BY: Madiha Zaidi
Most parents today view marriage through the glass of culture and traditions. They have a set picture of the son/daughter in law, of their family, of the wedding day, of almost everything. Unfortunately, some fail to look at the real Islam and the real issues of today when creating this picture. Today is not the same as when the parents were younger. Just like Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said in his famous hadith, “Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.”
How much longer will parents agree to all these Islamic proofs but keep following the culture? The youth today have different needs and different way of approaching things. Imam Ali also states: “People resemble the people of their time more than they do their fathers.” He knows better than we do. Why not listen to him?
Marriage is one such topic. We need to admit that the youth today have a different way, and as long as that way is not un-Islamic, parents need to start listening with an open mind. Culture is not something the youth pay attention to, especially when it comes to marriage. The youth today have had a lot more exposure to scholars and learning Islam without the mix of culture, which is a blessing since it is learned as pure Islam, without some of the meaningless cultural traditions. Usually culture conflicts with what youth are learning about what Islam says and what their parents make them do. Even so, many parents have learned true Islam after attending speeches, lectures, conferences, etc. They have changed their lives completely (observing Hijab, eating Halal, praying Namaz). But when it comes down to marriage, they have not picked up the true Islamic way of looking at it. Is that not double standards? You can’t pick a little of Islam and leave the other parts of it.
The number one mistake parents make is thinking it is too early for their children to get married, that they are not “mature” yet. A girl is a woman when she is nine. Allah did not set this rule for no reason. She is no longer a girl, but a woman, meaning her physical and mental psyche is no longer that of a child. It is the same for men at age 15. Getting married early keeps the youth away from sin and corruption. Especially today, not fulfilling or denying marriage leads one to engage in dating, causes them to sin more (not lowering their gaze, etc.), look to other sources to satisfy their desires, etc.
Some parents may think it is easy to attend a Western school, which is co-ed, in which all around you is Shaitan. It is very tough to fight off these distractions, especially for the youth. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) states: “O youths, whosoever among you can marry, he should do so, because marriage protects your eyes (from indulging in sin by looking lustily at others) and privacy.”
The Western culture has a big impact on the youth of today, but Islam has provided a way to keep us on the right path. It has strongly recommended early marriage. All the problems of today can be solved with this simple step. It is said that the Holy Prophet was proud of the fact that Islam has made it easy to get married. Have we not turned this around? Not only does it stop from sinning, it builds spiritually. It has been narrated that when a youngster marries early in his youth, Shaitan cries out of desperation and says, “Alas! This person has protected one third of his religion, now he will protect the remaining two thirds also.” (Mustadrak al-Wasail)
Another issue is the new approaches youth are taking to get married. It’s not always the same story where parents find the spouse; rather, the majority of the youth today are taking the responsibility to find someone. Through school, work, etc., many youth find someone who is a suitable match and begin to consider marriage. How should youth and parents take that? If it’s not according to parental plans, does it make it wrong? According to Islam, both parents and youth must agree, but eventually the youth’s input is the most important and final. Unfortunately, what’s happening today is that the youth find a suitable match, and instead of getting consideration from the parents, they hear a “no way” without discussion. The usual reasons are “you’re too young”, “the guy’s not stable yet”, or “(s)he’s not of the same culture”.
Break these down, and you’ll see that these reasons hold no substance in the view of Islam. Islam considers just one thing when looking for a spouse, and that is piety. Islam does not regard social status, race or culture as an obstacle in marriage. It simply states that the first attribute that should be taken into consideration is Taqwa (piety).
According to the book Islamic Family Structure, Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him) said to a man who was regarding race/ethnicity in marriage: “Do you not know that God the Almighty removed all inferiorities and compensated for all defects by Islam? He replaced inferiority with nobility. Now, no matter what the social status of a Muslim is, (s)he is not inferior but is respectable. The inferiorities belong to the Age of Ignorance.” If a Muslim couple has faith, piety, morality, trustworthiness, chastity, purity and health, then they are well-matched. This is true even if one is an Arab, and the other one is a Persian; one lives in a city, and the other one is a villager; one is rich, and the other is poor; one is white, and the other is black; one belongs to a noble family, and the other one does not.
There is also no rule in Islam that says the guy/girl must have a bachelor’s degree, a job, and a house in order to get married. Parents need to get over that way of thinking! Islam encourages an early marriage; in fact marriage becomes mandatory when fear of sin is involved. The majority of parents is so afraid of their children committing these sins (like dating) that they overprotect instead of using the Islamic solution of Mut’a or marriage, and in turn, the child rebels and commits these sins because all his/her friends are doing it, and there is no other way the parent will allow him/her to satisfy their needs.
Shaheed Ayatollah Mutahhari says: “Each generation is responsible for the guidance of the proceeding generation.” At the same time, he urges us not to address challenges of today with the solutions of yesterday. In this regard, he states: “The issue of leadership and guidance of this generation differs in its methods and techniques throughout the various time periods and differs according to the groups or people whom we are working with. Thus, we must completely remove the thought from our heads that this new generation must be guided by following the methods used by the previous generations.”
To the next reason, Allah has stated in the Holy Qur’an, “Marry the single people from among you and the righteous (pious) slaves and slave-girls. If you are poor, Allah will make you rich through his favor; and Allah is bountiful, All-knowing.” Not having money should not be the reason to put off marriage. If you have true faith, Allah will provide for you. Many scholars have spoke on this issue, and many parents have heard it, yet there seems to be only the lucky parents who have understood and accepted the true Islamic way of looking at marriage.
We all need to snap back to reality, not to culture. We all need to snap back to Islam. Let’s do our research on marriage and what it truly is in Islam. Marriage is a gift and blessing from Allah. The Holy Prophet has said: “No foundation of Islam is as beloved and as mighty as the foundation and institution of marriage.” We need to open our eyes, especially living here in the West; most of this applies to every youth and parent. This is a very serious issue that is causing many problems within the youths of today, but it seems some parents are being blind to it. It has been encouraged by many knowledgeable scholars that this topic needs to be addressed openly in our families and communities. Let us make the effort to take something which Islam has made a solution to sinning for the youth and understand its full reasoning with an open and Islamic mind.