What Is An Arranged Marriage?
If you are Muslim or have been around Muslims for any length of time, you’ve seen or experienced some type of arranged marriage. Perhaps you’re in one yourself or will be in one soon. Or maybe you have a Muslim friend who is about to get into an arranged marriage.
Whatever the case, these types of marriages are very common in the Muslim world. It is common among Muslims from traditionally Muslim regions like Pakistan and West Africa as well as Muslims from western nations like the U.S. and U.K.
Let me first give you my definition of an arranged marriage.
An arranged marriage is one in which the bride and groom are introduced and brought together by the willing collaboration between both of their families.
This is different than just a friendly “hook up.” If your friend introduces you to someone and you wind up getting married, I wouldn’t call this an arranged marriage.
This is a halal “hook up.”
But if your family and your husband’s family met and talked and decided that you two would make a great couple and encouraged you guys to meet and you hit it off and you got married…that is an arranged marriage in my book.
I’ve known of arranged marriages happening with Muslims from India to Indiana. Using my own definition, I myself am in an arranged marriage. I’ve counselled countless couples who were brought together through arranged marriages (some good, some not so good).
So I think I’ve got enough experience in this area to express my opinion on the matter.
And Allah knows best.
Arranged Marriages Vs Forced Marriages
There is a difference between arranged marriages and forced marriages.
Not all arranged marriages are forced. But nearly all forced marriages were arranged.
Sometimes, the line between arranged and forced can be a little blurry. But I’ll try to clear things up a little, Insha’aLlah.
Forced Marriages Are Forbidden In Islam
The truth is, the one who suffers most from a forced marriage is usually the wife. She is usually the one stuck with a husband she doesn’t care for and is unable to escape.
This is a cultural phenomenon and really doesn’t have any place in Islam. Prophet Muhammad forbade forcing women to marry anyone without their permission. Unfortunately there are many Muslims who are continue to stubbornly hold on to this practice even to this day.
Abu Hurairah reported: The Prophet (pbuh) said, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah! How can we know her permission?” He said, “By her silence.”
Related in Bukhari.
This is clear evidence that women who have been previously married and virgin women cannot be forced into marriage. But if more evidence is needed, here’s another hadith:
Aishah narrated: A girl came to me and said: ‘My father married me to his brother’s son so that he might raise his own status thereby, and I was unwilling.’ I said: ‘Sit here until the Prophet comes.’ Then the Messenger of Allah came, and I told him (what she had said). He sent word to her father, calling him, and he left the matter up to her. She said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I accept what my father did, but I wanted to know whether women have any say in the matter.'”
Related in Sunan Nasa’i.
Here we have an example from the time of the Messenger of Allah where a young woman was forced to marry her cousin because her father wanted status. She took the matter to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and rather than annulling the marriage or approving it, he left it up to her.
I personally think there’s lots of wisdom in what the Prophet did. He put the power in the young woman’s hands and let her decide for herself what she wanted rather than order her to do this or do that.
Arranged Marriages Are Not Always Forced
Surprising though it may seem, an arranged marriage is not always necessarily forced. It is possible that two people can be brought together by their family’s collaboration, yet no one is forced to accept the marriage.
Both the man and the woman should have full rights to accept or reject their family’s proposal.
Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that while forced marriages are forbidden in Islam, arranged marriages are not.
Are Arranged Marriages Good?
When most people hear about arranged marriages, especially non-Muslims, they automatically think of them in a negative light. Perhaps this is because they’re confusing arranged and forced.
There also the idea that arranged marriages are something from the past that hurts women and no longer belongs in our modern society. This idea may be because in many western societies (including the U.S.), arranged and forced marriages were once common, but often paired couples who were marrying for material, status, and social reasons.
Speaking from an Islamic point of view, arranged marriages are generally beneficial and good. While there are exceptions, this is the way most young Muslims should get married.
The most common alternative is to randomly meet someone either at work or at school.
Of course these marriages do often work also, but the potential for danger is very great. After all, this usually requires working with and getting to know someone personally enough to build enough of an attraction to desire marriage.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds a little troublesome to me.
How Would An Arranged Marriage Work?
Let’s say my daughter was in her late teens and was ready to get married (yes, I would totally support and encourage my daughter getting married in her late teens). Would I just set her loose on her local college campus and hope and pray she finds a decent Muslim?
I would talk with my friends who have sons around her age who I believe have been raised well. My wife would also talk to their wives until we had some good prospects.
Then my wife and I and the parents of the young man would talk and plan and, yes, scheme, to get these two together.
We might have family dinners, or arrange to go to the same Masjid for Jumuah, or make sure they’re involved in the same activities.
Or I might just go up to my daughter and ask her point blank “Do you wanna marry this guy?”
If she said something like, “Eww, gross!“or she started vomiting violently, that would be an indication that she’s probably not interested.
But if she smiled coyly, or said “maybe…” or “I don’t know if he even likes me..” or anything like that, then that’s my green light.
The point is, she has the right and opportunity to accept or reject the proposal. She’s not being forced to do anything.
The young man should also have the same opportunity. If he rejects my daughter, then (after calling him every bad name in the book) we’d just keep it moving and go on with our lives.
Yes, the parents are arranging things, doing background checks, credit checks, blood, drug, and DNA tests and all that stuff. This would be an arranged marriage, but not a forced marriage.
And I’m living proof, after fifteen years, that these marriages can and do work out pretty well so long as Islamic principles are maintained.
Alhamdulillah (All Praises and Thanks to Allah).