WHICH do you prefer, “love before marriage” or “marriage before love?”
You may be having an answer or even subsequent questions to this query.
Well, it is all because in a Meranaw society, intimate love relationship before marriage is a debatable reality.
Surprised? Am sure you are.
I too have my own taste of having confusions and frustrations when it comes to love and marriage.
I am a Meranaw by race and Islam is my religion.
Yet, there are gray areas in my culture that will always be subjected to long debates in all forms of social avenues.
There are some Meranaw practices that are confused with Islamic tradition.
In my own family alone, views vary.
Some of my elders would say that love before marriage is true only among men; while others say that it must be mutual; others would say that it is forbidden to fall in love first before marriage, etc.
But can one really marry a person he or she doesn't love at all?
Or worse, can one marry someone he or she doesn't even know?
For me, yes is the answer to both.
In my own clan, I know of a case where both a man and his wife got married at a very young age through a parental-arranged marriage without the presumed intimate love and knowledge of each other before their marriage.
Feelings and intimacy are not usually the concerns of a Meranaw marriage but rather driven by political affiliations, clannish reasons, “utang na loob,” and sometimes, financial motivations.
Nevertheless, a lot of our Meranaw cultural problems and discomforts were modified when Islam is practiced by families.
For example, it is required in Islam that both men and women should be consulted of a marriage that parents would be arranging.
In other words, a woman has a right to say 'no' to a proposed marriage.
This has changed the plight of many marriages today.
Along with this controversy is the equally contentious polygamous marriage among Meranaws.
Recently, my non-Meranaw student asked me if polygamy is a norm among Meranaw men.
I told her that polygamy is a choice, not a requirement.
In fact, in the Islamic point of view, the Almighty said in the Qur'an (Surah An- Nisah, Verse 3), "marry women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with them, then only one, or what your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice."
Therefore, a man has a choice to marry two, three or four, with the condition to treat them fairly.
In simple logic though, how can one be JUST to two different individuals with diverse needs and characteristics?
Since many studies say that men are polygamous in nature, Islam has allowed polygamy for an important reason.
Personally, I only see one good effect on the part of the children. In our community, no one is a child out of wedlock. One can be a second wife's child but he/she is legally recognized as part of the patriarchal family.
Issues raised here are still debatable and unacceptable to many Meranaw families today.
However, love and marriage have reminded us again that being a Meranaw and being a Muslim are two different concepts.
These two are never equal and the same.
Related issues such as divorce, dowry and marital relationships are few topics to look forward to in the next articles.
Again, this is only a Meranaw perspective. (Prof. Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph)
(Professor Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph is currently the chairperson of the Communication and Media Department, Mindanao State University, Marawi City.)