Un/Happily Ever After?

There is no denying the fact that our community faces a crisis with the alarming rate of divorces. Marriages are ended for trivial reasons with Talaaqs issued in outbursts of anger. The fact that Talaaq is the most hated of permitted acts in the sight of Allah ought to give us pause. The fact that the enormity of  Talaaq is such that its utterance causes the Arsh of Allah to shake ought to make us seriously consider. Instead we find a blatant disregard for the seriousness of this matter and Talaaqs fly around as if it is the order of the day.

There are many issues contributing to the breakdown of our marriages. One of the most worrying issues is the incorrect mental conditioning of the spouses in regards to the reality of marriage. This conditioning develops through television, magazines and the various forms of media that assail us every day. The sad part is that we invite the moral and social destruction of our children by embracing these media wholeheartedly turning a blind eye to its disastrous consequences.

From this mental conditioning, the demand for extravagant wedding emerges. The “dream wedding day” image that is now ingrained in the mind after watching hundreds of weddings on the television must be achieved at any cost. At times, the poor groom who is Hafizul Quran is forced to endure the agony of being paraded in the women’s section because of his bride’s insistence on the same. The catchphrase: “You’re only a bride once!” rings in the bride’s mind. Little realising that with today’s divorce rate, the chances of being a bride again are far from slim.

Added to the challenge of unshackling ourselves from this mental conditioning is the added pressure that society exerts on our lives. The need to live up to societal expectations and to show that we are also someone, are hurdles that not many of us are willing to surmount. At times, the bride being blessed with Islamic understanding, wishes for a simple wedding only to be overruled by parents who are more concerned about what society thinks than their own daughter’s happiness.

Contrast to this thinking, is the Hadith of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam, “The marriage with the greatest blessings is the one with easiest/least expenditure.”(Ahmad) Note the actual words of the Hadith, “easiest expenditure”. This does not denote quantity but rather the avoidance of difficulty. A person may spend on their wedding but not at the expense of the wedding becoming a financial burden. Rather, the wedding must fit comfortably within each person’s financial budget. Even for those with the financial ability to comfortably afford lavish weddings, moderation is required. The Hadith teaches us, “Being moderate in spending is half of living.”(Shuabul Imaan)Further, the Quran warns us, Do not be extravagant, for Allah loves not those who are extravagant.” (Surah 7, Verse 31)

A recent paper published by the Emory University’s Department of Economics titled ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales, is one of the first studies to statistically evaluate the wedding industry’s marketing strategy that an expensive wedding leads to a longer-lasting (successful) marriage.  An excerpt from this paper provides interesting reading on how clever marketing has successfully fleeced people of billions in unnecessary expense.

“In 2014, wedding industry revenues are projected to exceed $50 billion in the United States. According to a national survey conducted annually by the top wedding website, TheKnot.com, the average wedding cost was $29,858 in 2013.

The wedding industry has grown substantially throughout the twentieth century in part due to the rise of consumerism and industry efforts to commodify love and romance. One example of this was the emergence of bridal magazines, especially Bride’s, which played an important role in developing a platform for many service providers to reach consumers and in promoting the necessity of a lavish wedding for a fairy tale marriage.

In 1959, Bride’s recommended that couples set aside 2 months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete.

Another example of industry efforts to commodify love and romance is that of marketing campaigns for diamond engagement rings. Several of the most well-known campaigns were by De Beers, the global diamond company. In the late 1930s, De Beers created the slogan “a diamond is forever,” which was rated the number one slogan of the century by Advertising Age (1999). The campaign aimed to link the purchase of a diamond engagement ring to the hope of a long-lasting marriage. In the 1980s, De Beers introduced another influential campaign, which sought to increase the standard for how much should be spent on an engagement ring with slogans such as “Isn’t two months’ salary a small price to pay for something that lasts forever?” These marketing efforts were effective. Prior to World War 2, in Western countries, only 10% of engagement rings contained a diamond. By the end of the century, about 80% did. In 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States.”

Alarmingly, the research also found that as the expenditure of the wedding increased, so too did the likeliness of the marriage to end in divorce.

We must endeavour at all costs to ensure the success of our marriages. No one gets married intending to get divorced but at times we make wrong decisions that unwittingly put our marriages at risk. The wedding day is the foundation of the marriage. With a strong foundation even the tallest of buildings will stand while even a hut will collapse on a shaky foundation.

Let our weddings be built on the foundations of Imaan, Taqwa and the Sunnah of RasulullahSallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam and then see the reality of ‘Happily Ever After’.

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