One woman’s quest: Use art to bring focus to marriage (video)

Why We Wrote This

This video story looks at the universal uplift of art. When design that reinforces cultural traditions is lovingly applied to a marriage contract, the terms can take on extra meaning. 

Nushmia Khan wants to make Muslim marriages more beautiful. She’s reviving the tradition of decorated nikahnamas, or stylized marriage contracts. A former wedding photographer, Ms. Khan started an online nikahnama shop in 2019.

“Islamic art has always been something where you’re making everyday objects more beautiful,” says Ms. Khan. “I was just thinking, ‘What is something that we all use that could be made more beautiful?’ And I found the nikahnama idea.”

Her work is about more than making objects that couples can hang on their walls. It’s also about giving Muslim marriages a more solid foundation. An integral part of Muslim marriages, wedding contracts make the couple’s union legal under Islamic law. It’s also a space where couples negotiate conditions for their marriage – everything from money to where to live. Ms. Khan says she sees many Muslims sign the contracts carelessly, sometimes without even reading them, missing an opportunity to keep problems from arising later.

“When we are talking about protecting the interests of women in marriage, the contract is fundamental,” says Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, of Mosque Praise Allah in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.

With beautiful designs, Ms. Khan hopes to draw couples’ attention to the contract and the negotiation of the bride’s and groom’s rights and responsibilities.

“It’s better than photos even sometimes,” she says, “It’s what they actually signed and touched, and agreed upon.”

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