This chapter draws on study data to explain what Muslim marriage by nikah means for North American Muslims. Regardless of levels of traditional religiosity, and despite variations in understanding of the meaning of the marriage contract, many Muslims consider the nikah to be the “real” marriage and would not consider their marriage to be complete without a nikah. Almost all respondents also legally register their marriage—the small group who do not may face significant legal problems because the nikah is not recognized as a legal marriage in North America. The second part of this chapter describes the foundational principles of Islamic marriage and family life which influence the expectations and assumptions Muslims bring to marriage, and the ways in which these ideas are changing and evolving. It concludes by considering whether the nikah could be a vehicle for modernisation.
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