The pursuit of happiness is hard but rewarding task. It demands great effort and provides great anticipation to its worthy prize--that is satisfaction. Some patiently bear with the long wait it endures while some eagerly exert more and more effort to shorten the wait.
Happiness varies; it is the happiness we obtain from the Almighty Allah and our faith Islam we regard as the highest and greatest, next to this is the happiness we get from the people who are dear to us, and comes the happiness we acquire when we get somewhere or make a success.
In our search of happiness, love plays a vital role in the importance of its purpose. We seek for the love we could have for and from someone we consider our ideal spouse--someone whom we are most willing to give our life to, someone who will love us sincerely and we will love the same way too, just the one we are settled to be surely happy with for the rest of our life, the only one we will truly love until we breathe one's last and perish from physical life.
Millions of wonderful words that are known to mankind have been spoken, written and sang about the magic of true love. Magic because it even coincides with the forces of nature in finding the cradle where it is bound to stay. It is in the heart where no one could ever take it off and replace with another.
I have always seen our Maranao culture as a white canvass painted with the color of love. Despite of all the unbearable problems that have tried to envelop it, it remains standing proud carrying its values and traditions. All of which boost my self-esteem as a Maranao Muslim except for one, which decreases my self-worth as a person--that is our practice of "arranged marriage".
In my 26 years of existence in this world, marriage brokers have tried to penetrate to my fancy-free life's silence. These people brought me doubts on life's principle of free will because they intended to force me to be married to someone I barely know. Not once, but more. In short, they tried to dictate to me who I must love.
A marriage broker can be anyone. In our culture, it is usually the parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts who serve as its marriage brokers. They go between two people who are completely strangers to each other and arrange their marriage. "Arranged marriage" is a practice that is common to most cultures all around the world. This is actually an old practice, which until now still exists in some cultures like ours.
In our culture, it rooted out from our ancestors' value system. We value our family's pride as the prime reason for it to be regarded as among the higher class and that it has to be predominantly then put to much consideration when an intention of expanding the family occurs.
I see this practice as our cultural method of grouping people-alike together; where the rich are strictly for its own kind and the less fortunate one, the poor shall belong to its own kind as well. This method indicates complete selfishness, self-worship and egoism.
On the other hand though, I admire our family's way of securing its kin’s future. It is our tradition to value kinship that had been spread out before us by our ancestors. It is quite impressive how the marriage brokers care so much about the welfare of their kin. To some sort that they even look at it as a serious problem to deal with; thinking that to secure their kin's future, an "arranged marriage" must be the solution to it. Serious as it is to them but on the contrary, I find it shallow.
Aside from it as being traditional, there are other possible reasons why we practice "arranged marriage": First is to prevent a Maranao Muslim from marrying a non-Muslim; second is to restrain him/her from marrying a non-Maranao Muslim; and last is to control the wealth of the family.
The first possible reason is unquestionable for it is quite fair enough. The second one is I think irrational and unfair. Is it not a shining example of self-contradiction? A non-Maranao Muslim may he/she be a Maguindanaon, Tausug or from the Muslim minority groups, is just like us too for we both have the same beliefs in Islam. We are all equally the same in the eyes of the Almighty Allah--no Muslim culture is above any other Muslim culture; no one is above anyone. Each has its own respective customs, traditions and ancestral beliefs though. Finally, the third possible reason is too hideous and offensive to the ones who are not as fortunate enough as they are. Is it not a sign of self-gratification? I cannot believe that some unconscious forces can drive some people toward pleasing oneself. For all I know, it is arrogance that lurks upon them.
The dowry (marriage portion) as a wedding imperative is becoming a problem to those Maranao men who wish to marry a Maranao woman who comes from a wealthy family. This is because now, it is stereotyped exclusively to be in the form of money. If you will try to look back to our history, a dowry could be of any possession that a marriage-proposing family could offer. It could be of a piece of land, a set of jewelry and a fraction of money. This serves as “settlement” to the Maranao lady’s parents in return to the kindness, love and effort they have provided in raising their daughter properly. In the old times; chickens, carabaos, some traditional clothing or sets of kitchenware and furniture were enough to be offered as dowry.
Hence, the stereotyping of dowry now is confusing. I believe that no amount of money can buy one’s worth nor can it serve as a payment for the love and kindness one has shown. But now the dowry is as if the only important factor of marriage. It is as though being the hindrance that either puts off or cuts off the marriage. Because nowadays, the contemporary value of a dowry then goes with time and the value of peso.
It is surprising how we funnily equate money with one person's worth. Lately, I have learned that the standard dowry for a woman who belongs to the wealthy clan would not be less than half a million pesos. It somehow worries me, not for myself but for my future son’s (hopefully when I am already married and be blessed with a son, Inshaallah). When he gets mature enough to settle down with the woman he chooses to marry, I presume that the worth of that woman's dowry would more likely be a double of how much it is now or even more. Good lord, maybe I should then start saving for it.
There are Maranao males who opted to marry non-Muslims. Likewise, there have been Maranao females, very few though, who went on elopement with the men they chose to settle with; as to what culture are these men from, I would not know. What could have been the reason why they (both Maranao males and females) did this? Was it because they rebelled against something or they followed what their hearts were telling them to do? I would not know even.
To have someone turned his/her back on us and left us for another person or chose someone else over us is I think more grievous than losing someone by death for one’s death is a will of Allah. We have no reason to be angry with Allah when He decides on taking the life of someone that we dearly love. However, in a circumstance wherein we lost our beloved, someone due to his/her own will and by personal choice, it definitely creates many reasons in us to be angry, miserable and in great remorse. I could not even think of how we can possibly let go and move on without having it in mind taunt us. Moreover, I could not even know how we are going to cope with its tremors; when we are going to let it pass and when we are going to learn to forgive.
Surely, there are speculations that will argue about the strong reason behind it. It could be perhaps they got frustrated by not having what they desired to have when they thought were meant to be theirs. Or maybe because they were pushed to do something they strongly opposed to. I wish now, those Maranao males were able to keep their faith in Islam and so as our cultural ethics. And hopefully now, those Maranao females know already in their hearts that they are seriously in the wrong.
I know by the way that marriage brokers do succeed sometimes because to some, "arranged marriage" works. It worked on many Maranao couples who gave in to hope that better things could happen. I am sure that love took time to find them both. I guess it is when they finally accepted the situation they are into and the person they are with after all. Then good for them, love can be learned as how they would say. However, to some, it just does not work. It did not work on some Maranao couples who could not find love in each other. Then they ended up deciding to be better off separated. Well, a good idea for one may not be good for another. To each his own I would say.
Definitely, there are many of you who also feel my sentiments regarding our marriage brokers and our practice of “arranged marriage”. Indeed also, there are many of you who would rather take quite conservative stance religiously and/or culturally and would then defy my arguments regarding both as if I speak like a stubborn and shameful daughter for contradicting my elders and our tradition.
Well, I always know where I intend being. I say what I feel and think. I am precise that I know what I say. I know that obedience is one of our good traits. It is written in the holy Qur’an that Muslim children must always be obedient to their parents and/or elders, but how will you deter them from letting you do something, which you know in your heart would not make you happy? Will you do as they say even if you know that your personal life will be at stake? Of course there are no clear-cut answers not unless you have not been in a situation as such you will say you would obey them because your parents and/or elders would never do you any wrong.
You see, a practical reason and an ethical reason would fluctuate when we think of the necessary approach we must take in handling a situation we find serious. What one must take into consideration is its effect on the life of the person involved and not of others’. With you not complying with what your elders force you to do--to be married to someone you cannot find in your heart to believe that you will be happy with, can be seen as NOT CONTRA obedience and NOT AGAINST the teachings of Islam. I do not think it will make you less of what you must be as a daughter/son to your parents, nor make you less of the Islam-believer that you are. You have the choice but you have to take a big responsibility over it; do not do anything that will make the situation worse rather, make it better with the guidance of the loving Almighty Allah. This is not to say that our marriage brokers’ intentions are off beam or they are on the wrong track. My point is that we are all worthy of having basic individualities that deserve basic respect and trust.
Therefore, I think it is about time that our marriage brokers must set aside their own personal interest and rekindle their hope of escape from too much thinking about their kin's future concerning who he/she shall marry. I believe though that every marriage broker deserves precise appreciation for the care that he/she shows and the effort that he/she makes. But then again, I think they have to slow down in taking part in something that has little to do with their personal life.
I see great potentials in all of us. We are all brilliant--we are gifted with generous heart and intelligence. This is why we still exist in a culture with pure beginnings that are constant and intact until they reach all endings. So, let us believe in ourselves and in what we can do. Believe in what our Maranao brothers and sisters--the young and the old, the rich and the poor can do also. The Almighty Allah bestowed upon us the power of choice. Certainly, our life has its own forces that separate right from wrong and these choices are what life is about.
Believe in love and fate as well. Let love take its course and allow one's fate work on by itself. Do not create interference in love for you can never force the heart to feel what it ought not to. As with fate, do not hold one's fate into your hand for you cannot foretell whatever is inevitably decreed for anyone.
Yet again, I did not appear to be a stubborn or a shameful daughter to my parents because if so, then they could have not respected my decisions no matter how strong my refusals were. As for now, I will continue praying for the Almighty Allah to bind my sound mind to think rightly and to secure my heart from hurting. I am positive that my pursuit of happiness is nearing its closure. Though it seems to me that my fate has not been decided yet, I am still sticking up to my hopes that I will find happiness when true love finds me. Inshaallah.