First, What Is A Wali?
The word wali can mean many different things and have several translations.
- It can be a close friend.
- It can mean an adviser.
- It can mean a guardian.
When it comes to marriage in Islam, the Wali usually takes the last definition, perhaps with a little of the second.
And yes, a wali is required for a Muslim woman to get married. Different schools of thoughts (Madhhaab) offer a few exceptions. But I prefer to take the safest route, that a Wali is mandatory for marriage.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
There is no marriage without a wali.
I cannot stress how important this is. I’ve seen several instances where a Muslim woman gets married without a Wali. Or she chooses the wrong person as her wali.
It almost always ends up bad.
What Is Needed For A Muslim Marriage?
Before anyone can get married, there are a few ingredients that must be in place. If any of these things are missing, then there is no marriage.
Keep in mind, that there may be slight differences between the different Madhhaab. I studied under Hanafi and Maliki fiqh (Islamic law) so I’m going to rely on that and authentic Hadiths.
Offer And Acceptance
This is simple. A Muslim man must offer (or propose) to his Muslim wife to be. Actually, a woman can offer herself to a man as a wife also. Basically, somebody must say “marry me” and the other person must say “Yes!”
This shows that no one should be forced into marriage (I know; it happens all the time, but it’s not right). I’m not against arranged marriages. That’s fine and often works out okay.
But there is a problem when someone is forced to marry someone they don’t want to marry.
The Prophet said: “A matron should not be given in marriage until she is consulted, and a virgin should not be given in marriage until her permission is sought, and her silence is her permission.”
And no, not all arranged marriages are forced. This is something I’ll have to discuss later.
This is a gift the groom gives to his bride. Unlike some so-called Islamic customs, the gift goes to the bride, not the bride’s family.
And even worse, some cultures even have the bride’s family giving money to the groom’s family! This is absolutely against Islam and is something picked up from Hindu culture.
When a woman marries a man, she is leaving the safety and comfort of the home she grew up in. She is giving up the protection of her father and relatives to accept the protection and care of another man.
This gift is kind of like a consolation or a gift to ease her transition.
Also, it is well known that exchanging gifts increases the love between two people. When you give a gift to your child or spouse, this automatically strengthens your bonds.
So this gift is meant to begin creating love between husband and wife, and to make the wife’s transition from her family home a little easier.
A marriage ceremony should have at least two male witnesses.
In many ways, an Islamic marriage is sort of like a business deal.
- There’s an offer.
- There’s acceptance.
- There’s an investment (dowry).
- Most Islamic marriages even include a contract (not mandatory, but strongly recommended).
Just like any business deal in Islam, you need witnesses. This shows that the marriage is not a secret marriage and that there is no shame between the husband and wife.
And just a quick note, this last rule prove that a man cannot “secretly” marry a second wife. He should do so with witnesses and all the appropriate conditions.
And then there’s the Wali, or the guardian. This is a male who acts as the bride’s representative.
Let’s be brutally frank here. In marriage, the woman is almost always the weaker party. I hate to put it that way, but it’s the truth.
Even in western, secular nations, there’s a perception of equality in marriage that is not quite true.
Generally speaking, men still make more money, have more freedom, and have more authority in their households then women do.
All of the rules mentioned above are designed to protect the welfare of the wife as much as possible.
- Offer and acceptance prevent being forced into a marriage.
- The dowry gives her a financial foundation.
- Having witnesses verifies that she is truly married and protects her honor.
The wali is there to (hopefully) make sure that she isn’t making a bad decision. This man should be someone who has her best interests at heart and wants to make sure she marries someone good and beneficial.
Most often, the Wali is the bride’s father. But if her father is not alive, it can be her grandfather, brother (if over the age of puberty) or her uncle. If she’s an older woman, it can even be her son.
If the woman converted to Islam, and her father and other male relatives are not Muslim, the wali would be the leader of the nation, or someone appointed by him (like a judge or other government official). If she is in a non-Muslim country, then her wali would be the leader of the local Muslim community.
The Sultan is the wali for one who has no wali
If none of those are available, her wali can be any trustworthy, Muslim male.
Her Wali cannot be a non-Muslim, even if it’s her father.
There are a few other things that should go into an Islamic marriage. These things are recommended, but are not mandatory.
Walimah, or feast.
The Messenger of Allah saw some traces of saffron on Abdur-Rahman bin Awf so he said: ‘What is this?’ He said: ‘I married a woman for the amount of golf equal to a date stone.’ So he said: ‘May Allah bless you. Have a banquet, even if with only one sheep.'”
- Contract. Already mentioned above. Basically, this gives both the groom and bride the opportunity to discuss what they expect out of their marriage.
- Consummation. This sort of seals the deal.
If you’re a Muslim woman looking to get married, make sure your wali is ready and up to the job. If you do not have one, them start looking for one immediately.