Public Announcement, Wedding Feast (Walimah), Etiquettes of Coming Together
Public Announcement of the Wedding
The majority of the scholars say that the public announcement of the wedding is mustahabb (preferred, but less than obligatory), but authentic hadith prove that it is obligatory. It is never permissible to follow the opinions of scholars and imams once an authentic and clear hadith is found to the contrary. All of the four imams and other scholars forbid us to do this with their opinions. Az-Zuhri says that the announcement is obligatory and states that if two people get married secretly with two witnesses and ask them to keep it secret, they should be separated immediately and the woman must wait an 'iddah and receive her dowry. As we saw earlier, Imam Malik's opinion on this situation was that they be separated and never again allowed to marry. A likely reason for the opinion of many scholars being that announcement was less than obligatory is:
They were either unaware of the hadith which make this clear or unaware of their authenticity.
Secret marriages were not practiced in the early days, so the announcement had the appearance of being mere custom, not something specifically endorsed by the shari'a
There are a number of hadith on this topic and all of them are hassan. Hassan is a rating somewhat less strong than sahih. It is the opinion of ahlus-sunnah wa al-jama'a (the mainstream of Muslims) that all hadith which are hassan or sahih are binding upon Muslims both for rulings and beliefs unless they are contradicted by a stronger form of evidence. In fact, the classification of hassan branched off from sahih - in the early days of hadith science hadith were either sahih (sound) or dha'if (unsound). Later, hassan as added as a sub-category within the sound hadith. The following hadith on the subject at hand are all hassan:
"Make the marriage well-known and announce it."
"That which separates the halal from the haram is the beating of the duff (drum) and voices at the wedding."
As you can see, these hadith are unambiguous and show clearly that Az-Zuhri's opinion is the correct one - that public announcement of a marriage is obligatory and an essential part of the marriage (since it separates the halal from the haram).
As for the percussion and singing, this is something which Islam has allowed on certain occasions, namely the two 'eids and at wedding feasts. There are various hadith which show this in the following excerpt from Albani's Adaab az-Zafaaf (The Etiquettes of Marriage):
SINGING AND BEATING OF THE DUFF (BANGLELESS TAMBOURINE)
It is allowed for the husband to give the women permission at his wedding to announce the wedding with beating on the duff and with allowed singing only. Allowed singing is that which does not contain descriptions of physical beauty or mention of any kind of sin. There are various hadith about this:
On the authority of Ar-Rubai' bint Mu'awwadh, who said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered my house after my wedding night, and sat on my mat as close as you are now sitting to me (the address here is to the one who narrated the hadith from her). Then, some servant girls of ours began beating on the duff and singing about our ancestors who were killed at the battle of Badr. Then one of them said: "And among us is a prophet who knows what tomorrow will bring." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to her: "Leave this and go back to what you were saying before it."
On the authority of Aisha, that she took a woman to her husband, a man among the Ansar. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to her: "O Aisha did you not have any singing (lit: frivolity) with your procession? Verily the Ansar love such things." In another version of this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: "Did you send a servant girl along with her to beat the duff and sing?" ...
On the authority of Aamir ibn Saad Al-Bajliy, who said: I entered upon Qardha ibn Kaab and Abu Masud and (he mentioned one other person whose name I can't remember), and saw servant girls beating on the duff and singing. I said: "Are you all in silent acceptance of this and you are among the companions of the Messenger of Allah?!" They said: "Verily, he gave us permission for this at wedding celebrations, and for crying over the dead as long as it is not wailing."
It should be noted that none of this give permission for live bands, mixing between men and women, videos, and other evils which are practiced today. All of these practices should be stopped and a wedding involving such practices should not be attended.
The welimah is the "wedding feast". The husband is required to sponsor this feast after the marriage contract, the sunnah being three days after husband and wife have been together. There are many hadith about this important practice, among them:
"A wedding must have a feast."
The above was spoken to Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) when he sought Fatimah, the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) daughter in marriage. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Auf in the form of an order:
"Give a walimah, even if it is just with one sheep."
As for three days, it was mentioned as the Prophet's practice when he married Safiya:
On the authority of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered upon his wife and sent me to invite some men for food."
Also on the authority of Anas that he said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) married Safiya, and her freedom was her dowry. He gave the banquet after three days." [Adaab Az-Zafaaf]
Although many scholars view the walimah as a highly stressed sunnah, the above hadith and others favor the interpretation that it is obligatory. In any case, it clearly should not be taken lightly or neglected without strong reasons.
The Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) order to Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Auf to give a feast "even if only with on sheep" would seem to set a minimum for the walimah. However, it is permissible for the walimah to be simple and not include meat according to the following hadith:
"The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stayed between Khaibar and Al-Madinah for three days during which he had entered with his wife Safiya. Then I invited the Muslims to his wedding banquet. There was neither meat nor bread at his banquet. Rather, leather eating mats were brought out and on them was placed dates, dried milk, and clarified butter. The people ate their fill."
Serving meat is clearly preferable, however, since it was the consistent sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Companions and based on the Prophet's order to Abdur-Rahman. The fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was on an expedition in the above narration may also have been a factor bringing into question the general applicability of the hadith.
Clearly, the walimah should not involve excess or wastefulness which are forbidden at all times. This has become an almost universal custom in most Muslim countries and is an evil practice which should be stopped. Making more food than can possibly be consumed and wasting what remains is a form of tabdhir (wasting or destroying wealth), about which Allah said:
"And give the relative his right and the needy and the traveler and do not waste wealth needlessly. (26) Verily, those who waste wealth are the brothers of the devils and the devil is in rebellion against his Lord." [Noble Quran 17:26-27]
Who to Invite?
When giving the walimah, you should invite family, friends and neighbors. It is also commendable to give some of the food in sadaqa in gratitude to Allah for the blessing of the marriage. It is very important NOT to invite only the wealthy or people of influence and ignore the poor. Rather, focus should be directed to inviting the best Muslims one knows regardless of their "social" standing. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The most evil food is that of the walimah. The rich are invited to it but the poor are left out. And whoever ignores the invitation has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger" [Bukhari]
It is clear from the above that if one is invited to a walimah and there is not disobedience being practiced than it is obligatory to respond to that invitation without valid excuse. This is also found explicitly in the following hadith:
"When one of you is invited to a walimah, he should go." [Bukhari & Muslim]
What if You are Fasting?
If you are fasting an obligatory fast, you should still attend the invitation but abstain from eating and make du'a for the host. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a man who remained away because he was fasting:
"When one of you is invited to a meal, let him respond. If he was not fasting, let him eat. If fasting, let him supplicate (for the host)." [Muslim]
If you are fasting a voluntary fast, you have your choice. You can break your fast and participate (especially if your host wishes that) or you may continue fasting and pray for your host. If you break a voluntary fast, there is no need to make it up.
Acceptable Excuses for Not Attending
Anything which allows one not to attend prayer in the masjid such as illness, great distance, etc.
You should not attend a walimah where evil practices are committed such as mixing of the sexes, music, alcohol, etc. Only if you have the ability to stop such evil may you attend for that purpose.
If the invitation is for which only the rich are invited to the exclusion of the poor. This is because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) described this as the "most evil food".
According to Ibn Taimia, a person should not accept the invitation of another person who does not pray.
Greetings to the Groom
The guests should make du'a for the groom and his bride and ask Allah to bless them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to say to the groom:
"May Allah bless you, bestow blessings upon you and join you two together in all that is good." [Abu-Daud & others - Sahih]