Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Arranged Marriage 101

The question, "Awww, how cute! Did you guys have an arranged marriage or a love one?" always bugs me. Why does it have to be either one or the other? 

So here are some lessons for those who think those are the only two types possible, at least for Pashtuns ... okay, at least for me.

1. Arranged marriages are NOT the opposite of love marriages. Is it fair to put the two against each other?  I mean, people will sometimes ask, "Oh, cool. So was the marriage arranged or love?" But what if the parents chose for the partners to be together but the two fell in love before their wedding day? Or what if they were in love long before their parents ever arranged for them to be married? What do you call the type of marriage that is arranged by elders/parents but the couple had a strong say in it and even fell in love before their wedding day?)

2. Arranged marriages are NOT synonymous to forced marriages. (Some people don't wanna have an "arranged" marriage 'cause "I wanna have a say in my marriage!" What? What does this mean?)
Arranged Marriage 101 
There are different types of arranged marriages. There are forced ones in which the couples don't see each other before marriage and in some cases have no idea who they're gonna be spending the ENTIRE rest of their life with; they are forced in that at least one partner's permission is not sought.

Then there are arranged marriages in which the parents or other elders select a partner for their children/grand-children and let them know about it. In rare cases, the couple might be allowed to meet before marriage, though never alone -- meaning, their meeting is always supervised (or it should be, anyway) with people around, though not necessarily in the exact same spot as where the couple might be talking or sitting or standing.

The concept of arranged marriages over all
See, arranged marriages are supposed to be good for humanity -- because so much effort is supposed to be put into making sure that the guy will take perfect care of the girl, and the girl will be a perfect daughter-in-law for the in-laws and wife for the husband; so much effort is supposed to be put into ensuring that she will not bring shame to the family, she will take care of her parents-in-law as the grow old, while her husband will love and respect her parents just as he does his own and never shame her family, just as she never does his. And just overall, she's supposed to be an excellent match for the guy's family and her husband is supposed to be an excellent match for her family.

The whole concept they are supposed to illustrate is that when we get married, it's not just to the person we marry but we practically marry his/her families, the entire community. When a proposal comes for a girl, her parents are supposed to say something like, "We'll think about it," (unless they just don't like the guy's family, in which case they'll make some excuse and reject it. Often, in these days, that excuse tends to be, "She's busy with school, and we want her to finish school before she gets married." Big lie in most cases.). Once the elders do this, they are supposed to do some investigations on the guy's side -- meaning, they should go into the guy's village (or city, or neighborhood) and ask people their opinion of the guy and his family. Some parents don't want their daughter to be involved in a polygamous marriage, so they might ask about the guy's personal and marital life, if any. Then the parents go to the guy's house and check his family members out, along with household matters that should be paid heed to. In my area, the most important thing the guy's family takes into consideration is, besides her white/light skin color, her cooking skills. They'll have the girl cook for the potential in-laws, at least some chai or something, and if the families are related, then a large meal with some dishes cooked by the girl. ((DISCLAIMER #1: I do not speak for, nor represent, all Pukhtuns.))

Then, if the families like each other, they'll set a date for engagement/nikaah and other ceremonies. Often, the girl isn't aware of this, or she MIGHT be aware of it, but it's understood and expected that she'll be okay with it -- for, if the elders decide something, it must not be challenged. But whether or not the girl is told of it WHILE the search is taking place depends on ... I guess families. In many unfortunate cases, the girl is told of it only after everything has been arranged and her permission is not taken.

Sometimes, even the guy doesn't know this is going on.

Some families are reasonable and kind enough to let the potential couple at least see each other's pictures before marriage; few will let them talk on the phone before marriage; extremely rare ones will let them meet before marriage. But, in any case, the marriage has already been arranged, so their meeting/talking/seeing pictures is just to let them see what they have been placed under and what to expect. ((DISCLAIMER #2: With the new media we have today, the couple may find it  very convenient to interact and "get to know each other" before marriage; but, of course, not everyone has access to that kind of technology in all parts of the world.)) The couple cannot reject the proposal after the elders have arranged it all.

And of course it's all done only to protect the youth (who obviously remain young even after reaching the age of late 20s or 30s); our elders believe they know more about marriage and life than we do, so they are sure that they can choose a good partner for us, even without our innocent say sometimes because they are convinced that they know what's best for us while we don't.
So!! The whole concept of arranged marriage is good, but the way it's practiced in most societies is unhealthy because not always is the permission or consent of at least one partner considered.

In the next blog entry, I’ll discuss the “high rate if divorce in the west” and the fear of it in the east.


  1. Another fab one by Qrratugai!
    A very interesting topic as well.

    Pakhtoons and Muslims in general should respect their culture. All these checks are only for the benefit of the couple, later their families. I would always go for an 'Islam-ized Arranged' or maybe an 'Arranged-by-choice' one!.

  2. you'll never stop impressing me Qrrat jaan :*
    First of all i strongly support ur point of view about the arrange marriages, and personally for me if i'm going to marry someone ..if he's interested in marrying me he should ask my hand from my parents first and then i shall see "is he the one i want..is he the one who i can share with my thoughts .. do we have the same mentality ?" then i can agree so this is an arranged marriage also.
    whenever i share my point of view with someone they'll be like 'What Asma Arrange marrige u want an arrange marriage in this century who wants that type" so am like" well its a love arrange u wont understand" LOL and beleive me am too lazy to discuss it with them ..ppl have this thing in their mind its either arranged or Love nothing in between :s

    Keep Going Sweetheart:*
    u are one of a kind <3

    Ur Sis,

  3. Thanks, both of you, for your comments!

    Asma guley, people are shocked when I tell them that, too! lol. They find it unbelievable that a woman who believes so strongly in women's rights and women's right to choose, especially, would "fall" for an arranged marriage. I tell them that they have their idea of arranged marriage all wrong, that's why. When I explain it to some, they actually see the good in it and some wish their families practiced it, too :D It really is a good thing, I think, so long as it's not forced. See, if you think about it, it is through arranged marriage that many women and men who would not be married otherwise (such as disabled of some sort, the "not beautiful" ones, and such) get married. There do exist some good people out there who look at a person's heart more than their looks and physical features.

    Thanks again for your participation in the discussion, guluno!


Dare to opine :)

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