Muharram / SAFAR 1424 H
Volume 16-04 No : 196
Camps \ Workshops
Surveying the stream of water for others, Hasan has also learnt the art of surveying the stream of happiness and joy in the hearts of people
Finding a life partner for many a Muslim girl has become a struggle. Young men have become extremely selective about prospective partners in these economically trying times, discovers M. Hanif Lakdawala.
“Marriages are made in the heaven,” goes the traditional saying. The institution of marriage is one of the oldest institutions. The urban society is witnessing a strain in the edifice of this institution of marriage. Because of the socio-economic problems, marriages are delayed.
The Muslim society, which was condemned for early marriages of women is witnessing a substantial population of unmarried girls, as Muslim men are delaying the marriage mainly due to economic reasons.
Though the requirements imposed by modern life and the long period needed for education and professional training are to some extent responsible for the rise of this state of affairs, yet we find that in many other cases, there are other reasons, excluding the economic ones, which are responsible for its rise.
The urban society has so transformed over the last decade that even finding a life partner for many a Muslim girl has become a struggle. The ‘marriage market’ has undergone fundamental changes that damage the prospects of both sexes, but women in particular. “The market, especially for girls, is down”, explains marriage broker, Salim Baig. “Now even uneducated Muslim youth from the middle class are getting matches whereas they used to have a difficult time. Parents are willing to marry off their daughters to anybody who is an earning hand”. In spite of this, Baig has a long list of girls who have been waiting for matches for many years. Young men have become extremely selective about prospective partners in these economically trying times.
Muslim women traditionally married in their early 20s, but now many remain unmarried simply because there are not enough men available. The increasing emphasis on higher education has lessened the number of young marriages. In the case of professionals, choice is often restricted to those in a related field, which prolongs a search.
It is ironic that instead of being a relieving factor, education becomes a hindrance to marriage. There is an inverse relationship between education and timely marriages. As Muslim males in urban areas are getting educated, they delay the marriage. Once they finish the education, they spend a couple of years establishing themselves in a profession. When they are all set to marry between the age of 25-32, they look for younger girls-atleast 6 to 10 years younger to them. So the girls in the age group of 23 -30 find it difficult to get good proposals.
Stigma of age in terms of marriage is universal, but is significantly influenced by cultural values and is, therefore, different from society to society. Currently in North America, the average age for men to get married is 31 years and for women, it is 28 years. In South Asian countries, the age is much younger for both men and women, about 25 and 21 years, respectively. In India, Muslim marriage proposals for girls starts from the age of 14 years. Once the girls reach the age of 23 -24, parents panic and even girls start thinking that it is getting too late for them to get decent proposals. The result is the stress related ailments. As marriages get increasingly delayed, and young people try to cope with the increased stress in their lives, the impact is being felt. There has been a rise recently in psychological problems faced by both men and women.
Uzma Nahid, Member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, who runs professional courses for Muslim women opines that it is getting difficult for Muslim girls from the middle class to find a suitable match. “In my classes, many highly qualified girls from respectable families are still waiting for decent proposals. For many it’s turning out to be a long wait”, she said. “One girl, in her late twenties has stopped offering Namaz as she is disturbed by not been able to get a decent proposal. I have to devote lot of time counselling these girls to channelise their talent in some constructive activities,” she said.
Dr Yusuf Macheswala, Psychiatrist attached to the J J Group of Hospitals says that late marriage may give rise to psychological problems. “Many patients come to me complaining about some vague psychological problem. After examination, the root cause turns out to be the difficulty in getting proposals,” he said.
Eminent Advocate Nilofer Akhtar who is associated with NGO’s working for the upliftment of Muslim women agrees that delayed marriage or lack of decent proposals is today a major social issue facing the Muslim community. The community is an institution as old as the institution of marriage. But migration to urban areas has led to the disintegration of the communities. The single most important aspect in marriage proposals is the credibility. Communities take care of the credibility factor as because of the frequent interaction, members of the same community are aware about the credibility of each other and this facilitates the proposals. Usually people avoid sending proposal to unknown families or member of communities unknown to them. Advocate Nilofer Akhtar opines that marriage bureaus today lack the credibility. “Parents from the decent families feel embarrassed to advertise in the matrimonial columns. So it is high time, the community takes up this issue. Pro-active role is needed from parents, activists and intellectuals to tackle the issue. If a conscious effort is made, this issue can be solved. All that needs to be done is to do some networking and help parents find a decent match”, she said.
Advocate Saeed Akhter admits that the issue is very serious, but its solution is very simple. “The problem is due to the lack of information about the availability of the required match. Once the information is pooled in about bachelors, credibility is established, then all that is needed to be done is to arrange a meeting between the two families”, he said. If Muslim activists, eminent individuals or social organisations take up the responsibility of screening the proposals for establishing the credibility, the issue can be tackled easily. But before this, the community needs to be aware that this issue requires the same attention as that of education as the welfare of the community is linked to creating a suitable solution to this problem.
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in with their practical and constructive suggestions towards this cause.
Pakistan had its first nikah here through video-conferencing on the Internet. The bridegroom Rashid Ashraf, an information technology consultant is based in Virginia in the United States while the bride is an IT student at Karachi. The bride and bridegroom sat before the web cameras at their respective Countries and could see the part of the ceremony at the other end. The nikah was read by a local imam at Karachi which Rashid Ashraff and his friends also heard. Later the bride and the bridegroom signed the legal documents. It is said the two had been chatting over the Internet since long. Rashid is though of Indian origin, but has an aunt in Pakistan. He is based in the US for the last two years. Rashid said he opted for the online nikah because it will save him from travelling to Pakistan twice. Now he can travel to Pakistan after completing all the formalities in order to return with the bride whose name was given as Mehwish.
The Internet service providing firm’s chief executive officer, Afsar Ansarul Huq said, though earlier the nikahs were conducted over telephone, the online nikah is more credible as the two sides pronounced their acceptance before a congregation of people. It also enables the two sides to record the entire proceeding. One hour of video conferencing costs nearly $ 1500 to $2000. However Ansarul Huq feels with more people opting for such facilities, the costs may soon come down to less than $900.