Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Difference Between Nikah and Rukhsati (and Other Issues)

Other Questions include: Seafood; Ghusl for Women; Converting from Christianity to Islam

By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqui
Reprinted from

Question 1: Difference between Nikah and Rukhsati?

I was granted H1-B visa from US consulate in India. Then I immediately applied for my wife’s visa, so she could accompany me. But her visa request was declined because of US consulate’s objection: “Why was she not living with her husband from the day of Nikah?” Our Nikah took place on January 21, 1999 and Rukhsati was performed after 16 months for the convenience of both families. Would you please explain the difference between Nikah and Rukhsati and how practical are these customs in the light of Islamic teachings.

Answer 1:

In Islam marriage can take several steps:

1. Khitbah: This is engagement whereby the couples decide to get engaged for marriage at their convenient time. During this time they and their families try to know each other. Engagement is not married and the couples are not allowed to be alone with each other. It is forbidden for them to have intimate relations during this time. The parties can break the engagement without going through the process of divorce (talaq). They should return the engagement ring and other gifts. But they may not if there is mutual agreement and understanding.

2. Nikah: This is a formal, official and legal marriage. The Nikah is performed by the Imam, the official religious authority or any recognized person. It requires the presence of at least two witnesses, the Mahr (marital gift from the groom to his bride), the Khutbah of Nikah to join the couple together in the name of Allah. After Nikah the couple become husband and wife. In case the couple wants to break they have to have proper procedure of divorce (talaq). If the groom divorces he has to pay the half of the Mahr and return any gifts that he received from the bride’s family unless they do not want him to do so. There might be other marriage expenses and matters that they have to resolve with mutual agreement or through legal proceedings. The bride does not have to do any ‘Iddah (post divorce waiting period) if the marriage was not consummated.

3. Rukhsati: Literally it means “sending off”. This term is used in Indio-Pakistan area. In Shari’ah it is called “Zifaf”. In Arab countries it is commonly called “Dukhul” or “Dukhlah”. It means the consummation of marriage. Now the spouses can be alone and can have their intimate conjugal relations. Rukhsati takes place after the Nikah. After Rukhsati the spouses begin living together as husband and wife. In most cases the Rukhsati takes place within a few hours after Nikah, but sometimes families postpone the consummation of marriage or Rukhsati for a later time. They may do it for various social or personal reasons. Sometimes the consummation is delayed because the family wants to have a big party to invite many relatives and friends to celebrate their marriage. Sometimes couple decide to delay consummation because one or both spouses want to finish their studies or would like to make better arrangement for their residence etc. There could be many reasons for the postponement of consummation and it could be for few months or years. This is permissible in Islam.

4. Walimah: This is a special feast to which the groom and his family invite their relatives and friends as well as the bride’s family and friends and they celebrate the marriage. Walimah is Sunnah and highly recommended. It is a kind of formal announcement of the formation of this new family. The gifts are exchanged. In various countries Muslims have different customs of Walimah. It is not required to have the Walimah after Rukhsati. It can be done before Rukhsati or at the time of Rukhsati.

In some Muslim countries and communities there are some other customs but these four are the most common Muslim traditions in marriage.

It should be explained to US consulate that after the Nikah you both were formally and legally husband and wife. Because Rukhsati did not take place, it does not mean that you were not legally married. You are considered legally married person from the time your Nikah took place and you are entitled to apply for spousal visa.

Question 2: Eating Seafood?

I have heard many things about the standing of seafood in Islam. One person told me that we could only eat the fish that have scales, so that means no shark, whales, crawfish, etc. Another person told me that we could eat it all. Can you please tell me what is right?

Answer 2:

In the Qur’an Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Lawful to you is water game and its use for food - for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel, but forbidden is land game as long as you are in a state of Ihram (for Hajj or ‘Umrah). And fear Allah to whom you shall be gathered back.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:96) Some jurists interpret the word “ta’amuhu” (meaning the “food” from water source) as fish only. But other jurists take it to mean anything that lives in the water and is edible. The later is the majority opinion and it is closer to the language of the Qur’an. I am inclined to take the majority opinion. Majority of the jurists consider shrimps, shark, whale or any other type of seafood permissible. Wallah a’lam.

Question 3: Ghusl for Women?

If a woman is in need of a Fard (obligatory) bath, such as after the intercourse, she need not have a full bath, but she can sprinkle water 3 times on her head and pour water on her body. Can she do it everyday or she has to do it only if she cannot have a bath?

Answer 3:

For an obligatory bath, women do not have to open their braids, but the water must reach the roots of the hair. Mere sprinkling of the water is not sufficient. If the braids are too thick and they may prevent the water from reaching to her head then she has to open them. After menses and intercourse complete bath is necessary.

Question 4: Teaching Christians About Islam?

Please tell me what is the first step in converting a Christian to Islam? What is the easiest thing I can say or teach to invite them to Islam without offending them? Is there a book I can buy?

Answer 4:

Our job is to convey the message beautifully and clearly. It is Allah who guides whomsoever He wills. We should not say that we are “converting” someone. People convert themselves. It is a kind of “Tawbah” (repentance) and “Qubool” (acceptance) for them. They are turning to Allah and accepting the true faith.

When you speak to Christians, emphasize what Allah says in the Qur’an: “And argue not with the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner, inviting them to Islamic Monotheism with His Verses), except with such of them as do wrong, and say (to them): “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our Ilah (God) and your Ilah (God) is One (i.e. Allah), and to Him we have submitted (as Muslims)” (al-’Ankabut 29:46)

In order to explain the message of Islam to them, the first step is to emphasize Tawhid, the belief in the oneness of Allah Ta’ala. The principle of Tawhid must be very clear to them. Let them understand how wrong is shirk. It should be emphasize to them that we in Islam hold Jesus -peace be upon him- in great esteem and honor. We believe in him. But, at the same time, we must say that he was a human being, not God or the son of God. God has not sons, daughters, brothers or sisters. God is God and there is none like God. No human being was or is God and God does not take the form of humans or animals. If Tawhid becomes clear to their minds then it will be easy for them to accept other aspects of Islam.

There are a number of good introductory books on Islam available. One book that is quite useful is “Islam in Focus”, by Dr Hamoodah ‘Abdul’ Ati. This book was written primarily for people in the west who come from Christian backgrounds. This is found to be very helpful and effective for Da’wah.

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