Sunio: Marriage, religion, and traditions

FOR the majority who are living liberal lives of the post-modern world, traditions such as arranged marriage, giving of dowry, and polygamy would likely be uncanny. Most people might mistake these concepts to take away the liberty and rights of those involved. However, it's not always the case. Sometimes, the practice of these traditions is liberty in itself, depending on the degree.

As a matter of fact, if you criticize the practice of their cultural and religious rights, you then impede their liberty.

I admit, it's going to be a difficult job to comment about cultural matters when I am not even directly affiliated to a tribe that traditionally practice such. But for someone who had been exposed and had witnessed the practice of these first-hand, I lay my thoughts about the matter.

My friends, classmates, former students, and workmates have enlightened me about the principles behind arranged marriages. Some of them were involved in these, as a matter of fact.

Polygamy is legally allowed to practice by Muslims. A lot ask why, and the answer lies in the Islamic Holy Book, the Qur'an, where a man may marry up to four women under the following conditions: 1) The first wife consents to her husband marrying another woman; 2) The man can provide equal love, attention, and provision to his wives; and 3) If the woman is an orphan and no longer has anyone to support or sustain her.

Considering the third condition, polygamy is somehow a form of generosity and good deed. By marrying the woman, you ensure perpetual support for her to ensure her survival, unlike one-time donations do.

Arranged marriages is also widely practiced among Meranaws here in Lanao del Sur. This happens when parents decide who and when their child will marry. Upon many Meranaw marriage as well, a groom is obliged to give dowry to the family of the wife.

This is actually parental care working most of the time, where the parents ensure that their child will be with a partner whom they know would treat him or her well, and would give him or her a good family in the future.

Marriage, in the Meranaw culture, is also mostly the union of two families, that's why in the Meranaw marriage ceremony, the man faces the father and makes a pact with him first, instead of the bride. Parental marriage is also usually done with the consent of the child who is about to be married.

The giving of dowry is also a form of the guaranteeing the woman's safety and financial security. It shows that a man is capable to provide for the woman and raise a family. It also signifies a woman's worth and importance. Most of the dowry as well goes to the funds of the couple to start a new life and family together.

Marriage is also often done to preserve the dignity of the woman or to allow a husband to protect her.

This does not simply put a price tag on a woman, contrary to some beliefs.

It only becomes harmful when a child is forced into a marriage, especially using emotional or physical threats, which does not always happen. Sadly, there are also cases when a family would marry-off their daughter to a wealthy man for the big dowry he could give.

I have also had some students who were married off while still studying, while some were arranged for marriage during high school. Because of the marriage, some were no longer able to focus to going to school, being devoted to their husbands and kids.

But then again, these does not always happen. Some other rumors you might have heard are isolated cases, or may be a product of greed in some people. Nonetheless, these do not reflect the whole religion nor the whole tribe. These shortcoming are but mere human errs. These, then, definitely contradicts what their holy texts states.

Oftentimes, these blunders are even committed because the person does not adhere to what his religion prescribes.

For now, I can tell you that I had students who were still able to graduate, even with flying colors, despite being involved in these practices. I also have friends who were children from polygamous marriages, from third and fourth wives, and yet, are now prolific professionals. The giving of hard-earned dowry of my friend's classmate earned him the trust of his bride-to-be's parents.

Despite what seems to be uncanny practices, Muslims are still able to live normal and productive lives and found liberty in being allowed to live out their traditions.
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