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Muslim Wedding

Muslim wedding (Nikah) is a civil contract between two persons - a man and a woman for conjugal life and begetting children. It is a contract of a permanent nature, unless dissolved by divorce. It has attached to it a notion of sanctity as well, since every step in its materialization and dissolution is guided by religious dictates.

Muslim Wedding Peculiarities
Islam does not permit inter-religious marriages. Muslims used to give preference to cousins because of some considerations like - pride of lineage and notions of purity of blood; family solidarity; the prospect of the Jahez or dowry given to the daughter at the time of marriage remaining in the same family.

Family consideration is the most important factor, which is split into two categories - consideration pertaining to the bridegroom, and consideration pertaining to the bride. The groom is supposed to be qualified, hailing from status family, employed and of good nature. Whereas the bride has to be good looking, well-behaved and possess good health. She must be also trained in household management responsibilities.

Match Making in Muslim Weddings
Like many other communities of the world, Muslims too give preference or priority to certain of their kin while settling marriage. Due to some socio-cultural factors "cousins" occupy a significant place in the matrimonial alliances and hence they evolved "cross cousin" and "parallel cousin" marriages, which are still popular. The most probable reason for these sort of matrimonial alliances is that siblings separated by marriage yearn to remain close to each other and hence they want their children to intermarry and give the demonstration of "sibling solidarity."

The procedure of selection of the marriage partners is considered to be the most important factor: they give every possible attention to this basic point. The match-making could be done among cousins but it is not always possible. In most cases, it is the elderly ladies of the families concerned who take the lead in the matter. They consider it their foremost duty to suggest marriage proposals for the marriageable girls and boys. Other members of the family are also on the lookout for suitable young people. The elderly ladies of the two parties, when they meet at some function or other the opportunity is availed of to discuss the possibility of an alliance. As it is a family matter and previously contemplated, both parties give authority to an elderly lady who settles a date for a talk between the families.

Another procedure is through interested friends and relatives, especially when a suitable match is not available amongst near-relations. The third procedure is by ascertaining a suitable match through servants, fruit and sweet vendors, barber's wife and the like who move among several families and are able to render service to various families.

In the present society, though the old role of the parents still prevails, under the influence of Western education more and more people consider it proper to take the consent of the young people directly or indirectly with the help of friends and cousins. Matrimonial ads and marriage bureaus are increasingly being used.

Negotiation starts after initiation through intermediaries and friends, and when concurrence has been reached in settlement , they become more and more defined and details are discussed and a day fixed for the final settlement.

It is the bridegroom's party that takes the initiative and makes the proposal for the marriage. But nowdays, the bride's party takes the initiative and makes the proposal for the marriage.

As in initiation, so in negotiations, elderly ladies, mutual friends and close relatives play prominent role. Apart from them, a unique personality known as Mushatta was accustomed to play a great role in the marriage negotiations. A Mushatta is a working woman visiting well-to-do families to help young girls to complete their toilet, etc. Because of their close associations and unchallenged access to different families and mixing with them, they used to gain close and deep knowledge of the status of the different families, the character of the individuals and their behaviour.

Wedding Costumes

The wedding dress for the girl includes a Sharara, which is a long following skirt and blouse. There is a dupatta to cover the head. The groom wears a Sherwani or a traditional salwar and kurta. But there are no hard and fast rules here.

Muslim Wedding Rituals

Rituals Before Marriage

Istikhara and Imam-Zamin
Muslims complete the negotiation process with the ceremony of Istikhara. In this, it is customary to take the consent of God for concluding the negotiation matter. Here, the Mujtahid (Religious Head) obtains the consent of God with the help of a Tasbih (Rosary) and when the Istikhara is wajib (super affirmative), it is considered that the marriage between the parties should be finally settled. The mother of the boy or some other close woman relative (if the mother is dead), accompanied by her female friends and relations , pays a visit to the house of the girl with sweets and Imam Zamin to see the girl immediately after Istikhara.

The guardians of the girl accept the sweets and entertain them with refreshments. In most cases the girl is adorned and the women of the boy's family see the girl's face for the first time and the mother of the boy ties the Imam Zamin round the upper portion of he bride's right arm ( a silver or gold coin wrapped in a silken cloth). This ceremony is called the Imam Zamin ceremony.

Mangni (Betrothal)
Mangni is a popular marriage ceremony, which is fast making its presence felt at all Indian marriages. In this ceremony, the female members of the boy's family visit the house of the girl, taking with them sweets, fruits and vegetables. The sweets are distributed among the relatives and friends of the girl's family. In return sweets, fruits and vegetables are sent to the boy's house and there also sweets are distributed among the relatives and friends of the boy's family. Exchanging rings between the groom and the bride does also take place.

Manjha
Manjha is a ceremony that starts a few days before the actual Nikah ceremony. The bride wears yellow clothes and in some of the families, the bridegroom is also dressed in yellow clothes. During these days the Nawan (Barber's wife) in the case of the bride, in Nai (Barber) in the case of the groom rubs Butna (grounded mustard seeds) on the bride's and bridegroom's bodies and each in his or her own house and they take their bath daily after that. This is continued after upto the day of Nikah. The bride is confined in a separate room, which is avoided by male members who are older than her. In the case of groom, it is necessary that during Manjha he should not go out of his house, but few are able to observe this restriction. Girl friends and relatives entertain the bride with jokes and humour.

Among the Muslims, both at the residence of the bride and of the groom, women of both the sides sing to the accompaniment of the Dholak (Drum). Grinded Mehendi (Myrtle)is applied to the hands and feet of the bride of the bride before the actual marriage ceremony takes place, and in some families it is also pasted on the hands of the groom.

Manjha is sent from the bride's side and it is the first occasion when specially the women of both sides meet one another in close familiarity. The Manjha is taken out in a procession with music bands. The main articles sent on such an occasion are the yellow robes of silk satin with golden fringes and embroidery. Sweets and pindis (sugar preparations) are also sent in trays to be used by the groom to improve his health and are eaten with milk. The pindis contain varieties of dried kernels of fruit and gum shaped into round balls. They are also distributed among friends and relatives as a token of intimation of the coming marriage.

Sanchaq
Sanchaq includes jewelleries and costly clothes which are sent from the groom's house to the bride for use on the occasion of Nikah and Chowthi (another ceremony after Nikah). In Sanchaq, articles like, Nuth (nose ring), Tika (forehead ornament), Ring, Suhag Pura (make-up goods for the day of Nikah), garlands, Nuqals (a preparation of sugar), dried fruits, etc., are also included.

The procession of Sanchaq contains music bands and all sorts of articles in large pans known as Khawans covered with gorgeous wrappings, the chief being a Matki or a jar with curd in it and fish tied to the neck of this jar.

Marriage Rituals

Nikah
Invited guests and relations assemble at the bridegroom's place on the Nikah day when the groom wears the clothes received from the bride's side. Sehra (a flower veil) is tied to the groom's forehead by the brother-in-law, who in return receives some cash as a present from the elders of the family. The Parjas i.e. Barber, Sweeper, Washerman, gardener, tailor and domestic servants, etc., are given money and clothes to mark the auspicious occasion. The baarat then proceeds to the house of the bride.

Before the Nikah, dried dates, sugar and Nuqal are placed before the bridegroom. One of the Mujtahids represents the groom while the other represents the bride's side. If the settlement of the Maher has not taken place before, it is done on this occasion. The bride's Mujtahid, goes to the bride in the woman's apartment and asks her three times whether she accepts the person concerned as her husband, with the amount of Maher as settled and generally she answers in the affirmative. Then the Mujtahids from the bride's side comes and takes his seat in the assembly. Then the Mujtahids of the groom's side asks the groom three times whether he accepts the woman concerned as his wife with the amount of Maher as settled and he answers in the affirmative. After this is done the Mujtahids of the bride's side recites the Khutba (religious discourse) and then both the Mujtahids pronounce the Sigha of Nikah, and some responsible persons from amongst the audience sign on the Nikahnama (marriage deed) as the witness. Thus the Nikah is completed. Sehra (sort of poetry) is also recited in the praise of the poets in praise of the groom and his family on this occasion.

Rituals After Marriage
Arsi Mushaf
The Arsi Mushaf is the occasion when the bridegroom first sees the face of the bride in a mirror held between them. Arsi means a mirror and Mushaf means the Holyu Quran. The holy Quran is placed along with the mirror for seeking divine blessing for both. A candle is held under the shawl spread over the heads of both. The groom is also asked to write the Surat-Ikhas (a Holy verse) on the forehead of his wife with the right hand pointing finger known as Kalmey-ki-unglee.

Salami
When the Arsi Mushaf ceremony is over, the bridegroom salutes (salam) the elders and gets presents and money from them. The presents and cash are known as Salami.

Rukhsati
Before the Rukhsati, the Jahej (dowry), which generally includes clothes, ornaments, furniture, utensils, etc and in some cases cash given to the bride by her parents, as well as presents from his friends and relatives, are displayed.

Kheer Chatai
In this, the bride and groom are seated face to face and some kheer (milk pudding) is put in a plate, before them. The groom puts a spoon full of Kheer into the bride's mouth. Then comes the turn of the bride.

Runumai or Face Showing
The face showing ceremony (Runumai) takes place after the ceremony of Kheer Chatai when close relatives and female friends of the groom's family look at the bride's face and offer presents in cash or kind.

Bridal Night
A secluded room is decorated with flowers and buntings, etc., for the newly-wedded pair and the bride and groom are left in the chamber.

Walima Feast
Walima Feast is also of religious significance. The father or the guardian of the groom gives this feast at his residence generally on the next day of the marriage. Relatives, friends, acquaintances, Beradari fellows and mohalla people attend this feast.

Chowthi It is said the first feast after marriage in the house of the bride. At this ceremony also the bride and groom sit opposite each other and a female companion of the bride, who remains under a veil, put some vegetables and fruits in the hands of the bride and then holding her wrists, throw them in the lap of the groom. He also repeats the same. This is known as Chowthi and after the bride and the groom have played, the young ones of both sides are divided in two and stop the same. Slender sticks wrapped in flowers are also used to strike each other. After the elders pronounce the command to stop, all sit down laughing, talking and enjoying jokes. The groom then receives amount in cash amounts as well as some presents.

Chalas
Chalas denote feasts for the groom and the bride, given in succession by the near relatives, chiefly from the bride's side. The uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters each invite the pair for lunch/dinner and also give presents.

Halja
After the marriage, puris are cooked in ghee and the cost so incurred is contributed by all the relatives, friends and neighbours. The master of the family contributes the largest amount but receives the same share as given to others.

Celebrations in Muslim marriages

Music & Dance
The Dominies or house-hold dancing girls dance in the Zenana (women's apartment) demand Gur-Chawal also before starting their dance. They naver sing in the assembly of men. They cut jokes at the cost of the Samdhans (female near relatives of the bride and the groom) at each other's house. On the wedding night also they recite satirical and facetious songs relating to the guests and relatives of the groom which provide good amusement to the hearers.

Wedding Food

Wedding feast has fancy dishes like the welcome juice, Non-vegetarian dishes, mutton and chicken Biriyanis, Salad, Pickle, dessert, etc.

Indian Weddings