by Shefan Jahan Gazi
We urgently need radical social reform. We have built ideological impediments, we need to educate not agitate them.
Almighty Allah has created all living beings into pairs of opposite genders. Even Adam before whom all the angels were made to bow was not to be alone but was bestowed the companionship of a female partner-the Eve. Universally this union between a male and female gender has been sanctified as marriage.
Marriage in Islam
Marriage in Islam is a codified concept. A nikah is essentially a legal contract whereby two parties acquire rights and duties towards each other. Free consent of each of the party is solicited as the foremost requirement. Offer by the would-be groom and acceptance by the would-be bride culminates into marriage. ‘Dower’ or Mahr paid by the bridegroom to the bride is mandatory and obligatory on the groom. The amount of Mahr cannot be refused or waived after marriage; it is an essential component of the marriage contract.
Marriage is obligatory on all able-bodied men and women. ‘Nikah min sunnati’ (marriage is my sunnah), said the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Another Hadith of the Prophet says marriage is regarded as the accomplishment of half of one’s faith. The Prophet (PBUH) further elaborated that if a person has got means to marry then marriage is most preferred. Celibacy is discouraged while modesty and chastity are valued.
A fornicator cannot marry a chaste partner unless he or she purifies himself or herself by sincere repentance; marrying a non-kitabiyah (polytheist) is strictly prohibited unless he or she accepts Islam wholeheartedly and becomes a practising Muslim.
The husband is the provider, protector and the supporter of the family. He is responsible for the maintenance of his wife and children from his means. If a wife is wealthy, she is capable of owning property and assets in her own right but she is not obliged to spend it on her husband or children, and if she does it out of her free will it is a charity on her part.
The Sociological Purpose
As a social institution, it provides a social identity and a kinship structure. It is the epicentre of emotional and economic support. It primarily legitimizes the basic instinctive conjugal craving of two individuals. Marriage is meant to preserve chastity, reserve oneself from promiscuity, adultery and secret relationships. It is the legitimate way of begetting a progeny and regulates the distribution of property and assets belonging to the family. In South Asian societies it is also a means of an alliance between two families.
Marriage Bells Sound An Alarm
Ordinarily, the tingling of marriage bells should sound the chords of gaiety as two people ally in a bond bringing forth stability in their lives. However, that is not so. At the mere mention of marriage so many concerns spring up dislodging the ideal notion of marriage in our minds.
The conflict has affected our society in multifarious ways. Over the period of thirty years, many inimical forces made inroads into our society inducing corruption of ethics and morality causing degeneration of the existing generations by vices like promiscuity.
Violence was unleashed upon the people especially in faraway villages; women were a systemic part of that strategy. They became victims of violence. The men mistrusted the womenfolk for having lost their purity. Consequently, even young girls did not find a match. Those who did become victims of domestic violence or exploitation very little has been done for the rehabilitation of such girls who have even crossed their forties.
It is a tragedy that young men are languishing in jails or get killed in encounters. Then those who survive jails and encounters do not find a match either because their physical health has deteriorated or out of the fear of victimization as the sword of the State is always dangling over their heads.
For the past thirty years, the successive governments did little or nothing to generate employment avenues. Unemployment reached its peak. Our educated youth were forced to migrate out seeking greener pastures where they often marry without telling their parents. Back home parents arrange a marriage for them. They either run away on the day of marriage or tell their secret after getting married. Being a second wife is a difficult proposition to accept, and doing justice to both more so. It only ends up shattering lives even though Islam allows polygamy and abhors divorce.
This has resulted in wariness among parents of the females who do not wish to take such a risk.
Now with the abrogation of Article 370 apprehensions are rife and after delimitation, local youth will find it extremely difficult to get employment due to increased competition and because of the government policy of preference to outsiders over locals. This will again increase the rate of unemployment.
Pertinently, our youth attain higher qualifications even PhDs but lack the necessary technical skill. Therefore, they remain unemployed, and unemployed youth remain unmarried.
Test of Domesticity
Domesticity in a marriage is a test and the earning capacity is the primary requirement so that a man can support his wife and children. Cost of living has increased and become very expensive therefore all idealism is not workable in practical life.
Parents seeking marriage for their daughters prefer a groom employed in the government sector. They will prefer a small government employee over a skilled professional working in the private sector. Uncertainty about the source of income is just an excuse; the past thirty years have cultured our mindset into obstinacy. Educated young men who labour hard and earn well find it very difficult to convince such parents.
There is a flipside of the same coin too. Families of such boys who are working in the government sector also seek brides having government jobs. The crisis of unemployment exists for educated females too.
There are those too who ask their wives to leave their government job after marriage and the issue becomes so contentious as to reach the courts and ends in forced separation.
There is yet another unfortunate aspect of this fact the parents cannot support the daughter’s family after marriage till perpetuity. They become over-burdened. Such a marriage turns out to be a deep well which never fills up.
The conflict has also seen a role reversal in our society. Where families have lost their bread-earners either due to natural death or due to militancy related incidents, females have taken the lead. They have held the reins and become fore-runners doing odd jobs in the private sector, while a few lucky ones got government jobs. These brave females fend for their families; educating their younger siblings, taking care of the medical bills, protecting their loved ones and even marrying them off suitably, thereby becoming ‘the man’ of their family.
Yet, the men in our society are afraid to accept them in marriage. They fear they will have to share the economic burden of such families too. How misplaced is the notion itself! What if men actually share this responsibility? The modern-day woman wants support beyond anything else. She is capable and educated. Yeah! Like it not, she is self-sufficient too.
Customarily Kashmiris send marriage proposals through the messenger, who is generally a queer person (manzimyor) or some relative. These messengers in order to strike a deal most often exaggerate the claims and details of the prospective grooms which later on prove to be false. It is business for them, a matter of life-time for the girl while her family accepts the proposal. And, trust me if you go fact-checking only the rare conscientious few will tell you the truth. It only lands the poor girl into a difficult situation and her family suffers alongside her.
In such arranged marriages usually caste, family background, education and assets are key criteria. Marriages in relations rarely happen. The couples don’t know each other. Minor arguments are pinpricks which are a part of married life. If such married couples have any trouble the relatives or elders try to advise and prevail upon them. Verily, it works out. But where there is a problem of compatibility generally the girl is admonished for being cursed and tactless, the elderly relatives taunt her, ‘but you were educated’! And, she finds no support, the maternal abode she has left forever and the matrimonial house where the hearts are shut for her.
In arranged marriages, it is extremely difficult to find an appropriate match, leave alone a perfect match.
This custom has lost its relevance and relented to choosing a partner for oneself. The messenger may then be called just to be a ‘go-between’ the two families. In colleges, universities and offices young men and women mingle freely and interact; compatibility develops between a couple and they decide to tie the nuptial knot. Here again, the facts enumerated supra come into play.
There is an urban-rural divide in our society not to speak of the whimsical uptown downtown complex. We are hypocrites, I tell you.
But, my sympathies with the females who have been married far away from their maternal homes! If a girl is happy in the new household her maternal family will eagerly wait for her phone call, but if she is unhappy she will always wait for a phone call from her family. She will tearfully yearn for someone to visit her at least once a while. You transplant a sapling and plant it in someone else’s garden; it needs empathy beyond anything else.
Practically having spouses living just nearby is not always possible.
There are widows and divorced females in our society. Ironically a divorced male finds another good match but the female is stigmatized for life. Consequently, such females remain single.
Adoption is Haram, prohibited in Islam, but you can rear the orphans and the children of the divorced females, and even gift one-third of your property to them. Spare a thought! Give such children an opportunity for a better life full of love from which they have been deprived. I am sure it will arrest the vices in the young generation. Did not our Prophet-the exalted (PBUH) leave us an example?
Jammu and Kashmir has been in a state of turmoil but endless new trends are introduced every year to the marriage customs. The style of marriage events has changed. The bridal dresses have to come from Delhi and Mumbai when the same are available in the local market. People spend lavishly on the menu, house décor, videography, the singing and dancing. In the name of modernity, we are imitating alien cultures. In all the sheen of such ultra-unique ceremonies, a keen observation will tell you we have lost all affection and intimacy. It is all superficial and more an imitation of the elite, a social evil eating into the vitals of the marriage itself.
Marriage Versus Business
Dowry is an imminent factor taking a huge toll on the marriages. The gifts to be given to the bride, the bridegroom and his family are in cash and kind. The gold items exchanged between the parties; the inheritance or the steady flow of cash that’s going to flow in is a prime consideration. Discrete demands are made either expressly or tacitly. Lagyo Ponso! Money truly matters. It drains the hard-earned resources of the girl’s family. Sadly, as in the ancient times having more than one daughter is treated as the wrath of Almighty.
As the girls of the middle class grow of marriageable age they expend the prime of their lives collecting these items. In their subconscious mind, they feel themselves to be a burden on their families who are unable to bear the huge marriage expenses or find them a suitable or sensible match. Consequently, they either take the wrong decisions in life or they are driven to suicide.
There is a myth in Kashmir that the females age faster. Though physiological changes affect both the genders equally, females are more victimized.
There is an alarming rate of female feticide. Of late we saw cases of infanticide too where infant girls were dumped in cardboard boxes.
Aren’t we treating females like cheap vegetables? Our values are edging out.
Virtual media has brought people from different backgrounds together. We socialize virtually without knowing everyone personally. Virtual relationships are illusory which don’t work out in reality, only some may find a good life partner. On the other hand, the openness of social media is such that it promotes promiscuity even among mature people. The praise and attention received should never be allowed to transgress a well-defined boundary line. Responsible behaviour is a must.
Apart from this, youth watch unrestricted pornography, they are addicted to social media, the gaming sites PUBG, and other things, which initiates their sexual maturity. To satiate lust they enter into courtships or hasty marriages which don’t even last long. These individuals, male or female, lack a commitment to relationships. Do they realize the debilitating effect it has on their health and fertility? Fertility is a telling cause affecting marriages.
From stress to compatibility, personal factors could be numerous. An overstressed person in office indulging in the fun outside the family life is a guilty person; guilty of destroying the bonds of restraint which marriage has put on him.
There are those too who are otherwise pious but take farcical vows of abstinence from performing their marital duties either because they have pledged their heart to someone else or because they have some physical disability. Such a marriage is tantamount to a legalized live-in relationship.
One wonders helplessly! In either case, don’t destroy someone’s life. All I can say, pledge your life to the person whom you pledged your heart. Be clear about your disabilities, please.
There are late marriages or no marriages or marriages that end into divorces. Marriage spells stability. Marriage does not mean experimentation with the emotions of your spouse. Two people have to be sensitively attuned to each other. A female feels secure when she gets that sense of belonging and self-esteem. She gets the confidence of a good life with the identity of interests. Two people can’t go two ways. A married couple is one entity. Deprivation of these aspects constricts a marriage. It becomes a source of untold suffering.
Modern-day females have dreams and aims of their own. Masculine ego and inferiority complex shatters those dreams. It’s a universal truth that men bred on chauvinism don’t prefer smart women. There is a small change though, but very insignificant.
Relations formed on material considerations have greed not blood in the veins. Life is about struggle. A self-respecting person will build his ‘nest’ bit by bit and will never ask for readymade comforts. Females must choose and support such men who have the will to squeeze water from the stones.
With working women the traditional role has changed, she is a multi-tasker, balancing office and home. Men must share the duty of grooming the children it is no longer an exclusively female domain. Mere symbolic interaction with the children is absolutely inadequate.
Why do men of our society want to be pampered like overgrown adults-kids? But it’s amusing those who pamper their wives are called cuckolded men.
Promiscuity plagues a society. Islam strictly discourages obscenity. Entering upon a stranger woman who is alone is Haram. Remember no one is ever alone.
The shadow of our conscience is always tracking us. Only the slaves of the vile instinct will become deviant.
Where two hearts meet, their thoughts may or may not be the same; they will stay together in matrimony if their differences don’t end in discord. But where two minds converge, their hearts connect automatically; two souls will rejoice in the harmony of fulfilment. Such ideal situations are rare. No one can wait endlessly for the ‘soul-mate’. Time is always of the essence, whether its work or personal life. To add a little bit of humour, Peer saheb’s amulets and talismans don’t work.
Indeed, there is a crisis of confidence in the very institution of marriage. Just getting married doesn’t suffice; you have got to live its peculiarities. It leaves one aghast to see a directionless society. Maybe now the ‘Maulana Sahib’s’ who have forcibly been retired from active politics do some soul searching and concentrate on guiding the people righteously.
Yet, there are men who are literally brimming with knowledge, even the linguistics of Islamic philosophy is at the tip of their tongues: Congratulations! You have earned Jannah. Mubarak Asenev. The knowledge which cannot provide a vision to a derailed generation and build a healthy social system by providing solutions to social issues is useless. It has no practical value. As Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani (RA) has said,
Paran Paran Par Gaye Khali,
Khar Tchel Kitaab Bareah Heath
We urgently need radical social reform. We have built ideological impediments, we need to educate not agitate them. Yet, to each his own! Wish you all a happy life.
(Author is a practising lawyer in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)