Despite the appalling and senseless murders of Professor Zahoor ul Akhlaq and his his daughter Jahan Ara, which took place at the Alam residence in Lahore, Pakistan, on January 18th 1999, April 3rd saw the compound resound to a joyous wedding.
The wedding was particularly noterworthy because it was the first time that a Nikah or Muslim marriage ceremony had been performed by a woman instead of a man. The ceremony was conducted by Asma Jehangir, a leading feminist lawyer and chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The couple were Natasha Alam and Qasim Shafi, children of two well known Lahore families. The ceremony was performed in front of some 50 witnesses from the two families at the residence, 90 Upper Mall, Lahore. Ms. Jehangir said the new mode of ceremonial was decided on because of their belief that marriage should be primarily regarded as a social contract between the parties involved. The realisation that the Nikah was being performed by a woman stunned some present and is expected to lead to much controversy. Although Nikah is traditionally always performed by a male Muslim clergyman, there is no legal or Islamic restriction which requires this. The couple announced that they will live in New York, where Natasha will continue her studies in medicine. Her husband works for a leading U.S. bank.
Sheherezade Alam, widow of Professor Zahoor ul Akhlaq and the bride's aunt, preparing a flower decoration for the Mehndi
Lighting up one of Sheherazade's fire sculptures for the Mehndi
Men dancing Bhangra at the Mehndi
The couple listening to Asma Jehangir at the Nikah
Karachi 'Dawn' Columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee
Rizwana and Asma Jehangir
Shakiba and Mehmood Alam: the bride's grandfather
Final wedding group
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