In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Muslim couples should not follow dubious and doubtful methods to solemnize marriage contracts.
2- They should get the marriage done by following the proper procedures recommended in Islam At the same time, we should fully conform to the legal requirements of the country where we perform the marriage.
In responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states;
Correct Procedures of Marriage
I do not advise anyone to follow dubious and doubtful methods to solemnize marriage contracts. Marriage is a solemn social contract that should be performed by following correct procedures of Islam while duly endorsed by the laws of the land.
Marriage in Islam is essentially a social contract,. So long as it conforms to the stated requirements, it shall be deemed valid. The presence of an Imam at the function is not at all one of the stated requirements. However, the marriage should be solemnized by a person who is authorized to perform marriages.
The stated requirements of marriage in Islam are as follow; full consent of both partners to the marriage contract; expressing the above consent through ijab (offer) and qabul (acceptance); finally, the presence of two reliable witnesses.
Furthermore, according to most schools of jurisprudence, a guardian’s consent is very essential for the validity of the marriage. Imam Abu Hanifah, however, is of the view that a mature woman is fully capable of contracting her marriage. Thus in his view, marriages finalized without guardian’s consent shall be as valid so long the woman has chosen someone who is compatible.
Furthermore, scholars are also in general agreement to the fact that marriages should not remain a secret affair; rather they should be publicized. Another essential integral of marriage is the bridal gift, although it is not necessary to stipulate it in the marriage contract. Nevertheless, it must be paid either before the consummation of marriage or after.
Now coming to the issue of contracting marriages in a society where Islamic laws are not recognized, it is also highly crucial to get the legal papers before the marriage contract. So, to satisfy the legal requirements of the land, the marriage must be solemnized by a marriage officer. That is the only way to protect the parties involved in the event of a dispute.
Although some people may consider legalization as being not so crucial, I would, however, insist that it is quite vital and essential; it is not advisable for anyone to marry without legal papers.
Marriage: A social contract
We can easily recognize the importance of the above conditions if we consider the fact that marriage is primarily a social contract.
Apart from this, Islam teaches us to do what we do as efficiently, methodically and professionally as we can. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah loves you to do your work as best as you can.” (Al-Bayhaqi, As-Suyuti and others)
In conclusion, I would advise the parties to get the marriage done by following the proper procedures, recommended in Islam – while fully conforming to the legal requirements of the country where it is performed.
Almighty Allah knows best.