Nikah is considered to be the first and most common form of marriage for Muslims. It is a legal contract signed before entering the marriage, and it requires acceptance of the bride and groom for each other. Many people think that engagement and Nikah are the same thing, but that is not true.
Engagement is a promise to marry, and it is the time period between the proposal and marriage. According to sharia, engagement is recommended for the one who wants to get married, and Allah says that there is no sin in making a promise of marriage.
Basically, engagement is a time before marriage when two people get to know each other and their compatibility with each other. Islam does not provide specific practices regarding engagement. What some Muslims do, announcing the engagement, having parties to celebrate and exchanging gifts which are all acceptable in principle, except those which sharia demonstrates are haram.
If an engagement breaks off, there is no major damage to the man or woman or their families. They can move on and choose a better person to spend the rest of their lives with. In case of Nikah, it is not that simple to break off, and not damage the lives of people related to that relationship. Nikah is free from any defects and affliction, perfect in every respect. There are few compulsory requirement laid down by the sharee’ah for Nikah. Like the existence of the proposal and acceptance, presence of witnesses, a legal contract of marriage and a Wallee (guardian). Nikah can guarantee the spiritual protection and purity from sins. It is a common belief that Nikah without Rukhsati is not marriage and equals to engagement. This concept is wrong because Nikah is a bond between two people and it is greater than just a proposal. After Nikah, they are lawfully legitimate for each other, and they have to fulfill their duties towards their spouse.
Nikah has many benefits, but above all is that it is a sunnah of our beloved prophet (SAWW).
What would be more important for a Muslim than to follow the sunnah of Rasool Allah (SAWW)? If Nikah can be seen as a sunnah of Nabi (SAWW), then it will be easy for people to understand why Nikah is more advantageous and proper to start a happy married life.
A commitment is always better than a promise. Islam does not deny the practice of engagement, but in halal manner. The objective of Nikah in Islam is to provide us to exist in peace and calmness. It is a great bounty of Allah (SWT) which saves a person from evil intentions and keeps him happy.
There is a great difference between engagement and Nikah. A lot of people know about this difference, but there is still a misconception among people which may cause others not understand the priority of Nikah over engagement in Islam.