In light of Valentines Day, I decided to lightly delve into Islamic marriage and the traditions and ceremonies that are associated with such. Many have the stipulation that forced or arranged marriages are predominate throughout Islamic culture and suppress freedoms of individuals that is only somewhat correct. While most men and women do not ‘date’ in the traditional Western sense of the world, they rely on arranged marriages and their families or community to find their spouse.
“The expectation is that the seed for love is planted and will continue to bloom after the marriage. Before any potential candidates are considered, families as a unit decide the values and characteristics that potential spouses should have so the couple has a satisfying life together.”
The faith that Muslims have in their family to find them a suitable match shows the close-knit familial culture of Islamic society. For these men and women, an arranged marriage, or courtship, is something to look forward to instead of frown upon. To them it is not a lack of freedom or choices but a deep and long-standing cherished tradition of their society. Another tradition that still upholds in Islamic society is presenting a dowry. The Mahr, or dowry, is taken very seriously in some cultures and only is only a light formality in others, but with globalization and the increasing independence of women, an elaborate dowry is often no longer as crucial to a marriage.
“Often in Islam, marriages are not considered to be ‘made in heaven’ between ‘soul-mates’ destined for each other; they are not sacraments. They are social contracts, which bring rights and obligations to both parties, and can only be successful when these are mutually respected and cherished.”
With the increasing influence of technology, it has become easier on the bride and groom to get to know one another without direct contact. Many families now allow the use of phone calls, texts, or email between the two individuals to help them get acquainted. There are also various degrees of arranged marriages all the way from not meeting your spouse until the wedding day to meeting each other at a university and having both families consent before getting married. Through Islamic law, no parent is allowed to force their son or daughter to marry someone they do not want to. This is called a forced marriage and is illegal in Islamic law and can be easily annulled. Many Muslim marriages are very happy, even when the couple have not seen each other before the marriage, but have trusted in the judgment of their parents to arrange a good match for them. These days an arranged marriage it is more of an arranged courtship than anything else.
More recently, weddings have started to show more western aspects. While the family and decorations might remain traditional, it is not uncommon to see the bride and groom in a white wedding dress and a tuxedo for the first part of the ceremony and then change intro customary dress for the rest of the ceremony (or vice versa). The traditional wedding ceremony varies on the sect of Islam and the culture and traditions of the families and region. Muslim weddings are very intricate, ceremonial and quite beautiful. The colors and details used in the decorations and dress such as customary henna designs, traditional dances and music create a fun and uplifting atmosphere reminding everyone of the true celebration that is taking place.