Local Time

Friday, February 18, 2005

Muslim marriage ceremony a meeting of minds, cultures

by Samara Kalk Derby
Source: The Capital Times

At the end of the ceremony there was no kissing of the bride. Afterward, there was no cake, alcohol, music or dancing.

Instead, the marriage of Ilham Sunhaji and Nik Jazland Nik Azmi, who are both from Malaysia, was an educational and culturally enriching experience for many of the couple's friends who come from outside of the Muslim faith.

"Where should we go? What should we do? Can I take pictures? Can I hug her?" asked the bride's friend, Marla Delgado, shortly after she arrived.

"I'm going to cry, you know that," Delgado said after she first caught sight of the petite Sunhaji, 23, draped in a delicate white dress and head scarf that she purchased in Malaysia.

About 75 friends, many of them UW-Madison students, attended the ceremony Thursday night at the Islamic Center of Madison, just north of Regent Street. Raad Saleh, an active member of the Islamic Center, said news media were invited to give the broader community some insight into Muslim and Malaysian customs. There are about 1,000 Muslim families in the Madison area, he added.
Those familiar with Islam said it was unusual for a couple to marry without their extended families in attendance.

"Usually in Malaysia when you get married, there would be both families and it would be a huge wedding. But since they are at school here and far away, it's a small, very small wedding," said Ali Gardo, a friend of the couple and a UW senior majoring in math.

According to various accounts, Azmi asked Sunhaji to marry him shortly after they met in Madison more than three years ago, when Sunhaji was only a freshman. She replied by saying nothing.

"He was very redundant," said Sunhaji, who finally gave in after three years of friendship.

The couple traveled back to Malaysia so Sunhaji's parents could meet Azmi. Sunhaji said her father is extremely religious and strict and insisted they marry. "I waited until my Dad asked us to get married," she said.

They were supposed to get married last semester but Sunhaji, who majors in international studies and political science and works long hours as a leader in the Multicultural Student Coalition, was just too busy.

Azmi, who is 26, graduated from a Malaysian university in 2002 with a degree in quantity surveying, which he said is similar to civil engineering. He's been working part-time delivering the Wisconsin State Journal as he waits for Sunhaji to finish her studies.

Sunhaji graduates in May and said she'd like to move to Britain to pursue a master's degree in international law. Meanwhile, in a separate conversation, Azmi said he plans to go back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, and work in his father's architecture firm.

Wherever the newlyweds end up, they are planning another celebration in Malaysia in August. Azmi is from Kuala Lumpur and Sunhaji is from Selangor, about an hour away.

In the Islamic Center's main prayer room, the wedding guests sat on the floor - as did the bride and groom - during the ceremony, known as Akad al Nikah.

Saleh conducted the nuptials. He told the crowd that Islam requires a "meeting of the minds between the husband and wife."

Also, the husband must be financially viable, Saleh explained. No matter what type of inheritance the woman has or how wealthy she is, the wife is not obligated to bring anything into the household.

"It's the man's responsibility," he said.

During the ceremony the husband has to offer a substantial sum of money, something akin to a dowry. Paying for the wedding party is also the responsibility of the husband.

"Unfortunately in Islam the man pays and pays," Saleh said with a laugh.

Publicly, during the ceremony, the groom asks to marry the bride. She - or her advocate - can answer three ways: she can accept, she can stay silent which translates into an acceptance, or she can decline.

"If she chooses No. 3 we are in trouble," Saleh said to laughter from the guests.

Afterward, Malik Ismail, who acted as the bride's advocate, or witness, said he was glad the couple was able to marry in Madison.

"If they had gotten married in Malaysia there are a lot of cultural additions to the marriage," he said. "What we have experienced here is pure, plain, simple and straight-forward."

Related links:


English to Arabic to English Dictionary
Find word:
Exact Word / Starting Word Sub Word

Please Feel Free to Donate