Marriages can be made simpler. Nothing is easier than this. Just one step to be taken and that can be taken so easily. A step which will not invite narazgi of any particular person, friend or relative. A step that eliminates all customs which are morally, religiously, socially and economically unwholesome. A step which everyone can take, even the weak willed. We take much harsher steps when it comes to our small interests. We can take a quarrel with the whole village to safeguard the merit of a candidate for this or that post, say RT post. A small step that many have taken and many take. It is the decision to invite none of our relatives or friends to our marriages, a decision not to make a party out of simple issue of transporting a girl from one home to another. We can even go in homely clothes or ask the parents of the bride to drop her at groom’s home as was the tradition of our forefathers, our aslaf. Guest control, control on variety of dishes and many other extravaganza is not needed if we take the first step. Koi rasmi chahram nai hogi we are now accustomed to. We can easily get to the next step koi rasmi dawat nai hogi (No formal lunch to be served). If anyone complains for not receiving our invitation let us reply: The Prophet was invited in our function and we couldn’t take risk of displeasing him by all kinds of customs which follow jamghat and coming of so many guests. The Prophet is enough to grace the occasion for those who believe that all grace is his bounty. The Prophet doesn’t like mixed gatherings or troubling anyone or wasting a single penny or the practice of selective invitation in weliemna or pollution. If my poor neighbour can’t afford a feast I too should refrain from creating a difficult precedent for him.
Why invite people to clap for us, to let us show off our vanity, to “grace” the occasion of simple transfer of a person from one home to another. What is the need to invite? Two persons can go in the car and get the bride home and that is all. Why this pomp and fanfare and frivolity? Why should close relatives, say uncles, maternal uncles, mother’s sisters and father’s sisters be invited? Why disturb ourselves and others?
What have relatives to do there? Who whispers to you that close relatives must be present on the occasion? Why trouble them and get troubled by them as inviting them on a formal occasion at a huge cost to so many sectors of our life is a self-imposed trouble. It doesn’t strengthen relationships. We don’t invite to please God only but the Satan of ego and vanity. We would like to drop some but are forced to invite because they would take it ill or people expect us to invite them. Why impose a burden on some relatives who may not be conveniently available on that day and who may have difficulty in arranging the marriage party/ a vanity show tax called goulimeoth. Who willingly pays this tax? A hadith of Prophet (SAW) is to the effect that extracting money (and this would apply, I think, on other things such as extracting time which is sometimes more precious than money at least for some) unwillingly is sin. What need is there to grace the occasion by the presence of relatives, friends? How does a crowd of people mostly gossiping in small groups make the occasion graceful? What grace is there in waiting for hours at the bathroom point in the morning as happens in big parties of mehndi nights? People come mostly with negative energies and disturb our aura and ambience. There are few saints amongst visitors. It is a beauty show for young girls who advertise their credentials in the marriage market. Perhaps a crowd provides fun and we are overstressed and need it. Or we can show how lavishly we can serve them. Marriage parties provide a space for many underground activities to our Romeos and Juliets and all those bored with life lived at a low pitch. Capitalism bolsters our ego and says we must get our tents and not take the help of neighbours’ house even if they are delightfully willing to offer. It breeds ill will amongst brothers and whispers that we must assert our status and not let our nang/taint/kyieh be trampled. It doesn’t matter if we borrow from banks and friends or purchase on wazum from shopkeepers.
If it is still thought necessary to invite let us change the mode of it. Let us invite our relatives in small doses after the marriage if invitation is necessary at all and they don’t come of their own so that they could be better served. In crowd most don’t receive special care which is due to them. Let us invite our relatives phase wise in the first week following marriage, say uncles on the second other, maternal uncles on the next, maternal aunts on the next day. In less than a week all will be over in a more amiable manner. We shall not prepare any wazwan for them. A chicken and some paneer should be sufficient that we can cook at home. That way we can serve them better and talk with them. Otherwise when a huge crowd is there the host has no time to attend to anyone. By this way goulimeuth will die its own death. Let us make it a point to invite only on one marriage function only. If we have many daughters or sons let us invite them on the occasion of only one, say the oldest or the youngest, preferably the youngest to postpone expenses.
Islam ensures that people meet and frequently meet in mosques, on the Eid days, on other holy days, on the occasion of death when someone gets ill or some occasion to celebrate, say a success of our children in exam. Relatives visit us without invitation when a child is born, when we are ill or there is death, on Eids and on many other occasions. If they don’t demand invitation on these occasions why should there be any need for it on marriage function. With our neighours and many relatives which are in vicinity one can meet daily in mosques or at least on Fridays. Formalism makes relationships difficult.
On marriage days let us make a big samovar of kahwa and serve anyone who comes. This can well substitute wiliema in the present conditions. The wiliama as practized here in which people are selectively invited and discriminated is the worst food according to the Prophet (SAW). Serving it or accepting invitation of it is both unlawful as Mawlana Thanwi has noted. Our Hindu brothers don’t charge taxes such as gulimeoth to invited guests. Can’t we adopt this really Islamic teaching?
The fear of public opinion is what makes making marriages simpler difficult. Nothing is more degrading than to live and behave according to public opinion. And nobody receives good marks from public for whatever one does. People will find fault in any case. Let us be brave enough, like Malamatiye dervishes, to enjoy people finding faults in us. Attempt to guard our reputation, to ensure our respectability, is a weakness that must be transcended. Some saints would invite or enjoy bad reputation. If we transcend our petty egos we will hardly mind people finding faults in us. One saint was wrongly accused of zina and he didn’t mind at all to protest or fight a defamation case in the court. After some days the accuser repented and recanted. He didn’t enjoy getting exonerated. To be a Muslim is not to mind blame or praise? So what is wrong with getting a bad name such as kanjoos or people finding faults with us? Izzat (honour) belongs to God only. Why bother to be izzatdar in the worldly sense, in the democratic sense where the opinion of ignorant people who have no idea of real honour is counted. We all believe that we can’t please everyone. So let us try to please none and paradoxically we shall please many in single stroke. To live in the perpetual fear of public opinion is to live in hell. Public opinion is the mythological beast of which some religions and Plato warn us as one of the signs of doomsday. Freedom is the greatest virtue, the greatest joy. Why exchange it for the slavery of public opinion? Life of ego must be shattered to pieces one day according to the logic of religion. Why not shatter it ourselves. We are all actors on the stage as Shakespeare, the Gita and other religious texts in their own ways assert. Why can’t we enjoy the role of a fool or low caste person? Those who care much about public opinion are transgressors against themselves. They have yet to learn the elementary lessons in life. Humility is the royal road to God. Hell is for the proud. Nothing burns in hell but self will. Why not burn it here?
Extravagant marriages cost us our religion, our morality, our economy, our relationships, our freedom, our time, our environment. They are an issue, a big issue, more serious issue than sex scandal – it harbours almost all kinds of scandals – and we need to write on it and think over it. They are the chief means besides the fashion for cars and bigger houses by which capitalist market forces enslave us. They are a symptom of a grave disease that afflicts almost all of us – cancer of the soul. They are a species of a crime more heinous than prostitution where only bodies are traded. Here souls are on hire, to use Dostoevsky’s expression. Any place where my soul is held in bondage, where it dances on the tone of others, where it is not free to be itself, where it is subject to stresses of pleasing others is a place of its auction. The host keeps thinking and thinking that I have a daughter to be married and it makes him older and greyer even in 40’s. He works hard, on many planes, to make arrangements, months and sometimes years before a marriage date. He misses so much that life has to offer in attempting to meet conflicting demands of society, whom to pick and whom to drop, in arranging for wazwan, tents, electricity, transport, gold and what not. He is arranging an absurd stage play where he will distribute cards without any reason (as if the person distributing cards has no voice or no credibility if he invites without giving a card), host many unwilling guests, send a thief with a battalion to eat and eat and eat at bride’s place (The Prophet said that uninvited persons to a party are thieves – nobody invites baraatis, they force their presence through the compulsions of custom on bride’s guardian, In Islamic state baraatees will be jailed for this offence as girl’s parents are not supposed to spend any money on girl’s marriage serve any lunch to dozens of baraatees as the very concept of baraat is unislamic)collect tax called guilemeoth from them, make them wait and wait for sins unknown for the lunch and till the hunger dies of exhaustion, stuff them up with heavier and heavier dishes, keep account of the revenue and attempt to return it with interest, deprive his guests of sleep on mehndi night and tax their nerves while waiting and waiting for turn to enter the bathroom in the morning and leave many in the lurch in the thick of the night to find way to home when even autos may not be there, borrow from someone to feed his relatives, receive comments, often bitter and satiric, on his dawat and sometimes silent curses for this or that and the list of absurd actions goes on.It is absurdist play with a difference – it costs us our pocket. Everybody loses in the end in this game show except the capitalist who fools all of us. From cards to firsaal, it is all theatrical where love nowhere figures but taint and absurd custom. Many relatives come with grievances and leave with more grievances. They come because majboor, they are invited because the hoist is majboor to invite them to (dis)grace the occasion. They bring gifts also, mostly fruit which decays in a few days because majboor. People manage to take part in the show willingly or unwillingly. In kothas heavily made up women are publicly accessible so are in our marriage parties though accessible in a different sense. People trade their virginity of souls and of eyes if not of the whole body by gazing and gazing. In prostitution centers people lose only some money and commit only one major sin. But in extravagant marriages almost all the major sins are committed. The sins of pride (as it is a vanity show), covetousness, gluttony, zina of eyes and ears, etc. all are here committed. The unforgivable sin of shirk also happens here as we take other gods besides God to please, the god of public opinion, of artificial beauty, of self. In fact it is the Devil who receives all honours, all worship in these parties. It is the Devil’s workshop as it is characterized by israf and musrifeen are Satan’s brothers according to the Quran. Islam uses much sharper language against immodest people than we, the enlightened moderns, would think advisable. The second look is a species of zina and gazing should qualify as smarter variety of zina. Concealing the truth is kufr and in marriage parties we attempt to conceal our true worth, our status, our likes and dislikes etc. Artificiality and showing off are forms of kufr and shirk, silent or khafi forms if not manifest ones.