By: Zuha Malik
If you’re a Pakistani girl, you’ve probably been told not to speak to a guy in your entire life. More than likely, your mother scolded you for wearing make up to college and stressed upon the significance of keeping you as “protected” as possible.
You weren’t allowed to go outside on your own, have had a very strict curfew your entire life, and have been raised to believe that men must not be found even vaguely related to you in any form or manner because it is “haraam“.
Suffice to say that given this upbringing, the discovery of your parents’ intention to commence a rishta (suitor) hunt comes off as a bit of a shock. It’s scary too, because most arranged marriages in Pakistan are fundamentally flawed.
Primarily, the girl that has not been allowed to speak to or even be sighted by a non-mehram for any purpose in her entire life is asked to pose glamorously for photos.
A catalog of photos of a number of such girls is then handed over to the groom to be, who must then decide on the basis of bodily attractiveness the one he is willing to spend his life with. He’d probably accompany his parents to the girl’s house for tea, and the girl who has never been allowed to speak directly to a man must now spend an uncomfortable fifteen minutes alone with the guy, during the course of which the two must decide their willingness to spend the rest of their lives together.
Seems straight out of a fairy-tale, does it not? Well, allow me to acknowledge Disney’s apology for the potentially misleading concept of love that they portrayed back in the day:
AND MEETING THE MAN YOU’RE SET TO MARRY IN THIS GOD FORSAKEN SOCIETY IS A POTENTIALLY BETTER CASE SCENARIO. THE REAL TEST FOR YOU IS TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH A PERSON YOU’VE ONLY SEEN A PHOTO OF.
Most parents do know their children very well, and can predict their emotional affinities to a certain degree, but even they can’t be certain that their child will have absolutely no problem adjusting with a person that’s a stranger to themselves. On the other hand, there are some parents like mine, for example, who can’t pick out a sweater for their child without making a very wrong decision.
The growing generation gap and the absence of real-time heart to hearts between families contribute to the nuclearization of individuals. Parents no longer understand their children well enough to make stable decisions for them, and even if they did, who’s to say the person they choose wouldn’t turn out to be a psychopath?
Take the example of Fatima*, who was married off to a wealthy banker in the United States a couple of years ago. Everything seemed dreamy, until she became the victim of his brutal beatings every night. The situation worsened to the extent that she was hospitalized on Eid. Numerous such cases are privately discussed ever now and then, but the matter is shunned because of the dishonor that divorce would bring. Therefore, innocent girls are stuck in an abusive relationships for no fault of their own.
“But hold on!”, you tell me. The prophet’s (PBUH) daughters never spoke to their husbands before marriage. “It’s Sunnah to marry according to your parents’ wishes!” , you say. And I agree. I must add, however, that the prophet (PBUH) was personally acquainted for elongated periods of time to the men that his daughters married. You might even say that they were very close friends (Hazrat Usman RA) and even closely related (Hazrat Ali RA). Furthermore, in the case of Hazrat Fatimah (RA), it was Hazrat Ali (RA) that proposed. And let me assert this with definitive clarity: if arranged marriages are to happen in this manner, they have a very high probability of being successful too.
Although the courtship period may vary for different couples, psychologists suggest waiting at least four years getting to know a person before marriage. This is not at all intended to propose or suggest illicit pre-marital relations. What I wish to convey is simply that contemporary arranged marriages are chiefly gambles, and gambling is forbidden in Islam.