Forced marriages – What is the alternative?

Forced marriages are against the teachings of Islam

Freelance journalist and blogger Sherfan Ayaz writes that whilst the British government rightfully condemns forced marriages, what is the alternative that they are offering?

This week saw the government issue advice to doctors, teachers and airport staff to be vigilant for suspected forced marriages. This is an issue that has come to light once again having previously been brought into to the spotlight several years earlier. Forced marriages have been publicly associated with people of Asian background and Muslims.

First and foremost, the concept of “forced marriage” is unIslamic. It’s an awful act that brings misery on all parties involved, specifically the psychological effects it can have on the bride and groom. Such marriages account for a tiny minority of Asian Muslims in the UK. The government has launched a campaign entitled “Marriage: it’s your choice” to raise awareness on this issue. Ministers have stated that people forced into marriages shouldn’t live in a life of fear and subservience.

What’s the government’s alternative?

The government wants the Muslim community to follow the approach to marriage that is practised in the UK and most western countries. The approach is based on absolute choice, a person can get married to whomever they want for whatever reason they want. This liberal approach to marriage has led to the concept of marriage being devalued and divorce rates going sky high (the UK being the highest in Europe). Marriages are generally short, lasting a few years rather than being a lifelong commitment. A significant proportion of the population end up marrying two to three times.

This reality of weak marriages is born out of a society that lives for material joy and sensual pleasure. People live these values in marriage as well. Partners are chosen based on their looks, bank balance and social activity. As marriages settle in, bills comes in , baby’s nappies need changing, the bank balance goes down, social activity goes down and the toll of working and family life on the appearance starts to hit. It isn’t too long before people are thinking of an exit strategy.

Marriages based on secular values lead to a life of insecurity and misery as people expect to continue the life of evenings out, nice trips abroad and middle class living and when this does not happen it isn’t long before the divorce papers are out. Secular values don’t prepare marriages for the difficulties, up and downs and sacrifices needed in relationships.

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Islamic alternative

Islam has its own approach to marriage based on values such as compassion, commitment and dignity amongst others. Muslims also have a way to choose their partners based on Islam. The choice can be summed up by the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saw): “A woman is normally sought as a wife for her wealth, beauty, nobility, or taqwa (God-consciousness), but choose a woman with taqwa and you will prosper.” (Sahih Muslim).

Taqwa in marriage embodies many values that maintain and invigorate a marriage. Allah (swt) through many verses of the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammed (saw) through word and deed has shown how taqwa manifests itself in marriage. Values such as commitment, compassion, dignity, support, intimacy, encouragement, patience to name just a few, cement this relationship. These values make in most marriages solid regardless of how turbulent the environment can be. Making the choice of marriage the Islamic way will give a person the ease of mind that their marriage won’t break after the first hurdle of life.

The government doesn’t want to see people being forced into marriage but at the same time marriages based on liberal values need a warning sign. Maybe the government should start a second campaign to coincide with the forced marriages campaign – “Liberal marriages: health hazard!”

You can follow Sherfan Ayaz on Twitter @Fridays_post

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