Love or Arranged? The Inner Workings of The Rishta Brigade

This is a guest post by a writer who wishes to be known simply as Jawa. In her own words: “I`m doing my BBA, living at home, lone sister to a horde of brothers (5,masha`Allah), enforcer of justice in my crazy household. Scratch that. Describe me as an ordinary person. I’ve always thought one of the hardest questions ever is asking a person to describe themselves. I dunno what to say. I don’t like self-praise at all. I dunno if the person in front of me is forming a completely different opinion. and the worse thing to sound is self-obsessed, very hard not to do if you’re taareef-ing yourself:P ”


Love or arranged? The question is common enough, first posed to me by a cousin when I was like, 7 or something. Yes you heard me right, SEVEN! ‘Ew,’ I replied. Then after a moment of thought, I answered. ‘Love,’ I answered, with all the confidence of a person who has no idea what they’re saying.

As the years wore on, I grew up, and noticed most, if not all of my friends getting boyfriends. Some showed them off like some sort of testament to their female charm, while other hid and lied about it. In any case, they all had something going on. I was 13 by then, a very perilous age, but thankfully, never had one myself. I would act like ‘one of the guys’; very chummy and (most of the time) crude, but never flirty. I pushed away any guy who would start to act funny (sudden change in body language, unwarranted niceness and compliments). I made up various bahaney why I didn’t want to get into that kinda stuff. ‘oh, I don’t want to live in perpetual tension of getting caught by my parents’ or ‘there aren’t any guys I know that I can take seriously’ or (laughably) ‘I’ll be smart and fall in love when I get older’. (In retrospect, God I was so stupid. It’s a serious blessing that Allah chose to guide me at all)

One day, I was sitting in Haram in Madinah (we live close by so visit frequently) and picked up an English translation wala Quran. I opened it up to Surah Nisa, remembering my mom tell me to read it someday since it’s especially for women. This was a time in which, unlike now, I didn’t really FEEL the words and meaning and wisdom behind the Quran. I started reading, taking everything literally and basically just looking for what to do and what not to do, or something my mom hadn’t told me before. I read and came upon the following verse-

‘And whoever of you have not the means wherewith to wed free, believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess, and Allah has full knowledge about your Faith, you are one from another. Wed them with the permission of their own folk (guardians, Auliya’ or masters) and give them their Mahr according to what is reasonable; they should be chaste, not adulterous, NOR TAKING BOYFRIENDS. And after they have been taken in wedlock, if they commit illegal sexual intercourse, their punishment is half that for free (unmarried) women. This is for him among you who is afraid of being harmed in his religion or in his body; but it is better for you that you practise self-restraint, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’                                                                                                                                            (Surah An-Nisaa, verse 25)

Those words just popped up at me. After seeing it spelled out like that I was like, cross THAT out of my list of things to do, like ever. I thought I could live without adding a major sin like that to the already considerable list of not-so-halal things I DID do. The idea, simply from a superficial weighing of pros and cons, lost all appeal to me.

Life went on. My friends had break-ups and replacements. They went through this weird cycle of apparent bliss and crushing disappointment. I counted myself lucky to not be in the clutches of such an addiction. I crossed the ‘love’ option out permanently and resigned myself to getting married the conventional way. But that didn’t mean that the test was over, oh no. Being the sunny optimistic person I was (I wasn’t) I was not comforted. I, in my teen mindset of gloom and doom, thought my parents would totally screw me over. In this day and age, where a person makes his or her every decision, the idea of leaving it all to someone else is downright frightening. I was certain they’d hitch me with someone with no personality, no sense of humor and (the one that scared me the most) no English. OMIGOD! I’d be DOOMED! Allah ta-ala, please intervene and help out!

And don’t even get me started on the rishta-system I knew I’d have to go through. The few times I had to deal with those situations left my skin crawling and blood boiling. It was so demeaning! To reduce a person with a mind and nature of her own to a list of calculations. It made me feel certain I’d lose out. That I’d not be tall, fair, pretty or fair enough to guarantee me a suitable guy. There was this one time (and one time only) that I did have to go to this one lady, a rishta lady, who wanted to meet me and get an idea of how I am. That woman LITERALLY had a pencil and a pad and jotted down my height, weight and education. I felt like I was at a tailor’s(and i`m being kind here). I was so PISSED, I think I couldn’t keep it out of my face. I even hated the frank tone she addressed me with, like she had the right tell me how to be (which she DID, in fact, tell me). I went home and exploded. Was this how it was going to be? I felt certain that this was a scheme artfully mastered by desi aunties everywhere, to put poor girls through an emotional wringer so that they’d say yes to marriage just to be rid of this state of perpetual inferiority and dissatisfaction. I thought I was on to something there. I felt saddened that a majority of girls in Pakistan have to go through something like that. Worse yet, they have to do the whole ‘bringing in the tea tray’ rigmarole and most of the time, not even have a ‘yes’ from the larke waley. How many times do the poor dears have to go through that? In my opinion, the guy has it easy.

This was a constant internal battle for me. I never admitted it outright, but it rarely left the inner recesses of my mind. I graduated from teen-hood, did a lot of independent maturing, and learned a lot of life lessons on complacency and contentment, and finally entered my twenties. I learned that there are some battles you win, and some you lose. Not everything goes according to what YOU plan. The best you can do is pray istikhara, and watch as Allah makes what was best for you (not necessarily in your immediate position, but definitely in the long-run) happen. It takes a lot of patience, but it will in time reveal itself as the blessing it was. I gained trust in Allah, and stopped worrying about my future marriage. Later, also in Madinah and quite recently(Hmm i`m beginning to notice pattern!), I read the following:

“Impure women are for impure men and impure men are for impure women. Pure women are for pure men and pure men are for pure women.”                                                                                                                     (Quran, 24:26)

That simplified things so much! Truly, Allah is the true match maker! All I have to do is be good, and Allah will find me a guy just like me. I no longer felt bound by the system, or by the limitations of interfering people. All I had to do was concentrate on myself, and leave the rest to Allah. YAY! I mean, ALHAMDULILLAH!

My mom never took me back there, to the rishta lady. I put the marriage-worries outta my mind, and concentrated on my studies and my personality. I tried to eliminate gossip out of my life entirely and just overall be a good Muslim. I didn’t even realize it, and next thing you know, I’m engaged to someone. DIdn’t have to go through any torture of any sort. Oh, it’s still arranged, yes, but I am content. My parents did istikhara, their side did it too, and with very good signs. I know enough about him to be assured that he’s well educated and I really really like his parents, especially his mom. She’s like the sweetest person ever! In case you’re wondering, I don’t talk to him, neither do I want to. There`s a lifetime for that insha`Allah. (Editor`s Note: You wait girl, “there`s nothing like nikah” humms)

So yeah, basically that’s it. The answer to my initial question. An arranged marriage isn’t a death sentence. Getting your head around it in this age of tween couples and valentine’s days is difficult, but you have to trust Allah and know that there is love in the arranged matches too, just the halal kind. I don’t wish to sound judge-y, but going against Allah’s wishes in anything will not result in the same tranquility and satisfaction. It’s the way of Islam, of the Holy Prophet(PBUH), and all true Muslims. May Allah guide us all, help those who seek for their destined matches, and keep us all safe from the lurings of Shaytan.

Editor`s Note: They say “rishtay asmaano pe bantay hai”. Allah knows we`ve heard this phrase enough times! A little tawwakul is definitely called for. Let`s not put our daughters on display out of desperation for “THE” match. It kind of reminds us of bakras on you-know-which Eid, when the poor animals are all decked out and then taken out to walk the walk!

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