I don’t class myself as religious. I don’t believe in the ‘7 Days’. I believe more so in the Big Bang, but then again, I don’t believe in that either. I’m too curious to believe in anything. Too curious to put all my trust on one religion, one story, one person, one way of life.
Until recently I hadn’t taken much thought into other religions. I was taught the basics of them at Secondary School, but not enough to understand them fully now. This, I would now love to change. People devote their lives to a religion. While there is no way of proving any religion to be true, you can prove that people are dedicated to them and for many different reasons.
Since working in Portsmouth, I have met a colleague, more so a friend, who has begun to teach me the basics of being a Muslim.
As soon as she started talking to me about her religion, I was hooked. I wanted to know what she believed in, what her parents believed in, what her future would be.
Like I said, my friend is a Muslim, but she isn’t as devoted as her parents. She abides by what they say, what they teach, but she is also an independent, strong willed woman, who stands for herself.
She’s studying at university, training to be who she wants to be. Creating a life and a future for herself.
She does not wear her headscarf to work, this is her choice. She told me how she used to wear at college, again out of choice. While she does still wear it, it is up to her when she does so. Her parents understand her choices, understand that this is a forever changing world and need to allow her to make her own decisions in her religion.
Muslim’s carry out arranged marriages. When I first started talking to her about this, I was shocked. The thought of it was terrible to me. It just seemed like a way of controlling people. Selling off your children to wealth, rather than love. But this soon begun to change.
At first I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for her because she may never love the man she marries, but then I thought, no one knows what love is anyway, so in some aspects this would make no difference? She wouldn’t know otherwise.
I asked her how the process of arranged marriages work. She told me that her parents are allowing her to finish her education before they start looking for a husband. Once she has completed her degree, they will return to Bangladesh in search of a future husband. Her parents will make it aware to close friends and family that they are in search of a future son-in-law. If a man then takes a liking to what they hear about the girl, they will inform the girls parents of their interests. They then share a photograph of the couple in question to the two families. The daughter then gets to see who the man is, however she does not get to know him.
The next stage is meeting the man. This takes place at the girls house. Both families gather at the family home in a big celebration. If the girl likes the man she will look up at him, otherwise she cannot make eye contact with him. The man has to also make it clear that he likes the girl. He does this through informing his father/ oldest brother.
If both the girl and the boy take a liking to each other, they are taken into a separate room with the future ‘bridesmaids‘ and ‘best men‘ where they can begin to get to know each other.
After the night, traditionally they do not meet again.
It is now acceptable for the man to ring the girls home phone, but the parents have to give permission before he can speak to her over the phone. Some families now allow the girl and boy to meet up in private in order to get to know each other before the big day.
The next stage is arranging the marriage.
Like I said, at first I was shocked about this. How could you decide on marrying someone just based on what your parents thought, and what they looked like. There was no way of telling if you were going to get along until you lived together, and by that point it would be too late.
Eventually I started to understand. Muslims carry out arranged marriages to be certain their future generations are well looked after, well educated. Muslim girls aren’t allowed to marry anyone ‘lower’ than them in class, meaning that to marry they either have to be equal, or of higher class. This ensures that they will never have to worry about wealth.
Arranged marriages are in place so that Muslims can guide their children in the right direction. It might sound bonkers but it does work.
There is a very low rate of divorce within the religion. This is because you marry the family, not just the person.
When a marriage is carried out, the two families come together. This means that no matter what issues arise between the couple, the families are there to always support them. They act as a third party, a neutral party, to help them deal with their problems and continue to live a happy life.
While you don’t end up marrying someone you fall in love with, you are guaranteed a good life. No one knows what love is, so there is no way of telling if a marriage based on ‘love’ will last. Admittedly, it does seem like the girl does not have much control over her decision to marry, but then her family do. They’ve brought her up, they know what’s good and bad, they know who is good and who is bad. It is very unlikely that they are going to hand their daughter over to someone they beleived would bring their daughter a life of unhappiness. Muslim families are the same as any other family, they are devoted to each other, and more so their children. No parent would want their child to be unhappy, so why would they inflict this upon them?
An arranged marriage prepares you for the rest of your life. It builds a life for your future children, creates a blanket around them to keep them safe.