There are many misconceptions about Islam that are currently prevalent in the west. The media has not helped to ease these misconceptions. It has rather spread disinformation about Islam. One of these misconceptions is about marriages in Islam. This is more apparent in the Britain. News items have appeared in the national newspapers about the forced marriages of the British girls in Pakistan. The news is always presented in such a way that it implies that it is an Islamic practice. It is not. We have to look it in a proper perspective to analyze why does it happen.
Britain has a large Muslim immigrant community, majority of them are from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The immigrants from Pakistan are mostly from Mirpur (Kashmir) who came here in the sixties after Old Mirpur was submerged in Mangla Dam water reservoir. The other group of immigrants were mostly from Rawalpindi, Jhelum and the adjoining areas. They were given immigration because of their services with the British Colonial Army. These two largest immigrant groups were mostly un-educated labour classes. Their knowledge about Islam was very limited too. These immigrants were mostly employed in the textile Mills of Lancashire. They also settled in Bradford, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinborough. Their limited knowledge and hard work in the factories gave them little time to enhance their secular or religious education. They had strong family ties. They continued to marry their children to their cousins in Kashmir and Pakistan. The elders arranged these marriages. In most the cases spouses accepted it as they were ignorant and had no will to face their authoritarian parents. Some were defiant enough to challenge their parent’s authority. They resented these forced marriages and sought the help from the British Consulates in Pakistan and police in Britain. The British News Media gave massive coverage to this news. This emerged as an Islamic system where forced marriages are common. The British Media inflated this news and a wrong impression was created in the minds of the masses. This had adverse effect on the UK Muslim community, which had already become target of vicious attacks from many for its seclusion from the general stream. The fact is that forced marriages have nothing to do with Islam. These marriages are the result of personal interest and understanding of the individuals concerned.
Islam has a very clear guideline on the marriages. It gives right to the Muslim women to voice their like or dislike about a marriage proposal. They are allowed to see their suitors, talk to them and decide for themselves. Their elders of course, attend these meetings. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said “Some men marry women for their beauty, some for their wealth but it is the best if you marry a woman who is a good Muslim.” (Sahih Bukhari) This guideline clearly shows us our preference for choosing a bride and bridegroom as well. There is no preference for marrying cousins or marrying for the sake of wealth or powerful connections.
It is a fact that most of the parents want their children to marry to a person with wealth and good moral character. It is quite natural for the parents. The matter becomes out of control when any one or both the parents want to marry their sons or daughters to their relatives. In this case the alliance may become unsuitable to the married couple. It becomes painful to pass the life with discord among the couples. This is purely a social problem. Islam gives the rights to men and women to select their spouses and divorce if there is incompatibility. Women in Islam have their rights confirmed more than 1400 hundreds years ago when the women in Europe and elsewhere were no more than the slaves, ready to fulfill the whims of men.