Muslim and Hindu Wedding Ceremony - Similarities and Differences

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INTRODUCTION:
The Islamic and Hindu religions have an array of similarities and differences regarding their customs and laws in relation to the ‘wedding ceremony’. Within Islam, the wedding ceremony is believed to be both a religious and social obligation to get married. As a result, there is a great weight placed on religious, social and cultural dimensions of the ceremony which tends to be simple in nature, paralleling Islamic beliefs. Hindus also place a lot of importance on marriage ceremonies which signify customs, rituals and elaborate celebrations. However, a key difference lies in the fact that Islamic marriages are seen as contractual agreements, whereas Hindu marriages are perceived to be sacrilegious. This essay compares and contrasts the various aspects of both Islamic and Hindu wedding ceremonies. For each aspect, the essay examines the Islamic tradition and in turn the corresponding Hindu wedding ritual. BODY:

Overview
Islamic wedding ceremonies or Nikah can be performed in a variety of ways depending on the culture in which they are arranged. For example, Islamic marriages can slightly vary depending on whether they are part of the Asian or Arab world. Typically, Islamic marriages are arranged by the parents of the bride and groom, with the bride and groom having a final say in who they will ultimately marry. The marriage proposal in effect comes from the woman, who contacts the man through a common liaison who tends to be a male relative. The stringent rules and nature of the Islamic culture propose that Muslim women cannot marry outside their religion. Muslim men however, can marry Christian or Jewish women because they are “People of the Book”, i.e. those who hold a monotheistic faith. These women, who ultimately must raise their children under the Islamic beliefs, can alternatively convert to the Muslim faith by performing the ‘Shahada’ ceremony in which the convert accepts Allah and Mohammed as his messenger. Once the groom has accepted the marriage offer, he must give the bride a ‘mahar’, meaning gift in the form of money or gold as a dowry. In the Islamic culture, the engagement period lasts three months. During this stage, the bride may be allowed in the same room of her husband to be if her father or brother are present and she is covered. At the end of this period, the couple must get married or must renew the engagement contract. In comparison, Hindus accept all religions as true and valid paths to God; thereby being far fewer restrictions in terms of who a person can marry. For Orthodox Hindus, mixed marriage is considered inappropriate: for others, it is possible to marry someone of a different religion without either partner having to convert. Traditional Hindu weddings are seen as joining the souls of not only the bride and groom, but also ties between the two families. Similar to Islam, traditional Hindu parents look for a prospective match for their son/daughter from their own community i.e. an arranged marriage. Often an astrological chart at time of birth (‘jathakam’) is used to match the two prospectives, even whilst this is not a universal practice. Generally the man and woman are given a chance to talk and understand each other - in past generations and traditional families, this could have been as little as 15 minutes, whereas in modern times dating became more accepted. In terms of dowry, the Hindu tradition differs from Islam as the bride’s family makes payment to the groom’s family. Traditionally, the wedding is also organised and paid for by the bride’s parents.

Who performs the Ceremony?
Male Muslims who comprehend the various Islamic traditions are allowed to perform the wedding ceremony provided the mosque that the bride and groom choose doesn’t already have a devoted priest who will perform the ceremony. In the majority of cases, the ‘Qazi’ (an elder of the mosque), will carry out official duties in the service as he is most knowledgeable and...
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