By definition, a Nikkah is an Islamic contract between two people consenting to marriage. Growing up in the fast-paced world of America, I realized that there are many difficulties when coming to terms with practicing Islam and trying to “fit in” with the crowd. Having a boyfriend, going out on dates, and having your first kiss at prom, are all things that I was surrounded by, and I thought I was missing out on something big. Nonetheless, I was saving myself for marriage and ended up having my Islamic marriage ceremony two weeks before my 21st birthday.
The entire ceremony probably lasted nothing more than an hour, and then I was married. The emotions I felt were indescribable. It’s so crazy how an hour ago this man wasn’t even my Mahram and now held the power of completing half of my deen. However, things weren’t always very easy. To think that now this man and I are halal in front of the eyes of Allah (SWT,) but there isn’t much we were allowed to do.
Afterward, my husband and I worked out our marriage in a long-distance relationship, him living in Canada and I was living in the US. I would visit my husband with my parents almost every three months. The most I was allowed to do was to speak with him over the phone. Even sitting next to him was practically considered to be a sin by my family. It was like he was my husband, but not my husband at the same time. When we’d go for a walk, a cousin of mine always had to be around to ensure “nothing” would happen. I wasn’t allowed to hold his hand in public, I couldn’t talk to him privately – it was like he was an acquaintance rather than my other half. While I was Islamically married, it felt more like I was socially fake married.
This entire situation concerned me a lot. Here I was, waiting to give my all to this one person who is halal for me, yet I couldn’t? It felt as if whatever I was told in my life was a lie. When I questioned the situation, I was constantly told that since my rukhsati (the consummation of the marriage) had not been done, I could not interact with my husband too much. This obviously confused me and allowed me to dig deeper into what exactly our religion says about a Nikkah.
Imam at-Tabari Rahimahullah elaborated that there is a period of time between the Nikkah and the rukhsati in which it is permitted for the pair to engage with one other in a manner that is permissible for a husband and wife, including the actual consummation of marriage. On the other hand, if they decide to engage in sexual activity with one another, the husband is responsible for fulfilling all of the wife’s rights, including her right to a full dowry as well as her rights to shelter and nourishment. There is some debate among academics over what exactly defines “consummation” when it comes to marriage. They are all in agreement that having sexual relations is the best way to define it, but there are some academics who believe that having complete privacy is sufficient, and there are others who believe that the very minimum is simply being physically acquainted with one another.
So if I have my actual wedding ceremony postponed, what are my rights as a wife?
There is no comparison between the connection between a husband and wife versus that of neighbors or friends; rather, it is far more severe and on the edge of becoming inseparable. This idea is articulated quite clearly in the Quran:
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And of His signs is that He has created for you, from yourselves, spouses that you may gain peace through them and He has set among you love and compassion. Surely in this, there are signs for thoughtful people.”
- When interacting with one another, husbands and wives are expected to be considerate, well-mannered, pleasant, cheerful, compassionate, helpful, empathetic, courteous, just, honest, supportive, trustworthy, loyal, well-wishing, and polite.
- It is expected that husbands and wives would respect one another’s preferences about personal grooming practices, such as hygiene, attire, and the cut of their hair and beards. Women who stay at home or work are encouraged by Islam to wear their nicest clothing, maintain a tidy and clean appearance, apply pleasant fragrances, and put on cosmetics so that their husbands would find them attractive.
One of the most erroneous views that we have in most cultures, particularly within our South Asian community, is that a simple Nikkah does not represent anything and is viewed more like an engagement than an actual Islamic marriage ceremony. This is one of the most widely held beliefs in our society. Before the heavens and the earth were ever joined together, Allah (SWT) had inscribed your wives and husbands into his book. It is halal.
- Mahram: In Islam, a mahram is a family member with whom marriage would be considered permanently unlawful (haram)
- Rukhsati: the consummation of marriage. After Rukhsati, the spouses begin living together as husband and wife.
For more insight on Islamic rights for a wife and husband:
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