Nikahnama wants to bring back a lost Islamic marriage tradition

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A couple signs their stylized Nikahnama marriage contract. Photo courtesy of Nushmia Khan

(RNS) – Nushmia Khan has been to a lot of weddings.

A former visual journalist and wedding photographer, she has watched dozens of Muslim brides and grooms sign marriage contracts at their nikahs, or Islamic marriage ceremonies. The agreement, known in Urdu as a nikah nama and in Arabic as aqd zawaj or katb-al-kitab, is typically a plain paper document covered with legalese. Couples often signed off without much care.

Most of the agreements looked as though they had been composed on Microsoft Word. But she noticed that a few brides had commissioned artists and calligraphers to create expensive, customized contracts for their ceremony – so elegant, Khan said, that you would want to frame it in your entryway at home. When it came time for her own nikah in 2013, she wasn’t satisfied by the basic template so many of her friends had used.