Till death do us part

A friend of mine wrote about how he considers marriage as an extra element reinforced by society, and the involvement of jurisprudence and affairs of the state and law seems a bit far-fetched when it comes to the idea of sharing your life with the person you’re in love with.

No other write up has been more torturous than the aspect of marriage. I have strong views about it but every time I’ve put my pen to the paper, my mind has turned into a blank slate. There could be many reasons for that. Some of which might make sense while others could just be excuses or simply make belief versions of what I tell myself.

Two months back I had stayed at my aunt’s place for a while, she found that moment a perfect icebreaker to nag me about getting married and the entire day she and I debated over my refusal for getting married.

When I asked my aunt about why is it so important to get married? She looked at me flabbergasted as if I had somehow shown her a ghost.

‘Well, that’s what you do at the age that you are?

The conversation that started at three in the afternoon dragged till the time dinner was served. I was irritable and felt cornered.

Marriage, I believe is a personal decision, however, in the society we live in, marriage is some sort of a goal on a checklist that you must tick after reaching a certain age.

When I asked my brother what he felt regarding the necessity of marriage, his reasons weren’t really concrete.

‘There are things that you can’t share with your brother [I raised an eyebrow at this] or your mother. You can’t even talk to your friends and that’s why you need someone to share your life with. That someone can only be your spouse.’

I don’t see the legitimacy of that statement or something like that ever occur to me in a lifetime. For me, marriage is not about finding a confidant in the first place. I believe that the trust you have in people makes them worthy of your thoughts. I find no problem in sharing things with my sister, brothers or my students. It gives me a change of perspective and a bigger pool of options to amalgamate into my final choice.

I personally feel that marriage is a nice concept, but, the execution of the idea of two people sticking together for a lifetime is hard to imagine. We’re talking about an entire lifespan of human years that is roughly around 60 to 65 years on average (neglecting the outliers of 70 and above).

Forever seems a bit daunting. Forever is like a cliched fantasy of this finite and limited lifetime. Humans are pitiful creatures. And the idea of forever is just too complex to wrap my mind around. It requires an amount of strength towards sincerity and loyalty, and as human beings, we are susceptible to desire and the feeling of reward through instant gratification.

My pro-marriage views lie mainly in the strength of two people being together. The happiness that love brings is only multiplied when you have someone to share it with. And loneliness is a curse. On the other hand, the cost associated with marriage is somehow worth the pain you go through when both people are willing to put an effort into it.

The cons of marriage are much more realistic and rather evident all around me. To start with, my own parents are divorced which has had a catastrophic impact on me and my sibling when it comes to finding good role models for healthy relationships. The other issue is related to conflict resolution and how the concept of marriage in eastern families is nuclear to the core.

Then there are religious aspects of marriage and the non-religious views that make the discussion too complex before it even starts. So, I asked some of the brilliant minds around me to share their views about it and all of them somehow converged to the same confusion that surrounds me when I started thinking about it. For me, the issue is far more real than my students in their early twenties because I am being ushered towards this mayhem.

One of my students got exhausted during the discussion and said “You can’t drag me to such deep waters. I just snap!”

I am going to start without further ado, before I too snap, shut the screen and sleep just to avoid writing this.

I, personally, would want to spend the rest of my life with the person that I love. I find the idea peaceful and comforting. The notion of two people in love has an element of intimacy that I find romantic and amiable. However, this intimacy is somehow translated as codependency which is unhealthy for everyone. Too often, we fail to realize codependent behaviours and mask them with love and care when they are doing more harm to the people being loved.

Codependent relationships stem from lack of boundaries and are often confused with interfering in the lives of the people around us at the pretence of ‘only trying to help you! ‘For example, the continuous involvement of the mother-in-law or the sister-in-law of the groom in the married life of their son, or brother is a form of codependent behaviour that is toxic in all aspects. This poison is inhaled by most of the families and spreads like wildfire through the media and our natural discourse with one another. The concept of backbiting is therefore strictly forbidden in Islam. Backbiting refers to gossiping i.e. to speak ill of someone behind their backs, a habit most of us carry. The other thing is a weapon of mass destruction – the slander. That’s when you add firecrackers and a bit of paprika to the gossip by increasing the number of lies associated with a person thereby creating a false image of someone’s personality which in layman terms known as character assassination.

This behaviour is strictly forbidden and the person responsible for it will be fuel for hellfire without any forgiveness unless and until forgiven by the person they’ve talked shit about.

I’m turning twenty-eight this September and the stigma that follows me is known to many young men hailing from the eastern part of the world that belong to countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Afghanistan. Most of the men in our part of the world get married within the age bracket of 25 – 28 years. Those that remain unmarried carry a small amount of shame that comes in the form of ridicule in their late thirties.

To remain single is a personal choice, a choice that somehow contradicts the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW. We call this the Sunnah, the way of doing things like the Prophet did himself. At the time of marriage, there are two Hadith that are quoted. One of them mentions that Nikahis Sunnahand the other states that the person who denies himself from following the practice of the Prophet is not a part of the Ummahthereby subjecting himself to sin.

The marriage of my parents was like the World Trade Centre. Full of grandeur in both initiation and decimation. Looking at their pictures, I see two people in love. What went wrong? I cannot be sure. In retrospect, their love somehow failed or I must say wasn’t strong enough or maybe forever wasn’t something that they wanted anymore. I am still unknown to their truth even after spending an entire lifetime unravelling the blame alongside an unnecessary amount of shame and guilt that comes with it. There’s one thing I’m certain that’s responsible for wrecking healthy relationships: anger. This anger ticked like a bomb without a fuse in both my mother and father. They are perhaps the angriest people I’ve met in my entire life.

My parents were separated after numerous arguments in the heat of anger that often lead to a fist fight. Their years of separation ended up in the outcome of a divorce. The sight of my mother’s swollen face is still fresh in my mind and I keep telling myself that I will never be that kind of a man who hits the mother of his children in front of their eyes. But was it just my mother’s fault? There have been times where my mom has driven me up against the wall, and it seems that the tongue in her mouth has eaten the heart inside her chest and all she is but a husk filled with vitriol and fire. Still, that is no excuse for putting your children through an experience that makes them wake up at night unable to sleep from the fear that mom and dad would have yet another fight. Then again, would I ever want to have children in the first place, let alone make them go through the cruelties of life that I cannot protect them from? What kind of person would that make me? A heartless one for sure.

The thought of giving birth to a child seems selfish to me. If pleasure Is the only thing that I need from marriage, the cost of fathering a child is too high a price to pay for it. I believe that if I don’t have any intention of raising a child, I shouldn’t use my carelessness as an excuse to make one. So, does that define marriage as an end goal for childbirth?

I’m afraid of bringing a human being into this world that treats them like cannon fodder. There is no guarantee that the tiny human I make would ever survive as a successful healthy adult. What if I am no longer able to provide for my child? To have a child is to take responsibility for safeguarding a life, not for one or two but approximately, twenty to twenty-five years. With the current standard of living increasing exponentially coupled with the decline of economic resources and employment opportunities, how long before most of us end up either bankrupt or jobless. The cost of sending a kid to primary school is somewhere around a few thousands to fifty grand. Then comes high school and then university. Even that doesn’t confirm the ability of a child to sustain himself into a grown independent individual. My hypothetical child will be my responsibility until he is able to land a job and save some money for a year or two until he’s stable enough to pay for his own food and rent. At that time, most of the parents get their children hitched so they could fill their place in the circle of life and somehow fulfil their ultimate responsibility of parenting, pushing their children into the cycle of procreation.

That is one religious aspect where I’m only considering the prescribed route to marriage. The idea of the union of man and woman in holy matrimony under the eyes of God is the goal of marriage in religion to safeguard the holy and virtuous from the vice of lust and carnal satisfaction.

This leads to another discussion about the choice of a partner. While the concept of dating does not exist at all in Islam, the choice of selecting a suitable partner is encouraged, the practice acknowledged and the history full of recollections of accounts where men and women were empowered to reject or send forth their proposals for marriage. To clear some dust, it is always advised to marry the person of your choice. However, this choice of a partner is often seen as a sign of disobedience in eastern households, especially when it comes to the feminine gender. Though orthodox, the concept of “mother knows best” has a stronghold in many families where marrying their daughters is a duty that must be fulfilled by the father of the bride. Quite often the woman feels stripped off of her rights and being forced into a life with a man she has no interest in. The chances of whether a person can marry the love of their life never exist, to begin with.

To make matters worse, the bride is considered to have burnt all the bridges when she leaves her father’s home for her in-laws. ‘Consider this house non-existent,’ these were the words of the mother of a young woman I know when she was married. Parents send a silent message to their daughters that they are not going to get any emotional support in their marital life and that it is solely the girl’s responsibility to make her marriage work, lest she suffers at the hands of her fate, irrespective of the amount of dirt she gets thrown at by her peers and the society.

A failing marriage is all but a girl’s fault. Khalid Hosseini writes beautifully in his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns on the culture of child marriages “Like a compass needle that always points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.”

This is the message that our masochistic and male privileged society sends to every female child around the world. As sickening as it seems, there is hardly any change seen in the last few decades in the way we treat married women. To marry into a household means to strip a woman of her basic human rights. Her education goes to waste, her talent is not needed and who she is as a person reduces to whether she keeps her husband and her in-laws happy. This is the bitter truth of today’s common woman in an eastern society and almost every woman who is going through this doesn’t have a place to go or a voice to share because there was once a mother who forbade her daughter to leave, despite how abusive the relationship gets, the girl stays, and in some cases, dies, not knowing that Islam does not condemn you to a life of murderous hell be it bound by the sanctity of marriage or by oaths and promises.

There is an actual procedure (which I haven’t researched) to the dissolution of marriage and is applicable to both men and women who want to withdraw from each other. The only string, you’ve got to at least try and make things work before you decide that you’re no longer interested in what’s being served.

The philosophical emotional and moral side of the whole life long contract while trying to keep the intervention of God and his weird sense of humour to the minimum.

The entire purpose of mankind for marrying is coitus. To say that you married otherwise is just another cock and bull story and I’ve got enough of them to save my life. On the other hand, marriage could also be a means to escape loneliness. Imagine waking up old and senile, your bedsheet smells of urine and you barely have any strength to move your bum and clean yourself. Too often, a man looks for support in old age and too often it is the wife that sticks around to wipe your ass, literally. She would be the sole companion, though old, to put up with your tantrums.

The idea of getting into and out of relationships seems fascinating but it brings a baggage of its own. Unnecessary drama and years of psychological damage if you get involved with the wrong person. It’s like the trial and error approach without a trace of the destination or a restricted number of outcomes. The result, however, is usually the same, you either learn and improve or you become the worst human being you could ever be. And that is not a nice feeling.

There is no blueprint of a successful way of selecting someone you want to marry. There are two schools of thoughts so far:

  1. The chauvinistic view where you marry someone who loves you more than you love them. It provides you with an ego boost and somehow gives you enough room to settle down.
  2. The forever in my twenties view where you treat the other person like you’re still trying to win them over which is the best way to keep the spark from dying out. So, if you wipe out the unicorns and cupcakes you’re basically living a lie being insecure about each other.

The idea of a marriage is a walking contradiction itself. I don’t know why but if you take out the idea that God wants the best for you, I find it as an extremely sick joke. To create human beings, give them emotions, drive their libido and then tell them to restrict their attraction to stay away from sin. As practising Muslims, we are not allowed to experience pleasure from people of the same gender no matter how strong our desires are. That is the boundary that must be maintained if we are to surrender to the will of God. The same boundary exists between men and women regarding premarital physical contact. So, marrying my best friend is out of the question and my family won’t allow me to marry someone I like because of cultural differences.

If I were to be asked whether I would get married: I am indecisive at the moment. From the thoughts that I’ve laid on paper there’s no knowing who the right person is and when’s the right time. Sometimes, arranged marriages don’t work even when a person is mature and financially stable, and sometimes, early love marriages soar incredibly well. At times, you’ve got give in to faith rather than give in to your desires, and at times cultural boundaries and racial discriminations can handicap one’s ability to love.

Personally, I don’t want to. The idea is scary, only because I’ve seen that people are untrustworthy and the wordplay doesn’t even come close to the way people play with the feelings of each other. I don’t want to go through yet another heartbreak. There’s nothing worse than feeling that you’re not enough and I’ve had to deal with a lot of not enough in my life.

If I were to ever get married, the only reason would be for love. At least I would be willing to give it another chance with a probability of things falling apart. For now, my bucket list doesn’t include marriage, but raising a child is something I fancy and would like to adopt one if I don’t end up having one in the future.

  1. Nikah is the exchange of marriage vows under the Islamic law.
  2. Sunnah is the teaching of Islam as practised by Prophet Muhammad PBUH
  3. Ummah is the concept that Muslims all around the world despite being separated demographically are one nation under the banner of Islam.

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