Saturday, December 02, 2006

will you (arrange to) marry me?

This post comes in reaction to some ideas about arranged marriages that I've been hearing lately. It annoys me that people view this in such an ethnocentric way.

What the Western tradition holds true about love and marriage may work for some (though in general it really doesn't, considering the frightening divorce and single-parent rates in North America), but it doesn't work for others. The frustrating thing is that this sexually enamoured cultural system tries to force people into thinking that their way of acquiring love is THE only way. Well, it's not.

The idea of an arranged marriage is this big, scary monster in the eyes of the misinformed. But this is what an arranged marriage is, in my eyes: you get to know someone under a non-sexual pretence and within the correct boundaries (i.e. no crazy flirting or batting your pretty eyelashes at him, sorry girls).

It's being honest about commitment to a future spouse. Meeting someone with the intention of getting married forces you to be serious and to look at someone's good characteristics as well as their bad ones. You begin to admire and respect that person not for their attractiveness or charms, but because of their values and beliefs. And that's what geniune love and a lasting marriage is based on, in my opinion. And people can take as long as they need to be at ease with their decision to get married. That could be a month for one couple, or a year for another.

And when it comes to an "arranged" marriage, that's all it is: arranged. Someone "arranges" that you meet someone else. It's not a forced marriage to someone you can't stand. It's not something that should make you uncomfortable either. At the same time, it doesn't have to be "arranged." It could also happen that you become interested in someone because of his or her good qualities and then persue the interest in a good and well-intentioned way.

At the same time, I'm not saying that the Muslim way always works out perfectly. Quite the contrary; Muslims get divorced, too. Some crazy Muslim men batter their wives, too. And some severely messed up parents do force their children into marriages they don't want. And that's depicable. But these things have nothing to do with the Islamic notion of marriage. In fact, they're polar opposites.

In short, seeing arranged marriage as something barbaric is ridiculous. And the only reason people can't see beyond what is fed to them is that they won't allow themselves to.


Squeeky said...

Assalaamu Alaikum :)

I agree with this post, thanks.
A lot of people are misinformed about 'arranged marriage' and don't understand its process. When carried out Islamically, it's not a bad route at all. My sister had a talk with one of her highschool classmates who admired the 'arranged marriage' system. She said, "it's great that your parents take the interest in helping you to find someone as a life partner. Our parents, leave it up to us and if we don't get married ... well then that's our fault for not finding someone 'suitable'"

Everyone has their own opinions on the topic I suppose.

Sara K said...

word. This needs to be in the next issue of TMV

'liya said...

I think you got the wrong idea from my post, but whatever works for you :)

Asmaa said...

Squeeky, I guess it's the fact that we live in an fundamentalist individualistic society. Everyone's out for his or her own benefit. That's why people find the arranged marriage system strange.

Sara, err I'll think about it (i.e. no)

Aaliya, actually it wasn't really your post, it was some of the responses to your post that kind of ticked me off.

AP said...

'Once upon a time there was a ghee monster who huffed and puffed and batted her eyelashes, but still she couldn't seduce any of the bearded boys'


Truth said...

These lines of yours sum it all up:

>we live in an individualistic >society.

You only mentioned about men beating up their wives but you perhaps you may not know or forgot to mention that it is not only the the men that lead to breakups. There are even women who pursue their own happiness/goals forgetting the notion of 'us' and look at life as 'I'/'My' my goals, my happiness and so on.

Let me add here that it could equally be men also living the 'I/My' kind of life too but to only blame men for breaksup is wrong.

Another interesting concept of 'arranged marriages' which I find so amusing is sadly how we ignore our parents opinions and advice in helping us find our perfect match and at times even prefer the word of our friends over them.

A brother once mentioned how he 'disliked' the notion of arranged marriages and can't think of marrying someone who his parents would set him up with. I added "what about those brothers and sisters in Islam who try to hook us up with their friends who are looking"
His reply "Oh that's ok, I would not mind that"?!?

There might be parents forcing their choices on kids but most parents want what is best for us and know us better than others so their opinions should be considered.

Sara K said...

Asmaa, Arrite fine, it's all good (i.e. you suck)

Tasneem said...

I completely agree with this post. I think arranged marriages get a bad rap because in our society it is seen as barbaric as you stated.

I think the opinion of your parents is extremly important. They've seen you grow up, they see you when your nice, mean and all shade of green. They would understand if a person is good enough for you, or if it will work out, if you are unsure.

Plus now, parents merely introduce you to soemone, they dont force you to marry them. its your decision at the end of the day.

sorry for the long comment, but like you this topic bothers me alot .

sara said...

Good post, man.

I should send people the link to this post when I get stuck trying to continually explain the normality of this process.

Rizwan said...


Part of the problem underlying the whole issue is that many of our peers (the majority of whom are raised in non-Muslim households) do not grow up trusting their parents but often being disappointed, frustrated and resentful at their parents' immaturity, lack of wisdom, and lack of success in achieving personal happiness (especially with respect to their relationships with their spouses and even friends). They don't see how they can really trust their parents to help them achieve happiness in their lives and so any kind of involvement of their parents in their personal lives after adolescence seems horrifying, in part because it suggests to them that their parents might lead them down the same road that they have gone down: the road of unhappiness and failure.

In this respect, our peers are seekers unlike the people Allah ta'ala criticized in the Qur'an for blindly following the ways of their fathers. Our peers want to find a different way from their fathers, but they need to be *shown* those alternatives can work. The more they know and befriend Muslims who practice the teachings of Islam, the more opportunity they will have to see and consider the alternatives Islam offers for themselves.

As for those of us who have grown up in practicing Muslim families, we don't have the trust issues that many others we know may have with their parents. We have grown up seeing our parents sacrificing their lives for us (their families) and friends, finding happiness and fulfillment in living virtuously according to the teachings of the Qur'an as embodied by Nabi Muhammad, sall Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and while we have seen them make mistakes like all human beings do, we have never lost our respect for them because we have never lost sight of the dignity that God has given them. When we look at them, and the lives they have enabled us to live by their decisions (all by the tawfiq of Allah), lives full of blessings and things to be grateful for, we don't fear that the advice and help they offer us to get married will lead us down a path of unhappiness or shame or ruin. Rather, we give them the benefit of the doubt and anticipate that they will help us as sincere friends do.

For those of our peers, Muslims and non-Muslims, that have not experienced this kind of relationship with their parents, it makes sense for them to avoid an "arranged" marriage and somehow muddle through on their own or with the help of other people who are better friends to them their parents. As for me, I wouldn't trade the friendship of my parents and family (virtuous Muslims who love Allah ta'ala and His messenger, sall Allahu alayhi wa sallam) for the help of other friends or reliance on my "nafs."

Maybe I'm wrong. In the end, I don't know.

Thanks for the thoughtful post Asmaa.

olde woman said...

Assalamu aleikum,
Goodstuff Asmaa. You. so. wrock.

Just a note. Islamically, men and women are not supposed to date before marriage (even after an "engagement," unless the nikah has already been performed, in which case this is a marriage. What is unlawful for unmarried people is still unlawful if they are "engaged"). A man and a woman who are lawful to each other for marriage are forbidden from being alone with each other, a situation known as khulwa. As you know, whatever may lead to haraam/sin is prohibited, as a mercy to mankind, to prevent them from slipping into error when they're "in too deep" and hurting their souls, or others; the more steps you take towards temptation, the harder they are to retrace. Thus, for example, things like intimate chats between a guy and a girl which only they are privvy to must be avoided. So while it may be said that there are differences of opinion on the "arranged marriage" issue, we should remind ourselves that there is no "opinion" when it comes to halaal and haraam, and be careful not to transgress the boundaries set by God as a mercy to us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, so shouldn't we trust Him in knowing what is good for us? Let's go back and learn the sunnahs of marriage, remembering that Allah never forsakes those who follow His way.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone, it was not my intention. Note that this is not my opinion, but what I have tried to reproduce from the correct deen/sunnah. Wallahu a'lam.

Anonymous said...

nice title.

see my comments over at liya's blog.

Asmaa said...

AP, I did not. I don't know why you have that opinion of me.

Truth, of course women also contribute to weaknesses in marriages, not only vice versa. It's definitely a two way street. What I find is that my parents are two individuals who have my best interests in mind. To ignore what they want just contributes to the break up of families. That's not to say you should follow your parents blindly. Of course, you make the decision in the end but I'm just saying if you ignore them completely, you're just leading yourself down a dark path.

Sara K, sorry :D I may reconsider if you give me some chocolate.

Tasneem, word. I completely agree.

Sara, thanks. I'm just frustrated with people's narrow-minded views about this topic, so I thought I'd rant :)

Rizwan, I agree, but let's not generalize about people's families. Not all non-Muslims have broken families or parents they don't respect/trust! And Muslims definitely have similar problems, we're not perfect. And even the very relgious amongst us don't have perfect relationships with their parents - all we can do is aim for it.

Olde woman, I don't think anyone was implying the opposite (i.e. dating before marriage), but you're totally right. But when it comes to having private conversations, I don't see a big issue with that - I mean, over the phone, on MSN, etc. Of course, I'm not advocating anything inappropriate, nor anything overly excessive. But there comes a point when you need to speak without a bunch of people listening in. The way I see it is, you interact with men all the time over the phone, MSN, etc. But then when it comes to marriage, all of a sudden you can't even be in the same vicinity as your future spouse without a couple of mahrams there standing over your shoulders the whole time? I don't know, if you use discretion while speaking with someone, there shouldn't be a problem.

Umar, :)

M&M said...

very well written. its simple and gets the point across really well. mashallah

Asmaa said...

m&m, thanks :)

AP said...

I absolutely don't have that opinion of you. It was a lame joke, keeping in my tradition.

I do however completely agree with you on this issue and have always felt that the 'arranged' marriages are a little bit more kosher then ones that say started online or at some coffee shop, or worse - at a conference in the lobby.

Besides, many marriage attempts outside the arranged avenue don't end up in marriage. They simply end up a pre-marital relationship. And as if your mom's warnings weren't enough on that topic, look at Clark Kent of Smallville. Man of steel, but brought to his knees because of his premarital flings with Lana Lang.

Slave of Allah said...

Wallahi, I wouldn't mind getting arranged marriaged (grammar check that). In fact, I think my mother has it planned. But as Asma said in her post, It's the most Halaal-est way of getting to know a person.

And statistics show that America has the highest rates of divorce and/or Single parents. And it's the West that looks at arranged marriage in a funny way

But i guess we all have our own opinions.

sabrina said...

shoo.. girl! How in the world you and I always think alike, like it's really scary!!!! Are you my long lost sister or something?

awesome post... 300 props for that!