My cousin is getting married this week, and we were discussing the different functions, guest list, menu and venues. I had noticed that they had to book three different marriage halls for the functions of Mehndi, Baraat and Valima. And due to the expenses we were cutting down on the guest list from 400 to 250. I was of the view that he should drop the mehndi and invite everyone for the valima, but he looked at me as if I was telling him to get married on some distant galaxy. These are the actual words of most people in Pakistan when they get the same suggestion “Oye yaar kabhi Mehndi k bina shadi ka maza aya hai.” (Did you ever enjoy a marriage ceremony without mehndi?) Actually this kind of mindset scares me and my brother because both of us have planned that we are only going to have a Nikah and a Valima. No mehndi, no baraat. Actually this is the Islamic way of doing things, but I don’t know how the procession of mehndi and baraat entered our culture because there is no record or evidence of this anywhere in the Islamic history (these were added as an integral part of our marriage ceremonies when Muslims came to south Asia).
Then there is another very important thing in a Pakistani wedding. Dowry or Jahaiz, which every parent of a girl is scared of. They are scared of it, yet they will do everything in their power to make the ‘list of household items, clothes and accessories’ accompany their daughter in her new home. It doesn’t matter if the father has to use his retirement fund or ask for money from other people, he will make it happen. The Sindh government recently passed a resolution against extravagant expenses in marriages and I think this is a very good effort. But then my father told me that similar bills were passed in the national assembly in 1976 which banned dowry, but that didn’t stop people from exercising this absurd culture. And I guess this bill will also be one of those that have no more value than a piece of paper.
A friend of mine who is a telecom engineer in Islamabad got married last month. The guy has an income of about 50,000 per month but the amount of his Mehr during his nikah was 1 million in cash and some amount of gold. How long will he have to work to pay off this debt? Yes this is debt and the groom has to pay it in his life and it remains payable even if anyone of the spouse dies. I am not against Mehr because it is the right of the bride according to a verse of Quran 4:4. But the amount should be something that the groom can pay at the time of Nikah and it should never be delayed. Several men I know of have to delay their weddings for a couple of years so they can arrange the amount which was asked by the family of the bride.
I think we have made marriage into a business, and nikah into business agreement. Each party has to pay an absurd amount of money, when all this can be done very easily. Three or four different functions, millions spent on dowry and dower and what is the justification for all this, so that the couple can live together happily. So this means the happiness of the couple is proportional to the amount of money spent on their wedding. WOW, who can guarantee that a couple will remain happy when you spend 10 million on their wedding expenses, or if a couple will remain happy when they get married in a modest ceremony? No one from the earthly beings can guarantee that, so I think it is about time we should open our eyes and drop these stupid practices.