Marriage and our Tradition
Marriage is an institution and there is need to understand the concept in its true sense, writes Muhammad Maroof Shah.
What is culture and why is it so important? What are our sacrosanct cultural traditions with regard to marriage and why are they sacrosanct? What is the meaning and significance of a host of rituals and practices connected with marriage in traditional set up of Kashmir? Is there a connection between cultural practices and metaphysics or spirituality? These questions are unfortunately hardly discussed by our scholars. This is possibly because we have lost the understanding of metaphysics in the light of which alone can we explain all things traditional from the style of the cap or dastaar to embroidery or design of houses. Rituals or customs connected with marriage have, generally speaking, deeper significance than we generally assume. They have higher meanings. Marriages are made in heaven and everything connected with them is ultimately, in traditional cultures, related to heaven. There are no mere customs for the sake of customs or social expediencies. Every action, ritual, ceremony has besides social significance spiritual or metaphysical reference. Nothing is merely secular or mundane for people that take belief in transcendence seriously. Do we know why marry? Why celebrate marriage? What makes marriage sacred? Why is marriage half the faith? Why have we been directed to share some food with our kith and kin on wiliema?
Here people marry because they are supposed to. The question of preventing sin by fulfilling our biological desires in a legal or sanctified manner doesn’t matter for them. If that mattered people would opt for early marriage. The question of fulfilling our iman too is irrelevant for most people. Why do we invite relatives and friends on the day? Because we are supposed or otherwise people will take us to task for not inviting. Why are we supposed to accept invitation even if it is at a great cost? Because otherwise we will earn displeasure of family or society. Here marriage is, mostly, a ritual dictated by social forces rather than any meaningful or even comprehensible event that is spiritually fulfilling and culturally enriching.
Traditionally it was believed that wife is a companion for life not an object of either lust or love as understood in popular romantic terms. It was a sacred bond that could hardly be revoked ordinarily. Today it is a social contract only with all sanctity gone. We have hardly added anything beautiful to tradition but only corrupted it. No wonder that our marriages are failing at such an alarming rate. More than 80 percent marriages are disappointing in terms of meeting of emotional and mental horizons because we have false ideals and expectation which can’t but crumble in the face of hard reality. Today people are sexually frustrated and of love they hardly know much. Very few know the virtue of lowering gaze. Lust is almost in every eye in the street or bazaar or bus. Our culture prized modesty above everything and today we hardly feel any need to worry about immodesty.
Why do we marry? This is hardly known to anybody and hardly anybody bothers to know it though people go on marrying, breeding and dying in a meaningless way. Saivist metaphysics and Islamic tradition have a complex system of ideas to answer this question. Marriage of bodies is the lowest rung on the ladder of essentially spiritual ladder of marriage leading to union with God or attaining self-realization. Sex is sacred and body is a temple of God according to Tantric Buddhist, Saivist and Islamic perspectives which constitute our Kashmiri heritage. Here most people know of marriage of bodies only. Some do cognize marriage of minds, souls and hearts but very few of the marriage of spirits. In traditional civilization all things have symbolic significance and have many levels of meaning and function. For Islam iman is incomplete or even invalid without marriage as the Prophet (SAW) has stated so emphatically. Sex gives us the foretaste of paradise. The joy of physical union is at root not carnal but spiritual according to both Saivist and Islamic traditions. Women manifests divinity as Ibn Arabi has explained. Two worlds that are to be realized according to Sufis are constituted by men and women. The Prophet of Islam (SAW) was given special power to enjoy superlative joy of physical union. Some of the most revered saints in the history of Islam have been great lovers having multiple wives and many children. All these traditions are best understood in light of Islamic metaphysics and spirituality For Islam all things are essentially sacred, holy. There is nothing merely and exclusively profane. Islam has no hesitation to employ sexual symbolism for its heaven and Sufis have been masters of erotic symbolism.
Now we come to other questions. Marriage with whom? The Prophetic injunction that we should select spouse on the basis of beauty of character rather than the beauty of body has hardly been understood. I think that arranged marriages were based on intuitive understanding of this injunction. For a lasting relationship and for appropriating spiritual significance of marriage the beauty of the body is not of great significance in Islamic perspective. One should be able to enjoy all things in God or see God equally in all things. Looks, wealth, status, family honour are the things which are kept in consideration while tying the knot. No wonder that most of our marriages are failure from spiritual perspective. Divorce rates are increasing because of faulty understanding of psychology and the relation soul and spirit or psyche.
Couples must love and seek each other madly and consent to be martyred for the sake of love. Deep down none seeks a woman or a man or mere physical union. Everything is dear to us for the sake of the Self or God and not per se. Humans are condemned to seek God in everything they adore or seek. What do we really love in our beloved? We marry because we are not God who alone is perfect and bayniyaz. We are made perfect by seeking that which we lack. Lust or biology can’t explain our behaviour and that mystery and wonder called love. God is Love. We must love or we perish. Hell is the state of absence of love. Hell is when the Great Beauty refuses to lift its veil. Marriage is such an important thing because the God of Beauty and Love is partly accessible through it. For the Prophet (SAW) prayer and women are on a par in terms of satiating our eyes or hearts. Living for the other is the key to joy and beauty of life and marriage is a means to it. We love our spouse/children above ourselves and forget our misery for their sake. Our objects of love are means of grace as they serve to lift us above the petty illusory egos. We are so attached to our families because we know anything higher than our ego through it. And joy is possible only when we transcend ego. Marriage and love dissolve ego and that is why they are sacred. Inviting people and sharing food etc with them are a means of collapsing ego. Serving is worship. Sharing cracks the shell of ego. Gifts are divine because they slice up our ego. Martyrdom is so highly praised because it is the utter destruction of self directed individuality. We must consent to give everything to God because everything is God’s. Gifts are one such mechanism of giving our things to non-other/ neighbour/ God.
We must rise above the desires of the self and different customs sanctioned by Tradition effect precisely this aim.. That marriage will never fail which is based on the recognition that we are brides and bridegroom is God; that our spouse is, at root, beautiful because God the Creator is beautiful. All quarrels are based on wrong view of self or ignorance of our true vacation. Divorce becomes unavoidable when we refuse to realize justice and cure ignorance.
Islam, like other traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, enjoins that every action must be done to please non-self or God, to humble ego, to destroy the illusion of our autonomy, to perfect the process of surrender of our will to Divine Will. Any action or custom that fails to achieve these things is condemnable. Applying these criteria let us evaluate our thoughts, desires, ambitions, motives, compulsions in marriage related actions or ceremonies. We live and act for the sake of maintaining our image, our prestige, our social status. We sacrifice all ideal and values for vanity. We are slaves to social opinion. We fear lest people make comments. We honour principles and God less than social opinion. We consent to live hypocritically for its sake. Applying insights gained from the study of traditional metaphysics and spirituality which informed our culture on the particular institution of marriage especially wazwan, we see we are fast eroding our cultural values and all bastions of culture must seriously think over the issue. Marriage is no longer affordable for most Kashmiris and it requires years of preparation and loans etc to complete al the imposed formalities and customs. Wazwan, as presently in vogue, embodies almost all the evils of a degenerate and corrupt social system. It needs revival on traditional lines and that would be a great contribution towards preservation of culture and making possible timely and simple marriages.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Nov 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Nov 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 23 Nov 2009 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
Curtailment in metered areas belies Govt claims
GK CITY CORRESPONDENT
Srinagar, Nov 22: Leave apart the unmetered colonies, the fully metered areas in the City are facing frequent power cuts belying the government claims of uninterrupted power supply. Since the Durbar More
11 BJP MLAs to join mega rally
GK NEWS NETWORK
Jammu, Nov 22: The relay hunger strike started by the Rehbar-e-Zira’at appointees under the banner of the United Forum of Jammu and Kashmir Agricultural Technocrats Association, entered its seventh day More
‘United we stand divided we fall’
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Nov 22: Stating that differences between the pro-freedom leaders were hampering the Kashmir cause, the Kashmiri civil society on Sunday said it would strive to bring the entire leadership on More
- GK Business
Spun silk vitiates quality of indigenous carpet
Srinagar, Nov 22: Despite having potential to produce reeled mulberry silk in the Valley, the indigenous carpet industry here largely depends on the imported spun silk, something experts describe as an More