Arabic Word Nikah and its Meaning

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Kaleef K. Karim

In this article I will be referencing and quoting from numerous scholarly sources that will define the Arabic word ‘Nikah’ as meaning marriage, marriage contract, betrothal.

For the past several months I have seen critics, especially brainless Christian missionaries on Facebook and other places saying that the Quran has a vulgar word in it. They say the Arabic word ‘Nikah’ (according to them) means F-ck. Let’s be clear that the Arabic word ‘Nikah’ is not an offensive word. Whenever it used in the Quran or in the Hadith (authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammed p) it only means marriage, marriage contract and nothing more.

Definitions on the Arabic word ‘Nikah’

1. In the book ‘Introduction to the Holy Qur’an’, Abd Al-Rahman Doi says:

“Nikah: Nikah literally means conjunction or uniting. In the Islamic legal system, it implies a marriage contract in the presence of a minimum of two males.” [1]

2. Professor Ihsan Yilmaz

Nikah (ar, Tur) literally ‘conjunction’. Marriage
nikahnama (Ur) marriage contract.” [2]

3. In the book ‘Dictionary of Islam’, Patrick Hughes, Thomas Patrick Hughes

Nikah, A word which, in its literal sense signifies conjunction, but which in the language of the law implies the marriage contract. [Marriage.]” [3]

4. Encountering the World of Islam, Keith E. Swartley

nikah (nee-kah) – conjunction; legal marriage contract, or the social-religious rite which, according to Islamic law, validates the marriage.” [4]

5. Modern Muslim socities, Florian Pohl

There are two main terms used to refer to marriage in Islam: nikah and zawaj. These are Arabic words, and the roots of both are found in the Koran. Both are used to refer to marriage in Arabic-speaking countries. In most non-Arabic-speaking Muslim countries, the word nikah is the conventional term used to refer to the contract of marriage (aqd al-nikah).
In some countries the term also refers to the wedding ceremony, incorporating the contract. The difference between the two words is linguistic. Nikah incorporates the meaning of the act of physical union between spouses as well as the legal and social institution. While the root of the word zawaj denotes pairing. There are various terms for the wedding itself in Arabic-speaking countries….” [5]

6. Principles and Precedents of Moohummudan Law:

Nikah, as explained by Shakespear, is an Arabic term signifying marriage, or matrimony.” [6]

7. The Cambridge Companion to American Islam

“Typically, both mutual consent and evidence of the mahr are expressed in the marriage contract, also known as nikah, the Arabic term for marriage and the word generally used to refer to the marriage ceremony.” [7]

8. Marriage, Ronne Randall:

“The marriage ceremony itself is called the nikah, an Arabic word that refers to the relationship between a man and woman and the actual contract of marriage.“ [8]

9. Foundations in RE, Par Ina Taylor

Nikah (Ar. ‘marriage’): referring to the marriage contract in Islam, binding on the two parties, the bride and the groom. The marriage contract (nikah) becomes complete with the giving of mahr (Ar. ‘dowry’) to the bride, and the bride’s consent to the marriage in front of witnesses. Finally, when the marriage agreement is accepted and witnessed, those who are present recite al-Fatiha (Ar. ‘the Opening’), the first surah of the Quran. The ceremonies that follow or precede the marriage contract may vary often reflecting cultural and ethnic traditions of the marrying parties and their families.” [9]

10. Arabic-English Dictionary, The Hans Wehr Dictionary Of Modern Written Arabic

“Nakaha u I a (nikah) to marry (haa a woman), get married (haa with), to become related by marriage (. to s.o.), to give in marriage (haa . to s.o. a girl)
nikah marriage; marriage contract; matrimony, wedlock” [10]

11. An Arabic-English vocabulary for the use of English students of modern Egyptian Arabic, Donald Andreas Cameron

Nakaha, he married; consummated marriage.
Nikah, pl. ankiha, marriage
‘aqada en-nikah (the priest) tied the marriage knot, solemnized the marriage.” [11]

12. English-Arabic Dictionary: For the Use of Both Travellers and Students, Professor Francis Joseph Steingass

Marriage, Ziwaj; Zija-t; Nikah. – (demand in marriage).” [12]

13. Al-Mawrid A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary, Dr. Rohi Baalbaki

Marriage, matrimony, wedlock — نكاح, زواج Nikah[13]

14. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Professor John L. Esposito

Nikah — Marriage ceremony [14]

We see from all these references that the Arabic word ‘Nikah’ only means marriage, marriage contract. It’s clear whatever critics have assumed on the word as being ‘offensive’, it has been refuted by Muslim and non-Muslim scholarly evidences.


[1] Introduction to the Holy Qur’An By Abd Al-Rahman Doi page 167
[2] Muslim Laws, Politics and Society in Modern Nation States: Dynamic Legal Pluralisms in England, Turkey and Pakistan By Professor Ihsan Yilmaz. Page XV [Glossary]
[3] Dictionary of Islam By Patrick Hughes, Thomas Patrick Hughes page 55
[4] Encountering the World of Islam edited by Keith E. Swartley page 519
[5] Modern Muslim Societies [Copyright 2011] by Florian Pohl page 38
[6] Principles and Precedents of Moohummudan Law: Being a Compilation of Primary Rules Relative to the Doctrine of Inheritance (including the Tenets of the Schia Sectaries), Contracts and Miscellaneous Subjects; and a Section of Legal Opinions Involving Those Points, Delivered in the Several Courts of Judicature Subordinate to the Precidency of Fort William; Together with Notes Illustrative and Explanatory, and Preliminary Remarks [Second edition, 1825] BY Sir William Hay Macnaghten, William Sloan page 479
[7] The Cambridge Companion to American Islam edited by Juliane Hammer, Omid Safi
[8] Marriage [Copyright 2010] By Ronne Randall page 20
[9] Foundations in RE – Islam Core Edition [Copyright 2001] Par Ina Taylor page 71 [Glossary]
[10] Arabic-English Dictionary The Hans Wehr Dictionary Of Modern Written Arabic page 997
[11] An Arabic-English vocabulary for the use of English students of modern Egyptian Arabic By Donald Andreas Cameron page 292
[12] English-Arabic Dictionary: For the Use of Both Travellers and Students (1882) by Professor Francis Joseph Steingass page 235
[13] Al-Mawrid A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary by Dr. Rohi Baalbaki page 1190
[14] The Oxford Dictionary of Islam [Copyright 2003] by Professor John L. Esposito page 234

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