Extravagant marriages: Islamic scholars decide to cut the Gordian knot

Hyderabad: There is no dearth of issues facing the Muslim community. But the biggest and most vexatious of them seems to be marriage. For many, tying the knot is getting knotty by the day. And hence a fresh attempt is now being made to cut the Gordian knot.

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Better late than never. The Islahe Muashra (societal reformation) wing of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (ALMPLB) has now swung into action to bring simplicity back into Muslim marriages. But this is not the first time such an attempt is being made. Earlier too similar measures were taken up by way of reformation by several community organizations. But beyond Friday sermons and spirited speeches, they did not move further. Will this new initiative be any different?

For years religious scholars and social reformers have been campaigning without much success for making Muslim marriages simple and hassle-free. The problem with such well-meaning attempts is that those trying to preach are themselves not above board.  A case of a doctor heals thyself. Some Ulema, who wax eloquent about the need for bringing austerity in marriages, don’t hesitate to attend extravagant marriages themselves. Politicians and social activists are no different. They observe the moral code more in the breach than in practice. As such attempts at reformation often don’t bring about the desired results.

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However, this time round the religious scholars appear to be serious in their intent. Their new found zeal is the result of the feeling gaining ground in the community that they are not doing their bit to check the menace of dowry. More than a hundred top-notch Ulema from both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh took part in the recent meeting chaired by AIMPLB general secretary, Maulana Khalid  Saifullah Rahmani, to take stock of the social evil which is ruining many a Muslim household. They took a vow to launch a vigorous campaign in both the Telugu States to arouse the community conscience to shun extravagant marriages, videography, music, dancing and lavish dinners. “There is no place for all this in Islam. Besides inviting the wrath of Allah, such acts are driving the community to the brink of destruction,” said Maulana Rahmani.

As a first step, he urged the Ulema, khateebs (sermon givers) and Imams of mosques not to attend such marriages as their presence would lend a stamp of approval. He also appealed to the Qazis not to perform ‘nikah’ where there is an exchange of dowry. “Remember we are all answerable to Allah”, he warned.

Marriages are made in heaven but the expenditure incurred on them is sheer hell – for the family of the bride particularly. Dowry has become the bane of Muslim marriages. In an attempt to meet the demands made in the name of jehz, many families come to grief every day. The problem is more serious for middle-class families having daughters to marry off. They can’t afford an extravagant marriage nor perform one below their ‘standard.’While trying to emulate the ostentatious path blazed by the rich they end up in huge debts. Some even mortgage their houses to maintain the false pride.

Simple nikah has become a thing of the past, more so in Hyderabad. The affluent in the community and the NRI families have changed the rules of the game. They have made weddings an elaborate affair with the rituals spreading over several days. They don’t mind spending a fortune on food, decoration and ceremonies which are alien to Islam. Not to be left behind the middle class and even the poor families try to emulate and end up burning their fingers.

Such is the societal pressure that even if someone wants to perform marriage in a simple and solemn way he finds it difficult. Marriage is a once-in-a-life affair and therefore it should be done in a memorable manner, some argue.

This type of thinking has led to a kind of competition in outdoing the other in a vulgar display of wealth and pomp. Even those who can’t afford to spend try to stretch their assets to indulge in a bit of flamboyance for the sake of pride and to make themselves ‘accept in the society.

The scourge of dowry is posing a big challenge to the Muslim community making a near-impossible task for low-income groups. Many try to reason that there is nothing wrong in accepting dowry when given ‘khushi se’ (happily). “If it is so then corruption, gambling, interest, wine should also be permissible when done ‘khushi se’, says Aleem Khan Falaki whose Socio Reforms Society is leading a crusade against the dowry system.

“Many Hyderabadis have been working in Saudi Arabia for years. But they have not learned the way the Arabs marry their daughters. In those countries, the wedding expenses are met entirely by the groom’s family and there is no burden whatsoever on the family of the bride,” says Maulana Obaidur Rahman Athar, Khateeb of Masjid-e-Teenposh, Red Hills.

In fact, Islam calls for making marriages simple and easy so that ‘Zina’ (adultery) becomes difficult. But the opposite is true these days. A strong advocate for making marriage a simple affair, the Maulana quotes the Prophet to explain how those marriages are ‘blessed’ which involve least trouble and expense. He wants Muslims to simply walk out of marriages where dowry demand is made and un-Islamic practices are followed. “Even if a few people boycott it will have a tremendous impact,” he says.

As former US President, Calvin Coolidge said there is no dignity quite so impressive and no independence quite as important as living within your means.

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