Islam: Day 26 – Should we practice arranged marriages?

In one of my English classes in high school, we read a story that took place in India and drew heavily on Indian culture and customs.

I don’t remember what the story was about, but I do remember that the class had a spirited discussion about arranged marriage.

When I say spirited discussion, I mean we were all appalled at how backwards the Indian culture was with regards to marriage, and couldn’t imagine how any culture would promote marriage that wasn’t based on romantic love between two people.

Our views haven’t changed since then.

Apparently, it is a common misconception that Islam requires arranged marriage. It does not. Arranged marriages are a cultural inheritance that is not unique to Muslim countries.

The Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam clarifies a few points about arranged marriage:

  • Islam does not require it.
  • A woman cannot be forced into a marriage she doesn’t want to have.
  • The arranged pair can have an extended engagement and can break it off if either party wishes to do so.

The author also raises an interesting point:

“In fact, it is really the institution of dating that is the new practice which much of the world is struggling to accept. Islam merely regulates the conduct of people who want to form a marriage, whether arranged or by themselves.”

Last week I attended a farewell party for a friend who was moving to San Francisco. A different friend of mine (the same Jewish friend that we tried to set up, Rebecca) invited a guy she was dating to the party so that she could have her friends verify if the guy was worth putting time and energy into.

In modern, western life, everyone is left to figure out this whole dating and marriage and thing on their own, which, when you think about it, is incredibly difficult!

Deciding who you will marry is probably the most important decision you are going to make in your life, so of course, you’d probably want some assistance and help from others when making that decision.

Rebecca’s instincts were correct. She wanted to make sure she wasn’t crazy for dating this guy, who I’ll call Adam, so she had her friends do the screening.

The problem is, what do her friends know? None of her friends at the party were married or have had successful life long relationships. Were they really qualified to give her advice?

The author of the Dummies book says that modern matchmaking and dating services are really looking to adapt the best parts of arranged marriages to modern life.

“The growth of online dating services, personal ads and matchmakers in the West over the last few years is merely a throwback to the best elements of the arranged marriage system which was the norm in the West up until relatively recently. The companions of the Prophet demonstrated many different ways of finding a mate. Some married for love and sealed their commitment without intermediaries, others were matched by friends, and still others agreed to arranged marriages brokered by relatives.”

This makes me wonder if us modern people are silly for trying to reinvent the wheel when finding a life partner. Should we look to the ancients for advice on finding a mate? Or should we listen to modern data gurus and try to build a compelling profile?

Note: I’m certainly not qualified to talk about successful matchmaking practices, but I’m intrigued by the idea that the ancients may have something useful to say about finding a spouse in the modern world.