In Islam, legal arrangements exist where a couple can wed in the absence of one or both spouses as so long as a wakalah/proxy is present to represent them...
That Islam has well-structured mechanisms of handling everyday life eventualities cannot be put to doubt.
Imagine, it is your wedding day and due to reasons of either emergency, distance or otherwise; you are unable to be physically present to take the marriage vows.
Under normal circumstances, the probability of calling off such a wedding is usually high.
However, did you know that Islam has addressed this eventuality such that it is possible to have someone stand in on your behalf for the occasion?
Yes! These are called wakalah or proxy marriages and are legal arrangements in Islam that allows a couple to wed even in the absence of one or both spouses and dates back to the times of our beloved Prophet (SAW)-according to supporting hadiths and different Islamic school of thought (Islamic jurisprudence).
Interestingly as Marhaba Life and Style found out from a random question and answer session; many Muslim youth today are not aware of its existence, let alone conditions to be fulfilled for one to formalise such a marriage.
Fortunately, Muslims had an opportunity to witness it first hand during a mass wedding ceremony in July officiated by the Deputy Chief Kadhi, Rashid Ali Omar and over 5 other Kadhis from different parts of the country at Nairobi’s Park Road mosque.
However, the highlight of the mass wedding was two wakalah marriages for different individuals and formalised by the same wakalah (proxy).
During the ceremony, Sheikh Hassan Hassan, the Imam of Mukuru kwa Njenga mosque had to step in on behalf of two grooms namely Abdullahi Bashir Alio and Hassan Muhammad respectively; since they could not manage to be physically present. Meanwhile, their brides-who were present followed proceedings at a different location.
It was however, the case of Abdullahi Bashir Alio and Sumiya Wambui that caught the attention of Marhaba Life and Style.
On the morning of his wedding, Abdullahi was hospitalised following a freak accident and therefore unable to avail himself for the ceremony.
It was out of the unforeseen circumstances that the groom and bride in consultation and agreement with their Imam-Sheikh Hassan; opted that he, Sheikh Hassan, stand in for the groom; as the wakalah (proxy).
Interestingly, as Hon. Sukyan Hassan Omar -the Senior Principal Kadhi at Voi read out the vows, Marhaba Life and Style noted a slight variation in the way they are spelt out in such circumstances.
“I, Sheikh Hassan Hassan has agreed to marry, Sumiya Wambui...On behalf of...Abdullahi Bashir Alio...(all other terms/conditions withstanding).”
With that, Abdullahi Bashir Alio, despite his absence had formalised his marriage to Sumiya Wambui.
When Marhaba Life and Style caught up with Hon. Sukyan-the Senior Principal Kadhi at Voi along the sidelines of the wedding; he acknowledged that wakalah marriages are rare saying that he has officiated not more than five.
“This is the beauty of Islam! You can imagine how this deen (religion) is simple. One wakalah can even officiate over two marriages!,” he said.
Further, Hon Sukyan shared some insight on some conditions to be fulfilled for a successful wakalah marriage.
“There must be a wakala (representative) and the key words used here are… that... I, the wakalah, has agreed to marry so and so...on behalf of so and so.
The represented person can either call/communicate that indeed he is being represented owing to an emergency (as in this case) or distance etc.
In other instances, documentation such as power of attorney are required in a court of law,” he clarified.
When asked how he ended up being a wakalah, Sheikh Hassan says that he had reasoned that it would not be right to lose such an opportunity due to an emergency. “Therefore, I had to make use of his privilege only found in Islam and it is okay!”
However, the groom and bride had to concur and consent that Sheikh Hussein should go ahead to stand in for the groom.
What is to be noted is that Islamic Shariah encourages having the nikah (wedding) done as soon as possible as it is among the three things among others that should not be postponed; that is; prayer when it is time for it, funeral when it is ready and the marriage of an unmarried woman when a suitable match is found as per a hadith narrated by Ahmed and Ibn Majah.
Sheikh Abdullatif Abdulkarim-Chairman of Family Resource Centre (FRC) who was also present during the function adds his thoughts on wakalah marriages and says they are not a new development.
“It is not a new thing in Islam and is acceptable. Personally, I have conducted several.”
Additional, there must be a wali (parent/guardian) preferably a man from the fathers’ side, that is, father, grandfather etc.
Sheikh Abdullatif also explains that nikah (wedding) is an agreement or contract. “Therefore, it is necessary to seek consent from both the bride and groom.”
In a hadith narrated by Ahmad and Tirmidhi, the Prophet (SAW) said: “Any woman who gets married without the permission of her wali, her marriage is invalid.”
“In Islam, there are no forced marriages.”
Thus as an individual, he has conducted several wakalah marriages and adds that at Family Resource Centre (FRC); they facilitate marriage processes with the help of authorised assistant registrars of Islamic marriages.
Further, Sheikh Abdullatif also goes ahead to give an example of a groom who is out of the country and wishes to marry locally. He confirms that it is acceptable to arrange for a wakalah marriage.
According to a hadith, the Prophet (SAW) ordered ‘Amru ibn Umaiyah and Abu Rafi to represent him in “accepting” one of his marriage contracts, and because the necessity permits that, and perhaps the man could have been in a far distance while in need of the marriage, and could not be at present in the marriage contract proceeding), and for the Prophet (SAW), married Umu Habibah while she was residing in the land of Habesha (Ethiopia) at that moment.”
In his book al-Akham al-Shar’iyya fi al-Ahwal al-Shakhsiyya, Sheikh Muhammad Qudri Basha says that; “It is valid to make another one’s agent (wakalah) for marriage verbally or in writing. It is not a condition that this transfer of agency be witnessed over in order for it to be valid, rather [it is recommended] lest there be denial or dispute.”
The jurists (fuqaha) of the Hanafi School of thought also concur that both the woman and man may appoint agents (wakalah) to conduct their marriage on their behalf.