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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9 Comments to "Love or Arranged? The Inner Workings of The Rishta Brigade"

  1. Omer Shahid says:

    masha’Allah very good reminder. JazakAllah khayr.

  2. akiko says:

    Really thought provoking in some aspects and in others, I’ve totally learned new stuff! I’ve always been against the culture of girlfriend-boyfriend but never realized it was actually forbidden in our religion. I always thought it was frowned upon or in the gray territory but yeah, since there’s the whole concept of Mehram and Namehram, this definitely was a no go! Thankfully, I’ve always been the weirdo in everything whom no one wanted to or chose to befirend, let alone be interested in that way, haha! In this aspect, truly, it’s Lucky Me!

    A long time ago… alright, it was just three years back, so not that long ago, I used to be the same-balking at the concept of an arranged marriage. The thought horrified me because I always kept thinking it would never work out. Plus, looking at some of the typical marriages around didn’t help either! I was totally convinced arranged marriage could NEVER be on the good end. Yet somehow, somewhere down the road, I don’t even know how or when, but my concepts changed. After all, it’s been around for ages! And look at the generation before us! They were mostly-and by mostly I mean 90% arranged marriages and in them you find some of the happiest people ever!

    And the concept of Istikhara just made things all the more easier for me! More than anything else, I believed in Istikhara! How could anything ever go wrong when it has been panned out for you by Allah Almighty? This is the one thought that just sticks with me all the time. Now, even if I come across a prospective match I’m not keen on or end up doing something that’s not totally interesting to me, I end up happy and carefree! If God wills it, it’ll happen so I should happily accept it as HIS decision because that is what shall be best for me! And if it’s not best, worries won’t help me; Belief in Allah will!

    Ah, the prospective matches that come through the door every now and then where you have to sit under the scrutiny of strangers whom you may or may not like! That is not an experience I like but alas, it is a step that needs to be taken – a part of the whole rishta system here! Yet ever since I’ve placed my faith in Allah, believe it or not, the deal doesn’t bother me anymore! Because every time, my heart tells me, “Girl, if God planned this, there’s nothing better for you. If not, there’s something much much better out there! And it’ll happen when it needs to, no sooner no later!” It doesn’t bother me that some people never called back or others had their reservations and dislike written on their faces even as they faced us. It’s all a matter of naseeb! They aren’t necessarily bad people-it’s just that our naseeb does not mesh with theirs. And since it’s all planned out by Allah, it will work out when it needs to!

    The whole tea bringing aspect is what annoys me still though. For one, its because I hate having to make tea, hehe, and also because I don’t like what happens on it-not just as the girl who has to bring it but as someone who is on the receiving end at times. Always, the girls family does their best and makes an impressive tea tray, hoping to score with the people that are coming. But what breaks my heart on it is that it shows just how helpless a girl’s parents are in the matter of their daughters marriage. They have to cater to the whims of many a people who shall never even bother to tell them it was nice to meet them or that they will call back. The monetary value of what they do pales in comparison to the despair they feel every time they try their best and receive nothing. Why has our society put the girl’s family in such a position? I’ve no personal experience in this at my own end but as someone who’s on a bhabhi hunt, you meet such lovely people, such wonderful parents who are so full of hope and life that it cuts my heart to see everything they do, knowing they perform this feat over and over again, hoping that someone who comes will be the one. Like someone once told me, “Larki k maa baap kitne bebas hote hain (How helpless a girl’s parents are!)” I hate the words and I hate to think it is all true, sadly so! *sob*

    Alright, that was a long rant! I’ll end it on a light note with a story I found amusing when my Dad related it to me and I immediately thought of your article.
    There was marriage talk going on between two families and the guy’s family liked the girl and her family so wanted to take things one step further and asked the girl’s family to come to their place and meet their son. The girl’s family set a condition for coming! They will come but only if… the guy comes bearing the tea tray just like their daughter did! LOL! Now that I would love to see happen!

  3. Annie says:

    True to the core.
    Brilliant article. Really moved after reading. Stay blessed.

  4. Really enjoyed the heart to heart blog Jawa . 🙂

  5. Haleema says:

    The thing you did that is what my mother tells us : just concentrate on improving yourself and Allah SWT will do the rest insha’Allah =)

  6. AMBREEN says:

    MASHAALAH 🙂 so true words .. its really like standing in front of a tailor when that rishta walay antiayn comes.. worst stage of life it is 🙁 may Allah protect us from sins and grant us patience … ameen

    • safniss says:

      Subhan Allah! this post was so reassuring! it felt like someone peeked into my head and wrote everything I’ve thought and felt! Allhamdulillah, I too have realized that once you trust Allah, everything works out. Allah is indeed the best of planners.

      • Jawa says:

        I’m glad! Its a touchy subject, but I’m thankful to have been able to write about it. jazakallah khair! I’m happy you could relate. Indeed, He is the best of all planners.

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