Marriage: Arranged marriages and personal choices

Q345 :Are only arranged marriages permissible in Islam? What does Islam say about prospective couples falling in love before they agree to marry? This is indeed what happens in most cases in my country.

A345 : When we speak of what sort of marriage is permitted in Islam, we are actually speaking of a process in which two persons are united in wedlock. This process, which represents the actual marriage does not look at what has happened between the man and the woman before they come forward with their request to get married. An agreement must exist between them, otherwise no one can force them to get married. The marriage itself requires a commitment by the bride, or her guardian who acts for her, and an acceptance by the bridegroom. This is how we describe the actual marriage contract. The woman's guardian says to the bridegroom : I am marrying you my daughter (or other woman) whose name is so and so for such and such a dower, etc." That represents the commitment. The bridegroom must accept verbally by saying : "I agree to marry your daughter, etc." This technical part has nothing to do with the relationship that may have existed between the two parties. If by"arranged" marriage you mean that the marriage happens after discussions between the two families, in which prospective partners are fully involved, then this is the sort of marriage Islam encourages. It gives marriage its serious character which enhances its chances of success. A marriage which comes about after a love relationship may not be as glamorous or romantic as it sounds. There are two issues involved here. The first is the relationship which exists between a man and a woman before the marriage takes place. This differs according to traditions and customs prevailing in a particular society. In Eastern societies, the love relationship most probably remains confined to an idealistic and romantic exchange of expressions of love. The girl is keenly aware that she must maintain her chastity and her lover will, in most cases, consider himself responsible to preserve the honor of the girl he loves. Nevertheless, they will try to meet, often in secret, and steal a moment of ecstasy when they express their longing for the moment when they can be united in marriage. While their feelings toward each other may not be reprehensible, if they are not involved in anything sinful, what they actually do may not be allowed in Islam. It is not permissible for a man and a woman to be alone in a closed room if they are not related. When two lovers meet, there is a burning passion within them which may lead them to commit a sin. Hence, it is not the feeling which may be the subject of disapproval, but what may come about as a result of such a feeling can be subject to strong censure. In Western societies, everything is allowed between a man and a woman within marriage and before it. That is certainly unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. Islam has a highly serious moral outlook and it takes every precaution to preserve it. The other point which is involved is what may be loosely termed a love marriage and its chances of success. It is a fact of life that when two people are in love, they tend to overlook each other's faults. Every one of them thinks the other to be perfect. When they are married and they have to face life together, they begin to see each other's faults. Everyone of us has his weaknesses and points of strength. When we approach marriage in a careful, objective manner, we are more likely to be aware of what we are bargaining for. When our approach is that of love which blinds us to the faults of the beloved, we stand a greater chance of regretting what we are doing. In many Western societies, where love is the primary factor which unites people in marriage, more than one third of marriages end up with divorce. A high percentage of marriages do not last more than two years. In Islamic societies, where the Islamic approach to the marriage is largely followed, the percentage of discontinued marriages is much lower. That testifies to the wisdom of the Islamic approach.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )