"But that is upsetting!" This has become the almost daily comment I get when I turn someone down, saying that I cannot do a marriage for him or her. A young man who was around 35 years old knocked the door of my office. He was speaking Arabic. He asked if I am the imam. When I replied in the affirmative, he quickly told me that he has got a serious problem that requires an urgent solution and he needs to have five minutes with me.
He started by telling me that he has fallen into an affair with a lady and committed adultery with her. He was asking me if I can conduct a marriage for him to solve his problem, and I said that he has to be married at the civil center before I can conduct his Islamic marriage. As he said he cannot do so, I apologized that I cannot do the Islamic marriage then. I further tried to find out the reasons that prevented him from taking this step. As is normal, his reasons were that he was staying illegally in the UK.
This was just one example of almost a daily situation where I am visited by young men and women who are willing to be married according to the Islamic way but not in the civil court. Being illegal residents, some of them cannot take the step of civil marriage, while others who are legally staying in the country are still not willing to take up the civil marriage because they are not ready for that step. Sometimes, it seems to them burdening to take such a step while they want to live with their respective spouses as husbands and wives, without the least embarrassment or thought of what is haram (Arabic for: prohibited by Allah).
This is one of the problem's aspects. I have to turn all these people down and tell them that I cannot conduct their marriages unless they are married at the registrar first. If I do not do that, I will be subject to punishment by the law for doing something that requires a certain process in an improper way.