The Nikah (Wedding) Ceremony in Pakistani Weddings

OK. Here we go. The Nikah. The sacred marriage contract between a man and a woman which legitimizes living as husband and wife. The Nikah must be declared publicly, and hence we have the nikah, or wedding, ceremony.

Here’s where things get ugly.

I haven’t been to that many Pakistani Muslim weddings, but the one’s that I have been to, that I remember, I remember the Imam (Muslim priest) being terrible.

Here are a list of things that should not have any part of a wedding ceremony:

  • The words “obey” and “obedient.” In fact, the only place where these words can be used is when you’re talking about dogs.
  • Misogyny. Surprised that this followed the first point? :s The last person I want to be part of my special day is some misogynistic, backwards-thinking, mullah who thinks my beautifully decorated wedding is an appropriate venue to start lecturing my guests about “a woman’s place.” I would sooner kick him off my wedding stage but not before telling him that our Prophet, upon whom be peace, was employed by his first wife.
  • Rambling Imams. You are here to marry two individuals. Effectively, that doesn’t take that long. Go ask girl, girl says yes. Come back to boy, boy says yes. Marriage complete. Beyond what you’re therefore, don’t talk.
  • Imams cracking jokes. It’s one thing if they’re funny. But we all know they’re not. And their jokes have no place at my wedding.
  • Soliciting. Yes, I’ve seen this. Imams trying to sell their CDs. On someone’s wedding. 
  • Making the ceremony interactive. No, a wedding ceremony doesn’t warrant audience participation. Do not ask wedding guests to shout out answers to your idiotic questions. 
  • Lack of fluency in English. Yes, this is important. I want to be able to understand the individual who is effectively facilitating the most important decision of my life. Fluency in English, therefore, is not unreasonable.

I just don’t understand how the nikah, THE WEDDING CEREMONY, effectively the most important part of the day ends up being placed in the hands of men who do all of the aforementioned. If the imam who performed my ceremony did any of the above (god forbid) I would be absolutely livid.

I want my wedding ceremony to feel special. I want it to feel sacred. Because it is.

And I want it performed by someone who is a decent, respectful person who values women’s equality and is fluent in the English language.

And I don’t want it to last more than 7 minutes.

Weddings are happy occasions. And the nikah is a special and scared part of them. Let’s give them the respect that they deserve.

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4 thoughts on “The Nikah (Wedding) Ceremony in Pakistani Weddings

  1. Maha says:

    Hey Safa, I can definitely relate to your post about the imam and nikkah ceremony. I am actually having a hard time finding an imam that I feel will be thoughtful, respectful and engaging. Do you know of anyone that you could recommend? The nikkah ceremony is so important I don’t want the person performing it to say things I disagree with or ramble on.

    • safazaki2013 says:

      Hey Maha, unfortunately I don’t have anyone I can reccomend! The imam that I really wanted – Timothy Gianotti – whom I had heard speak so beautifully and eloquently before ended up going on a major rant about things so unrelated to marriage -I was furious. ( to the point where it shows in pictures!) So unfortunately , despite my concern and planning, that’s an example of how it was something i just couldn’t control, despite my best efforts. My advice – get someone you know trust and love to do the nikah, it does not have to be an imam that does the nikah, and that way you have more of a guarantee that it will be what you want to hear. And then the actual civil ceremony is just signing papers which you can do at city hall or in a sep ceremony with an officiant. That’s what i would do if i had to do it again!

      • Maha says:

        That’s really unfortunate 😦 I wouldn’t mind doing the civil ceremony separately but I guess it will come down to what our families want as well. Hopefully we can either find someone we’re happy with or come to an alternate arrangement. Thanks for your advice Safa!

      • safazaki2013 says:

        Hi Maha, I know I was really upset about it too but alas what can you do! Inshallah you will figure something out that everyone is comfortable with and it’s a beautiful ceremony! Xo

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