It should be clear that marriage in Islam is a solemn contract for which the Shari`ah lays down rules and arrangements to guarantee its stability. A valid marriage has to meet certain requirements such as its announcement, the payment of the dower, the consent of both parties, the permission of the wali (woman’s guardian), and the presence of witnesses.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “Marriage is not valid in Islam unless certain specific requirements are fulfilled.
One of the most essential requirements of marriage is that it must never remain a secret affair; rather, by its very nature, marriage must be publicized. It is therefore absolutely necessary that it be witnessed by two reliable witnesses. Moreover, the woman must also be represented by her guardian, who should give her hand on her behalf. No marriage is valid in normal circumstances without the consent of the woman’s guardian.
Furthermore, since marriage is a serious contract involving mutual rights and responsibilities, a Muslim must take all necessary precautions to forestall all future complications. It is therefore necessary to do it through proper documentation by obtaining the necessary license from the authorities, and finally, to solemnize it by persons who are duly authorized to perform marriages.
Islam is all about discipline, efficiency, and planning; it discourages acting on impulses and emotions. So never even think of contracting marriage without proper legal papers, let alone doing it secretly. Secret arrangement between man and woman without the requisite requirements mentioned above is not considered marriage; it is more aptly referred to as a secret affair, which is condemned in Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah loves that whatever work you do, you do it efficiently.”