Some close Muslim friends of mine recently got married at a civil registrar, with my wife and I as their witnesses. They are both God-fearing Muslims, but because they were in a non-Muslim country, they decided that a civil marriage was simpler for them and easier. The actual marriage oath they took says that “this marriage is made before God” or the like. Is such a marriage valid?
They are our close friends and we do not want to upset them.
Before answering your specific question, I request you to have a close look at one of my previous answers to a related question1.
In the light of the referred answer, the marriage of your friends is, by no means, invalid.
I would just like to add two points related to your friends’ specific case, and that too only because, as you have stressed, they are “God-fearing Muslims”. Firstly, in my opinion, they should arrange a small function/gathering, in which they may invite their friends and relatives. This function/gathering would server as a public declaration of their marriage. Secondly, they may ask some elderly member in their circle to deliver the Nikah address (Khutba-e-Nikah). The deliverance of this address, although not a necessary condition for the validity of a marriage, is the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and has become the symbol of a Muslim marriage. This address may be delivered in Arabic and then translated so that it is fully understood by those who are present or it may simply be delivered in the language that the gathering understands.
I would once again like to stress here that the marriage, as it stands is absolutely valid. The two points that I have suggested are not to validate the marriage, they are just to give it an Islamic touch, by incorporating in it the symbols of Islam, as prescribed by the Prophet (pbuh).
24th June 1998