What is the Ruling on the Marriage Walimah (Banquet) and Responding to it in the Shafi’i School?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Shafiifiqh.com

Research done by Abul Layth

Alhamdulillah wa Salat wa Salaam ‘Ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa Aalihi wa Sahbihi ajma’in,

Originally when I wrote this article it was in response to a question regarding the hukm (ruling) on the walimah of marriage. When looking through the works of fiqh, one quickly notices the many sub-rulings pertaining to furu’ of the walimah. Questions such as, ‘what is the ruling on attending the walimah’, or ‘what is the aadab (etiquette) of attending’, ‘what is permitted to do in the walimah’, ‘what if one sees evil at the walimah’ etc. Many issues are raised in the works of fiqh, and I realized that I would have to limit myself to two major questions so as not to write an entire book on this subject.  So there are two parts to this research paper:

1) What is the ruling on the walimah (banquet, pronounced wa-lee-mah) of Marriage?

2) What is the ruling on attending the walimah?

I have included translations of Taqiyud-Din Al-Husayni Al-Hisni’s commentary upon the Matn of Abi Shuja’ (Ghayat At-Taqrib) titled Kifayatul-Akhyar, a commentary with a plethora of fiqh related gems! I also referenced the works of Imam An-Nawawi, particularly Rawdat-At-Talibin, as his work is certainly more authoritative in the madh-hab than that of Imam Taqiy’s works. I pray that this article benefits the reader. To Begin:

Imam Abi Shuja’ Al-Asbahani states in his “Matn“:

“And the walimah (banquet) for the marriage ceremony is mustahabb (recommended), and responding [to the invitation] is wajib (obligatory) except with an excuse (‘uthr).”

Imam Taqiyud-din Al-Hisni states in his Kifayatul-Akhyaar that there are two views in the Shafi’i school:

1) That it is Wajib to hold the Walimah.

The proof for this view is:

a) The Prophet Muhammad said to Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf:

أَوْلِمْ وَلَوْ بِشَاةٍ

“Make the wedding feast, even if it is with just a sheep!” [Bukhari in the chapter of Marriage, and Muslim]

b) That the Nabi did not leave this act whether while a resident or traveller.

c) [not mentioned by Taqiyud-Din but I am adding this proof as other scholars mention it]

الْوَلِيمَة حَقّ وَسُنَّة , فَمَنْ دُعِيَ فَلَمْ يُجِبْ فَقَدْ عَصَى

“The walimah is a haqq (right) and Sunnah, and so whoever is invited and does not respond to the request, has sinned.”

This hadith is reported by At-Tabarani in his Al-Awsat via Mujahid from Abu Hurayrah. The defect in this chain being Yahya ibn ‘Uthman At-Taimiy of whom Hafith Ibn Hajr states in his Taqrib “Da’if – Weak” and Hafith Shu’ayb Al-Arna’ut comments saying, “Rather he is matrook (abandoned). Ibn Ma’in, Al Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Hibban stated that he was Munkar Al-Hadith and Ibn Hibban added ‘Very [Munkar Al-Hadith]‘, and the rest weakened him.”1

It is interesting to note that Imam Al-Bukhari uses the words “The walimah is a haqq” for one of his chapters in his Sahih.

2) The Walimah is Mustahabb.

Imam Taqiy Al-Hisni then states that this is the “Ath-har أظهر” – or more correct view in the school and goes on to say further down, “And the school that the majority are upon is that it is mustahabb.”

Imam An-Nawawi agrees with this assertion and after mentioning these two opinions says,

وأصحهما أنها مستحبة

“And the correct of the two opinions is that it [i.e. the walimah] is recommended.”2

The arguments presented by Taqiy (and Imam An-Nawawi) & others include the following:

a) The Nabi (‘alayhis salam) said, “There is nothing in the wealth [Al-Maal] that has a haqq save for the Zakah.” (Al-Hafith states in his Talkhis that this hadith is weak because in it is Abu Hamza Maymun Al-’Awar who is weak.)

b) By Qiyas because the walimah is like all other walimah‘s (banquets and dinners etc) and they are not obligatory.

c) The above narrations only show that the act is an established Sunnah, not obligatory.

d) Al-Hafith Ibn Hajr Al-’Asqalani mentions the Shafi’i argument by quoting  Ibn Battal [the Maliki], who responds to the hadith of it being a haqq (right):

أَيْ لَيْسَتْ بِبَاطِلٍ بَلْ يُنْدَب إِلَيْهَا وَهِيَ سُنَّة فَضِيلَة , وَلَيْسَ الْمُرَاد بِالْحَقِّ الْوُجُوب

“Meaning that it is not invalid (batil), rather it is recommended, and it is a virtuous Sunnah, and it is not intended to mean by ‘haqq‘ obligation.”

He continues by saying, “It is interpreted to mean preferred since he ordered the person to have the dinner with a slaughtered sheep while all agree that such an act is not obligatory.”3

What then is the ruling on attending the Walimah of Marriage?

According to Abi Shuja’ in his matn he declares that it is obligatory for one to attend when invited, except for those who have a valid legal excuse. Imam An-Nawawi states in his Rawdat At-Talibin that the “Ath-har” is that it is wajib to attend the walimah of marriage if invited, and the ‘Iraqi school as well as [Imam] Ar-Rawyani deem this the most correct (sahih) view due to the hadith ‘When one is invited to the walimah, he is to attend.’

The proof:

From the Nabi ‘alayhis salam:

و حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ أَبِي عُمَرَ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ زِيَادَ بْنَ سَعْدٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ ثَابِتًا الْأَعْرَجَ يُحَدِّثُ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ شَرُّ الطَّعَامِ طَعَامُ الْوَلِيمَةِ يُمْنَعُهَا مَنْ يَأْتِيهَا وَيُدْعَى إِلَيْهَا مَنْ يَأْبَاهَا وَمَنْ لَمْ يُجِبْ الدَّعْوَةَ فَقَدْ عَصَى اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ

From Abu Hurayrah that the Nabi said, “The worst kind of food is the food of the walimah that is forbidden to the ones who come to it, and he who is invited to it and refuses it. Whoever does not answer the call [to the walimah] has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger!”

حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى قَالَ قَرَأْتُ عَلَى مَالِكٍ عَنْ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ عَنْ الْأَعْرَجِ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّهُ كَانَ يَقُولُ بِئْسَ الطَّعَامُ طَعَامُ الْوَلِيمَةِ يُدْعَى إِلَيْهِ الْأَغْنِيَاءُ وَيُتْرَكُ الْمَسَاكِينُ فَمَنْ لَمْ يَأْتِ الدَّعْوَةَ فَقَدْ عَصَى اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَه

From Abu Hurayrah who used to say, “The worst kind of food is the food of the walimah to which the rich are invited and the poor are ignored. He who does not [answer the] call to the banquet has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.”

[Both of these narratives are found in Sahih Muslim in the Book of Marriage]

It should be noted that Imam Taqiy-ud-din Al-Hisni states,

“As for an invitation to another walimah other than the marriage banquet (walimah), then the madh-hab is that it is mustahabb to respond.” [Kifayatul-Akhyar]

Shaykh Taqi Al-Hisni mentions many reasons why one has an excuse not to go, mainly the physical or financial inability, or that haram will be present at the gathering – such as alcohol etc. and such attendance is actually haram. He does stipulate that if you go to remove these things it is then permitted for you to go.

Imam An-Nawawi states,

فإن علم أن عين الطعام حرام حرمت إجابته‏

“…and if you know that the food is haraam, it is haraam to attend the walimah!” (Rawdat at-Talibin)

Another scenario the Shaykh Taqi Hisni mentions is that one arrives at a wedding feast and the people therein are doing haram. The sahih (correct) view in his opinion is that one forbids them from the haram, and if they do not cease, one leaves and it is haram for him to stay in such a climate. If however there is an excuse that you can not leave, such as it is dark and you fear harm, then it becomes makruh to stay, and it is not permitted for him to listen to the haram. If he does so, he is a sinner (‘aas). He mentions that another munkar where one should leave is if there are pictures of animals on the walls and the ceilings, or garments of silk worn by men and the “children of the world” (i.e. those seeking the mundane), such as the feminised men who wear these haram things, upon whom the curse of the tongue of the Prophets and Allah is upon.

He says, “And whoever believes this to be halal after knowing its forbiddance is a kafir!”

Says Shaykh Taqi: If one answers the invitation and the walimah becomes three days, it is not haram upon him to leave the second day, without disagreement!

Finally, Shaykh Taqi states that if the invitation is to a dhimmi feast, it is makruh to attend – and thus not obligatory to respond – according to the majority of Jurists. That is because mixing with the dhimmis is makruh due to their najasaat (impurities) [of food] and their delving into all types of evil things etc. Also because it leads to “love” and Imam Rafi’i states that such is makruh, although he argues in his chapter on Jizyah that such is haram.

Ibn Hajr Al-Haytami in his Tuhfah states, “As for the invitation of the dhimmi, it is not obligatory to accept it, rather it is Sunnah if by doing such that will come to Islam [or the likes], or if they are your neighbor…” [At-Tuhfah 9/299]

All of these rulings apply for women as well. Imam An-Nawawi mentions in his Rawdat At-Talibin, that if the woman being invited knows that there will not be (خلوة محرمة) forbidden intermingling of the opposite genders, it is obligatory for her to attend. However, Imam An-Nawawi quotes Imam Ibrahim Al-Marwazi stating if there is no Mahrims involved in the walimah, then she is to stay home due to the fear of fitnah. (Rawdat At-Talibin)

With Allah is our Strength! May He send blessings upon the Nabi, His Family, and His followers. Amin!

Beneficial Links:

Imam An-Nawawi’s “Kitab Al-Walimah” as found in his Rawdat-At-Talibin (in Arabic): http://www.al-eman.com/islamLib/viewchp.asp?BID=162&CID=77

  1. Tahrih Taqrib 7606 []
  2. Rawd At-Talibin in the book of ‘walimah’ []
  3. Quoted in Nayl Al Awtar of Shawkani as well as Ibn Hajr’s Fathul Bari []