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Arranged Marriage is a Tradition in the Islamic Religion

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    Arranged Marriages

    Arranged marriage is a long-held tradition in the Islamic religion, tradition because it is not really under the teaching of Islam.  Close relatives help the parents to organize this event.  Muslims respect and honor the parent’s judgment over their child to choose the suitable partner for their child’s future husband or wife.  More often than not, a Muslim child has no say over the issue of their marriage; it is task for their parents (Tames 30).  This research paper will explore the matter of Muslim arranged marriages and why Americans see it as an unacceptable primitive way of life.

    Loveless is a word that we can associate with arranged marriages.  The need for respect, the necessitate to protect their pride and dignity, and the overwhelming influence of the Islam society force a Muslim couple to stay together even though their current situation dictates otherwise. Love may grow between the couple but it is a very rare occurrence. It is more of an obligation rather than a choice. But in some way it is also a choice – the choice to obey the family tradition; it’s just that the alternative move is a literally deadly option, especially for the female. In this kind of arrangement, women are not allowed to decide in almost about anything.  Even the simple task of going outside the house without permission could cause a major ruckus between Muslim couples.  Because a man knows the extent of his power over his wife, he tends to abuse it whenever his wife refuses to comply his terms (Mijar Arranged vs).

    But contrary to popular belief, the Koran has nothing to do with these arranged marriages, which is more of a tradition rather than a law.  The Qur’an stated that the Lord created humans from a single soul; men and women shared equal proportions.  Reverence must be offered to Allah and the wombs of mothers that bore you (Qur’an 4:1).  The Qur’an portrays men and women as equal but not identical in the sense that inside the family husband and wife plays their different role.  The Qur’an clearly stated that men should be the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means (4:34).  Some scholars have even gone so far as to say that women should be glad that Allah gave additional responsibility to men, so now they do not have to shoulder such a heavy burden.  And looking from a certain angle, God has eternally doomed men to work for women (Cooey 43).  But how is it that Muslims do not follow their own scriptures?

    Lets go back to the arranged marriages and how Muslims view their own tradition.  Even though Americans see arranged marriages as another kind of oppression, the concept is not new at all, and certainly not limited to Islam.  From what I have pointed out earlier, it is more of a cultural phenomenon that reaches from Zimbabwe to China.   On the contrary, it is actually the Western way of dating that the rest of the world is having a hard time agreeing with.  In fact for those who practice arranged marriages, most especially for Muslims, this method is not really a form of oppression (Goodwin 23).

    Rather, it is a simple way of protecting a “naive” woman from committing a stupid mistake.   Though the Koran talks of gender equality, it still talks about the bad attributes of an unmarried woman.  The Qur’an questions the wisdom of a woman in choosing a spouse, or the lack thereof.  If given the opportunity, a woman will choose a man based on characteristics such as wealth and physical attractiveness that will not aid her in the long run.  That is why the choosing is left in the clutches of her parents who have the ability to look from an unbiased point of view.  They will look for important point of view like faithfulness to Allah, perseverance, kindness, responsibility, good work and fine morals.  This kind of arrangement simply releases a woman from the painful task of looking for a suitable partner (Stowasser 30).

    Western societies deride arranged marriages as backwards and primitive but Muslims mock Western marriages because divorce rates are much lower in arranged marriages.  There is a 0% – 7% divorce rate for arranged marriages compared to a 55% divorce rate in the United states alone.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is the lower expectation of the marriage and another is that the religions mentioned encourage the couples to stay together.  Because the family was part of the selection they are a good support group for the couple to help them through troubled times and to get through it.  For example western societies seem to focus more on the physical appearance in relationships, therefore are more obsessed with love, sex, beauty etc.  Marriages based on these things may not work out due to clashes in personalities, beliefs or common annoy things.  In contrast, in the eastern cultures that use arranged marriages put emphases on practical things such as integrity, diligence, ambition, humility, generosity etc. people therefore are getting married due to practical reasons and work on building the love in the relationship later (Yalom 35).

    But in most cases, women are the victims of arranged marriages; that’s why lots of feminist around the world shout freedom to Muslim societies.  Working on building the love in the relationship later is not really the exact reason why arranged marriages last.  It is more on the fact that men have the power to control their wife. Muslim women are afraid to disobey their husbands for obvious reasons like the fear to loose their lives.

    Freedom of choosing one’s own life partner, no matter how much it might seem unbelievable is unfortunately not practiced by all countries yet. Arranged marriages are still too common in the Middle East. They still exist in a time where modernization has taken over in so many different countries in the world. Choosing a life partner is a human right that should be practiced by all countries but is not in some like: Saudi Arabia, Sri lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria and even Lebanon…The list goes on and on. It’s sad to live in a country where a person can not choose his/her life partner and it is still heartbreaking to have such a strict and closed-minded upbringing when modernization has taken such a huge place in societies.

    In Saudi Arabia alone, where the world is still far behind concerning women’s rights, women have to endure a life of suffering in order to be considered normal. All of these women live in a state of incredible boredom. A woman there has nothing to do but wait. Wait to get married, wait for her husband to come back home every night, wait for her next child to be born and finally wait for old age, when relieved from her child-bearing duties, she assumes a place of honor within her family. The Muslim women do not do anything productive or constructive like studying or working and they do not have ambitions for a career. Their life is absolutely not satisfying for any individual. Issues such as education, rebellion against the veil, and hostility towards the repressive attitudes of men are not often discussed. Women there are so dominated by the expectations of family and the need for peer approval that feelings of rebellion, if they exist, are kept under tight rein.  Muslim women cannot express themselves at all.

    Their voices are unheard. They are invisible. They have no opinion what so ever. It is a cruel life for anyone. Because ancient traditions have made a woman the repository of group strength and have made her subservient to men and the protector of the family, Muslims’ attitudes towards marriage are vastly different from what they are in the West. The philosophy of marriage in the West emphasizes individual choice and personal fulfillment. In Islam culture, the purpose of marriage is never the happiness of the individual but rather the good of the group and the perpetuation of its interests. They never expect to experience the privilege of courtship and marriage that a westerner does because love, if it develops, comes after marriage. It is an especially unfortunate conception that Islam holds men much higher above women, and women are simply baby-making housekeepers who have no rights and are forced to completely veil themselves in an effort to oppress them so that men may rule the nations.  Images of burqah-donned women, stories of honor killings and rights (or lack thereof) of women in Islam strike the heartstrings of the American people (Goodwin 54).

    One concept that is hard to agree with is the idea that the Qur’an states that a wife should not refuse her husband’s sexual advances, as not to alienate him.  In The Family Structure of Islam, a wife may not deny herself to her husband, for the Qur’an speaks of them as a comfort to each other. While the logic is understandable, the author is not a personal believer in conjugal privilege, and seeing as even in marriage the person remains a whole being and not a half of a couple, certain rights to one’s own body must be respected (Isaac 2).

    A common myth about Muslim life is that of the harem.  Beginning in the Middle Ages when Europeans were engaged in warfare with Muslims in Palestine, common misconceptions have traveled back in the forms of stories brought back to the homeland by soldiers returning from their travels.  With the Ottoman empire holding such great influence over Europe from the fifteenth century until the early 1900s, many Westerners became fascinated with exotic tales of rooms of beautiful women that the men of the house having the ability to choose at any moment.  Many French, Italian and British painters took this notion to the public by portraying beautiful gardens filled with nubile, exotic women.  In fact, a harem in no way implies anything regarding a pleasure room.  In fact, it literally means “forbidden space” and referred to private rooms in a Muslim house that male visitors were not allowed to enter.

    A harem is simply a place where a Muslim woman could remove her headscarf and relax knowing that her honor was not at stake since no strange men could witness her in her privacy.  The myths actually came from the non-Islamic cultural practices of primarily Ottoman sultans.  This belief of men lording over women started an endless flow of negative prejudices against the Islamic religion (Goodwin 45).

    In Germany, there was also a case where a younger brother shot his 23-year older sister because she refused to be tied up by an arranged marriage (Special Report).

    Lastly, Khalil Gibran once wrote that freedom could be totally achieved when you no longer strive to have it. Instead, it is already a part of you where you find yourself standing above your sorrows and grief (42).  This kind of freedom is easily expressed in countries like the US since Americans are very compassionate in fighting for their humanly rights.  But in countries like those under the influence of the Muslim customs, freedom could be compared to dreams – too good to be true.  It is no wonder that arranged marriages is so common in these countries.  Muslims are not allowed to recognize freedom, more so even grasp the meaning of it.  It is almost impossible to achieve Khalil Gibran’s freedom, which is sad because there’s a lot of culture already adopting this modern way of thinking.  Muslims purposefully let themselves to be left behind, still clinging to their traditions.

    Works Cited

    Ali, Yusuf Abdullah.  Qur’an. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2002.

    Cooey, Paula M. After Patriarchy: Feminist Transformation of the World Religions. New York: Orbis Books, 1991.

    Gibran, Khalil. On Freedom. New York: The Prophet, 1923.

    Goodwin, Robin. Personal Relationships across Cultures. London: Routledge, 1999.

    Isaac, Sebastian. “Arranged Marriages.” 13 November 2002. International Debate Education Association. 4 June 2008 <>.

    Mijar, Nayan S. “Arranged vs Love Marriage.” 28 July 2002. 4 June 2008 <>.

    Penney, S. Discovering Religion Islam. Oxford: Heinemann Education Publishers, 1995.

    “Special Report: Muslim Forced Marriages in Europe.” 8 June 2006.  Western Resistance. 4 June

              2008 <>.

    Stowasser, Barbara Freyer.  Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    Tames, R. The Muslim World. London: Macdonald and Co Ltd, 1982.

    Yalom, Marilyn and Carstensen, Laura, L. Inside the American Couple: New Thinking/New Challenges. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.


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