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Chinese Muslim Wedding Traditions, Old and New

Chinese Muslim wedding

A Chinese Muslim bride at her wedding. Red is a traditional wedding color in many Asian countries.

Reprinted from, an excellent blog written by brother Wang Daiyu

Chinese Muslim Wedding Traditions

Since China is a very diverse country and the Muslims of China are equally diverse there is no one way to describe the wedding tradition of Chinese Muslims. It is however safe to say that just like other Muslim communities they are a blend of local cultures and Islamic religious requirements just as Arab Muslim wedding traditions are a blend of Arab culture and Islamic requirements, Malaysian wedding traditions are a blend of Malaysian culture and Islamic requirements etc.

Contacts between Muslims and Chinese began very early. Arab merchants traded in silk even before the advent of Islam, and tradition has it that the new religion was brought to their port-city trading colonies by Muslim missionaries in the seventh century.

In 755, a contingent of 4000 soldiers, mostly Muslim Turks, was sent by the Abbasid caliph Abu Jafar al-Mansur to help the Chinese emperor Su Tsung quell a revolt by one of his military commanders, An LuShan. Following the recapture of the imperial capital, Ch’angan (today’s Xian), these soldiers settled in China, married Chinese wives and founded inland Muslim colonies similar to those established by the traders on the coast.

Since then Islam has continued to flourish in China. There are several different communities and ethnicities of Chinese Muslims.

A Hui Chinese Muslim Woman in Jianshui

A Chinese Muslim wedding is very complex, but it avoids all superstitions such as the reading of the horoscopes of the betrothed persons. Some ask the Ahund to read the Arabic wedding rite on the wedding day or the day before. If one of the parties is not a Muslim, the Ahund admits that one into Islam one or two days before the wedding so both may be of the same faith.

In the past, betrothal money was not taken seriously since it looked like a business transaction. Nowadays it is customary to give clothing or jewelry, or a small amount of money is given and looked upon as only a symbol. Marriage is based on love. This change should be introduced to other Islamic countries as a means of solving the problem of the decrease in marriage due to the heavy betrothal price.

The old type of Chinese wedding ceremony is now out of date except among poor people in the country. According to the old custom the parents of the concerned parties monopolized the whole affair.

The new type follows the teaching of Islam and gains the consent of both parties. Islamic wedding customs are rational and at the same time are timeless, for they follow rules laid down more than thirteen hundred years ago. Emphasis on agreement between both parties, especially the consent of the girl, shows the Islamic stress on the rights of men and the protection of the rights of womanhood.

The ceremonies of engagement and marriage are quite similar for Chinese Muslims and non-Muslims except that the Muslims celebrate the event with a religious and a general ceremony, and they do not use old Chinese music or gongs or fire crackers since they consider them to be superstitious.

The religious ceremony is held a day before or just preceding the general ceremony. At present Muslims hold the marriage ceremony in the mosque. In modern times Western music has been adopted for marriages since it is not associated with the worship of other gods.

Chinese Muslims obey the Civil Law of China by practicing monogamy almost everywhere except in the frontier provinces. There is no Muslim court to take care of divorce, adoption, and inheritance, as in other Muslim countries; all these matters are now handled in the general courts.

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Mass Dawoodi Bohra Wedding in Mumbai

Dawoodi Bohra wedding

Many of the brides couldn’t hide their happiness – Fatima, 20, was one.

I just came across these photos that the BBC news online published back in 2003 when this wedding took place. The photos depict a mass wedding held in Mumbai, in which 500 Bohra Muslim couples were married all at once.

The Dawoodi Bohras (Arabic: داؤدی بوہرہ, Hindi: दवूदि बोह्रा) are a subsect of the Isma’ili Shi’ahs. They are based in India, although the Dawoodi Bohra school of thought originates from Yemen. Today, there are close to 1 million Dawoodi Bohras worldwide. Dawoodi Bohras have a unique blend of cultures, including Yemeni, Egyptian, African, and Indian.

As Isma’ilis, the beliefs of Dawoodi Bohras differ from those of mainstream Islam, in some cases drastically.

It cannot be argued, however, that the Dawoodi Bohras have a unique sense of style. The men wear a traditional white three-piece outfit, plus a white and gold cap (called a topi), and women wear the rida, a distinctive form of the burqa which is distinguished from other types of hijab by often being in colour and decorated with patterns and lace. Young girls wear a simple two-piece suit with a collar and shalwaar called a Jabloo Izaar. They wear this with a girl’s topi, decorated with sequins and sometimes lace.

I like this idea of a mass wedding. I think that more Muslim communities should try it; rather than burdening themselves with lavish weddings in hotel ballrooms for a single couple. And it’s a way of creating bonds within the community.

I’m sure it was a fun and exciting day for the couples involved.

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Pakistani Weddings: Marriage Customs and Traditions (Part 1) -Maniyaan & Dholki

A couple at a Pakistani wedding

A couple at a Pakistani wedding

Reprinted from Inner Reflections Transcribed, the personal blog of a UK-based Muslim female in her mid-20’s

The lovely Organica asked me to explain the various customs and practises involved in Pakistani weddings. So I shall try to explain them as fully as I can.

For those knowledgeable about these customs, please impart your fountain onto me should I err or inadequately explain anything.

A typical Pakistani wedding occurs over 5-7 main events which can take place over 7 days in a row, but usually are spread over a few months/weeks.

Post Acceptance of Proposal

Event 1: Maniyaan (Engagement)

Pre-Wedding Days

Event 2: Dholki

Event 3: Mendhi (girls side)

Event 4: Mendhi (boys side)

Wedding Day

Event 5: Nikkah

Event 6: Baraat

Event 7: Rukhsati

Post Wedding

Event 8: Waleemah

Event 9: Makhlawa

This entry will detail the Maniyaan and & Dholki events.

Event 1: Maniyaan/Maiyaan

This is basically the engagement and occurs after the bride’s parents approve of the groom and accept the wedding proposal. This can either be a lavish affair, or a small family only gathering. It involves exchange of rings which solemnize bethrotal and acceptance of the proposal and impending marriage.

Typically the boys mother will choose the ring for the girl and put the ring on her and on the other side, the girls father will put the ring (chosen by the brides mother) on the groom-to-be due to conservative practise of no physical touching to occur prior to marriage amongst some families. After this there may be cake cutting, but if not will always involve a feast. The engagement is thrown by the brides family and expenses are incurred by them for the event, in terms of food and hall hire (if applicable).

Dholki ladies playing the drum

Dholki ladies playing the drum

Some families may not undergo a formal engagement party. Other methods after verbal acceptance of proposal can include gifting the girl with clothes, jewelry or any other items from the family. The boy may also gift her with an item of his choosing. This marks the beginning of the waiting period, which could be a few weeks, or months or even years for the wedding day and events to come.

Event 2: Dholki

Dholki nights = dholki taken from dhol=drum, dholok = drumming.

This occurs in the week leading up to the henna night and is a women’s only event. Women, old and young gather together, with one being the drummer and one sitting opposite her with a spoon or other metal cutlery, tapping away on the dhol according to the rythym of the beats. Sometimes a duff is also used.

A wooden duff, commonly played at weddings

They sing wedding songs, usually those relating to the bride to be and her groom, about their relationship with each other and of course the dreaded mother in law! Most of these songs are Punjabi folk in origin and are also sung at Sikh weddings:

Punjabi dholak geet – The evening will start with female relatives and friends of the bride playing the Dholki and singing Suhaag, which are traditional Punjabi folk songs. Songs include ‘jokes’ about the in-laws, and would be husband, how to have a successful marriage and songs about the bride leaving her parents home.

There is much merriment, laughter and teasing which takes place. The dholki is kept by both the bride and the groom’s family respectively, however they do not attend each others dholki nights. The only time when each family attend one anothers event begins from the henna/mendhi night.

Next entry will detail the Event 3 and Event4: Mendhi Night

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Wazwan, the soul of Kashmiri Muslim Weddings

Several Kashmiri wazwan dishes being prepared

Several Kashmiri wazwan dishes being prepared.

The Wonders of Wazwan

An elaborate, overwhelmingly generous meal, wazwan is the soul of Kashmiri Muslim weddings

One type of Kashmiri wazwan

One type of Kashmiri wazwan

by Shonaly Muthalaly
Reprinted from

Singing and spinach make for a charming, if unlikely, combination.

It’s a bracingly cool morning in Srinagar, where we’re attending a friend’s wedding. We’re cross-legged on the lawn helping her aunts and grand-aunt de-stalk crackly-fresh spinach leaves for the wedding lunch.

As the community unites, from different parts of the country or city — which involves braving bandhs, curfews and random stone-pelting — to celebrate, preparations to feed about a thousand people are already in full swing.

Preparing wazwan for a Kashmiri wedding

Preparing wazwan for a Kashmiri wedding

The women sit in a circle singing beguiling folk songs, steadily working their way through baskets piled high with the leaves.

All the while, a kahwa lady hands out cup after cup of the soothing sweet green tea, fragrant with saffron, spiced with cardamom and afloat with crisp almond slivers, from a silver samovar, which bubbles ceaselessly through the three-day-wedding thanks to cleverly concealed cavities holding glowing charcoal.

Beside it, there’s a basket of tandoor-baked soft Kashmiri bread from down the road for breakfast. It’s necessarily light. After all, everyone’s gearing up for wazwan — an elaborate, formal, overwhelmingly generous meal integral to Kashmiri Muslim weddings.

A huge tent has been set up next door to the house for the preparation of this meal, which is served for lunch and dinner through the wedding and features anything from 20 to 44 different courses — most of them meat, mainly mutton. The mathematics is precise and has to be adhered to, following tradition. Shahid Mir, brother of the bride Shaila, explains it, as he walks us around the quaint kitchen-tent, which bustles with activity — hoards of oversized furiously bubbling pots, crackling wood-fires and about ten cooks preparing the meal with the kind of regimental precision, poise and co-ordination that can only come from having done this hundreds of times before.

A wedding meal may have anywhere from 24 to 40 courses!

A wedding meal may have anywhere from 24 to 40 courses!

“For thousand people, they use 120 goats,” he says, “and about 1,100 chickens.” Wazwan is served in huge plates, each of which is shared by four people. “Every plate holds around 4 to 5 kilos of meat.” The brilliance of the cook really comes into play here, because every dish tastes distinctly different. Like the conductor of an orchestra, the head cook directs and guides the team. With minimal talk, responsibilities are divided. One group cuts the meat, ensuring it’s halal. The next lot sits in a row, pounding endlessly to tenderise it. The steady thud’s rhythm is surprisingly cohesive with the folk songs, also sung through the wedding. Another group does the blending, boiling and frying.

With 24 courses on the day of the wedding, this is — of course – far more than most people can comfortably eat. However following long-established protocol handed down through generations, Kashmiri families ensure that there’s no reduction whatsoever in the amount of food served.

After we grapple helplessly with a couple meals, wasting embarrassing quantities, Shahid’s mom Shamima explains the mystery of how the rest of the wedding guests seem to be clearing their plates. It’s a delightfully practical solution. To really enjoy the nuances and flavours of every course, guests are equipped with bags, so they just pack up the excess food and take it home.

As the tempting scents of smoky kebabs, spice-laden curries and smoking-hot ghee begin to weave their way across the garden, we sit down for our first wazwan experience. The boys in the family do all the carrying and serving, so one of the cousins sets down the tash-t-nari, a quaint silver basin accompanied by a jug straight out of Arabian nights so we can wash our hands.

A spread of Kashmiri wazwan dishes

A spread of Kashmiri wazwan dishes.

Then comes the plate, piled high with rice, topped with a dash of cooked spinach curry and a dense, meaty gravy made with lamb liver, kidney and intestines.

Then, the wazwan starts moving faster. Scalding chicken red curry served with a huge ladle is carefully poured on the rice, along with a huge meaty piece of chicken for each of the four people sitting around the plate.

Then come the tender sheek kebabs. Rogan josh, fiery with red Kashmiri chillies. The delicious tabak maz, which are flat rib cuts cooked in spiced milk and then fried in pure ghee till they’re dark and crackling. Delectably spongy paneer in a rich tomato sauce. Gushtaba, soft mutton meatballs cooked in a gravy of fresh curd, end the meal.

Not surprisingly we loll about like pythons once we’re done. More kawah. More singing. The thudding from the tent begins again. After all, there’s wazwan for dinner.

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Two Malaysian Muslim Weddings

Kuala Lumpur wedding

Kuala Lumpur wedding: Bride and groom with the cake. (Editor’s note: the fellow on the left is Tom)

The photos are by Tom, a European fellow living in Malaysia, from his Southeast Asia travel blog at

The photo captions are Tom’s. Click on the thumbnails below to see the full photos.

Two Malaysian Muslim Weddings: One in Perlis and One in Kuala Lumpur:

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Muslim Wedding in England: One Photo

One photo only of a Muslim wedding in England, from

Muslim wedding in England

Muslim wedding in England

I was reviewing old posts recently, and I came across this one, in which I published a single photo as a post. I thought, “Why did I do that?” Lol. But it’s an interesting photo.

I’m guessing this is a Pakistani wedding? That must be the groom in the foreground, with the scarlet and white shalwar khamees, and the turban. And behind them the pretty Pakistani girls with their long black hair.

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Muslim Wedding in Conakry, Capital of Guinea, West Africa


Conakry, capital of Guinea in West Africa

Conakry, capital of Guinea in West Africa

Conakry or Konakry (Malinké: Kɔnakiri) is the capital and largest city of Guinea. The city is a port on the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about two million. Guinea used to be part of the Songhai Empire until 1591, and then a subsequent Islamic state in the 18th century that brought stability and prosperity to the region. Around the same time Fulani Muslims immigrated to Guinea. The capital city, Conakry, was founded under French rule in 1890. Today Guinea has 24 ethnic groups, of which the Fulani form 40%. The population is 85% Muslim.


Grand Mosque in Conakry, Guinea

Grand Mosque in Conakry, Guinea

Here we see a wedding in the city of Conakry. These photos were posted on Picasa by Chantal:

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