Marriage is an important part of a Muslim's life. In fact, getting married is a religious duty. Marriage in Islam is a social contract that brings with it rights and obligations upon the man and woman. Muslim wedding ceremonies, Nikah, are a mix of Islamic traditions and culture from different parts of the world. How a wedding ceremony is conducted and celebrated depends on the families' culture, which can be African, European or Asian, among others.
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The Muslim wedding ceremony known as Nikah often is preceded by dancing and feasting for days before the actual wedding. On the wedding day, the bride and groom arrive separately at a mosque or the wedding venue and are put in different rooms. A cleric or any male knowledgeable in Islam may officiate the wedding ritual. He heads into the separate rooms in which the bride and groom are and asks each of them if they consent to the marriage. A representative answers for the bride. The couple may separately sign the wedding contract in the presence of witnesses at this moment or after the sermon.
The wedding officiant makes a brief sermon, which is listened to by the guests as well as the bride and groom in separate rooms. The sermon, though not mandatory, solemnises the marriage. In some weddings, the first chapter of the Koran (Fatihah) is recited, followed by a recital of blessings, also known as durud.
A proof of Nikah is signed by both bride and groom, though separately without them seeing each other yet. The cleric is in charge of filling in other forms, such as registration of marriage forms to comply with a country's marriage laws. There is no marriage license that is issued in an Islamic wedding. A prayer, Duoa, is said to finalise this part of the wedding ceremony. The couple is brought together at this time, and the bride is showered with coins (Savaqah) as she leaves the wedding venue for the feast.
The feast, also known as Valima or Walima, marks the postwedding celebration. On the same wedding day, the groom's family hosts the feast. Some feasts or banquets are fairly modest with only close friends and families attending, while others have many guests invited. The Valima entails eating and dancing, but men and women are served separately, especially in traditional Muslim weddings. The bride and groom sit together as a couple for the first time after the meal is over. With their heads covered in a yellow scarf (dupatta), the couple is prayed for and may begin receiving gifts after this.
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