How entangled people are in age-old traditions and self-made norms and regulations is reflected, even in the modern era, in the innumerable domestic disputes, for whose Islamic solutions people usually contact me. It isn’t only their retrogressive attitude that is a matter of concern, but their being ignorant of the basic laws of Islam is far more pitiable.
Recently, a Muslim lady from America related a very lengthy and tragic account of her own life which shows the barbaric and oppressive manner some Muslim parents still adopt when dealing with the significant issues of their children, especially the daughters. (No wonder Islam is regarded with such disrepute the world over). Below is a summary of her letter.
She had stated, “I belong to a very well-educated and a highly affluent family. My father, despite his literacy, was always adamant in not letting either of his daughters marry outside the kindred. I am the eldest daughter and received many proposals in my early youth, but were all declined by my father on the grounds that they were not from our close relatives, and were, therefore, unacceptable. This continued until I reached an age when such proposals ceased to come. It was then that my father once told me that because there was no possibility of me getting married within the family sphere, I should make an oath before him I will remain unmarried for the rest of my life, and being affluent, he shall be responsible for my sustenance.
My father took coercive measures to make me comply with his decision. Later, in honour of his wishes, I sincerely resolved to lead a life of celibacy. But my mother, brother and youngest sister were not happy with my decision. One man who had proposed to me long ago was, despite my father’s flat refusal, still waiting for a change in the decision. My brother and sister tried hard to persuade my father. Finally, he relented and agreed, but also added, that because such a step would be in utter disregard of his wishes I should, after the marriage, sever true relationship with him. However, I was not made aware of this until the wedding had materialised.
Eventually, I moved over to America where my husband was. Now, after many attempts to contact my father, I have discovered that he has stuck to his words and is unwilling to accept me as his daughter.”
This is one typical story of a Muslim household. Although other incidents may not have reached such extreme levels, but it can be asserted, beyond a shadow of doubt, that a large number of Muslim families certainly suffer from such misconceptions as far as marriage is concerned. Undoubtedly, the Shari’ah has, to an extent, observed the law of compatibility between spouses. But it has been solely designed to ensure psychological balance and harmony between them and their families, which is indispensable if such a contact is expected to last for lifetime.
Compatibility should be seen in the living styles, modes of thinking and most of all the dispositions of the boy and girl. An imbalance in these is sure to entail a turmoil that will result in endless rows between the two.
This, however, does not mean that such requirements are so essential a part of marriage that if they were not met, marriage could not be solemnised.
Further, compatibility isn’t only restricted to the kindred. Any Muslim household that meets the requirements of compatibility will, for that matter, be classified an equal.
It seems, therefore, that ignorance of the rules of compatibility is the main cause behind such stubborn attitudes. Hence, in order to acquaint the masses, the rules of compatibility are mentioned below.
Equality in lineage, religiosity and profession will qualify for compatibility, regardless of whether the family is related or not. Equality of lineage does not mean that their family origin has to be the same, but their being of an equal standard is sufficient, like Sayyids (descendants of the Noble Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) Siddeeqis, Faarooqis, ‘Uthmaanis and ‘Alawiys (all belonging to the four Caliphs respectively) are all equals.
In fact all the Quraysh families will be regarded equals of one another. Similarly, certain reputed families that originate from the Indian subcontinent, such as Raajpoot, Khaan, etc. are also held equals. Some Ahaadith do encourage the observance of compatibility to maintain a balance in the temperaments, but it is wrong to think that it is a grave sin or that Nikah remains invalid if done otherwise. The truth is that Nikah solemnised outside the compatibility sphere with the consent of the girl and her parents will amount to no sin at all. In fact, if the family fails to find an equal spouse for the girl, they should marry her off to any suitable man available. It is, however, advisable to proceed with the Nikah in the presence and with the consent of the Waaliy (guardian) of the girl. This should particularly be observed when Nikah is performed outside the compatibility sphere, as, then according to many Jurists, such Nikah remains invalid. Walee, on his part, should also not be too strict on the application of compatibility rules, not to mention the emphasis on Nikah within the family sphere. A Hadith states, ‘When one whose religiosity and character are agreeable to you comes with a proposal, then solemnise the Nikah with him. If you fail to do that, corruption and strife will prevail the world.’
Another misunderstanding that is quite common is that Sayyids are thought to have no equals and it is believed that their marriage should only be contracted amongst themselves. Sayyids are those families whose lineage goes back to Banoo Hashim. As the Prophet Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam himself belonged to the Banoo Hashim tribe, this is undoubtedly a matter of pride, but the assumption that this noble lineage should make it impossible for them to marry outside the Sayyid family is incorrect. Not only the Shaykhs, but all the Quraysh tribes are, Islamically regarded equals of Sayyids. Hence, marriage could be solemnised with them too. Moreover, if a Sayyid family wishes to marry outside the Qurayshi sphere, that too with mutual consent is permissible.