“There were prawns tempura and other pricy exotic dishes in the dinner menu.
And the wedding ended with the groom whisking his bride away in an expensive car that he had bought as a gift just for her.”
We all love to hate the extravagant ones that leave us feeling awestruck. But let’s face it, they are not going away any time soon, unless and until we as an ummah stop attaching such a high value to money, status, and social prestige when trying to find matches for our singles.
As divorce rates increase, many a Muslim parent now feels anguished and worried about their ward being stripped off of all their financial assets in the unexpected case of an acrimonious divorce followed by alimony and other financial demands from the other side.
Worries about financial capability to sustain future expenditures apply especially in the case of bridegrooms who are legally expected to pay dower or mahr to their new brides; to provide them with maintenance and accommodation, and to support their children until the latter are able to stand on their own feet as adults. Getting married is very expensive for young men nowadays.
At the flip side of the coin, as more young women get highly educated, enter the workforce and quickly climb the corporate ladder, parents of eligible young single and working daughters eye lesser well-off families with single sons, who are looking for brides, with suspicion and guardedness.
Are they just after their daughter’s paycheck because she is a gainfully employed professional?
Or do they want her because she has a much-coveted foreign nationality/citizenship?
Or is she eligible because her parents are well off, which means that she will never be short of money?
Will they force her to work? Will they take away her salary? Will they let her visit her parents often?
Will she take all his salary so that he is left with nothing to give his parents? Will she demand a separate house?
Thanks to concerns and fears such as these, many marriages nowadays are actually becoming more like “business deals”, with each side desiring their own benefits and fearing their own future losses, be they monetary or personal in nature, as they head towards finalizing the nikah contract.
Marriage: Rights & Responsibilities
One of the secrets of having a long-lasting marriage filled with blessings is that the union be entered into with neither of the parties harboring any kind of bad intentions regarding the other, e.g. to deceive the other, or not go the distance if things get tough, or to enter the union just for the sake of monetary gain or foreign citizenship.
Sincerity of intention and starting off the union in the right manner by intending to fulfill all the rights of your spouse, and conducting the engagement/wedding proceedings without transgressing any of the laws and commands of Allah, is essential in ensuring the longevity of the marriage.
For example, singles who want to marry just because they are “in love” and cannot wait to be sexually intimate with each other, who get involved in a haram romantic relationship long before the nikah, experience a gradual loss of blessings and barakah in their married life once they actually start cohabiting and/or become parents. Similarly, lavish ceremonies that require extravagant spending and which make the nikah difficult to convene quickly, also make a marriage lose its blessings.
Marriage is a union that involves rights, roles and responsibilities for each spouse. Each spouse-to-be should study their role in detail before entering the marital union, with the intention of fulfilling their own side of the covenant, for the sake of Allah’s pleasure.
Why Nikah is Called a “Knot” in the Quran
Many naive and ill-informed Muslims believe that nikah is the solution just for the fulfillment of sexual desires. Whereas that is one of its main purposes, it is also a covenant, or contract, which is entered into by both parties for the sake of Allah, so that each individual can perform their designated role in the relationship, through thick and thin.
Allah will question both spouses about the fulfillment of this covenant:
And keep the covenant. Lo! Every covenant will be enquired into. (17:34)
In the Quran, the Arabic word “uqdah” is used for nikah, which means “knot” or “tie”. In order to fathom why this word was chosen to denote the covenant of nikah, think about what a knot achieves, and when and why do we tie a knot?
A knot is used to secure a firm connection, e.g. to tie a horse to a tree, or a boat to the harbor. It is this knot that prevents the horse or the boat from wandering off, or being steered away on the waters, and being lost by its owner.
Similarly, knots are also used to provide aesthetic beauty, sturdiness and stability, in addition to securing connections, e.g. when men wear a bow tie at the neck to look good, or when a scarf is folded into a knot at the neck, or when a fashionable belt at the waist is tied just to accentuate an outfit.
Nikah is a ‘tie’ that firmly holds together a man and woman, and the subsequent progeny that they produce, as a firm, stable family unit. As all the members “tied” together in this lovely union grow and mature with time, and increase in numbers, this knot only strengthens and gels, and this whole family looks beautiful to onlookers when they are together, too.
Come to think of it, marriage is the basic “knot” of the entire human society, as every other biological relationship comes into being because of it.
Placing Stipulations in the Nikah Contract?
During the initial years of a marriage, the relationship takes time to become stable. These years are therefore critical for the long-term success of the union.
In order to alleviate fears and to safeguard themselves against possible loss, parents of both the bride and groom try to include stipulations in the nikah contract that ensures the financial benefit of their own offspring.
For example, placing a condition that their future son-in-law will provide their daughter with a certain amount of money every month, and will allow her to visit them according to a certain schedule.
Similarly, the groom’s family might stipulate that their son will never live in a separate accommodation apart from his parents, and that the future daughter-in-law will continue/discontinue her job, after the marriage.
Placing such conditions is a tricky matter, because it sends a message of suspicion of intent, and an attempt to ‘control’ the dynamics of the impending marriage to the other party.
Conclusion: Investigate & Educate Yourself about Nikah
Every to-be-married Muslim should try to investigate their future spouse and in-laws before tying the knot of nikah with them. This can be done via reliable professional and community references and contacts.
Medical examinations are also a worthwhile option, to rule out mental or physical diseases and disorders in the prospective. Care must be taken that these checks are done discreetly, however, so as not to offend the other party.
New Muslims should be even more careful before marrying someone, especially suitors from overseas who were born and raised in another country and culture. For many new Muslims (especially women), their coveted nationality coupled with their fair complexion is one of the prime reasons they are sought as marriage partners by those dwelling in Eastern developing countries.
We must all remember one important thing regarding our belief in Qadar: that all the precautions and investigations in the world cannot avert what Divine decree has in store for the man or woman who is about to get married.
Every marriage needs to weather its own set of storms before reaching the coveted state of stability, wellbeing and success.
There are no shortcuts in acquiring a certain blessing in life before enduring the requisite pain, hardship and struggle that has been decreed by Allah for attaining it, not even in marriage.