By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
13 May 2016
My Dear Precious Princess
I am fast approaching the time when I have to call on one of the duties to you. That is, of passing on to you some of my thoughts on Marriage, which you will be registering in couple of months’ time in writing. What has prompted me to pen this is the rising trend of Divorces that beset our young couples. What is meant for you here is also meant for yours would be Partner. As the saying goes “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”, so share it.
Before I embark on the main task at hand I have to say this. In the context of you borne as a ‘true blue Aussie’ and your engagement to a Pukka Brit, has the common element of being the ‘Westernised Brown Muslims’! This is lucky as they say; in that neither of you will have the hurdle of jumping over the cultural divide except for your ethnicity.
There is in London a humble Muslim man elected as Lord Mayor, and there is an Australian Navy’s Senior Officer Muslim woman Engineer. Many more such people in other fields are there in both countries that have set the pace. Take them as your role models in order to be worthy citizens, maintaining your proud ethnic identities. When all is said and done, unlike our home countries, these countries do rise above the bigotry and recognise and reward positive contribution of their citizens of all hues and religions. Let us give them this credit.
Now for the task in hand. Marriage is a complex issue and young people are left to swim at the deep end on their own; mainly because of our cultural taboos! Schools do not brace this subject even in our enlightened western countries.
Marriage is essentially a legal process to register the union and issue a certificate, signed by two witnesses, to legitimise and announce your union to the world via the invited community at reception. In olden days churches in the West took this responsibility of keeping written records for centuries, that of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Our mosques have never done such things. Marriage has nothing to do with organised religion, for we begin every act of ours in God’s name, without the help of a priest.
Mutual attraction is Natural instinct. However among humans it is a huge societal, legal, cultural and family issue. Unfortunately, rarely treated intellectually! We think of marriage but never of its long term consequences and never talk of Divorce-- the flip side of the same coin. We pay more attention to the suitability for us of choosing a car and its colour than choosing a life-partner!
Therefore, I take the liberty to make few points, for you two to ‘consider’ in order to have a happy marriage--a union of two different adult personalities--who chose freely to live in companionship of marriage. Aristotle had said “true love is two different people in one soul.
Pointers I have picked from lifelong experiences and observations and so as a grandfather want to share with you, they are:-
· Priorities (Ranking in importance). For each of us, these form our ‘higher values’ and these must be discussed mutually to prioritise them before marriage, that is, between engagement and marriage. To do so there must be an open channel of communication between the two would be partners.
· Communication (Frank and open discussion to impart understanding). This, plus openness to discuss all matters on equal terms.
· Trust and Respect are the foundation of a happy marriage and must be established from the very beginning.
· Suppressed and bottled up feelings, emotions and frustrations are cancers that spread widely over time! Therefore, for marriage to be a happy union there must be trust, and to be trusted one must be honest and to be honest be truthful. Therefore, never express your grievances to your partner out of context, years later and in public. This is insulting and humiliating, besides it is cowardly and mean. It puts the partner at a disadvantage!
Hence, immediate but timely expression of grievance in private produces far happier outcome. Be sensitive to each other’s body language and the tone of voices. Brace the subject with love and affection at the first private opportunity.
· Never take the other for granted; that is, assume that the other being your committed partner will automatically go along with your decisions. Each of us has an “ego”. The feeling that ‘I am being taken for a ride’ generates victimhood and in time it expresses negatively. I learnt this late in life!
· Sharing mutual interests and likes makes a happy marriage. The saying goes that ‘those who play together stay together’.
· Intense and Opposite dislikes ruin partnership, particularly if they conflict with our values. Accepting them for the sake of staying in the bondage of marriage is a self-imposed and long-time imprisonment that must be avoided.
· Divorce, if unfortunately is inevitable; it must take place amicably, with equal rights to both. The process is the same as marriage, that is, to be followed according to the “law of the land”. (I wonder why families do not invite at least a few dozen people to announce the Divorce!)
· Weightier issues such as: living and caring for parents, living in extended family, one’s career, family size, marriage across religious and cultural divide and income sharing are just a few very important ones also.
(A “gift” commonly called Mehar/Hadia, is given before marriage to the Bride by the groom (4.4). The dowry/Jahez demanded by the Groom’s side is non-Quranic!)
To achieve happier married-life each partner must make a list, and both must discuss seriously all the issues before committing to marriage. Acknowledged by both, minor compromises can be made to make the partnership happy. And that is where maturity comes in.
So what is marriage for a mature, educated and enlightened person like you?
It is a commitment for Partnership declared in public, based on Equality, and Equity. Equality means equal-half share but Equity is the strength of one making up for the weakness of the other. The shortfall may be physical, biological, educational, intellectual, financial etc. It is that going one step further called willing sacrifice- but not like a lamb to the slaughter house!
For Happy Marriage These Are Also the Essentials:-
· Marriage is an “Honourable commitment” and a Contract of coexisting of two ‘adults’ mature woman and man. Adult means a person physically grownup, capable of withstanding the physical rigors of married life and mature (Baaligh) means mentally and emotionally developed to comprehend the responsibilities of Commitment and the commitment honourably made. Marriage is more; it is a moral as well as ethical obligations undertaken by two compatible people. Hence the legal Registration.
What is compatibility (capable of coexistence) then? There was an English song in my days—“love and marriage go together like horse and carriage”. Rather simply put but when you think of it, it sums up the entire reality, design, mechanics and dynamics of the whole package in order to have a smooth safe and happy ride, even on rough patches. Everything has to be perfectly compatible, matched and strongly constructed and pleasantly decorated for the journey!
· Family, friends and foes too, all play important part in the Union of two people. This is a very important issue, unless one lives on an isolated island. The saying goes that ‘human being is a social animal’. So Shared friendship of friends and relatives and common interest are joys of marriage. We of the older generation have inherited the pagan genes of disputes. You must discard them and attempt to keep balanced relationships with all!
· Finally, as in any consultative partnership one has to be a senior partner within accepted and just limits of equality. This is common sense.
You are both mature, educated and enlightened modern people, more so than my generation was. Our ‘rough-rides’ were somewhat smoothed over by our sense of loyalty and of obligations to each other, family, society and even so called ‘religion’. They were not with any understanding, for we had no idea what psychology was. With you it is different in that you are-- God bless you, more mature to put in perspective the demands of ‘honour and self-respect’ – the ego. I am endowed with dignity 17-70-should be your motto in life, taken from Quran.
Loving consultative marriage-partnership is a joyous life. The romance of unexpected small gestures made with heart and a smile and reciprocated heartily takes it beyond the limits of ordinary life.
Finally remember, an insulting word said even in jest can break a heart; the meanest phrase in the English language is “let bygone be bygone”, it is pure selfishness. Avoid the situation where any of you would have to say that.
I thank God for the capacity to have made it to this day. So my dear, I hope you accept this wedding gift.
OUR DEAR PRECIOUS
HAVE A HAPPY, HAPPIER AND HAPPIEST MARRIED LIFE
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer