Marriage: When parents oppose daughter's marriage

Q371 :When the parents of a friend of mine made a proposal on his behalf to the parents of the girl whom he had promised to marry, the proposal was not only rejected, they were also humiliated and the girl concerned was made to suffer beatings. The only reason was that the parents wanted their daughter to marry in her own mother's family in accordance with the tribal traditions. The girl is so unfortunate that should her parents be intent on marrying her to someone whom she does not like, they can do so against her will. It is sufficient that the mother declares her approval of the marriage for it to take place. The girl, however, is determined not to succumb and she is being punished almost daily for her attitude. Since both parties are living in Saudi Arabia, is it possible for the boy and the girl to get married in an Islamic court in the Kingdom? I should perhaps add that the present situation is causing much difficulty, particularly for the girl. I shall be grateful for your advice.

A371 : It is unfortunate that when local traditions are in conflict with Islamic teachings, people, in their ignorance, try to conform to their traditions. They should realize that traditions may have no sound basis, and they may be against the very interests of the people whom they are supposed to serve. Islam is the religion Allah has revealed in order to serve the interests of people. When people implement it in their lives, they soon realize that the benefits which accrue to them as a result of this implementation are immeasurable. On the other hand, it is at their own peril that they abandon Islam. This is a typical case of traditions being given supremacy over Islamic teachings. Islam teaches us that it is the person who is important when a proposal of marriage is made, not his position, wealth or family connections. The Prophet tells us that when we want to choose a woman to marry, we should look for a woman of good faith. He says: "A woman is sought in marriage for one of four qualities: her beauty, her wealth, her family connections and her faith. Seek, then, the woman of faith if you want to be prosperous." On the other hand, the Prophet tells parents and guardians of girls of marriageable age to accept the proposal of a person whose honesty and faith is of good standards. He says: "If someone proposes to you and you find that his honesty and strength of faith are satisfactory then accept his proposal. If you do not, your refusal will lead to corruption on a far-reaching scale." These are the only criteria the Prophet lays down for us when we consider proposals and marriage suits. Moreover, the Prophet gives us a practical examples of how these principles should be implemented. Julaibeen was a companion of the Prophet who had deserted his own family when they tried to stop him accept Islam. He was a young man of limited means, but his faith was very strong. The Prophet wanted to get him married, but in his situation, few families would have accepted him. Hence, the Prophet took it upon himself to find him a wife. He spoke to the father of a girl who was of marriageable age. The father wrongly understood that the Prophet wanted her to be his own wife. The girl's parents were very happy. When they realized, however, that the Prophet was making the proposal on behalf of Julaibeen, they were disappointed. They sat at home discussing how to tell the Prophet that they did not accept the proposal. Their daughter, however, reminded them that it was their duty to obey the Prophet. She made it clear that she was willing to accept the Prophet's proposal because it was sufficient for her as a recommendation of the bridegroom that the Prophet himself made the offer. The parents soon recognized the validity of her argument and accepted the marriage. According to Islam, if the proposer is a man of good faith and good manners, then he should be accepted. If he is not accepted then the rejection is deemed unreasonable. This is what is known in Islam as "adhal." Parents are warned against resorting to adhal in order to stop the marriage of their daughters. Moreover, Islam opens the door for any girl who is a victim of adhal to put her case to a court of Islamic law. In such cases, the Muslim judge will have to decide whether the parents' objection is based on valid reasons or not. If he determines that the rejection is made unreasonably, then the judge can assume guardianship of the girl and give her away in marriage to the person who has proposed to her. If the Islamic court makes such a decision, then it is binding and the marriage is absolutely valid. The applicable rule is that the ruler is the guardian of everyone in a Muslim society who has no guardian. By unreasonable rejection, a father relinquishes his guardianship of his own daughter. We should realize that this is in perfect harmony with the Islamic view of marriage. Every man and woman has the right to be married in order to satisfy their natural desires lawfully. Hence, it is wrong for anyone to try to stop the marriage of a woman in his charge without valid reasons. A guardian must look after the young people in his charge and should not stand in the way of any reasonable marriage. If the judge decides to take over the parents' authority and allow the girl to be married to the person she wants, despite her parents' refusal, they may object to his decision on the grounds of incompatibility. The burden of proof lies on them in this case. Local traditions are not taken as sufficient reasons for rejecting a proposal from a good person. They cannot argue in the court that in their locality the girl must marry in her mother's own family. They have to find fault with the man himself. To recap, if that girl cannot persuade her parents to change their minds, it is possible for her to put her case to an Islamic court and the judge will have to decide whether her parents have acted unreasonably or not. If the court finds in her favor, the judge can marry her to her suitor. Having said that, however, I must add that sometimes parents have good reasons for their attitude which may seem from our side to be unreasonable. Perhaps it may be helpful in this case to approach someone who enjoys the respect of the girl's parents to intervene in order to solve this problem amicably. This is a much better approach than going to the court because when it comes to the law, people's attitudes harden. Moreover, parents should normally be obeyed by their children. They should be made to understand that their daughter would not put her case to the court unless other means to reach an amicable solution have failed.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )