Friday, September 16, 2005
Marriage: It’s your choice!
Marriage: It’s your choice!
By Amatullah Abdullah
Saleema was sitting on the bed in her bedroom, staring at the beautiful red sari which had rich jardosi embroidery on the borders.
"Saleema baaji … Saleema baaji!" Sabeera sounded excited as she entered Saleema’s room.
"Baaji , guess what?!…." The excitement in her tone increased
"Papa has agreed to take me to perform Hajj after your wedding…"
Saleema forced a light smile and said in a low voice," "Oh that’s good Sabeera. I am happy for you."
"Baaji you don’t sound too good… are you ok?" Sabeera asked with concern.
"I’m ok, don’t worry …I haven’t slept properly for the past two days so I’m just tired," Saleema patted her sister’s head and smiled.
"Oh ok! I understand , you’re gonna be married in a week, so you must be nervous and excited and the excitement is not allowing you to sleep I guess! "Sabeera winked at her sister. Her eyes fell on the red sari.
"Wow this is so beautiful baaji, you’re gonna look like a doll in this sari!" Sabeera exclaimed pointing to the red sari on Saleema’s bed.
Saleema smiled, "Is Ummi back from mousy’s house? "
"Not yet," Sabeera answered, "I just got a call from the tailor and she said she would finish Ummi’s sari in another two days. I wanted to inform Ummi about this. Please inform her about this because I might forget. My memory hasn’t been good for the past few days" Saleema told her.
"Sure Baaji I’ll do that, but now I better go and clean my room before Ummi comes!" Sabeera pecked a kiss on her sister’s cheek and left her room.
Saleema was alone. She latched her door, leaned against it, and closed her eyes, tears gushed from her eyes flowing on her cheeks. Her heart told her, "Saleema, you have your freedom of choice, you have the right to choose and you need to express your feelings before it is too late. Marriage is for tranquility. Will you have tranquility in this marriage, which you don’t want?"
Saleema asked herself, "but how will I tell them, what if they alienate me and hate me for expressing my feelings about this man?" She struggled with her heart, which was insisting her to express her feelings. Finally, she decided to tell aunt Najeeba, her father’s sister who she considered to be the most understanding and considerate member in the family.
After an hour had passed, Saleema heard her mother’s voice downstairs and went down slowly on the steps to speak to her mother. Saleema’s mother came back from her aunt’s house. She brought a dazzling traditional jewelry set for her to wear on the wedding day.
"As Salaamu Alaikum , ummi…" Saleema said softly. Her mother turned around with a big smile on her face when she saw Saleema.
"Wa Alaikum Salaam. Saleema, look at this! I got this jewelry set for you. See whether you like it?"
"It’s beautiful," Saleema said with a smile.
"I know, and you will look gorgeous in this. I can’t wait to see you as a bride!" her mother was euphoric at the thought.
Saleema smiled faintly and said "Ummi, will mousy be coming home today….?" before she completed her sentence, she heard the door bell. Saleema answered the door hoping and wishing that it would be Aunt Najeeba and it was…
"As Salaamu Alaikum!" Najeeba greeted as she entered the house.
Saleema was glad that her aunt came and hugged and kissed her, "Wa alaikum salaam mousy. I knew you would be coming today …"
Najeeba laughed and said "I come here almost every day, especially since your wedding got fixed. Tasneem would not leave me even if I don’t come…" pointing to her mother.
Tasneem laughed and greeted her "As Salaamu Alaikum, of course, how could I leave you? You are not only my SIL but also my best friend and the bride’s to be aunt." Najeeba sat on the sofa with a huge grin and remarked to Saleema, "So, you must be counting your days now…"
Saleema sat quietly next to her aunt. Her mother and aunt were busy discussing the wedding and other ceremonies, which would be held before and after the wedding. Indian weddings have a lot of add-on ceremonies; a mehndi function, another reception after the wedding, etc.
Saleema pretended to read a magazine till her mother left to set the table and prepare lunch for them. Saleema was alone with her aunt Najeeba. She became restless and was wondering how to approach the subject about her feelings for the man who she is going to marry. Najeeba noticed Saleema’s restlessness and asked her "Do you want to say something Saleema?"
Najeeba could sense Saleema’s attitude as Saleema usually poured out her feelings and thoughts only to her aunt. Saleema always approached Najeeba if she had any problem and needed counsel.
"Yes mousy , I want to talk to you alone" she said. Najeeba got up, saying "Okay let’s go to your room." They both went to Saleema’s room and Saleema latched her door. Najeeba was looking at Saleema with worry.
"What is it Saleema ?" she asked. Saleema was thinking of how to start the topic and then said , "It is about my wedding Mousy."
"What about it?" Najeeba asked
"Oh mousy I really don’t know how to start…" Saleema’s eyes were filled with tears, "Mousy let me be honest with you. I don’t want to marry Ahmed"
Najeeba was shocked to hear this; her eyes widened. "But why, what’s wrong with him?"
"I grew up with him Mousy and my heart has always seen him as my own brother and now suddenly everybody says I am gonna marry him and my marriage date is fixed without my permission." Saleema said tearfully.
"My heart is not inclined towards him. I cannot accept him as my husband. Oh please Mousy help me," Saleema pleaded.
"Saleema sweetie, the marriage is fixed and now don’t you think it is too late…" Najeeba said softly. Saleema’s tone rose, "Mousy it will be too late only after marriage!" she busted into tears.
Najeeba hugged her niece and said, "Sweetie, even I had the same feeling when I married my husband but in course of time I started getting comfortable with him especially after having children…"
"What if I end up not being compatible after marriage?" Saleema asked her hurriedly
"But you will… I was not happy for 15 years but now I am happy, in fact very happy," Najeeba said trying to persuade her.
"GOOD!" Saleema said irritably.
"So you want me to marry him and wait till I become forty to have a comfortable married life?" Saleema was angry and disappointed, "I thought you would be the only one who would understand me." She added, sadly, "Nobody asked my permission Mousy. Everybody arranged this and then they come and tell me that I am gonna marry Ahmed and my marriage is fixed."
"I do understand sweetie but this is our culture. We all went through the same thing which you are going through," Najeeba said pathetically and hugged her niece.
"So I HAVE to marry him and I have no other choice?" Saleema asked desolately.
"Yes sweetie, being born as girls, we need to be patient and undergo all this. Allah will reward you for your patience," Najeeba said. Saleema was unable to hold back her tears and cried so much that Najeeba’s sari blouse got soaked with them. Najeeba kissed Saleema and tried to pacify her…
* * *
Islam, a way of life, is a religion that is moderate and balanced. Islam has the Qur’an and Sunnah to guide the people. Now what does Islam say about this situation?
Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya, that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Apostle and he declared that marriage invalid. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 69)
He (saws) also said:
"The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained." (AlBukhari)
"Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise." (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).
Marriage is a beautiful and a sacred bond which allows each spouse to live in tranquility.
"And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect." (Qur’an 30:21)
There are thousands of "Saleemas" in different parts of the world. They are forced into marriages and the result is that they too ruin their own daughters’ lives. Parents or guardians need to reflect on the words of Prophet Muhammad and the Noble Qur’an before they give in to their culture, if they call themselves Muslims.
After knowing what the Prophet (saws) said, can we still consider forced marriages to be valid in the sight of Allah???
© Amatullah Abdullah 2005.