A. Marriage in the Arab world is marked by celebrations like no other. They are the epitome of all the stages of life. However, the encroachment of Western culture and habits are destroying marriages based on Arab culture and customs. Many Arab couples have forgotten their customs and culture and approach marriage with a Western mindset which often leads to strife in this sacred institution.
B. The problem with most couples today is that they focus more on the last step of the marriage ceremony while ignoring three other important steps. Bypassing or giving little import to the other three steps weakens the institution of marriage.
C. The purpose of this informative speech is to give an overview of the stages that lead to the formalization of the marriage ceremony. These are choosing the bride, sending the emissary (go-between), betrothal and ending with the wedding.
II. Selecting the Bride
A. According to Arab customs and culture, the choice of the bride has traditionally been the prerogative of the father. It is the responsibility of the father not only to choose the brides for his sons, but also to ensure his daughters got married (Nasser et al 388). This ensures that he has fulfilled his duty in life.
B. Tradition also allows for the bridegroom who has shown interest in a girl to bring the matter to his parents (Satterfied paragraph 9). If the father is alive, he will investigate the background of the girl in question and to make a decision accordingly.
C. The practice of the groom asking his parents to find him a wife has its roots when Shechem requested his father Haron to find him a wife. Satterfield (paragraph 4) asserts that this is further reinforced by the Semitic belief that Allah the divine Father provided a wife for Adam. In a similar manner, earthly fathers have the same duty to their sons.
III. Sending a Representative
A. In the second stage, the family of the groom sends a representative/messenger to the family of the girl who has been identified as fit for marriage. Satterfield (paragraph 11) states that the messenger can be a family friend of the bridegroom or a paid professional.
B. The purpose of the messenger is to cushion the groom and his family from embarrassment in case the bride or her family reject their proposal. Satterfield (paragraph 12) states that in the event that the bride’s family is willing to give their daughter, the messenger is sent back with information on the dowry expected by the bride’s family.
C. The emissary could in some cases also be assigned the role of identifying a suitable bride for the groom in some Arab communities (Satterfield paragraph 12).
IV. Dowry Payment
A. The essence of paying dowry (mahr) in Arab customs and traditions is to compensate the bride’s family for the loss of labor provided by their daughter. Satterfield (paragraph 16), states that every person in traditional in Arab homes contributed to the well-being of the family by working. Therefore, the family of the bride must be properly compensated for losing a person who was bringing income.
B. The amount of dowry is negotiated and agreed upon by both families (Harris et al 272). The actual dowry varies from money to land labor or animals. Land labor is a form of dowry payment where the groom works for the bride’s father for an agreed period as was the case in the story of Jacob(Yaqub).
C. Upon agreeing on the amount of dowry to be paid to the bride’s family, a portion of the dowry is paid immediately. The rest is paid progressively over time. However, Harris et al (272) states that some dowry is usually withheld and paid to the bride in case the couple gets divorced.
Marriage in Arab culture entails a series of steps which are important in ensuring the marriage will be free from strife and lasts long. It starts with the groom’s parents identifying a suitable bride, sending an emissary to the bride’s family and ends with the payment of dowry.
I have purposely left out the wedding section since most of us need no further explanation on that. As you consider getting into this sacred institution, remember that the wedding ceremony is a short event but marriage lasts a life-time.
- Harris, V. William, et al. “In the Eyes of God: How Attachment Theory Informs Historical and Contemporary Marriage and Religious Practices among Abrahamic Faiths.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, Spring 2008, p. 259.
- Nasser, Khaled, et al. “From Strangers to Spouses: Early Relational Dialectics in Arranged Marriages among Muslim Families in Lebanon.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 44, no. 3, May/Jun2013, pp. 387-406.
- Satterfield, Bruce. “Arab Marriage customs and Biblical similarities.” Brigham Young University-Idaho, date unknown, emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Papers/arabmarriage. Accessed 13 November 2017