Is witness a necessary requirement in Nikkah? Shiites believe that no witness is required?
In one of my earlier responses to a similar question, I had written:
As far as the teachings and recommendations of the Shari`ah regarding a Nikah (marriage) ceremony are concerned, the basic necessary ingredients that should be present in a marriage, according to the recommendations of Islam, are:
Marriage should primarily be a contract that materializes from the expression of the intent of a man and a woman to live the rest of their lives as husband and wife. This contract should be based on the free consent of the man and the woman. In other words, it should not be a temporary contract (i.e. a marital contract for a specified period of time) or one, which is based on coercion and force.
There should be a general declaration of the marriage in the society. Islam does not recognize a secret marital contract. The declaration of the marriage may take any shape or form that is generally adopted in the society. For instance, inviting friends and relatives to the marriage ceremony is an acceptable method of this declaration. Holding two or more persons as witnesses to the marriage contract is also a legislated method for such declaration adopted in various societies and cultures.
The man should give a mutually agreed upon amount as what the Islamic Shari`ah (law) terms as ‘Mehr‘ to the woman. The factors that may be considered in the settlement of the amount of ‘Mehr‘ include the financial position and the social status of the man and the woman. A woman may refuse marriage merely on the basis of the fact that she considers the amount of ‘Mehr‘ to be inadequate. ‘Mehr‘ is a basically a token from the man, given to his wife, to express and symbolize the fact that he is willing and capable to fulfill the financial responsibility of the family that would be formed subsequent to the marriage contract. It may be mentioned here that although Islam does not prohibit a woman to take up a financial activity of her choice, yet puts the ultimate responsibility of providing for the family on the husband.
It should be clear from my understanding of the implications of the directives of the Shari`ah that, in my opinion, writing a Nikah contract or holding witnesses on it is not a requirement of the Shari`ah. However, on the other hand, if the Muslim collectivity considers it to be in the interest of its citizens, it may pass a legislation, which requires its citizens to bring their agreement of Nikah in writing and to hold witnesses on it for the purpose of making the Nikah agreement more authentic and reliable and for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of the parties to the contract.
Thus, even though the directives of the Shari`ah relating to Nikah neither require the Nikah contract to be written or testified by a specific number of witnesses, yet the legislature of a Muslim state may pass a law requiring these conditions to be fulfilled.
I hope this helps.
November 20, 2001