There comes a point in everyone’s life where marriage becomes a topic of interest; after all, Allah has created us in a way that we desire for a companion who could journey with us along life’s pathway to destiny. However, the majority of our youth experiences anxiety as concern and insecurities surface regarding how the ‘right’ match would be found.
It is fearful to realize that 7 billion people in the world exist and there’s no set game plan to find the right person without stumbling and getting lost on the way. But we forget that the Quran is sufficient for all our woes; just think, that if Allah Himself has declared in Surah Yasin, that we are created in ‘pairs’ [78:8], then why should we fret when our ‘the one’ has already been decreed for us by Allah?
If Allah has made the concept of the union of marriage evidently straightforward and simple in the Quran, then why is it that the process of arranged marriages has been made to be extremely complicated? What are the underlying issues that cause an upheaval during the process? Are those same underlying issues why the majority of marriages end up being a withered, unhappy relationship? Where are we going wrong?
Islam is not just a religion; it is a lifestyle which provides Muslims with guidelines that would lead to building a focused, simple and happy life. Unfortunately, where Islam has made the process of marriage and the union of marriage quite straightforward; unreasonable ideologies stemmed from cultural norms and traditions have negatively impacted the notion of marriage. A major problem which arises during the process of choosing a potential bride to bring into the family is the unreasonable ‘Perfect Daughter-in-Law’ checklist. One of the major causes of this checklist is the unawareness of Muslims with regards to gender-roles of both men and women which Islam has set for believers to follow.
Parents play a vital role in the personality development of their child; from the early years up-to adulthood. Muslim societies, which are unfortunately deeply influenced by their regressive cultural norms have the tendency to focus on the ‘grooming’ and ‘growth’ of their daughters because they have to be wed off, sent to another family as she becomes the representative of her family’s ‘honor’. As per the society, daughters should master the art of housekeeping, cooking, parenting and do everything it takes to keep their spouse happy. There is no harm is such a notion, but why is all of the above only confided to the gender-role of a woman? What about the sons of our society?
It is vital to bring forth the concern that as parents of sons, have you nurtured them adequately; are you doing justice to your future daughter-in-law who you’ll be bringing into the family by teaching your son the basics of humanity, relationships, and life? To maintain a healthy marriage it takes two. Therefore, it is essential for parents to focus on both their daughters and sons when it comes to teaching them housework, developing their communication skills, discussing the importance of good character and being a compassionate member of their family.
Certain teachings and lessons of life shouldn’t be limited according to your child’s gender. You owe it to your children to teach them how to be a complete human being rather than just having them master at their ‘gender-role’ according to society. It is about time that the sons and daughters of Muslim societies are raised as per the flawless parenting examples are given by the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his Ahlulbayt. It is time to break away from the cultural norms which contribute negatively to the marriage paradigm.
“Imam Ali often helped Fatimah in the house affairs. He said, “Once, the messenger of Allah (S) visited us while Fatimah was near the cooking pot and I was picking out lentils. He said, ‘O Abul Hasan, listen to what I say, and I do not say except my Lord. Every man, who helps his wife in her house, Allah will write for him as much as the hairs on his body (the reward of) worship of a year; fasting in the day and worshipping all the night, and Allah will give him like the reward of the patient and the righteous.”-Ibid., vol.101 p.132.”
Apart from the distorted gender-roles, another underlying issue which becomes an obstacle in the arranged marriage process is the particular personality traits etched onto the ‘Perfect Daughter-in-Law’ checklist that adheres to regressive cultural norms of Muslim societies. Traits such as being soft-spoken, obedient and submissive are deemed to be essential in order for a girl to be considered as marriageable material. These characteristics are often encouraged by mothers for their daughters to adapt to ‘fit’ the marriage criteria set by society. Many Muslim families are also seen to preach to their sons that if a girl is anything apart from the aforementioned qualities, she is a woman who can never be a good wife, mother or daughter-in-law.
When young girls are introduced to this image of the ‘perfect woman’ rooted by culture and are nurtured by their families to reflect that image; they are either molded into young women who would eventually be forced to fit the criteria to being the ‘Perfect Daughter-in-Law’ while conforming to unrealistic gender-roles or, learn to conceal their individuality and put up a superficial act to reflect society’s image of the ‘perfect woman’. What happens to the inner-self of such young women is self-explanatory; their personalities are distorted, confidence is shattered while an inner-conflict leads to nothing but negativity. Many young women even tend to discard the thought of marriage when they begin to feel the pressure of unrealistic expectations arise and not being able to oblige to them. How can such young women be expected to think of marriage let alone lead straight-forward and happy unions?
On the contrary, in contrast to the exemplary women from Islamic history such as the Lady of Jannah, Fatima binte Muhammad who was the epitome of womanhood, was anything but the shallow qualities mentioned above which define the ‘perfect woman’ as per the cultural norms of Muslim societies presently. Bibi Fatima actively took part in politics, such as at the event of Mubahila; she stood her ground and spoke up for justice when the land of Fadak was forcibly taken away from her; she resolved social issues amongst women who came to her from all over Arabia; she was an intellect as such that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who had decreed Imam Ali (AS) to be the ‘Gateway To Knowledge’, would say that if Ali was not created there would be no equal to Fatima.
The Lady of Jannah, Fatima binte Muhammad was all of the above while remaining within the boundaries of Islam and brilliantly fulfilling her role as a wife and mother. So why are girls belonging to Muslim societies today encouraged to conform to all the traits which are the opposite of the example of what Prophet Muhammad’s own daughter set for Muslim women? Why are families seeking the ‘Perfect Daughter-in-Law’ with a checklist that has no reflection whatsoever as to Islam’s check-list of a complete woman?
The parents of daughters must take the initiative to nourish the minds of their young girls by making them idealize the empowered women from Islamic history and learn from those phenomenal examples of how to evolve into an individual who can positively build and withhold the union of marriage; without having to compromise on her individuality. It is a must to break the cycle of adhering to society’s irrational expectations.As for the parents of sons who are seeking daughters-in-law; it is time to discard the primitive ‘Perfect Daughter-in-Law’ checklist. Who knows, maybe you’ve ignorantly overlooked the decreed ‘pair’ for your child who had been the ultimate best for them chosen by Allah Himself.