Pak Legal

Difference between a Shia Nikah and a Sunni Nikah

The Nikah of a Shia versus a Sunni

The nikah ceremony of Sunnis and Shias differs greatly. Shia and Sunni have different religious understandings as well as cultural differences. Consequently, Shia and Sunni’s religious scholars don’t encourage marriages between spouses who are both Shia or Sunni because of these differences.

A nikah is a contract that binds a Muslim man and woman together. Marriage certificates, or nikah nama, are supposed to be signed by Sunni and Shia brides. The bride and groom have a number of requirements and responsibilities to fulfil. Grooms provide a home for the bride, and brides are responsible for raising their children as Muslim adults and taking care of the household.

Two witnesses are required for the Sunni nikah ceremony, but no witnesses are required for divorces or talaqs. A Shia ceremony does not require two witnesses to be present at the time of nikah. Instead, the Quran must be recited, whereas it is not mandatory to recite six kalmias in a Sunni wedding ceremony. The Shia nikah ceremony lasts for a longer period of time than the Sunni nikah ceremony. Shia nikah ceremonies require couples to perform a ghusl (bath) according to a specific procedure, whereas Sunni nikah ceremonies do not. Upon completion of these two steps, the rest of the ceremony process is nearly the same. Shias are also forbidden from marrying non-monotheistic women and do not seek permission from authorities before entering into marriage. It is only possible for a Muslim woman to marry a Muslim man.
The Shi’a also believe in temporary marriages or Nikah al-Mut’ah, while Sunnis do not believe in such a fixed-term nikah or marriage. During the Mut*ah nikah ceremony, a contract of marriage is formed between the man and the woman. Once the contract expires, the fixed-term nikah or marriage dissolves automatically. How long the Mut`ah nikah may last is up to the consent of the man and the woman. The date of expiration is also written on the nikah form. Mut`ah marriage can be turned into a permanent marriage at any time. Within this marriage contract, there is no need for divorce.

Sunnis on the other hand have another form of nikah or marriage contract that is called Nikah ul Misyar. It is also a non-traditional temporary marriage or nikah contract, but it is not exactly the same as Mut`ah. Both Sunni and Shia Muslims are divided over Nikah al Mut’ah and Nikah e Misyar. These practices and rituals are condemned by both Sunni and Shia Muslims.


  1. Sunni nikahs are shorter than Shia nikahs.
  2. Sunni nikah requires the presence of two witnesses at the time of the nikah whereas Shia Muslims do not believe in having such a requirement.
  3. Shia Muslims favour Nikah-al-Mut`ah whereas Sunni Muslims strongly oppose it.
  4. There is a non conventional nikah ceremony in Sunnis called the Nikah e Misyar.
  5. There are slight differences between the traditions and ritual practices of Shia and Sunni during the nikah ceremony.