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A Simple Guide to Nikah Traditions & Muslim Wedding Words

Published Tuesday, Nov. 8th, 2022


A simple intro to common Nikah traditions and words you might hear while planning or attending a Muslim wedding ceremony for the first time

 

 

 

Asked to attend a friend’s nikah ceremony but not sure what to expect? This simple guide to nikah traditions will help you feel more familiar with each part of the celebration – and there will be plenty to celebrate! 

 

If you’re attending an interfaith ceremony between a Muslim and non-Muslim, for example a Muslim-Christian or Muslim-Jewish interfaith ceremony, you might see a mix of traditions from each faith. 

 

Keep in mind that this is only an introduction to some of the most popular and enduring nikah ceremony traditions, so you won’t find everything nikah-related here. Like most religious rites, nikah practices can vary a lot by denomination, country, culture, and family. And because Muslims celebrate in every country, and in every language, the names of traditions vary too!

 

 

Related: Muslim Wedding Vows Inspired by Quran Verses on Love & Marriage

 

 

Some Muslims in the U.S. prefer modified and modern nikah ceremonies, for example, while others prefer traditional ones. That’s why some nikahs you attend in the U.S. might include an exchange of wedding vows, while more traditional ceremonies won’t. 

 

Still, there are many shared similarities between Muslim weddings, from Indonesia, to Pakistan, India, and the U.S., as you’ll see below. 

 

 

Muslim newlyweds hold their hands up to the camera to show off their wedding rings, with their pinky fingers interlaced, they are smiling in the background and looking toward the camera

Looking for more wedding ideas?

Write your own personal vows or use one of these examples inspired by scripture: 

Muslim Wedding Vows Inspired by Quran Verses on Love & Marriage

 

What is a Nikah ceremony? 

Definition: (pronounced nee - kah) A nikah ceremony is a religious wedding ceremony for Muslim couples, in which couples consent to marriage and sign the Islamic marriage contract in front of an imam and witnesses. Also spelled ‘nikaah’ and ‘nikkah,’ this ceremony is very important in Islam, and is the only religiously recognized way for two people to marry and secure their relationship in front of Allah (God). Nikahs are traditionally simple and inexpensive and are usually performed in a mosque. They may be followed by lavish parties and other celebrations.

 

Nikah Traditions

& Muslim Wedding Words

 

 

Baraat : The arrival of the groom to the wedding venue, usually done in an elaborate way, such as in a fancy car or on horseback, and sometimes accompanied by live music and dancers in procession.

 

Barmet Al-aroos : The final farewell by friends and family to the newlyweds, as the couple hops into a car and drives away from the ceremony. Friends and family will usually follow the couple in their own cars, honking and cheering. 

 

Dabke : An Arabic wedding dance, especially popular at Lebanese and Syrian wedding celebrations, in which dancers form a line and circle the newlyweds. 

 

‘Dry’ wedding : Because drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages aren’t served at Muslim weddings. Weddings without alcohol are sometimes called dry weddings.

 

Fatiha : As in Surah Al-Fatihah, this is the first surah of the Quran and is often spoken as a blessing during a wedding ceremony.

 

Hattabin : Male representatives of the groom, similar to groomsmen, usually close friends or relatives.

 

 

Close up photo of a groom placing a wedding ring on the bride's hand, which is decorated with henna designs, mehendi

 

 

 

Henna party : Some Muslim brides plan henna (or Mehndi) parties a few days before the wedding ceremony, in which the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with henna designs. These parties are usually attended by close female friends and relatives of the bride, similar to bridesmaids. 

 

Imam : An Islamic religious leader, this is who officiates the nikah (a maulvi). 

 

Imam Zamin : In some Muslim traditions, the groom’s mother visits the bride before the wedding day to bring gifts of sweets and candies, and then ties a symbolic silk scarf holding a coin around the bride’s wrist. This coin is a symbolic offering, welcoming the bride into the family. 

 

Maher : (Also spelled mehar, meher, or mahr), This is the contract made between a groom and his family and the bride, in the form of a monetary gift to the bride to symbolize her independence, somewhat similar to a dowry. Sometimes a wedding ring is part of the maher. 

 

Mangni : This is the engagement in Islam, celebrated by friends and close relatives gathering to exchange gifts and stories in honor of the bride and groom’s decision to marry. Sometimes rings are exchanged during the mangni. 

 

Mashallah : ‘What God has willed, has happened’ in Arabic, this is a joyful way to congratulate newlyweds on their marriage and offer encouragement, similar to ‘mabrouk’

 

Mubarak : (Similar to Mabrouk or mabrook), ‘Blessed’ in Arabic, an informal way to wish newlyweds a blessed marriage, as in “Nikah mubarak!” 

 

 

 

An outdoor wedding ceremony in Indonesia, Javanese Muslim ceremony, taken from a distance, shows women sitting in head scarves looking towards the bride and groom being wed by the officiant

 

 

Nikah misyar : (Also called a misyar marriage), In the Sunni tradition, this is a controversial type of informal or temporary marriage in which a man and woman marry without the traditional responsibilities of Muslim marriage, such as living together or providing financial support. 

 

Nikah mut'ah : In the Shia tradition, a controversial type of temporary marriage in which a man and woman agree to marry privately for a fixed amount of time, without the traditional responsibilities of Muslim marriage. 

 

 

Nikah nama : (Or Nikahnama) this is the physical document of the Islamic marriage contract that is signed by the couple during their ceremony.

 

Qubool : an Arabic word meaning “I accept,” or “I consent,” this is spoken three times during the nikah ceremony by the couple as an agreement to marry, similar to saying “I do” as a ‘declaration of intent’ in secular weddings. 

 

Quran : The Holy Quran, Qur’an, or Koran, the central religious texts of Islam -- collection Muslim scriptures.

 

 

 

Close up photo of a man and woman's hands facing palm up, praying during their Muslim wedding ceremony

 

 

 

Separation by gender : Many Muslim weddings include the practice of keeping guests separated by gender, with men and women watching the ceremony from separating seating areas or rooms. This is especially common when a nikah takes place in a mosque. In some cases, the couple will also be kept separate, with a male representative (wali) standing in for her.   

 

Tolbe :  (Or tulba) A pre-wedding ceremony in which the groom asks the bride’s father and mother for their permission to marry.

 

Wali : In a wedding context, this is the bride’s father or another male representative, who ‘gives away’ the bride during the ceremony. In gender-segregated ceremonies, the wali might represent the bride throughout the ceremony (with her consent). 

 

Walima : A large banquet following the formal marriage ceremony, this dinner party can last many hours and is similar to a Western reception and afterparty, including the cutting of the wedding cake.

 

Zaffe : (Or zaffa, zaffah) A pre-wedding party, ‘wedding march,’ procession or parade, in which a couple’s family and friends celebrate the upcoming union with live music and dancing. Sometimes the zaffe happens after the ceremony as the newlyweds enter the reception hall. 

 


Learn more about Muslim weddings here:

 

What is a Nikah Ceremony? 
Intro to the Muslim Marriage Ceremony

 

young Muslim newlyweds embrace outdoors on the wedding day

 

 


 

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Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves digging into the history and magic of ritual, exploring the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She’s an advocate for marriage equality and individuality. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys easy hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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