Walking away from Forced Marriage
I’ve always wondered what would happen to me if I told a father who has forced his daughter to marry against her will that such a marriage was completely null and void, and that she can simply walk away out of it.
What would be his reaction, living in the digital age?
I suppose his response would be tougher than that of someone who lived fifteen hundred years ago in the far desert of Arabia.
It was not until yesterday when I discovered for the first time that it is not only girls who are sometimes forced to marry against their will; rather, boys are in no better position.
A friend of mine was driving me somewhere when we spoke about his willingness to find the girl of his dreams and he wondered if I can suggest someone.
I had to ask him what he was looking for. After explaining that he was looking for someone who is a good practicing Muslim, attractive, and this and that, there came the final shock; the bride had to be from his same country, even from the same place, otherwise, his family will reject it.
Shocked from what I just heard, I told him that we were not living in the stone age or out there in a jungle. We are in a free society where people have the right to choose their life-long partners and if Prophet Muhammad were to live in Europe today, he would have been involved in a campaign to correct these wrong practices and give the young people the freedom to marry whomever they chose.
Rebel Without a Cause
Yet, in front of this extreme image of authoritarianism, we have got another extreme image of laxity. Young Muslims hanging around, driven by their immature and unsupervised desire of exploring, and yearning for fake independence from the family, find themselves having pre-marital sex which may also result in having children.
Usually pre-marital relationships are under the pretext of willingness to be independent from families’ authority. Therefore, young people may become rebellious to whatever is given to them by their parents even if it was in the form of advice. It might be taken further to the extent that you will find young people going in the wrong direction just because it is against what their parents said or asked them to.
Between this total submissiveness to parents in forced marriages and the complete rebellion against families, both situations lead to a point where everyone can escape responsibility for the children so easily.
More importantly, the very meaning of marriage as a union of two whole families, rather than two individuals, is completely lost.
I have always wondered what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would do if only he were to live in Europe today.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Speak Up
When a woman stood in front of all other members of the society and complained to the Prophet that her parents married her against her will, he took it very seriously and announced that such a marriage is as if it has not taken place at all.
Upon hearing this, the sensible young lady commented that she would not bring shame to her father in that tribal society that had its traditions. She had just wanted to deliver a message that parents cannot force their children to marry against their will, and such a repugnant practice has no place in a society that adopts freedom and justice as its core values.
With such an enlightened mentality and progressive thinking, this great woman gave an example to all workers in feminist movements and those who fight for the causes of women that it is very essential for young people, men or women, to stand up and break repugnant cultural traditions which totally run against basic values.
I believe such a struggle between being too controlling and too loose is an important issue which we should highlight and adopt. Islam encourages people to break the incorrect and unfair inherited traditions and the Prophet warned his followers against silent acceptance of culture without discussing, criticizing, and rectifying wrong practices.
A lot of youngsters may think that they have got a loose-rein relationship, where everything is mixed up and no boundaries are placed. This is, in fact, the other extreme of the previous situation.
It happens sometimes that some young people reject anything coming from the parents’ side, as if they cannot prove their character except by rejection. They may go ahead on their own and get married or just cohabitate without drawing any frame for such a relationship and therefore, they eventually end up in a typical situation where someone suffers and the other escapes.
Sometimes, they are even misled by some relation models that are not acceptable by people of reason and sense. In such relations, people, driven by passion and blind love many times just see one side of the situation and fail to see long term results and dangers.
When they realize the mistake they have fallen into, they realize as well that it is too late to handle the situation and a plan B will always be sought to help figuring out a solution with the minimum amount of loss.
Dating & Meeting the One
A lot of people take dating as the only way to relate to others or find a suitable future partner. It happens in many cases that it continues to be dating till the end of life and the risk involved there cannot be avoided.
There is an extremism even in this form of relationship. If Muhammad were to live in Europe, I believe he would have supported recognition between the two prospective couples, yet the risk would have been always taken into consideration and thus avoided.
In many cases, the young couple driven by passion will develop a relation of dating into something of courtship and if the man at the end decides that he is not interested, the lady may be left with something that is not rectifiable which is not only the pain of losing her virginity to a man who was not worthy of her, but more importantly, the painful effect of her broken heart and damaged self esteem.
The Prophet told one of his Companions, Jabir ibn Abdillah, that he should look at the woman whom he was going to get married to, as this attraction between the couple would strengthen their relationship after marriage and spark their life with love. This was an indirect hint that recognizing each other and knowing each other is recommendable. But how can that happen? Obviously, not the way it happens these days where risks and unaccountability are always involved.
In Search For Balance
If we travel back in time, we can discern how smart the solution offered by Prophet Muhammad was to the problem we have here.
Firstly, the Prophet made it clear that each one has the right to choose his or her future spouse that is based on love and pure attraction to the other side.
Once a man and a woman went to the Prophet and told him they have a female orphan whom they brought up as if she was their own daughter. The girl was reaching the age of marriage, and two suitors had asked for her hand. One was a rich man, and the other was a poor man. The girl preferred the poor man.
In such a situation, the Prophet enlightened them that the best thing for two people in love is marriage and guided them to marry her to the poor man, because money can never buy happiness.
Secondly, Prophet Muhammad broke all repugnant inherited cultural practices. Islam unifies people while culture sometimes, divide them and they need to discover what is common.
Parents need to understand that regardless of their backgrounds, they cannot bring someone from the “home” country and marry him or her to someone living in the West. The “home” country might be the country of the parents, but it certainly is not the country of the children. In marriage, compatibility is all-important.
One final point for young people is to realize that marriage is a union of two families; not two individuals. Yes, the final say is for the couple, but the consent and the acceptance of the whole family gives it weight and makes it more workable and responsible.
The generation gap which is still in place, and the complex of coming from another country need to be dealt with for things to become smoother and more effective, for a healthier parent-children relationship where parents support the choices of the children and the children respect the guidance of the parents.
I think such a relationship is very vital for a healthier, more successful marriage. It can be much better if people think about how it would be if Muhammad was still amongst them in Europe.