Assalamualaikum SS Mufti. I would like to ask about walimah or wedding reception. This is the obligation of the husband or the family of the bride? Hope for an explanation.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
According to al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, al-walimah is taken from the word الولْم which means gathering or get-together. It is named as such because both husband and wife gather in it (wedding ceremony).
Then it is mentioned, al-walimah is the food served in the wedding ceremony, or all foods made to serve (the people) and etc. Refer Al-Feqh al-Manhaji (2/92).
In a hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik RA where Abd al-Rahman bin Auf was married. Then the Prophet PBUH said to him:
أَوْلِمْ وَلَوْ بِشَاةٍ
Hold a wedding feast, even if only with a sheep
Sahih Muslim (1427)
Based on the general meaning from the above hadith, holding walimah or wedding reception is highly encouraged after solemnisation takes place. However, the scholars have differing opinion on the implication of the commandment, whether it leads to the ruling of wajib for the walimah or it is only sunnah.
The first opinion states that the ruling of holding a walimah is wajib. Those who hold this opinion stated that their judgement is based on the general meaning of the commandment of “Hold a wedding feast”. The maxim states, “Amr (imperative clause) holds the ruling of wajib”.
In addition, the ruling of attending walimah invitation is wajib if one has no permissible excuse. Hence, holding the walimah definitely is also obligated (wajib).
While the second opinion comes from the jurists (fuqaha’) in which the ruling of holding a walimah is sunnah muakkadah. Therefore, Imam Abu Dawud in citing the hadiths on walimah, he placed it under the chapter of:
باب فِي اسْتِحْبَابِ الْوَلِيمَةِ عِنْدَ النِّكَاحِ
“The Chapter Stating that Walimah After Nikah is Sunnah”
The same goes for what is stated in al-Fiqh al-Manhaji: “The ruling of walimah is sunnah muakkadah”
They are also of the opinion that the wedding reception is the same as any other gatherings in term of the original ruling of holding a gathering which is sunnah only.
The same for in their opinion, it is inaccurate to say that the ruling of holding a walimah is wajib as the ruling of attending a walimah is wajib. This is because, in the issue of giving salam, its ruling is sunnah and this is different with the ruling of answering the salam which is wajib.
Upon Whom is a Wedding Reception?
Pertaining to the issue of who is obligated to hold the wedding reception, there are two main opinions among the society nowadays. Some are of the opinion that a wedding reception is the obligation of the husband which is the groom. While some said that the wedding reception is the obligation of the in-laws.
Sheikh Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Shathiri raised a question whether walimah is sunnah upon husband and wife. Then he states: “The scholars are of the opinion that walimah is sunnah upon the husband (the groom), except some of the scholars who are of the opinion that it is sunnah with a general clause (which is without specifying to anyone), for the purpose of manifesting happiness and enjoyment.”
He also cited the opinion from Sheikh Dawud al-Zahiri which states that the walimah is wajib upon the husband. It is based on the command of the Prophet PBUH upon Abdul Rahman bin ‘Auf.
While the Shafi’e scholars put the command into the ruling of sunnah (in which a husband is sunnah to hold a walimah). Refer Syarah Yaqut al-Nafis, Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Syathiri (pg. 597).
The opinion which states that the obligation of holding a walimah is upon the groom taking judgement from the hadith of the Prophet PBUH’s command to Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf as the above. This is because, the Prophet PBUH said to him أولموا (Hold a wedding feast). Hence, walimah is a command upon the grooms.
Besides, the enjoyment (in marriage) upon a husband is greater than the enjoyment upon a wife. The same for that it is accustomed that a man will propose and ask a woman to be his wife. It is very rare for a woman to ask the hand of a man.
In fact, marriage is an enjoyment for the groom and among the ways of manifesting gratification is by doing good deeds. This is in accordance with the saying of Allah SWT:
اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا
"Work, O family of David, in gratitude."
Surah Saba’ (13)
Hence, among the good deeds is to manifest one’s gratitude to his marriage is by holding a wedding reception itself.
While pertaining to the issue of walimah held by the in-laws which is father of the bride for example, al-Sheikh Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Umar al-Shathiri said: “If the walimah is held by other than the husband or his wali, like the wife’s father (bride’s father), or walimah is held by the bride herself, the sunnah is settled for him (groom).” Refer Syarah Yaqut al-Nafis (pg. 598).
As a conclusion, we state that the original ruling of holding the walimah is sunnah muakkadah. It is sunnah for the groom which is the husband to hold it. However, if the bride’s family or the bride herself holds the walimah, the reward of sunnah is still received by the groom.
Regarding to the custom among the society in our country to hold wedding reception twice which is first by the bride and also by the groom. We state that originally, it is permissible to do so as long as there is no israf and excessiveness. This goes back to what is stated by a famous maxim:
“Custom is Arbitrary”
This means, custom may become a decider or arbitrator of a ruling on issues that happened. In which the issues have no clear dalil on explaining the ruling.
We also state that a wedding reception shall be held within one’s capacity (the groom) without israf and being excessive. This is the wisdom of the Prophet PBUH’s command towards Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf stated above that a walimah shall be held even only with a sheep.
Also, our advice to the parents of the future brides and grooms to always ease the wedding reception so that they may go through the ups and downs in marriage properly.
Lastly, may Allah SWT give correct understanding to us all in religion. Ameen.