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Arranged Marriage: Out of Date or Best Option?

Nina was 18 when she went to University, pursuing her dream of Interior Designing. She did not have plans to marry until she graduated, but she met a “friend” the following year from the next faculty.

They decided to marry after graduation, and she slowly broke the news to her parents. Her parents initially were lukewarm when she brought her friend to meet them, but they made nothing of the issue as if it weren’t important, all knowing that the couple were seeing each other.

Arranged Marriage: Out of Date or Best Option? - About Islam

Then she broached the subject of marriage closer to graduation. They said, “No”. Firstly, it was because he was from a different culture, although Muslim. She appealed again, seeing as they had already invested time and energy into their *relationship.*

They persisted in being negative. Their reasons began to differ, though. He wasn’t of fair complexion; he did not have a car; and he was three months younger than she was. The list went on.

Her negotiations went back and forth, and her parents told her to work first, in their own desperate hopes that she would find someone else who, preferably, lived in their neighbourhood.

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Years passed…

The relationship did not end. Nina’s parents were edgy that she was not married but still refused to speak to her potential in-laws, who had called to discuss marriage prospects. Nina was distancing herself. Nina tried to approach the subject again.

Her friends were all getting married now, and she was approaching her late 20s and well into her career.

Her parents still did not like him. Her extended family began to talk, sympathising with her. And then her younger sister got married—to someone of her choice but who fit the family criteria.

Nina dwindled quickly into depression. Soon, a well-intentioned uncle intervened. He asked her parents why they were holding her back from marriage, knowing that the couple spent time together often enough and spent hours on the phone.

Finally, her father divulged: “We are waiting for marriage proposals to come into the family like the way it used to work. But there don’t seem to be any as yet.”

Nina is an anecdotal story. Many may relate to it, with “arranged marriages” becoming something of the past in some cultures.

While her parents seemed supportive of her pursuing an education and jump-starting a high-paying career, they were insistent on standing by cultural preferences and practices when it came to marriage, regardless of her premarital relationship with this young man.

Arranged marriages are often heard of in Islam, but not all aspects of them are considered Islamic.

Families approaching other families with marriage proposals with the consent of the potential brides and grooms and mutual consultation and chaperones are the proper mode of conduct for Muslims, whereas forced marriages and cultural preferences over Islamic etiquette go against the teachings of the faith.

While it may be true for Nina that her parents were hanging on to the cultural preferences of some communities in Indonesia, other Muslim communities across the world approach the culture of marriage a little differently.

Arranged Marriages across Cultures

Saima Khan accepted the marriage proposal of her cousin through his mother, who was also her maternal aunt.

Arranged Marriage: Out of Date or Best Option? - About Islam

“It’s normal for Pakistanis to marry within the family, so I accepted it as normal practice. I also knew my aunt very well, and we had a really good relationship”.

In fact, Saima stayed with her aunt while she was studying for her bachelor’s degree when she “received” the marriage proposal from her cousin.

He was already working in the United Kingdom, so she accepted and migrated along with the proposal. Soon after that, her in-laws joined her.

Many years later, the family is collectively raising three boys and a daughter, all still living in the same home.

Umm Zaynab Vanker, a third-generation South African Muslim of Indian ancestry, shares her arranged marriage at age 16.

“I knew at that young age what I wanted and what I was looking for in a husband. And he knew what he wanted in a wife.”

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