Lately I have been thinking about the concept of arranged marriage. We take for granted in our culture that we’re better off following our hearts and marrying for love, but I can’t deny that arranged marriage does have its merits. But could I really go through with it? Could I really marry someone I don’t even know?
In my favorite arranged marriage scenario, I’ve been matched with uncommon luck to none other than John Mayer.
“Do you have any questions for each other?” asks our matchmaker.
“Yes!” I answer. “John, will you sing to me every night?”
“But of course!” he answers in his sultry voice.
“I don’t need to know anything else,” I say. “John, my heart is yours.”
Of course, no one ever winds up in an arranged marriage with John Mayer. Sometimes, I imagine, you can even end up married to someone with halitosis, a snoring problem, a disastrous spending habit… No shortage of frightful scenarios come to mind. And yet, I can’t help observing that left to our own devices, we make terrible decisions in love as often as not. With 1 out of 2 modern marriages ending in divorce, this isn’t hyperbole, it’s just depressing facts.
The choices we make in marriage are impactful on a societal level as well as a personal level. Recently, Imam Zaid Shakir posted to his Facebook page several observations about marriage, including that “Many men who put off marriage until they are past 35 will often marry someone much younger, even close to half their age, passing over a generation of women who are intellectually and psychologically more compatible with them and would prove wiser parents for their children.” (Full post)
The Imam also commented that “Many Muslim men will pass over talented, educated women who are willing to put their careers and education on hold, if need be, to commit to a family. As a result a significant number of our sisters, despite their beauty, talent, maturity, and dynamism are passed over for marriage in favor of an idealized, demure “real” Muslim woman. The social consequences of this practice are extremely grave for our community.” (Full post)
As a talented, educated single woman careening into her 32nd birthday, as someone who is more than happy to put everything on hold for a family, I want to say a hearty thank you to Zaid Shakir for calling attention to this sad trend… And as a woman deeply yearning for companionship and trying not to be terrified by the statistics that tell me my fertility will start dropping off a cliff in three short years, I’d like to ask, what am I supposed to do about this? Even if I decided to “sign on” for an arranged marriage (however that works), would I still be passed by for a younger, more idealized woman?
I’ve often considered the idea that, given the complete lack of single Muslim men in my life or any cultural structures that would allow me to safely and politely meet and date potential husbands, maybe I should “cast a wider net” so to speak and consider a marriage outside my faith. Sometimes I can imagine this working out beautifully, but other times I feel sad observing the mixed faith marriages of my friends and realizing how inevitably the family ends up following the religion of the father. As interfaith enthusiastic as I am, I don’t want to lose my religion, and I don’t want to forever give up on the dream of spiritual partnership.
I don’t own a television, and as such, I have not been able to follow TLC’s new show “All American Muslim”. However, I did catch a short clip of an episode online in which a man whispers the athan into the ear of his newborn baby. As this is usually a private family moment, I’ve never actually seen this in practice. Watching the video clip, my heart almost split in two. I thought to myself, more than anything I can imagine, that’s what I want!
Which leaves me walking a delicate line between continuing to make du’a for this deep desire of my heart, and trying not to fixate on something “in the dunya”, and remembering that “marriage is half the deen”, and bowing to whatever reality Allah is making for me… and, and… just trying to get through each day with my chin up and a smile on my face, trying to be the woman my husband would want to marry.
Photo via Say I Do Productions – website with original image no longer online