriage. You could perhaps use some questionnaires to check their compatibility with each other
  • Remind the couple of their life-long commitment, their rights and duties and responsibilities towards each other and the new families they will (insha’Allah) create.
  • If you are conducting nikah ceremony, please ensure that the couple has already registered their marriage with the registrar of marriages or a date for such a registration has been set. In the absence of either do not conduct nikah religious ceremony.

Procedure for Marriage

It is not necessary to have the religious and civil ceremonies together at the same event. Some Muslims might like the two to be performed together, others might not. For example, if the civil ceremony is to be performed the same day, then it must take place between the hours of 8am and 6pm. Civil ceremonies cannot be performed at other times by registrars. Therefore, for example, an evening civil wedding is ruled out.

If you wish to have the two ceremonies separately, the best procedure is to have the civil ceremony and registration first, before the nikah ceremony, although this is not compulsory, and it can be done the other way round. The time between the two ceremonies should preferably be as short as possible.

Alternatively, the nikah ceremony may be organised so that it includes the civil ceremony if the mosque has been officially registered firstly as a place of worship, and secondly as a place for civil marriages.

Taken from The Role of the Mosque in Britain (March 2003)