Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
My family insists that my wife and I have an elaborate wedding. They say that it is reasonable, regardless of thousands of dollars unnecessarily spent on the hall, decorations, stage/lighting, photography, etc., and they reason that they can afford it, which is customary within their community.
Whenever we argue, it comes down to “Ok then, what is the definition of extravagance in Islam?” They don’t accept their standards as extravagant because I need a precise definition. It is strange because they accept extravagance as wrong but do not acknowledge that what they do is extravagant. Please tell me how to explain to them what extravagance is, with a definition if possible.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.
Imam Malik (Allah have mercy on him) said, “Extravagance is taking wealth from where it ought to be spent and placing it where it ought not to be. It is wastefulness.” [Qurtubi] Extravagance is spending wealth in a good outlet but in invalid amounts. Wastefulness is spending wealth in invalid outlets. [Jurjani]
To an extent, extravagance is relative and should be determined by considering sound communal custom (‘urf) as long as such customs are not opposed to Sacred Law, and Allah knows best.
The Quran discourages extravagance and emphasizes the importance of moderation and balance in all aspects of life, including spending and consumption. Allah says, “And do not be extravagant, for verily He does not love the extravagant. And be moderate in your spending, and He (Allah) loves not the extravagant.” [Quran, 17:26-27]
The Prophet Muhammad(Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Allah approves three things for you and dislikes that you do three others; he approves for you worshipping Him without partners, that you unite upon His rope, and that you do not divide among yourselves. He dislikes for you tittle-tattle, abundantly asking the people, and wasting wealth.” [Bukhari; Muslim]
Sunna Guidance on Wedding Celebrations
The wedding feast is a sunna (whose time never expires, though it is recommended to be after intercourse). The sunna is for the meal to consist of a sheep or goat, though serving whatever readily available food is permissible. [Misri, ‘Umdat Al-Salik]
The simpler the Walima (wedding celebration or reception) and the marriage ceremony as a whole, is kept, the better it will be in terms of blessings (baraka). Sometimes, people spend thousands upon thousands feeding people, a sum which can be used for other indispensable needs of the Muslims. And if the intention behind spending such an amount is to show off, then this will be regarded as a grave sin.
The idea here is to feed people with sincerity and simplicity. If one feeds people with the simplest of meals, but from the heart, that is far better (and the food is also more enjoyable) than feeding them quality food, where the intention is not so sincere.
Sayyida ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The most blessed marriage (nikah) is the one with the least expenses.” [Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman]
Problematic Factors in Wedding Celebrations
It is obligatory for whoever is invited to a wedding celebration to attend, and whoever does not respond to the invitation has disobeyed Allah and His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). However, responding to such an invitation is only obligatory if certain conditions are met. [Nawawi, Majmu‘]
These conditions also guide us on what to avoid in wedding celebrations when we are responsible for arranging them. The conditions are:
- that the host not have invited the rich to the exclusion of the poor;
- that the invitation be for the first day of the wedding feast, for if the host celebrates for three days, it is not obligatory to respond if invited on the second day, and offensive to do so on the third;
- that the motive for attending not be fear of the host or desire for the prestige of having attended;
- that no one will be there who will hurt one or whose company is unsuitable (because of their vileness, for example, such as people devoid of morals or character;
- and that there will be nothing blameworthy there such as flutes, wine, silk-covered sitting mats, or pictures of animate life on the ceiling, walls, upright pillows [not those lying flat, or draperies; or clothing inscribed with something blameworthy, and so forth (since a person who attends in the presence of such things is as though accepting and acquiescing to what is condemnable)]. But if the blameworthy thing will be removed through one’s attending, or if the abovementioned pictures are on the ground, a carpet, or pillows people lean upon (or other humiliated deployment, which is lawful), or if the living figures are decapitated, or there are pictures of (Vegetative life such as) trees, then one must attend. [Misri, ‘Umdat Al-Salik]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.