The current world order and its inherent values are largely contrary to traditional cultural values. Many of the traditional values are under scrutiny with youths advocating for redefinition of what was formerly taken for granted. Globalization as a phenomenon means there is higher interaction between cultures.
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The traditional cultures and values that characterized societal norms are under great pressure. In many people’s eyes, some values advocated by our forefathers are archaic and not practical in our time. Alkhobar is largely Islamic; Islamic teachings, just like the teachings of other many religions, are threatened with corrosive effects of a liberal global culture.
The institution of marriage has not been spared; the youths’ approach or attitude to marriage is largely different from traditional conceptions. This report explores issues related to marriage in Alkhobar City. The report is based on observations I made after questioning fellow students, friends and relatives. I strongly relied on social networks to gather the data that informs this report. The report is also informed by secondary sources on marriage that I went through to clarify certain observations.
Definition of Marriage
Marriage is generally defined as union between a man and a woman. Two people of different sexes come together in a formally recognized union. In the western countries, some legislation recognizes the union of same sex people as marriage. This is highly questionable and is overly condemned by religious leaders.
Purpose and Importance of Marriage
The main purpose of marriage according to Islamic teaching is widening the Islamic nation through building family or procreation (Cornell, 57). It is believed that marriage brings peace and tranquility as it enables meeting of one’s physical, social and psychological needs.
Therefore, marriage is important because it is a precondition to the formation of a family. Moreover, it contributes in a big way to man and woman finding peace and tranquility in this world (Garry, 13). The family is the basic unit or society around which society takes shape. Without marriage, family would not be possible and consequently society.
In marriage, man and woman properly channel their physical needs. In this institution, they are able to take responsibility for their actions. The greatest responsibility that comes with a man and a woman coming together is the possibility of offspring. When biological needs of men and women are channeled within the context of marriage, in case of offspring, proper care is possible.
Secondly, in marriage, men and women find emotional as well as mental support. Within the context of marriage, man and woman become family and support each other as one unit. Through worse and good, they share and stand by each other. They share and discuss issues thus coming up with better ways of responding to challenges in this world. Companionship is a great aspect of marriage life. A marriage partner is a companion that one shares with and works with on given life assignments.
It has to be noted that avoiding marriage often leads to bad ills in society. Some people die of loneliness especially once they begin to age. For example, a lady who has been living a high life and avoiding marriage is likely to find self not attracting much attention once she is in late thirties or forties.
Living a single life may appear cool and full of freedom but it has its consequences (Garry, 20). It often means dealing with people who are only interested in fulfilling their lust and moving on. It also means not having any committed partner to rely on in hard times.
Modern Attitudes towards Marriage
In the traditional days, marriage was a given and men and women married as they wished as long as they had enough wealth. In our times, some people seem not to be very keen on marriage. I posed the question to fellow friends on whether marriage is cool and I got very mixed reactions. From the responses, it appears like many young people are not very enthusiastic about getting married or marrying.
Young people think that marriage is too demanding and does not work. The liberal ideologies of the west seem to have found way into our colleges and universities. People are beginning to tend to think that freedom is an absolute. Can man or woman be totally free? Can we think of freedom without responsibility? Unfortunately, freedom always goes hand in hand with responsibilities.
Types or forms of Marriage
Most marriages in Alkhobar tend towards a one man, one woman kind of setting or relationship. It is not just in Alkhobar, it is generally accepted around the world that one man, one woman is the most desirable kind of marriage. However, it is interesting to note that there are also many polygamous families here in Alkhobar and around the world.
I understand very well that Islamic teaching does not prohibit polygamy. There are some people that believe polygamy is a solution to many unfaithfulness related problems in marriages. However, the young people I interacted with are not by any chance interested in polygamy. Among youngsters, polygamy is understood as being degrading for the women. Secondly, due to many life challenges due to changing socio-economic factors, polygamy is untenable.
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The anti-polygamy wave is largely understood by traditionalist thinkers in Alkhobar as being a western influence. Those who support polygamy understand monogamous arrangements as mere perpetuations of western values. The pro-polygamy campaigners argue that the ratio of women to men is high.
Through polygamy all women can find a husband. Secondly, pro-polygamy campaigners argue that by such an arrangement, extra-marital affairs will be reduced. In response to this assertion, the anti-polygamist point out that not all men can attend satisfactorily to many wives. If the women’s needs are not fully met, they turn to other men thus perpetuating unfaithfulness. The pro-polygamist also argue that through such like an arrangement, widows and orphans can find maintainers and provider.
Such an argument relies on the thinking that men are supposed to be providers and protectors in the family. Unfortunately or fortunately, in the modern family, the gender roles have undergone significant transformation. The roles of providing and protecting are no longer, solely, a man’s roles. Many women can work and thus provide for their families.
Dating is a new phenomenon in the Arab world which is widely accepted and approved by younger generations. In traditional days, individuals did not engage in any form of romance until when married. In some instances, individuals only came to know of their spouses on the wedding day. Times have changed and young people these days have access to all sorts of information. From adolescence onwards, teens are keen on love related stories and episodes.
Most of the young people I interacted with while investigating this subject understand fully well what dating is. My observations from general society are that Alkhobar is still conservative in its values about marriage, family and the expression of love. However, new conceptions of love are surely taking root.
The new conception stipulates that love is something to be explored before it matures. The old conception was that love is ordained by God. When it comes to marriages, love was not emphasized but rather the purpose and divine ordination of the institution. Slowly, marriage as a covenant ordained by God is giving way. Many young people do not take marriage as being covenantal or as binding as it was traditionally believed; marriage is seen more as a mere contract that can be broken if it is not working.
In our world of today, youths tend towards exploring and experimenting before settling down. As Jones and Wilson (350) explain, dating is taken as a crucial aspect or stage leading to marriage. Dating has also changed gradually all over the world. A date for young people is not just about going to some movie together or playing together or reading together.
Due to proliferation of romantic literature, even youngsters want to play prince and princess charming with each other. From my interactions with fellow friends, I realize that many youths want to go all the way and even explore sex on dates. The trend is a little alarming for those who believe in sex outside marriage being a sin. It is also very discomforting because all caution is thrown to the wind by people who fear responsibility; the reason why they do not want to commit to marriage.
Are premarital relationships necessary or unnecessary? This is a question for debate and it is a hot debate among scholars and religious leaders. Jones and Wilson (355-380) describe dating scenarios across the globe. From what they present it is clear that dating is accepted and encouraged worldwide. My interaction with fellow young people in Alkhobar city informs me that some engage in premarital relationships and a majority support dating.
What is crucial is for each individual to understand what difference dating makes. Personally, I am convinced that dating has many benefits if approached responsibly. Responsible dating would mean individuals knowing their boundaries and appreciating need for respecting each other.
Forced and Early Marriages
A report based on a research by Dr. Shawky & Milaat (1) indicates that 27% of marriages in Jeddah are early marriages. The report relates that early forced marriages are not just an exceptional case but a common practice in Saudi Arabia. I am sure, among us, we know many individuals who have been married off before their sixteenth birthday.
Early marriage refers to the marrying off of young girls before at least age sixteen. It is a pity that some traditionalist parents still force their children into marriage. Arranged marriages are still a norm across the Arab World (Makki, 115).
Here in Alkhobar there have been many cases of forced marriages. An arranged marriage is not necessarily a forced marriage. If a marriage is arranged and the boy and girl consent to it as adults, it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is case where against a child’s will (especially the girls) parents marry them off, sometimes to older men in society.
In Islamic tradition, it is taught that a man has to seek the agreement of both the parents and the girl to a marriage (Cornell, 58). It is taught that silence from a girl whose consent has been sought implies acceptance. The teaching makes sense; it does not permit the forcing of a girl to get married if she has reservations and has communicated them.
Many parents force their children into marriage so that they are paid dowry. This is against Islamic teaching because a parent is not permitted to use dowry paid on a child without the child’s permission or authorization.
Come we stay or temporal marriages have for long been practiced around the world. In this kind of marriage, two individuals agree to live together exercising roles of husband and wife for some time. Many agree to such an arrangement to gauge if they can live comfortably live as husband and wife or not.
From the people I have interacted with, this kind of marriage is not practiced in Alkhobar. However, some of the visitors that come to Alkhobar are not formally married. Moreover, with social change due to western influence sweeping over most cultures around the world, it would not be surprising that future generations may tend towards this kind of arrangement.
Temporal marriages were practiced among Arabs before conversion to Islam (Cornell, 127). Islam, like Christianity, aims at removing any ancient practices that do not serve the common good or the interest of individuals in the long run. Islam forbid temporal marriages and stipulates that men should marry a girl only after receiving the blessings of the girl’s parents (Nasr, 87).
In any marriage there ought to be a trustee and at least two witnesses. Sex as per the Islamic faith is only permissible with ones duly or properly married wife. Sex in temporal marriage would be interpreted as fornication.
The major factor that makes people to tend towards temporal marriages is expediency. People want to loose their cake and have it at the same time. Fear of commitment due to economic and general lifestyle issues lead people into preferring temporal arrangements. Unfortunately, the temporal arrangements end up not serving the needs of both partners.
In often cases, it is the women that end up used and dumped by the men. Rather than treating each other with the respect that befits husband and wife, people in temporal arrangements treat each other as experimental objects. Their transitory nature means that individuals are not able to seriously focus on developmental issues as a couple. Why would one want to involve the partner fully if the arrangement is only temporal?
Recommendations and Conclusion
It has been established that there are general changes on perceptions or conceptions on marriage. The shift has been occasioned partly by globalization and changing economic circumstances (Nasr, 17). Globalization has facilitated closer interaction between cultures. The western culture which is more liberal is most appealing to youths than the traditional Arabic culture that is based on Islamic teaching.
The shift to more liberal outlooks is both positive and alarming. There is a general perception among young people that traditional values are primitive and archaic (Nasr, 8). However, a closer inspection reveals that the traditional view points have some logical rationale that grounds them. Therefore, I would recommend creation of forums and programs that enable youths to discuss issues to do with family and marriage openly. The youths seem not to be keen about marriage.
Rather than looking at marriage as a burden, people in authority should devise ways of educating young people about the purpose and beauty of marriage. Old customs that are not supportive to general wellbeing of individuals in this century ought to be revised. To identify the old customs that are not longer serving a good purpose, I recommend more tolerance and dialogue in the populace of Alkhobar city. Tolerance and dialogue can be nurtured and developed, if our leaders develop the will and interest.
Cornell, J. Vincent. Voices of Islam: Voices Of Life: Family, Home, and Society Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
Dr. Shawky, Sherine, and Milaat Waleed. Cumulative Impact of Early Maternal Marital Age during the Childbearing Period. 1999. Wiley and son, Inc. 30th December, 2009. Web.
Gary, Thomas. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Michigan: Zondervan, 2002.
Jones, Judy, and Wilson William. An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn’t. 3rd Ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006.
Makki, M. S. Medina, Saudi Arabia: A Geographic Analysis of the City and Region UK: Avebury, 1982.
Nasr, Hossein, Seyyed. The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity UK: Harper Collins, 2004.