Definition and Ruling
The walimah (or wedding feast) is a meal offered by the husband to the friends and family after the consummation of marriage. The walimah is wajib (obligatory) upon the husband. Buraydah Bin al-Hasib (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that when Ali (radi'Allahu anhu) married Fatimah, Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Indeed, a wedding (or a bridegroom) must have a walimah."
So Sa'd said, "I will bring a ram." And another man said, "I will bring some corn."
When Abd ur-Rahman Bin Awf (radi'Allahu anhu)migrated to al-Madinah, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) made him brother with Sa'd Bin ar-Rabi al-Ansari. Sa'd (radi'Allahu anhu) told Abd ur-Rahman, "My brother! I am the wealthiest man of al-Madinah, so I will divide my wealth in half between us; and I have two wives while you, my brother, have none; so see which of them you prefer. I will divorce her for you to marry after she concludes her 'iddah." Abd ur-Rahman replied, "By Allah no! May Allah bless your family and wealth for you. Just show me the way to the market." Thus, he went to the market, traded, and soon made profit and brought home some adit (dried yogurt) and butter.
A while after that, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) saw Abd ur-Rahman wearing yellowish garments (which were commonly worn by the newlywed). He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) asked him, "What happened?" He replied, "I have married a woman from the Ansar." He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) asked him, "What did you give her (as mahr)? He replied, "A date stone's weight of gold". The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) then said:
"May Allah bless it for you. Offer a walimah - even if it be only with one goat."
Abd ur-Rahman later said, "It then came to that, should I raise a stone, I would expect to find gold or silver underneath it (by virtue of the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) supplication." And Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) the narrator of this hadith, concluded, "After Abd ur-Rahman passed away, each one of his wives got a share of one-hundred-thousand dinars."
Regulations and Recommendations
The following additional regulations apply to the walimah:
The Walimah's Time
Following the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) practice, the walimah should normally be held on the wedding night or within the first three days following it. Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) reported: "Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) once consummated his marriage with one of his wives, so he sent me and I invited some men for food."
Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) also reported: "When the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) married Safiyyah, her freedom was her mahr. And he held the walimah for three days."
In a similar report, Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) said: "The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) camped between Khaybar and al-Madinah for three nights, consummating his marriage with Safiyyah. I invited the Muslims to his walimah, which had no bread or meat. Leather sheets were spread on the group, dates and aqit (dried yogurt) and butter were tossed over them, and the people ate their fill."
And Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) reported: "When Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had his wedding with Zaynab, he offered a walimah in which the Muslims ate their fill of bread and meat. Then (in the morning) he went out to the Mothers of the Believers, gave them salam, and supplicated for them. In return, they gave him salam and supplicated for him. This was his practice on the morning following the wedding."
Types of Food
We conclude from the above reports about 'Ali and 'Abd ur-Rahman Bin 'Awf that it is recommended to include meat in a walimah, with a minimum of one sheep or goat - if that be affortable. Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) reported: "I never saw Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) offer as much food in any of his wive's walimahs as he did in Zaynab's. He slaughtered a goat and fed the people bread and meat until they were full."
However, meat is not a condition for a walimah. We saw above that the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) walimah when he married Safiyyah did not include any meat.
Helping with the cost
The walimah is the husband's obligation. However, it is permissible for other Muslims to help him in its cost or preparation. We have seen above that a number of Muslims helped 'Ali in preparing his walimah. Similarly, giving additional details of the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) marriage with Safiyyah (radi'Allahu anha), Anas (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that during the trip back to al-Madinah, Umm Sulaym prepared Safiyyah for the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and presented her to him during the night. On the morning following his consummation of the marriage, he (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Anyone who has extra provision, bring it to us."
This, people brought aqit, dates, and butter, and made hays (name of a dish) with them, and everyone ate of that hays and drank from rain water that gathered in basins next to them.
Whom to invite
A newlywed should invite to the walimah his Muslim relatives, friends, and acquaintances, especially the righteous among them. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Do not accompany except a believer, and do not feed your food except to a pious person."
SInful individuals and non-Muslims should largely be excluided from the inviation - unless there is an important benefit in inviting them, such as exposing them to da'wah, provided that their presence would not influence the attendees in a negative way.
In inviting to a walimah, there should not be a distinction between the poor and rich. Abu Hurayrah (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "The worst food is that of a walimah to which the rich are invited but the poor are not. And he who rejects the invitation (to a walimah) has surely disobeyed Allah and His Messenger."
In another report from Abu Hurayrah, Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "The worst of food is that of a walimah to which those who come (because of huner) are turned away, and those who are invited do not wish to attend (because they have no need for food). And he who does not answer the invitation (to a walimah) has surely disobeyed Allah and His Messenger."
Manners of the Guests
There are also certain adab that should be exhibited by a guest who is invited to a walimah or other meals.
Answering the invitation to a Religious obligation
It is an obligation on every person who is invited to a walimah to attend - unless he has a legitimate Islamic excuse. Ibn 'Umar (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "When one of you is invited to a walimah, he should attend it - if it is a wedding or something like it. And whoever does not answer the invitation, he has surely disobeyed Allah and His Messenger."
Ibn Hajar concluded from this hadith that answering the invitation is wajib because onf who does not do it is disobedient. Abu Musa al-Ashari (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Set the (Muslim) captives free (by paying their ransom to the enemies), repond to the caller (to a walimah and its like), and visit the sick."
This carries a command from the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), which again establishes that answeing the invitation is a wajib. WIth this understanding, one should answer the invitation with iman (believing in its religious value) and ihtisad (seeking Allah's reward for his attendance). If this is sincerely fulfilled, attending a walimah becomes a rewardable act of worship.
A legitimate excuse that justifies not attending a walimah is any reason that would make attending it beyond a person's reasonable ability.
Allah says: Allah does not burden a person beyond his capacity. (2:286)
And He says: Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship. (2:185)
And He says: So have taqwa of Allah as much as you are able. (64:16)
Thus, the following could count as legitimate excuses:
1. Being invited to two walimahs in two different places at the same time.
2. Having to undertake an expensive trip to attend the walimah.
3. Having at the same time an important appointment that missing it would result in a serious harm in wealth, health, or well being (Ex. a school examination, a business deal, etc.)
However, even in such cases where a person feels that he is justified in turning down an inviation to a walimah, he should contact the host and present his excuse ahead of time.
Avoiding invitations that involve disobedience
One should decline the invitation to a walimah that includes acts of disobedience to Allah, such as drinking alcohol, music, mixing between men and women, and so on.
Ali Bin Abi Talib (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that he prepared some food and invited the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). When the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) arrived, he saw some pictures and turned to leave. Ali said, "O Allah's Messenger, what made you turn back - may my mother and father be your ransom?" He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied:
"Indeed, there is a curtain in the house on which there are pictures; and the angels do not enter any house in which there are pictures."
Aslam, the servant of Umar (radi'Allahu anhu), reported that when Umar went to ash-Sham (Palestine and the surrouding lands), one of the Christian leaders prepared some food (in a church) and said to Umar, "Indeed, I would like you and your companions to come and honor me." Umar (radi'Allahu anhu) said:
"Indeed, we do not enter your churches because of all of the images that are in them."
Abu Mas'ud Uqbah Bin Amr (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that a man once prepared food for him and invited him. He asked the man, "Are there pictures in the house?" THe man replied, "Yes." Abu Mas'ud then refused to enter until the image was smashed, then he entered.
Al-Awzai (radi'Allahu anhu) said: "We do not attend a walimah in which there are drums or lutes."
(The Quest for Love & Mercy - Regulations for Marriage & Wedding in Islam - Muhammad Mustafa al-Jibaly)