Ashir Ahmad, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
In Muslim societies, arranged marriages are very common but often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with the practice. The term “arranged marriage” often elicits images of forced unions, leaving many to falsely believe that women are devoid of choice in such scenarios. However, this perspective is a stark misinterpretation of the Islamic approach to arranged marriages.
Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:
فَانۡکِحُوۡا مَا طَابَ لَکُمۡ مِّنَ النِّسَآءِ
“[…] then marry of women as may be agreeable to you […]” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.4)
This verse unequivocally emphasises the right of both parties – men and women – to agree to their marriage, thereby invalidating the notion of forced marriage within Islam.
The life of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa provides notable instances that counter the notion of forced marriages. For instance, Sunan Abi Dawud – a collection of ahadith – gives the following narration:
“Abdullah Ibn Abbasra narrated:
“A girl came to the Prophetsa and mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophetsa allowed her to exercise her choice.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab an-nikah, Hadith 2096)
This shows that the Holy Prophetsa did not approve of any kind of forced marriage.
How marriage is arranged in Islam
The process of arranging marriages among Muslims typically begins once individuals attain a suitable age and level of maturity. Parents or guardians undertake the responsibility of finding a suitable match. However, Islam encourages potential couples to familiarise themselves with each other, albeit within its prescribed boundaries, such as the presence of a guardian.
Upon mutual agreement between the prospective bride and groom, the marriage proceedings commence. The Holy Prophetsa himself advocated this principle, as evidenced by his advice to Hazrat Mughirahra ibn Shu‘bah:
“Mughirahra ibn Shu‘bah wanted to marry a woman. The Prophetsa said to him: ‘Go and look at her, for that is more likely to create love between you.’ So, he did that, and married her, and mentioned how well he got along with her.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab an-nikah, Hadith 1865)
If you have grown up in Western society, you may find this idea difficult to accept at first. However, this method of spouse selection has been practised for hundreds of years and really does produce more stable and happy marriages. A comparison of divorce rates between Western societies, where dating is the norm, and Islamic societies will clearly show that arranged marriages last longer and are more secure.
Arranged marriages constitute 55% of marriages worldwide, yet according to a 2012 study, they have a global divorce rate of only 4%, which is a remarkably low figure. This statistic indicates that arranged marriages have a significantly higher success rate compared to other forms of marriage. (www.statisticbrain.com/arranged-marriage-statistics/)
In Islam, it is permissible for a man or a woman to express their interest in marriage to each other if they are attracted to each other. However, it is strictly forbidden to engage in an illicit relationship.
The Quran emphasises the importance of mutual love, respect, and understanding between spouses. In fact, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said:
“The best among you are those who are the best to their wives.” (Riyad as-Salihin, Hadith 278)
This means that in Islam, the relationship between husband and wife should be based on love, compassion and mutual support.
A perfect example of a legitimate and beautiful proposal of marriage found in the life of the Holy Prophetsa is the proposal of Hazrat Khadijara to the Prophet Muhammadsa.
Hazrat Khadijara came to know of his integrity, honesty, and high morals through her servant. She was deeply moved and impressed by his that she sent him a proposal of marriage through her close friend.
Hence, Islam permits one to marry someone they like as long as it is conducted in a manner that is in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles.
Benefits of arranged marriage
One of the biggest advantages of arranged marriages is that the partners will often have a great match when it comes to culture, religion, social status, lifestyle, and many other factors that always affect the compatibility of couples.
Due to the fact that arranged marriages are typically organised by parents or elders who possess a deep understanding of the families and their cultural backgrounds, there is a greater chance of compatibility between the spouses. As a result, the relationship can be more harmonious and fulfilling.
Arranged marriages also foster a broader familial support system, as they typically involve both parties’ families. The shared religious values provide a robust foundation for the marriage, bolstering commitment to each other and their faith. Furthermore, these marriages, viewed as a long-term commitment, tend to forge a stronger bond between the spouses, enhancing the likelihood of marital success.
Sahih al-Bukhari records the following fundamental hadith of the Prophetsa when it comes to choosing the right kind of spouse in Islam. Hazrat Abu Hurairara narrated that the Holy Prophetsa said:
تُنْكَحُ الْمَرْأَةُ لأَرْبَعٍ لِمَالِهَا وَلِحَسَبِهَا وَجَمَالِهَا وَلِدِينِهَا، فَاظْفَرْ بِذَاتِ الدِّينِ تَرِبَتْ يَدَاكَ
“‘In marrying a woman, a man’s choice of a spouse is determined by the consideration of her wealth, her family and her physical beauty and her religious piety, but you should make your life happy, prosperous, and successful [by choosing a spouse] on account of her religious piety; otherwise your hands will ever remain in the dust.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab an-nikah, Hadith 5090)
Studies show that arranged marriages have a significantly higher success rate than “love marriages,” further bolstering the case for this traditional form of matrimony.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated:
“Say everything truthfully when arranging matrimonial matches. If a proposal comes for a girl, her health, age, height, etc., whatever it may be, should be told very clearly. All the information should be given to the boy. However, after receiving the information, it is the obligation of the boys not to turn up simply to look at the girl. Rather, after receiving the information, they should pray and then only go with the intention of arranging a match. If they go with this intention a pure society will be created.” (Domestic Issues and Their Solutions, p. 250)
Huzooraa has outlined that in Islam, arranged marriages are not just based on luck and guessing who might make the best potential partners. Rather spirituality has a big role to play as well. In addition, due diligence is done in terms of the couple finding out about one another and friends and family give their input in the best interests of the pair. Then the couple engages in serious prayer to supplicate to God to help them decide if the potential partner is suitable to spend the rest of their lives with.
In conclusion, arranged marriages in Islam, far from the misconceptions of being forced, provide a comprehensive framework that ensures compatibility, mutual respect, and a strong foundation of shared religious values. It is a system that, when followed with sincerity and honesty, has proven to yield fruitful and successful unions.