By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Marriage (nikah) is highly recommended and much encouraged in Islam. The great teacher of humankind, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explicitly stated the importance of marriage in many ahadith and even said, ‘‘Marriage is my Sunnah; whosoever keeps away from it has nothing to do with us” (Ibn-majah).
Marriage is described as the legal contract between two people that marks the beginning of the family. Marriage is not only a physical but a spiritual and emotional union between two souls. It is meant for purification with the basic aim of preventing a person from assaults of temptation. Marriage not only associates two persons but many families in the bond of love. It is not the mere act of continuing the progeny legally but it is the way of the actual realization of life. Besides giving an opportunity to grow into selflessness, it also develops a sense of oneness and togetherness among partners in communion.
Marriage constitutes an important milestone in the life of a person. From a religious point of view, there is no specific age bar for getting married, however; the maturity of male and female is significant. But, to check the emerging problems associated with early marriages there are proper rules in almost every country in the world. Legally , the marriageable age of the girl in India is 18 and for boys, it is 21.While in Pakistan legal age for marriage is 16 for women and 18 for men; it varies from country to country.
Unfortunately, in connection with marriages, societies are facing a two-pronged problem. One is earlier marriage in which rules and laws are flouted that leads to lifetime disadvantage and deprivation and other is the late marriage that affects individuals socially, psychologically and physiologically as well.
People have realized negative impacts that early marriages have on children and there has been a gradual decline in child marriages. However, late marriages having no rule and law have emerged as the new challenge. A Study regarding the number unmarried over-aged women has shown about 10,000 girls have crossed marriageable age in Srinagar alone. Although, it has not been established how many men have crossed the age of marriage yet unarguably their number would also be considerable. Despite the fact that the late marriage is equally disadvantageous for both genders, in case of females it is and should be treated as the gravest of problems. Because, we are living in the stereotypical and patriarchal society where inducing change is onerous, the society where a girl is still a burden and getting her hand decorated with henna makes for a dream of every parent. In view of these circumstances the only option left is to curb the problem by eradicating its fundamental causes.
There are numerous contributory causes of late marriage. Few among these are dowry, an extravaganza in making marriage, unemployment, and settlement outside of native places. Dowry is the oldest social evil that is still prevailing in both subtle and obvious ways and is a well-established reason of late marriages. Despite much being said and done against this custom, it one of the basic existing cause of late-marriages. As per fresh reports, 15 deaths were reported in the last 3yrs over the demand of dowry by in-laws in Kashmir. This evil has impeded the poor parents to think about wed-locking their girls.
Extravaganza in marriages is another factor that contributes to late marriages. Kashmir witnessed the new reprehensible trend of serving dishes beyond limits in wedding feasts; even currency notes of the high denomination have presented to guests. Others have to follow such trends compulsively to evade disgrace. But, poor families fail to withstand this pressure and find it difficult to get their daughters married.
Unemployment also influences marriages. To live the life of prosperity is the aim of everyone which is not possible without employment. So, before thinking of marriage, getting a job (especially government job) becomes the first priority of every man. Employment being financial security, women also prefer government employed spouse. Nevertheless, unavailability of government jobs makes most of the youth including girls to wait till they cross marriageable age.
One more factor that is responsible for a late marriage of girls is the settlement of boys outside of their native place of origin. Unemployment has forced many young men to migrate to other states and countries to have economic prosperity. Economic prosperity followed by the change in their living standards engage them in a way they never consider returning back to their native place. Mostly, they choose their partner there and settle forever. This has resulted in the imbalance between the two genders in J&K; resultantly we have thousands of over-aged unmarried women.
To resolve this grave issue, one and all have to come forward for the elimination of above-mentioned problems. Anti-dowry laws should be stricter that can help to contain the problem. Wealthy families should abstain from lavishly staged marriage ceremonies and prefer its solemnization in an austere way. They need to think of under privileged classes who suffer by their undesirable ostentation. Unemployment is a major concern and is rising unabatedly. Either, we have to delink marriage from employment or there is no solution other’s than government’s active role to put an end to favoritism and nepotism. The latter would not only generate competitiveness among youth but would help to check the problem of unemployment thence late marriage. Lastly, besides choosing simpler ways of making marriages, giving preferences to local girls for the union is the responsibility of every young man. We, as Muslims need to remember that “Nikah” has been made easy. By complicating and making it difficult we are giving space to evils for which we would stand to blame on the day of resurrection.
—The author writes on current socio-political issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org