May 14, 2012

Forced Marriages in Islam

By Yasmin Ahmed


And they lived happily ever after…

This is every girl’s fairy tale ending to any marriage, where she is on the journey of life in search of her handsome prince. However, what if a person who falls short of your ideal prince charming was to walk into your life and whisk you away into the distance – against your own consent, but with the blessings of those nearest and dearest to you? Unthinkable!

Yet in the time it has taken you to read this piece, eight girls have been forced to marry, that is nineteen every girls every minute[i].

Looking at Saima Huq driving confidently back to Royston, you would never have thought she was a divorced, single mother of three – a teenager and two young adults. Saima looked younger than her 42 years with glossy, straightened hair; smooth, unblemished, olive skin, untouched by wrinkles, lightly touched up with make-up; wearing the latest high-street tunic dress, skinny jeans and knee length boots. The only indication that she was unhappy was the fact that she was yet again repeating her story to a friend about how she was married and how she eventually divorced.

I still remember the day when I parked behind Saima. She got out of her car and walked towards my car hunched (because of the rain I thought). I wound the window down to greet her but all she said was “I know who he’s having an affair with!” and pointed to the building behind and turned back before she lost composure.

As I saw Saima more and more, her life unravelled before me. Saima’s life consisted of juggling with the upbringing of three teenage children, studying for a PhD, battling to teach unruly secondary school children in the roughest schools, as well as come to terms with the break-up of her marriage – a sure cocktail for a nervous breakdown.

I always thought Saima was happily married as her parents were from India. I always believed people from India were very liberal unlike the parents of my Pakistani friends, who had been given no choice but to marry young and to cousins from back home. Saima explained how her mother had worried and fretted over how she was ever going to get her four daughters married, and Saima was the most difficult and rebellious. “I always voiced my opinion”, she explained, “which always got me into trouble. I was seen as the rebel of the family”.

So when a proposal came at the age of 19, Saima’s mother was ecstatic. The proposal came from an uncle who was looking for a good, sensible wife for his 29 year old nephew. Saima did her research and learnt that this nephew – Junaid – was a fun, loving guy who was very popular with the girls which made her hesitate and question her mother’s choice. When Saima voiced her concerns, her mother ignored her remarks concluding that she was unintelligent and really did not know a good thing when she saw it, and her mother did have three more girls to think of. So Saima was blackmailed into marrying a person she hardly knew. Her married life started with three bitter words from her husband “Hope you’re happy!” and that was all.

Saima went onto explain how she and her husband were two entirely different people, “his conversation was very basic and on an immature level, whilst I wanted mental stimulation an intellectual conversation”. She was concerned about her children’s education and wanted them to attend a top private school, whilst her husband did not share this enthusiasm. Saima worked at a secondary school and paid for her daughter to go into private education. Sadly, a year later, she had to take her daughter out as she realised her husband was not going to support her son to go to the same school. Alone, Saima could not support both children’s education and felt it unfair for one child to have private education whilst the other went to a state school as they were both capable. So she took her daughter out as she also had a third child to think of.

“He never complimented me” she explained “Although I worked just as hard as him”.

Junaid started to distance himself, whilst Saima buried herself in her work. It was when Saima caught Junaid talking to someone over the phone in the early hours of the morning, she started to become suspicious. “I questioned who he was speaking to, I asked him to hang up the phone, but he became violent and wrapped the cord around my neck and smashed my head against the wall”. When Saima spoke to her family about what was going on, they replied that she was crazy as this was what Junaid was going around saying to everybody- “people thought I was crazy, and was imagining he was having an affair”.

Eventually a friend advised Saima to hire a private detective for the sake of her own sanity, and so she did. Months later the detective was able to confirm that her suspicions were true. Saima put her husband out and filed for divorce. “I cried when I was signing the divorce papers, and he didn’t even batter an eyelid”.

Once again relatives flocked asking Saima to take Junaid back as he was a changed man. Junaid came and explained that he had changed and had become more religious, he even took the children on pilgrimage to prove his point. Saima thought hard, she was willing to take him back for the sake of her children, but was still unsure. He came back saying “I will give you a month and if you do not give me your answer, I will start looking in India”. Before the month ended, rumours started to spread that Junaid was engaged to a cousin. Saima rang up to say she was willing to take him back for the children’s sake, but he replied that it was too late. The children tried to bring their father around but he went on to say that he had made his decision and that their mother was ugly whilst his new wife was beautiful and that he chose her over them. He left with these scathing remarks ringing in their ears.

It is when marriages are arranged with no thought to compatibility, lives are ruined. There are so many people I know who have been married in this way- friends who are married to cousins so that it will bring families closer together, friends married to illiterate cousins, cousins from other countries. Sadly Saima’s story is no exception. Is this what the Prophet’s sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam sunnah is? Far from it. When we look at the sunnah of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, a marriage is based on so much more. First and foremost look at the final sermon

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you.[ii]

Although this is applied in the context of wives, it also applies to daughters and women in general.

Abu Huraira radiAllahu anhu narrated -
The Prophet said, "A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! How can we know her permission?" He said, "Her silence (indicates her permission)." Bukhari - Volume 7, Book 62, Number 67[iii]

Here we can see that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam encouraged us to obtain consent from the young lady getting married. This means one must accept the reply she gives from the heart not one where she is pressured.

Sami Zaatari in his work titled ‘Forced Marriages’ opens with the statement -

Indeed the act of forced marriages is something that is not good, nor fruitful, because its foundation is corrupt, and whatever stands upon a corrupt foundation shall eventually falter and will not have a good ending. [iv]

This quote is essential and not one to be taken lightly. It goes to show that as the marriage crumbles, sins are more likely to increase as couples start looking outside for fulfilment and happiness. When this happens there is often a sense of hatred and a negative energy which are likely to affect any children within the marriage. Children then carry this negative energy which affects them as they grow older and start to look outside for happiness, usually to the western culture, as they have not seen the love and happiness in their parents’ marriage.

It is stated in the Holy Quran -
''They [your wives] are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.''  (Noble Quran 2:187[v])

How can husbands and wives remain clothing for each other when they are forced to turn outside marriage, with the wife speaking of her problems to her neighbours, and husbands looking outside for happiness?

In another hadith Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya narrates -
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.[vi] (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 69)

This hadith is a key to a successful marriage. In this hadith one realises that a marriage which has taken place without the consent of the young woman (or man) is in fact invalid. Is it any wonder a forced marriage has such a detrimental effect? People suffer, from the couple through to their offspring, and the one who forces such a marriage upon the couple only Allah subhaana wa ta'aala knows their fate.

As parents, we have a responsibility to ensure our children get married according to the sunnah as this will ensure that the marriage will inshaAllah be a success, and that they will have righteous offspring, (which is a major worry in today’s society). The Prophet’s sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam sunnah cannot be ignored. Sadly, I am sure we have seen all too well what happens when you ignore it- hearts are broken, families are torn apart, children go astray and there is chaos within communities/society.

Let us revive the sunnah and do things properly. Start listening to our children and take a keen interest in what they want, and realising that we may not always know what is best. If not with anything else I would like to leave you with the last hadith, read it one more time and really ponder over what its message is. How does it fit in with society today?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


May Allah make this article to be a source of eye-opener to many parents! 

An issue that badly needed to be addressed. MashaAllah, loved it! JazakAllahu Khair!

A follow up to this article should be how to avoid forced / arranged marriages and get a better insight on how compatible you may be with someone - the halal way.

MashaAllah Yasmin this is really really good :D

Post a Comment