Recently, I’ve come across two articles on marriage, each published months apart in the New York Times. The first is an introspective piece that advocates marriage within a Western setting, and the other addresses the apparent prevalence of free-will marriages in Pakistan. While the first discusses a past romantic relationship and how the author eventually comes to regret not marrying her partner of seven years, the latter looks at how some Pakistani women are risking their lives and defying tradition to marry for love. It so happens that both articles appear to deal with the ramifications of choices women make within the context of a relationship.
In “Missing the Boat: A Case for Marriage,” where Jessica Bennett (the author) reminisces about a lost opportunity, I was struck by her comment on how, ultimately, “marriage makes it harder for the other person to leave”. Coming from a Pakistani cultural framework, the sentence could have read, “arranged marriages make it even harder for the other person to leave.” This is contrary to what some women are willing to endure for their personal happiness as detailed in “Defying Parents, Some Pakistani Women Risk All to Marry Whom They Choose,” even if it is for the short-term. While I understand Bennett was referring to how marriage might have salvaged her own relationship (trial separation; mandatory counselling), in Islam, marriages not only contribute towards sustaining a halaal relationship (in addition to financial support and procreation) but one of its effects is to extend the longevity of a relationship even if sometimes it is to the detriment of the couple.
Most marriages in Pakistan are of the arranged (or even semi-arranged) variety. An arranged marriage occurs when a member of the family, a close friend or a third person party (hoping to hinge their way into your family’s inner circle) help bring two supposedly compatible families together in matrimony. The groom and bride have never met before, and any interaction between them is akin to small talk with a stranger. Conversely, a semi-arranged one is where the alleged “couple” have several “meet and greet” opportunities, thereby allowing both the couple and families to gain a sense of familiarity. In some cases, extended formal engagements are also tolerated. Notice however, how in both cases, the emphasis is on “families” and not individuals, further underscoring Islam’s communal theme of marriage being the cornerstone of properly functioning Muslim society. [Read more...]