Denying marriage choices!


OUR Arabic literature is full of romantic stories which did not end happily because of family intervention and rejection of couples’ choices. Qais ibn Almulwaah couldn’t marry Lila Alamria because her father says no — for no apparent reason. Over a thousand and hundreds of years later, his poems of love and pain tell us tales of generations of lovers who were denied their basic right: to decide who to marry.

The pretty girl was accepting her fate. She simply told the love of her life, with broken heart and voice: “My family said no!”

He, too, seemed to understand. Such is life! But both didn’t really absorb why couldn’t two young hearts be able to unite, if that was what they very much wanted?

The young man is what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) describes as the best husband to be. (If someone came to you and you were satisfied with his religious credentials and morality, don’t deny him marriage).

She told me: “How could I say no to my father without risking the anger of Allah? I tried to find out why, but all I heard was: The man is not suitable.

“Yes, he might be from a lesser tribe. He might be from a middle class family. It could be the fact that his mother is a foreigner. But he has just graduated with honor from a top British University. His respectable job is more than adequate.

“Money is not an issue, I believed. His salary, plus mine, would land us in a comfortable apartment with good living standards. The family is very classy and civil. His father is an engineer and the mother is a foreign schoolteacher. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles are all highly educated and sophisticated. I would dare to say that in the ladder of achievements and sophistication, his family is higher and brighter than mine.

“Still, my father just said no. What can I do? I would be a bad daughter in the eyes of our Muslim society, if I showed any sign of resistance and objection.”

I told her she should try her best within the family, but if all her efforts fail, she could go to the governor who would send the case to court. The judge has the authority to be her custodian and decide her marriage. Many women were able to marry the men of their choice this way.

She seemed shocked. A long pause was followed by: “But how could I do that to my own father? Allah will deny me paradise, if I did.”

I explained: “Allah won’t do that. He ordered parents to seek the best for their daughters and not deny them marriage to good Muslim men. The definition of a good person in Islam does not include material riches or ‘blue blood.’” We are all equal, descendants of the same parents (Adam and Eve). The best of us are more moral and closer to Allah. He warned parents not to force their girls into Satan’s ways by denying them marriage. So, if someone is going against Allah’s will and orders, it is your father — not you!”

She thought for a while, then wondered: “What’s about our society? My family would disown me. People would look down upon me. My children would suffer, as well. I don’t know if I can face and tolerate all that shaming and pressuring,” she cried.

“Do you love your man and care about him enough to risk all the above?” I asked. “Because, at the end of the day, it is your life that would be either filled with happiness or sorrow.

“I can’t judge your situation more than you. But I am not so sure that you won’t find allies. Many of us are kind and wise enough to sympathize with you. Many are good Muslims who would accept a Shariah judgment in your case. I know a girl who went all the way to take back her rights. She is much happier now, and still keeping her relations with most of her family members intact. Society hasn’t judged her harshly. Some did, but most were understanding.”

True, not all cases are similar. Some families might be more harsh than others. Society hasn’t developed to respect and protect girls’ choices enough. I can’t make a decision for a girl suffering “Adhl” (denying her marriage) without knowing all her circumstances. All I could say, it is up to her to decide whether it is worth the fight. And if she decides so, then she should know that she has rights and the Shariah law is on her side.

What would you advice her, dear readers? Many of us have also gone through similar experiences. Let’s share them.

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi can be reached at and followed at twitter: @kbatarfi