A traditional Malay wedding in the state of Pahang, as is elsewhere in Malaysia, has to start with the "akad nikah" - the formal contract of marriage or also commonly known as the marriage solemnization or wedding vows.
This marriage contract is an Islamic requirement and that happens when the bridegroom seals the "contract" with either the bride’s father, or an authorised person called "wali" who is either the bride’s male sibling or uncle or very close relative.
Nowadays he is usually the authorised government "jurunikah" in the locality or the "imam" of the nearby mosque.
The wali represents and takes the place of the father of the bride in conducting the akad nikah, and this delegation of duty must first be formally agreed before the proceedings.
Usually before the ceremony, the imam will try to make the groom comfortable and gives out advice and suggestions on the duties of a good husband and wife.
Sometimes, he might test the groom on religious matters by asking him to recite verses of the Al-Quran, or knowledge of the basic pillars of Islam and faith.
But since nowadays all potential marriage partners must attend a wedding course before they can get married, it is usually assumed that the groom is well versed in basic Islamic knowledge.
Well, the ceremony will start with the groom sitting (on a small mattress to make him comfortable) facing the imam. They will then hold hands in a handshake manner, and the imam will say the words of the akad nikah to the groom who will then reply.
Below is a short video of a proceeding taking place. Notice that everyone is seated on the floor, with witnesses surrounding the groom and the imam.
You will have noticed in the video that after the imam has said the words of marriage to the groom, he will shake the hand of the groom. This acts to signify to the groom to make the reply.
Normally the imam will say something like this:-
"Ahmad bin Abdullah (name of groom), I hereby marry you to Fatimah binti Osman (name of bride) with mas kahwin (dowry) of RM22.50 cash".
He will then shake the groom’s hand, and the groom will reply immediately:-
"I accept (or agree) to marry Fatimah binti Osman (name of bride) with mas kahwin of R22.50 cash".
The groom must utter those words without hesitation and it must be clearly heard by at least two of the main witnesses sitting beside the imam.
The imam will then ask both witnesses and others whether the groom’s vows or recital can be accepted. If they agree, then the marriage is solemnized and the wedded ones are now deemed husband and wife.
And the imam then immediately recites prayers (do’a) for a happy and blissful marriage for the wedded ones.
But then there are occasions when the Akad Nikah has to be taken again. Why is that so?
Well, if the witnesses are not satisfied with the vows made by the groom, for example, his voice cannot be heard clearly, or he stutters or misses a word, or it is not done in one breath, so to speak, then the process of solemnization must be repeated.
Sometimes if the groom fails a few times, the imam will give him a break so that he could calm down and settle himself properly before the akad nikah is taken again.
This usually happens when the groom is really nervous and he forgets the words of acceptance, especially when there are many people around and he is not used to being the center of attention.
Sometimes too the witnesses are just fussy and not easily satisfied, and sometimes they just want the vows to be taken again to test the seriousness of the groom on his marriage.
But these cases where vows have to be taken many times are few and seldom. Normally the vows are accepted after one recital by the groom or at the most, three times.
So, after the akad nikah is accepted and the imam recites prayers for a happy and blissful marriage to the couple, he will then read to the groom the duties of a husband, his rights, the dos and don’ts, and also the duties and rights of the wife.
He will mention in particular the stages in pursuing the Islamic divorce and the consequences of reciting divorce intentions including incidences where it is lawful for the wife to seek divorce.
Sometimes this document is read by the groom himself and the jurunikah or imam will then ask him whether he understood the matter.
And after the imam has finished with his advice ( mostly read from prepared text), the groom, acknowledging the advice given, will then sign the formal papers of marriage for official documentation purpose.
The Religious Department will, in about two weeks time, deliver him the official marriage certificate.
The groom will then do the Muslim two rakaah "Solah Syukur" (prayer) as gratitude to Allah on the successful proceedings and to seek guidance daily on his new status as a husband.
The formalities of the akad nikah being over, and after his short prayer (solah), the groom now will go to his wife and slip in the marriage ring, or sometimes a bangle or a watch, in a brief Malay traditional ceremony known as "membatal air sembahyang" or "breaking the solah ablution".
This is essentially a symbol that he now can touch the bride being her lawful husband. In Islam, males are not allowed to touch unrelated females, and vice versa, unless the skin or parts are covered. Now, however, as husband and wife there are no such restrictions or prohibitions.
The ceremony ends with the bride kissing the groom’s hands after the placing of the ring.
And they will later in the afternoon or the next day proceed for the "Bersanding" ceremony – sitting "in state" on the pelamin - the highlight of a traditional Malay wedding.
Well, so much for the akad nikah ceremony in a traditional Malay wedding in the state of Pahang.
It’s perhaps a solemn occasion but then again it is a wonderful and exciting ceremony where a husband and wife now comes into being.
As always, from me ...