What Are the Rulings of the Marriage Feast (Walima)?
Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam
Can you please explain the various aspects related to Walima (marriage feast) in detail?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The Arabic word Walima (wedding banquet) is derived from the root word Walam, which literally means to gather and assemble. The Arabs used it for a meal or feast where people were invited and gathered. Later, the term became exclusive to the wedding banquet.
The Arabs used different terms for the various feasts they enjoyed. For example, al-I‘zar on the occasion of a child’s circumcision, al-Khurs for a marriage not ending in divorce, al-Wakira on building a new home, al-Naqi‘a when a traveler returns home, al-‘Aqiqa on the seventh day after childbirth, al-Ma’duba for a general meal without any specific reason, etc. [See: Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9/300; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 7/1]
The marriage feast (walima) is a sunna of our beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). It is an outward expression of gratitude and pleasure and a great means of publicizing the marriage, which has been greatly encouraged.
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) saw a yellow mark on Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf (Allah be pleased with) and said: “What’s this?” He replied: “I have married a woman with the dowry being gold to the weight of a date stone.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “May Allah bless you (in your marriage), perform a Walima, even if it is only with a goat.” [Bukhari]
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) himself provided a Walima after many of his marriages. He provided meat and bread on the occasion of his marriage with Zaynab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her), Hays (a type of sweat-dish cooked with dates, cheese & butter) on the occasion of his marriage with Safiyya (Allah be pleased with her) and barley on another occasion. [See: Bukhari; Muslim]
Thus, it is a sunna and strongly recommended to have a Walima. Ibn Qudamah, the great Hanbali Imam, states in his renowned al-Mughni:
“There is no difference of opinion between the scholars in that Walima is a prescribed sunna at the time of marriage, for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) ordered it and himself practiced it…..It is not necessary (wajib) in the opinion of most of the scholars.” [al-Mughni, 7/1-2]
The Time of Walima
The scholars have disagreed as to the correct time of this Walima. There are many opinions. For example:
1) At the time of the marriage contract,
2) After the marriage contract and before the consummation of marriage,
3) At the time of the wedding procession (bride leaving for her husband’s house). [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9/287]
However, the majority of the scholars (jumhur) are of the opinion that Walima is a meal that is prepared after the marriage has been consummated. This was the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), as explicitly mentioned in one narration.
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he was a boy of ten when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) migrated to Madina. (He added): “My mother and aunts used to urge me to serve the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) regularly. Thus, I served him for ten years. When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) passed away, I was twenty years old, and I knew about the order of the Hijab more than anyone else when it was revealed. It was revealed for the first time when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had consummated his marriage with Zainab bint Jahsh (Allah be pleased with her). The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in the morning was a bridegroom, and he invited the people to a banquet. So they came, ate, and then all left except a few who remained with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) for a long time….. [Bukhari]
Sayyiduna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) consummated his marriage with a woman (Zainab), so he sent me to invite people for a meal.” [Bukhari]
The great Hadith master (hafidh), Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him), states:
“The Hadith of Anas (quoted above) is clear in determining that Walima is considered to be after the consummation of marriage.” [Fath al-Bari, 9/199; Also see: I‘la’ al-Sunan, vol. 10, p. 11]
It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:
“The marriage banquet (walima) is a Sunna and there is great reward in it. And it is carried out when the marriage is consummated.” [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/343]
Having said this, scholars mention that there is also scope in following the other opinions, thus if one had a Walima before consummation, it is hoped that one will gain the reward of sunna, Insha Allah.
How Many Days?
The Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) are of the opinion that a banquet for up to two days will be considered to be a Walima, after which it will no longer be considered a Walima.
It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:
“There is nothing wrong in inviting people the next day after consummation or the day after. After that, marriage and Walima celebrations will come to an end.” [5/343]
It has also been reported from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he stated: “Walima on the first day is confirmed (haqq), and on the second day, it is good (ma‘ruf), and on the third day, it is showing off.” [Sunan Abu Dawud]
Although scholars mention that if there is a need, such as not being able to invite everybody on one day, then it will not be wrong to invite them on separate days.
Who Should Be Invited?
Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) states: “The worst food is that of a wedding banquet (walima) to which only the rich are invited whilst the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).” [Bukhari]
It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:
“It is recommended to invite neighbors, relatives, and friends.” [5/343]
Thus, one should invite family members, relatives, friends, associates, scholars, pious people, and others. It is wrong to invite only rich people or those who are regarded to be from the upper class.
Accepting a Walima Invitation
Sayyiduna ‘Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “If one of you is invited to a wedding banquet (walima), then he must accept the invitation.” [Bukhari]
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Accept this (marriage) invitation if you are invited to it.” And Abd Allah ibn Umar used to accept the invitation, whether to a wedding banquet or to any other feast, even when he was fasting. [Bukhari]
Due to the above and other narrations, many scholars regard the acceptance of a Walima invitation to be binding, and one will be sinful for refusing it.
The great Hadith and Shafi’i fiqh scholar, Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned various opinions of the scholars in this regard:
1) It is personally obligatory (fard ayn), except if there is an excuse,
2) It is a general obligation (fard kifaya)
3) It is recommended (mandub) [See: Nawawi, al-Minhaj, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 1080]
In the Hanafi Madhhab, the preferred opinion is that accepting a Walima invitation is an emphatic Sunna (sunna mu’akkada), and accepting other invitations is recommended (mandub). This is in normal cases, for if there is a valid reason, one will be excused from not attending.
Imam Ibn ‘Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“The (hanafi) scholars have differed as to the ruling of accepting a Walima invitation. Some have stated that it is necessary (wajib) in that it is impermissible to refuse. However, the majority of scholars mention that it is a sunna. It is better to accept it if it is a Walima invitation. Otherwise (on other occasions), one has a choice to accept it, and to accept it would be better because it creates joy and happiness in the heart of a Muslim.
When one accepts the invitation and attends the party, one has fulfilled the responsibility, regardless of whether one ate or otherwise, although it is better to eat if one is not fasting……It is stated in al-Ikhtiyar: “A Walima is an established Sunna. The one who does not accept it would be sinful, for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “He who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).” If one is fasting, then one should attend and make Dua, and if not, then one should eat and make Dua. However, if one neither eats nor attends, then one will be sinful….
This indicates that accepting a Walima invitation is sunna mu’akkada, contrary to meals and invitations on other occasions. Some commentators of al-Hidaya have declared that it is close to being a wajib.” [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
In light of Ibn Abidin’s explanation, it becomes clear that accepting a Walima invitation is sunna mu’akkada, and one must accept it. Refusing to attend will be offensive, if not sinful, provided one does not have an excuse and also that one was specifically invited to the Walima.
Finally, it should be remembered that the simpler the Walima (and the marriage ceremony as a whole) is kept, the better it will be. At times, people spend thousands upon thousands in 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 it is 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 A’isha (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.” (al-Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman & Mishkat al-Masabih).
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK