GOATMILK continues its original and exclusive month long series entitled “The Contemporary Muslim Woman” featuring diverse Muslim women writers from around the world discussing a gamut of topics in their own unique, honest and eclectic voices.
By Naila Sheikh
‘The happily ever after’ moments are very well tattooed in our minds from the time we are kids reading fairy tales to the very reality of growing up and realizing that ‘happily ever after’ may take another route before reaching its destination.
Marriage, a holy matrimony between two souls uniting in harmonious commitment for life, is a sacred occasion every girl dreams of. The preparation of finding your dream bridal dress, the perfect location for walking down the aisle and the strenuous decision involving the right flowers matching the bridal theme, are scenarios every girl fantasizes. A dream so pure and beautiful in thoughts, yet sometimes, is harshly unattainable in existence. Human nature has evolved drastically with the rapid growing technology of today and marriage has been given a whole different meaning with an emphasis on independent freedom and extravagant desires. People have become aware of their surroundings and demands by paying a more detailed observation when finding a mate.
How beautiful it is to find someone special, fall in love, get married and start a family when the pair vows to be committed to each other for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from “this” day forward until death do us part. Are love marriages as genuine like the vows that are recited and solemnly promised to one and other in the presence of God and His witnesses or have our promises taken a turn of deceit, materialistic gain and self indulgence? Have we vowed to be together for the right reasons or are we acting upon our sex-driven hormones to merely fulfill our conventional expectations of becoming bride and groom? In other words, are we kidding ourselves of ‘love’ or is love yet to happen?
Love marriages in Eastern society are slowly adapting more leniency as a direct influence from Western media & culture as a justified portrayal of self-sought romance. Generations of culturally diverse ethnicities, settled in the United States, are integrating open-mindedness and tolerance with the changing of times and traditions. Young women and men are no longer marrying for the sake of marriage alone; they have a deeper understanding of commitment and are willing to take risks within their personal growth of intelligence and intellect. Love marriage is usually defined as a very liberal act of personal decision making, whereas arranged marriages in the West are confronted in a demeaning, forceable way for not pursuing your own life partner. In the West, people look down upon arranged marriages and question its motive with a surprised look as they can’t imagine spending a whole life with someone who is “arranged” by parents. How would that become a successful marriage? Shouldn’t ‘love’ be the base of all relationships, especially when uniting in holy matrimony for an entire lifetime?
The perception of marriage without initially falling in love is strictly looked upon as an emotionless bond, an alliance per se within the consent of parents alone. This is however an untrue assumption for the educated households strongly believing and practicing in traditional matchmaking over a string of dating consequences where culturally, dating is neither prevalent nor encouraged. Values of such sort are created in the environment of a community that holds dear to moral ethics and contradicts the exposure of women in a materialistic society where looks are given precedence over intelligent capacities.
The question remains to be taken under the loop and studied in various different angles;
is love marriage to be perceived more seriously than arranged marriages, or would you rather say an arranged marriage is ought to be safer, since played on common grounds?
As Westerners we may be appalled by the practices of arranged marriages, but little do we realize its origin in Western culture, such in the times of Victorian England. Going back into history; during the Victorian Era (1837-1901), ‘romantic love’ was viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and courting became even more formal – almost an art form among the upper classes. An interested gentleman could not simply walk up to a young lady and begin a conversation. Even after being introduced, it was still some time before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a lady or for a couple to be seen together. Once they had been formally introduced, if the gentleman wished to escort the lady home, he would present his card to her. At the end of the evening the lady would look over her options and chose who would be her escort. She would notify the lucky gentleman by giving him her own card requesting that he escort her home. Almost all courting took place in the girl’s home, always under the eye of watchful parents. If the courting progressed, the couple might advance to the front porch. Smitten couples rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written. This anecdote from the past, reminds us of present-day continued practices of ‘arranged marriages’ – the only difference is that this procedure of matchmaking is still very common (without the showing of cards and the written marriage proposals of course) in Eastern households, whereas the West progressed in embracing an individualistic approach to finding love and if successful, marriage.
The wait for a marriage proposal within a long-term relationship is often a stressful period for the woman to inhale without the guarantee of an actual commitment for the investment that was put in from the very core of the female heart and soul. Such heartbreak and misuse of sincere feelings is a direct chain reaction of decreased faith in the unity of marriage around us. A protected wall of secure and sound decisions in the form of parents may be well served to such tragedies happening nowadays. The outcome of a marriage is not determined by infatuation or an arranged fixture of destiny; it is determined by trust, respect, tolerance and communication.
With the growing trend of youngsters trying to find their own life partners, it is worrisome for many parents to give up on their power of knowledge and wistful life’s experiences. Parents have taken a backseat. They may or may not enjoy the ride, but when happiness is at stake, conforming to their children’s ideals is usually the best thing to do. However, parents who are liberal in thoughts and practical in approach, steer their kids to the right people and let them decide what’s best for them; preserving their enthusiastic mindset whilst challenging the right from wrong.
An article published in BBC News on March 8, 2000 based on forced marriages in the UK, stirred up a lot of comments. One comment in particular stood out in dismissing Western practices over Eastern traditions:
“All my Western friends who write to this column need to be reminded of the failure of the Western Society. There are no moral principles that people adhere to. The sky-high divorce rates are just pointers. Arranged marriages are better any day, as they are not influenced by sexual attraction or infatuation, which plague love-marriages.“
Ashwin, Indian-studying in the USA.
Our society has succeeded in designing a woman’s mind to easily mold into conventional male perceptions by feeling pressurized for living up to the expectations of such meaningless pursuits, leading towards insecurities and paranoia among young women. The hope to find true love remains a struggle for mankind and is repeatedly defined as a new product to lure young people into thinking of exposing themselves at an early age; packaging it as entertainment and fun, while gradually depriving the young & confused from a beautiful vision of marital commitment. In today’s world, a woman’s boldness is defined by her sex appeal, rather than the innate understanding of finding supportive structure in life. An arranged marriage is somehow seen as a lack of substance in the 21st century where there is claim to be more modern, much more progressed; where marriage is a trial of boredom and is inevitable with the fast growing excitements of the day.
The individual concept of marriage should be revised and taken into positive consideration by young men and women, whether the conduct of marriage is arranged or love -nevertheless, statistics may speak their own language, cultures may enforce their ideology, at the end – it’s the two people involved who make it all happen through thick and thin, for better or for worse. By solely making your own decision or weighing in the decisions of your well-wishers, one cannot lean towards the one or the other for reaching a successful romantic life. Fate that is based on arranged marriage may come in with baggage of maturity and an ‘in-detail background-check’ paired with family commonalities. Likewise, it may not uphold the kind of fate that was woven in the heat of passion and attraction towards each other.
Similarly, fate itself can easily turn its back on both, walk away and never glance over its shoulder to check on who eventually triumphed – Love or Arranged?
GOATMILK is taking submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org . Entries must be under 1,000 words and shall be published at the discretion of the editor.