Monday, May 17, 2010

Part 3: Wedding Customs & Non-Islamic traditions

** Part 3 of Wedding Customs & Non-Islamic traditions

"This whole world is an enjoyment, and its best enjoyment is a righteous wife."[Hadith Muslim]

Weddings are meant to be an occasion of real rejoicing and joy for the couple themselves and the whole community. I say meant because, somewhere along the way it had become a rather stressful and nerve wrecking event. So what makes wedding so stressful? The stress and nerve wrecking situation happens because of the extravagance and the violation of the Islamic code of conduct. The terrible competitiveness between the hosts and guests to have an extravagant wedding makes it impossible to plan a rather perfect wedding for the "people's eye". We want everything to seem perfect in dunyaa that we have forgotten to realise the purpose of Shari'ah being revealed. Shari'ah is always revealed with a purpose and its main purposes are to preserve religion, life and health, family and lineage, intellect and property. Within the Shari'ah it is possible for people to have genuine joy and fulfilment. The rejection of Shari'ah would lead to misery, ill-health, bankcruptcy, being forgotten and despised in old age and desperate death, if not in this world then it would be in the hereafter. The punishment we'll get hereafter is beyond one's imagination.

I don't know if I've mentioned this in my previous posts but there may be people who will say "Well, we do not place importance on these rites nor do we think they are significant. We only carry them out to please either the wife/husband, father/mother, relatives, children". If there are people who would say such a thing then it's up to the wise and intelligent members of the family to educate the rest on the violation of the Shari'ah. Some may accept straight away to dismiss the rites and traditions but some might put a fight and insist on having them on the wedding day. The question is, isn't this rebellious attitude an indication of how important such rites are to them? Many of us would think that omission of any of the rites mentioned simply would NOT be a wedding.

Below are some of the Indian rituals that have been famously incorporated in Malay Muslim's weddings.

Wedding party (reception)

The Vivaha (a book of Hindus on marriage customs) explains that on the wedding day, the groom with his friends and relatives goes to the house of the bride on a conveyance suited to his status. In the past, the elephants were recommended for Princes and the rich, nowadays they are replaced by Rolls Royce or Merc etc. On arrival, the groom stands outside the gate of the house facing east and is welcomed by a company of women (the bride's family/relatives).

There are those who go to certain extent by either hiring cars or even buying new cars just for the reception. The better the car, apparently, the better your status is. However, if we follow the Quran and Shari'ah, this only means exhibitionism and gross extravagance. The Quran carries a terrible warning for such behaviour. Here's an excerpt I researched that suits the said situation; "Believer! Do not nullify your acts of charity by stressing your benevolence and causing hurt as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen by people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. The example of his spending is that of a rock with a thin coating of earth upon it: when a heavy rain smites it, the earth is washed away, leaving the rock bare; such people derive no gain from their acts of charity. Allah does not set the deniers of the Truth on the Right Way." (Al-Baqarah:264)

Obviously those who have adopted 'non-Islamic' rites in marriage, indulge in extravagant expenses up to the point where financial loans are necessary. We know how detestable it is to loan with interest etc. So it's best if we could spend according to what we could afford. Insha'Allah.

Offering gifts (Hantaran/wedding presents)

'Hantaran' on it's own is already known as a form of exhibitionism. I remember about 15 years ago when my brother got married, his hantaran was mostly food (for the families) and clothing. But now, the more 'hantaran' you give, the superior you'll appear. People would stand closely and thoroughly examine each and every gift given on that day way before the bride/groom gets a chance to. And expressions such as "WOW!! That LV (or insert any designer names) handbag must've cost him a bomb!!" "She gave him an iPad for his hantaran???? Ohh, I must get that for mine too." Everyone will compare and wanting the same or more for their day just because others have done it.

Iskandar and I had hantaran too. My Mom didn't like the idea of hantaran as it's such a waste of money and just annoying to decorate it etc etc. During my sis' wedding, she didn't have any hantaran. So on mine, we just bought nice boxes and put the 'gifts' in the box and not let anyone see it but the groom's family when they have brought it home. We didn't know there was a session whereby you had to say what was being presented. Since my Uncle was the spokesperson, he didn't have any idea what was in the boxes either. So he just settled by saying "I'm sure you will like and appreciate what ever is presented to you in these boxes, Insha'Allah". It is good to give presents, no doubt, as Aishah (Radhi Allahu Anha) said, the Messenger of Allah (Salallahu Alaihi Wassalam) is reported to have said, "Give presents to one another, for a present removes hatred." (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)

However, the concept is wrong when people give the present in a great show to an extent of wrapping it in transparent paper (or not wrapping it). The recipient will also make a note of who gave what so that in future they know what to give in return (depending how much it costs). Instead of an honest and wholehearted gift, people are exchanging presents either because they received something from the past or expects something in the future. The barakah and love one may hope to get is lost because either the receiver finds it a burden to 'reply' in future or even the giver will silently suffer until he receives a gift similar to the one he gave.

There are also in some communities whereby the presents (usually money) are being kept by the parents because to them, the bride has only received them because the parents had given them in the past. So these people treat their daughters as if they are their financial assets. Like in my case, I willingly let my parents have all the money because I didn't fork out anything for the reception. So, it's only fair since they paid for all of it. It's best to ask if the bride/groom need the money as they might need it for their journey to start a family soon.

Blessing the couple

The Hindu tradition orders that the assembled guests and relatives bless the bride/couple: the women stroke their fingers over the heands and faces of the couple, reciting some verses over them and then cracking their fingers against their own heads. Alright, we Malays don't really do this kind of things but the idea of merenjis is definitely from this tradition, right? The Paraskara Grhya Sutra also guides that after having blessed the couple the guest must go back to their seats/home. So, that's so much like the merenjis event in our culture.

Most of the Hindu ceremonies are symbolic. Some of the classes symbolises union and others in desire to promote fertility or to assure abundance of food for the household. Some ceremonies are also to ward off danger and evil spirited. Sadly, MOST of the Indians rituals are adopted in Muslim weddings. I'm sure you'd think, what's wrong with promoting, fertility etc etc, the point here is, a prayer/do'a for the couple is sufficient enough. One doesn't have to go such extremes to give well wishes to the couple or family members. We must constantly compare and contrast our practices with those ordained by the Glorious Quran and the Sunnah. Follow what is right and reject what is outside the bounds of Islam. Allah says in the Quran: Verily, this is My Way, Leading straight: follow it: Follow not (other) paths: They will scatter you about From His great Path: Thus He commands you, That you may be righteous. (Al An'am:153)

Suffice to say, the event mentioned above have now became a highly exhibitionist one wherein family members try to out-perform one another in expectation on applause from the other guests. Nauzubillahi Minzalik. Since now we know that most of the traditions came from other religions, wouldn't it be nice if we were to dismiss them and follow our Prophet's teachings? Why not we start to invite people to join us in the sane and noble way of Islam rather than we trade our Islam for their disastrous way of life? That's a thought for us all. :)

I'll end this entry here by saying, Allah knows best!!! I also pray that we will all assist each other and take heed of the great counsel from the ayah of Quran and the Sunnah so that in the life hereafter we join and stand with the people of the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wassalam). Amin!

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