When I began putting this piece together, I only had the idea of what I was writing; I didn’t know the topic I would give it yet. I knew I was about writing a piece that could cause great hullabaloo if the message eventually gets misconstrued. I had some understanding and belief that this piece could spur some revolution in the brothers’ ‘attitude’ towards the sisters and resolve forever what has always caused issues between both genders. Before I continue, I have some requests to make. This is basically about the reader’s understanding and interpretation of this piece. It should be understood totally now that this is not a condemnation of anyone’s gesture or article and if a rebuttal will follow, it should be with the intention of turning things right and bring harmony among Muslim brothers and sisters. I do not write this today to support the brothers and it is as well not to attack the female gender. This column will not even allow me to take side as the aim is not to only spot problems but also proffer solutions to them.
Marriage is an issue the Muslims cannot afford to not discuss. Its importance is recognised by the prophet, for him to have said whoever engages in marriage has completed half of his/her faith. Perhaps this is also why he made sure everyone of his companions who needed conjugal attention got it, even if they had nothing than a ring as dowry. Man and woman will have to come together and live under a roof at a point when necessary in life. They will together and individually share some responsibilities as couples. This is just natural. I like to quote one of our fathers in the department of Arabic and Islamic Studies. I am totally mesmerised and amused the when he explains that he married his wives all from MSSN. It is sad that the possibility of this amongst youths today is becoming disturbingly slim: a sister from University of Ibadan would go to some Madrasat far away to marry a brother and brothers too have lost interest in university sisters so that their search engines now find results only at some Health Schools in Eleyele and Polytechnics. For some reasons, we have put hurdles in our own ways. Brothers don’t know the ‘single sisters’ to approach and the sisters are not sure if the brothers do worth it. We live in a cycle of it-all-ends-with-friendship. Some of the committees and forums formed to encourage intimacy are just a mockery of it. At finalist forum where one should be free to make selection, one will have to think and rethink the possible outcome before approaching any sister. What an imprisonment we have afforded ourselves! But that is still not all. We hold grudges against each other and discuss each gender’s affair like politicians do. The sisters are complaining that brothers are not dressing well to their standard and brothers protest about the ‘too classic demands’ of the sisters. Our demand and supply curves obviously do not meet; they are parallel more than it has ever been. This should not and will not continue!
The prophet said in a tradition that there are three ways to correct people- with our hands, mouth or the heart. The bravest is the correction done with the hand. If a Muslim notices another Muslim doing something wrong, it becomes a responsibility on him to try and correct his erring brother. He should never watch him live in the state of ignorance. It is not right for a Muslim to gloat at other people’s weakness. It is wrong, totally wrong. If you cannot walk up to someone and tell them their dress code is out of it, tell someone who can. Remember that you can device every possible means to get your message passed politely to someone you have developed feelings for without embarrassing anyone. Do the same to correct who needs to be corrected and stop mentioning it to the whole world. It is important to also state the harm in expecting more than a man or woman can offer in a relationship. Do not expect a mansion from someone who cannot afford a hut. Or why do you complain that ‘UI brothers are poor’ when you know that we are all students? Leave him with what he can afford now till Allah blesses him more.
Experience garnered and shared by elderly ones show that matrimony is not a thing we should expect too much from the beginning. Start with whatever you have at the time and stand firm with Allah. So far your intention is right and pure; you will become sufficient or at least comfortable in few years to come. From successful couples, when they share their experience, you will get to know that they started with almost nothing. That is where and why I get confused when sisters today (unnecessarily) expect a perfect system from brothers at the beginning.
Today we have stories of young divorcees; people who were married only in five years and want divorce already. Why do you think people resort to divorce? Misunderstanding each other in a marriage or asking for too much than your partner can give is a big problem for couples. When you argue and fight every day, even in front of your sons and daughters, one day you will want nothing but separation. Now, think of the disaster that follows broken home- the dreams that are killed and potentials that get murdered. Our mothers were never this impatient; they share their stories with us. Now is the time for training against post-matrimonial challenges.
Some of us may not know what ‘Abe Igi Anu Syndrome’ is all about. And most of us are strange to the article written by Alabi-Olalere Toheeb titled around ‘we will go to poly’ in search of sisters some years back. On Fridays, young brothers and sisters fill the mosque terrain after the Jumah service, either looking for their best match or meeting their found heart. It is again a different story today. Brothers and sisters meet only at faculty meetings, committee sittings or MSSN programmes. We have reduced intimacy amongst the genders to an unexpected, alarming level. We really need to change. We cannot continue this way.
It is also of importance that I comment on the notion of some sisters today who say that they cannot marry someone from their class or someone in their level. I am happy to have listened to Mufti Ismail Menk in one of his beautiful series. There are cultures which have to be superseded by religion. In India for example, the bride pays the dowry. This is cultural and is against the religion of Islam, so we drop it. He also mentioned the culture of‘my elder ones first before me’ that we do in this part of the world. No one knows who Allah puts first. Since our existence on this surface differs, our planning must also be different. We respond to matrimonial need differently. There should be nothing like I cannot marry someone of my age or someone in my class. These are just thoughts becoming popular today which no one knows where they emanated from. The prophet’s marriage to Khadija is enough an example to everyone. Even though this is not compulsory, your choice of not marrying someone of the same age must not sound like that is what Islam preaches. If you do not like it, so be it.
To sound a little bit like I am representing the brothers, I will like to say we are grateful that you voiced out and we will improve on matters that really need improvement. Mufti Menk also once said that it is not bad to ‘look at look’ when planning to marry. The sisters can look well at a brother they wish to marry. Then the best is to find a way of helping them improve on where they lack, not gloating at it. And care must be taken to not look too much than Islam permits.
You may have to bring down your ‘search-score’ a little to do the Sunnah of Marriage. When you are hooked, correct your spouse. For things to work out well between brothers and sisters, each party has to be understanding. The brothers need redress. The sisters need more consideration. It is really easier to find someone to marry at your place or environment than going out to betroth a stranger. Among the complaints made by sisters is that brothers do not care. Even if you are not going to later ask someone’s hand in marriage, you still have to show some level of concern for your Muslim brethren. It should not be when you need them that you put a call through. Like I wrote in one of the articles in this column, ‘it may be your knock that will save someone from apostasy.’ The sisters are now stating what they want in the brothers they would marry. Let the brothers who want to marry ‘UI sisters’ pay attention and make necessary changes! We do not have to go to Poly at all, what we need is all here.
May Allah guide us right!
There is no harm in expecting much from UI brothers, it is expecting too much dangerous. May Allah save us from us.