بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
She is engaged and due to be married soon. She spends most of her waking hours daydreaming, perusing fashion magazines, shopping, or imagining what married life would be like. She finds herself ushered more often into the kitchen, and her parents treat her like a princess.
The primary thoughts occupying everyone’s minds revolve around the wedding events that will be held – from the clothes, to the jewelry, to the elaborate menu and exquisite fresh-flower arrangements. Excitement is in the air, and the bride-to-be is on cloud nine.
Her parents are jubilant because they finally hope to see their daughter happily married and well-settled in life; a worry that was beginning to gnaw away at their peace of mind. They are relieved, albeit with a tinge of worry about her future, but the relief – for now – outweighs their worries. Their relatives have to be informed about the imminent wedding; the relentless questions asked by everyone about their daughter’s would-be in-laws have to be answered, and – how can anyone forget – the events of the wedding have to be planned, down to the most intricate detail.
He just cannot wait until the months pass between now and his wedding. He is counting the days and getting restless. His parents are in a flurry over the preparation of the elaborate bari – the bridal clothes collection with matching accessories – that they have to display before their extended family before the wedding. The house is being renovated, and household discussion nowadays revolves mostly around which designer to get his sherwani made by, which wedding photographer to summon for the walima, and whether Espresso coffee or Kashmiri tea would be better liked by the guests as a post-dinner sweet beverage.
In this post, I want to to abolish some stereotypes and intentionally burst some bubbles about marriage; bubbles that are often purported by most to be the actual matters of significance in a marriage. At least, I would like the younger, still-single lot amongst us to know that some of the ‘myths’ they are led to believe about marriage are, completely and utterly, “fluff”.
First of all, whether you are Groom-to-be or Bride-to-be, please take in some hard-to-swallow facts from me, as someone with not just years of experience in her own marriage, but also one who has witnessed many close friends’ weddings and has counseled many of them about subsequent problems in their marriages.
I think it is better for you to know some things about marriage vs. weddings now, during this golden, fantastical phase of your engagement, which no one else will tell you. For some reason, during a wedding, society allows you to naively float in your dream-like delusion about marriage until the first reality-check pops your bubble and brings you crashing down to earth – into real life!
Marriage is not about clothes and jewelry – just the wedding is:
Think marriage in desi culture, and you immediately conjure up images of precious jewelry, ornate and exquisite clothes, and – for young men – a job and a car.
“The mutual rivalry for piling up (worldly possessions) diverts you.” [Quran – 102:1]
Please don’t think that you are being given those expensive clothes and what not because you are special, or because suddenly everyone loves you more.
Rather – mark my words – what you receive in your marriage is mostly because of the elders in your extended family: their desires, their dreams about how they want to see you married, and their ethnicity-based customs and traditions.
So, if you receive that precious ancestral heirloom or priceless diamond necklace, it is not to solely make you happy, or to accentuate your appearance. Rather, it is primarily to continue a family tradition or for the sake of show to everyone else – your aunts, uncles and others who care to ask about what you were passed down from your elders (and believe me, your parents get asked a lot of questions during the marriage ceremony about who gave what, and how much).
The clothes, the gifts given to your in-laws, the exchange of elaborate banquets – they are not about you. Sure, they make you feel like the centre of attention and it really feels good to be showered with expensive gifts, but what I am saying is supposed to wake you up and not be deluded: it is more about tradition, custom and – sadly – one-up-manship, than about being courteous, or to express “love” for the other party.
Money talks – loudly:
Remember when you were a kid, and you got a new toy e.g. a new bicycle, which your friends at school or in your neighborhood didn’t have? What did you do?
Well, if I remember correctly, I almost always showed it off to my friends. It is human nature to “display” or flaunt your newest acquisition to others in your age group or social circle.
Age does not change intrinsic human nature. If a 5-year-old flaunts a new costume or toy to his or her peers, a 40-year-old will do the same with a new electronic gadget or a flashier car.
To give due credit, some humble people are still around who curb their base desires and do not succumb to this urge to flaunt; however, sadly, most give in to it.
Nothing brings out this human urge to flaunt in everyone involved, like a marriage in the family!
As for the one-up-manship, some elders in families feel that nothing raises their “honor” or “status” in society (i.e. among their corporate, familial, or business circle) more than oodles of money and cliched status symbols: material assets such as the size of the house, the number and brands of their cars, the price tag of the watch given as dulha ki salami, the value of the jewel given as moon dikhai, the brand name and number of crockery pieces in the dinner set of the jahaiz, and the number of meats at the wedding reception of their adult offspring – to just name a few.
They feel as if the flagrant display of wealth will make them ‘honorable’ among their contacts, and since marriage is an event that will bring together this entire circle of contacts in one place, at one time, they want to splurge on everything extravagant in order to get the “Wow!” and “Ooh! Excellent!” excalamations from attendees.
أَيَبْتَغُونَ عِندَهُمُ الْعِزَّةَ فَإِنَّ العِزَّةَ لِلّهِ جَمِيعًا
“…Is it honor they seek among them? Nay,- all honor is with Allah..” [Quran – 4:139]
I just cannot understand, though, why the elders in Pakistani families do not take a stand and refuse to waste wealth on weddings; why they cannot keep things simple; why do they have to bend over backwards to accommodate the demands or requests of every mumani and every chacha?
“What will Billo Baji say? Remember how she gave her daughter 200 tola’s of sona on her wedding? When she asks me, I will have to tell her that I am giving only 70 tola’s? Haye, what a baistee [humiliation] that will be for me!”
“Munnoo Bhai kept fried fish, prawn tempura, and whole lamb roast on his son’s walima. How can we serve just one biryani and one kabab dish, when we can afford fish and prawns too? What will they think? That we couldn’t loosen our purse strings even on our offspring’s wedding?”
“My daughter deserves to have all her armaan (wishes) fulfilled. We will do whatever she asks for….and besides, what will my husband’s colleagues’ wives say if I tell them that we got her wedding dress made from some average-joe kaam wala from a God-forsaken market in Orangi? We will have to make a designer dress, even if it is very simple.”
“I personally think that dholki’s are a waste, but all my cousins have already decided to convene them at my house during my wedding week. My parents have no choice in the matter.”
“There is no way I am not hosting a banquet on my daughter’s rukhsati! I know that it is not part of the sunnah in Islam to feed dinner to guests at one’s daughter’s marriage, but I have hundreds of colleagues in my company who all invited me to their children’s weddings, and I attended those banquets. I have to return the favor. What will they think, that I couldn’t afford to host a dinner for 500 people at my daughter’s wedding?”
As I said, money talks in society…and it talks very loudly. If one can flaunt hundreds of thousands of rupees in a single banquet, it will help silence many a wagging tongue, and solicit many an exclamation of approval from those whom we seek to impress.
وَلاَ تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا
“And squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” [Quran – 17:26]
Consequently, in desi (IndoPak) weddings, no matter how much the bride and groom desire to follow the sunnah way of simplicity and ease, they sometimes find themselves in a dilemma due to the unrelenting attitude of some elders in their family, who refuse to relinquish their adherence to generations-old wedding traditions and lavish expenditure.
You don’t really know your fiance or your in-laws….yet
The engagement or betrothal phase is not the real thing. It is a time period in which both sides – the guy’s family and the girl’s family – are on their best behavior, meticulously observing the epitome of polite courtesy and akhlaaq in front of each other.
Wallahi, it is not the real thing.
You will get to know what your spouse and their family really are like once the wedding has taken place, and let me clarify that to mean: when the rukhsati has taken place viz. when the husband and wife are cohabiting.
Everyone shows their true colors from the morning after the rukhsati – even you! You will have your first all-out fight with your spouse probably within the first 2 weeks of marriage (I have given much leeway with this estimate; usually it happens much sooner). You will see, probably for the first time, the feathers of your mother- or father-in-law ruffled very obviously – whether you are the bride or the groom. You might see one of them scold your spouse, who might answer back in defense.
Welcome to real life!
You might also start to get irritated by a sister/cousin/aunt/uncle-in-law who always has an opinion about everything that you should be wearing, eating or doing, even though, for some reason, before the wedding his/her “concern” and “involvement” seemed very endearing, and never bothered you. Now, when he or she points out your every mistake or tells you what to do, you might gradually begin to dislike it. Weddings are (in)famous for testing the patience of most in extended families, because everyone in the clan is thrown together in close proximity, again and again, for several days!
All of this will start to happen within the first few days of the marriage, not to mention the fact that your parents might suddenly become critical of your spouse, discreetly pointing out their shortcomings to you:
“Why is she so reserved? Why isn’t she mingling with us freely? This is her home now.”
“He is earning a paltry salary on a contract job. He should apply in big companies, now that he has to support you.”
The question is: why? Why does everyone, including you, change all of a sudden once the wedding has taken place? Simple answer – again, one that has to do with intrinsic human nature: because everyone has finally got what they wanted.
The mutual goal of both families – getting their son/daughter married – has been achieved. So now they – and you – can finally heave a big sigh of relief, take off those gajra’s or waistcoats, give up the facade of “formality”, and be yourselves.
The typical scenario is that most girls’ families can’t wait for her to visit them alone leisurely, without her husband, after her wedding. That is because then they get the chance to pounce on her and target her with their nosy questions:
“What did they give you for your moon dikhai?”
“Is your husband a very stingy man?”
“Did it hurt?”
“Are you on birth control? Are you expecting yet? My Chachi got pregnant on her wedding night!”
“What is your mother-in-law like?”
Nope, dear reader, its not just the bride’s young, single, naive, and immature sisters/cousins/girlfriends who ask her these preposterous questions. Often, none other than the women in her family also barge into her private marital matters. And very few brides can take a stand of tight-lippedness against this barrage.
Once, a married friend of mine was telling this story to another friend in my presence, “When my brother married my cousin, my mother quickly called me towards herself the next morning at breakfast and whispered, “Go, go…..ask her what happened. Find out if they did it or not.” I went, and thankfully my bhabi decided to open up to me immediately,” she gushed amid giggles, as I looked on blankly, trying not to react.
This lady’s family, and especially her mother whom I just mentioned, is a very highly-educated, civil, established family. Her mother has been teaching in institutions abroad since many years.
It is shocking to know, but this happens in more families than you’d think!
Every marriage undergoes trials, which reveal everyone’s true colors, even yours
No matter how much we all would like our lives to resemble a peaceful ride on a smooth-sailing boat atop calm, serene waters, fact is: life is not a bed of roses. Storms come, winds lash your boat, the waves thrash it from all sides, and you cling on to it in desperation, wondering if it’ll pull through intact. With patience and faith in Allah, you more often than not, do.
When we marry someone, we should expect challenges and trials of our patience in the future, no matter how extensively we “investigated” our future spouse and in-laws before agreeing to the proposal. Bottom-line: expect some scary skeletons to come dangling out of their closets to temporarily horrify you out of your wits. Do not be so naive to think that you will not be tested!
However, if the person (your spouse) and the family into which you have married are basically good people at heart, who fear Allah and fulfill the obligations of Islam, rest assured that not only will your marriage work out well, but that it will become the source of immense serenity, joy and blessings, insha’Allah. However, the exponential benefits, such as financial stability, emotional understanding, mutual compatibility, and bonding with the extended family-in-law (not to mention, wonderful little children), will come only after you pull through by exercising patience during the formative, initial years of this bond.
For the bride, I would like to opine that if I had to choose one word to describe marriage for her, it would be: adjustment.
For the groom, that word would be: responsibility.
After the henna has faded away, the flowers in the bedroom have wilted and shed their petals, the beat of the Duff has died down, the aunts and cousins from abroad have boarded their flights back home, the expensive bridal couture, turban, and sherwani have been packed away into cupboards; the wedding night jitters have turned into frank and comforting companionship, and the last succulent balls of gulab jamuns and other mithai have been devoured…….know that your superficial, bling-infused wedding celebration is over, and your actual marriage has begun!
The fun just started, kiddo. 🙂
It is narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“The woman who brings the greatest blessing is the one whose wedding arrangements are the most moderate.”
[Narrated by Ahmad, 24595. Classed as sahih by Al-Hakim.]
For those who understand Urdu, please click here to watch a youtube video, in which Dr Israr Ahmed talks about wedding extravagance, and details the do’s and don’ts of an Islamic wedding ceremony with evidence from the sunnah.