I feel like I haven't posted a "This day in History" post in a while. It seems like the random days I choose to see what happened on this exact day years ago, I can never find anything interesting. And when all else fails, I come and read old emails from the particular day in which we are in.I keep old emails from everyone. It's something I started doing when I switched to Gmail. Gmail has unlimited storage space. Well I'm sure it's not unlimited, but it seems like it. So because of that I don't throw away emails I get from friends and family.I started using Gmail in 2006, when Artistic Logic introduced it to me. Artistic Logic and I have emails from almost everyday since 2006. I like looking back on them and seeing what we were doing/talking about/latest drama in our lives.
So with that said, on this exact day ,August 23,2007, a year ago (according to the email I found), my brother met his future wife.
Before I get into that, I must explain that it was an arranged marriage. In South-Asian/Indo-Pak-Bengal culture, most marriages are "arranged"--so to speak. And yes, it does still happen even though it's the 21st century. And yes, it does still happen in America too, even though we're not in the "homeland". It's normal for most of us. Long story short, this is how it works: A proposal comes from somewhere, family does a bit of a "background check", if "background check" is good to go, guy meets girl, and girl meets guy. They talk for a bit, families get to know one another and if they like each other then it's a done deal. It becomes known in the community that the guy and girl are taken and betrothed to one another. And in a few months, while they get to know one another better (again depending on the family) the wedding reception is planned. I'm sure there are minor differences here and there, depending on the family, but for the most part, that's how it works. Or at least that's how it happened with my brother and sister in law. It may be weird to you, but like I said, it's normal for us. It's how the culture rolls.
So I remember when we went to go see my sister in law, it was a new experience for me. I was with my family and her entire family was there too. My sister in law was an acquaintance of ours. And so it was kinda awkward for me to see her in this situation.I had never been to a "meet and greet" before, except when I was like 10 or something, too young to remember anything. I remember sitting around and mingling with her relatives. My brother in the other room, sitting with her brothers, nervous as heck. my sisters and I kept staring and laughing at him. And we kept sending him text messages telling him to sit up straighter, converse more with her relatives, and to stop eating so much. And after about two hours of doing that, the guy and girl finally met. And they only talked for like ten minutes, max. It seems pretty weird, I know. My brother left that day, hoping she felt the same way that he did. And a couple of days later, he got his answer. From that initial meeting, they liked each other. And now a year later, my sister in law and brother are expecting their first child, God willing. And genuinely happy, I might add.
On a side note when people who aren't used to cultural norms such as these, hear about arranged marriages, they think it's backwards and too traditional. I've had many friends tell me that this is America and we don't have to do that anymore.And ask me why don't we just date and look for a spouse for ourselves, instead of our parent/guardian doing it for us. What they fail to understand is, that we aren't being forced into these marriages and the reason we still "practice"(for lack of a better word) is because that is how we were raised and that is just how our culture is.
Another aspect that coincides with arranged marriages in South Asian cultures is religion. Most people in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan, and parts of India, follow Islam. Islam prohibits a man and woman from dating. Instead, in Islam relationships before marriage,of any kind, between members of the opposite sex is forbidden.
In most Muslim families, when the family and/or individual decides they want to get married, most abide by the following guidelines, as found on this website:
- Young person makes du'a (prayer)for Allah(God) to help him or her find the right person
- The family enquires, discusses, and suggests candidates. They consult with each other to narrow down potential prospects. Usually the father or mother approaches the other family to suggest a meeting.
- Couple agrees to meet in chaperoned, group environment. The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) said, "Not one of you should meet a woman(or man) alone unless she is accompanied by a relative ". The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) also reportedly said, "Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them". When young people are getting to know each other, being alone together is a temptation toward wrongdoing. At all times, Muslims should follow the commands of the Qur'an (24:30-31) to "lower their gaze and guard their modesty...." Islam recognizes that we are human and are given to human weakness, so this rule provides safeguards for our own sake.
- Family investigates candidate further - talking with friends, family, Islamic leaders, co-workers, etc. to learn about his or her character.
- Couple prays salat-l-istikhara (prayer for guidance) to seek Allah's help in making a decision.
- Couple agrees to pursue marriage or part ways. Islam has given this freedom of choice to both young men and women - they cannot be forced into a marriage that they don't want. Islam prohibits forced marriages.
This type of focused courtship helps ensure the strength of the marriage, by drawing upon family elders' wisdom and guidance in this important life decision. Family involvement in the choice of a marriage partner helps assure that the choice is based not on romantic notions, but rather on a careful, objective evaluation of the compatibility of the couple. That is why these marriages often prove successful.
It may be weird to you, but like I've been saying over and over and over, it's normal for us. And instead of thinking we're weird because of that, or "backwards" it would be beneficial for both parties to ask/answer questions and understand these practices/beliefs/culture/religion,etc.. better.
And after understanding it better, if it still seems weird, just know that for some of us, dating is weird.