Islam is eager that Muslims share their happy occasions with the community. In the case of a marriage, giving a walimah or wedding feast is one of the means to ensure the community’s participation in this happiness and joy. It is recommended to share this joy with others, namely, relatives, friends, and the poor members of the society through a wedding feast. It is also one of the ways of giving thanks to Allah for His favors.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) elaborated on the nature of the feast to be offered on the occasion of marriage. He discouraged people from restricting the invitation to the rich alone, saying, “The worst type of feast is that of wedding, to which the rich are invited but the poor are excluded” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
He further taught that it is a Muslim’s duty to answer the invitation. In fact, he made it one of the six essential duties of Islamic brotherhood unless there is an acceptable reason to skip an invitation.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: Since feeding the poor is one of the most meritorious acts that entail tremendous rewards in Islam, a walimah is a great opportunity for the same. Allah says, (They feed the poor, orphans and prisoner, even though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you’) (Al-Insan 76:9-10). According to the commentators of the Qur’an, the above verse refers to the poor Muslims of Madinah who, in spite of their extreme poverty and stringent conditions, sacrificed their own interests and preferred to starve themselves in order to feed the poor, the needy, and the prisoners. It is worth remembering that the prisoners in this case were the disbelievers who were captured as prisoners of war. This clearly shows that as far as feeding the poor is concerned, Islam does not allow us to discriminate among people based on religion or creed or race.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The worst type of feast is that of wedding, to which the rich are invited but the poor are excluded.” We can only appreciate the true intent of the above statement when we know that the custom in many societies is that even though they may otherwise feed the poor, they would shy away from inviting the poor lest it detracts from or diminishes their family status and pomp. For how often do we witness the scandalous wedding feasts in which hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted on entertaining the celebrities and the rich even in such a poor country as India where millions live under subhuman conditions of poverty and squalor? What is even more ironic is that most of these are done by those who call themselves Muslims.
If, on the other hand, the poor were invited and yet they did not come, it may be due to the fact that they are shy to do so because of their poverty and modesty; it is therefore an exceptionally good idea to go out of one’s way to take food and offer it to them directly. In this way, your wedding feast can be a grand occasion of giving thanks to Allah by being charitable towards those who need it most. Look all around you and you will certainly find a lot of those who are starving on a daily basis: single mothers, homeless, unemployed, people on welfare, etc. You will certainly find them if you care to look. You may have not noticed them; it may be because, as social scientists tell us, people see only what they are looking for.
May Allah open our hearts to empathize with the poor and the suffering and thus realize the message of mercy inherent in Islam. Ameen.