Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. I have a question regarding a marriage situation which I have and it is concerning me a great deal, I want to find an answer to it. About three years ago I met a girl, she is from Russia and she is Christian Orthodox. We fell in love but since I'm a Muslim I decided to marry her to stay away from sins. The problem was in the form of marriage that I had at that time because I did not have the marriage done in the mosque rather we had made it between us (me and her) without the imam (in Arabic such a marriage is called `urfi). We moved in together, and shortly after that my wife got pregnant, then we decided to legalize the marriage so we got married in the civil court to avoid any complications specially because we are expecting a baby. My problem as you see is in the way I performed the Islamic marriage, while the Islamic rules of marriage require approval of the bride (as well as the wali [guardian] of the bride), a wali, a dower, two sane Muslim witnesses, and the publicity of the marriage. My marriage, on the other hand, from an Islamic point of view has not fulfilled all the conditions since there were no witnesses and no wali for the bride at the time. Clearly I have made a mistake by not going to the mosque from the very beginning and have a healthy valid marriage. It's been three years we have been living happily together. My wife understands that our child has to be raised as a Muslim and we are pretty much having a normal marital life. My question is that knowing my mistake and given that I have a civil marriage as well as the `urfi marriage done before, do I still need to go to the mosque to have the Islamic marriage done? Or can I stay with what I have? Please let me know if I need to take action based on Islamic rules.
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, we are really pleased to have your question and to have the chance to convey some of the teachings of our religion to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We hope these humble efforts meet your expectations.
Generally speaking, a valid marriage has to meet certain requirements such as announcement, the payment of the dower, the consent of both parties, the permission of the wali (woman’s guardian), and the presence of witnesses.
In Islam, the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together, but a sacred contract, a gift of Allah, to lead a happy, enjoyable life and procreate. The main goal of marriage in Islam is the realization of tranquility and compassion between the spouses.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
Marriage in Islam is a solemn contract and, just like all solemn contracts in Islam, it cannot be a casual or whimsical act without due deliberation and prerequisites. The reason for this is that marriage must be distinct from secret affairs or liaisons formed between the partners; rather it must be adequately publicized and solemnized in the presence of witnesses so that the society draws a clear distinction between the licit and illicit unions. Thus, it helps to protect not only the reputation and honor of the parties involved but also the reputation of the family, thus laying the foundation for a family that is built on chastity, honor, mutual trust, and confidence.
The essential prerequisites of marriage are a clear expression of offer to marry and acceptance of the same through a language that is understood and used as such for marriage in the culture or country one is living. According to the majority of scholars, the presence of two reliable witnesses is also considered a prerequisite for the validity of marriage.
In your case, as you have explained, your first instance of union cannot be considered at all valid in any sense in Islam, since it was not at all formally solemnized, and thus it is deemed as null and void. However, since you have contracted the marriage in the city hall it can be deemed as akin to publicizing the marriage, albeit, as can be inferred from your statement, there were no witnesses present at the time of the contract. Because it was a public event in the culture you were part of, you have somewhat fulfilled the basic minimum requirements of a valid marriage in Islam. Hence you need not repeat the marriage in the mosque in the presence of an imam.
The above ruling is based on the opinion held by scholars of the Maliki School of jurisprudence: According to them, although the presence of two reliable witnesses is ideal, publicizing the marriage itself alone can be deemed as sufficient for the validity of marriage.
Therefore, it is not at all necessary for you to redo the marriage through the imam in the mosque, but it would be much better for you if you could give a wedding feast, even if it is rather modest and simple one, in order to announce the marriage. In future you should also take care not to rush to do things whimsically and haphazardly but in a rather professional and efficient way, for Islam teaches us to do things properly and efficiently. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah enjoins professionalism in all things.” He also said, “Allah loves you to do everything you do as efficiently and professionally as possible.”
Having said this, I must also advise both of you to ask forgiveness of Allah and repent to Him sincerely for having lived a life of sin previous to your marriage. This must be done through istighfar (begging for Allah’s pardon and mercy) and doing whatever good deeds you can afford to by means of expiation. Almighty Allah says, “Verily good deeds blot out bad deeds” (Hud: 114). May Allah forgive us all our sins, both outward and inward, and may He help us to appear before Him with a pure heart. Ameen.
Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: www.muslims.ca