Ok y’all, today I want to talk about something that goes on in the Muslim community, both in the US and the “East,” that I really just can’t wrap my brain around: weddings.
When I was getting married to my husband, I did all the research and prepared—witnesses, check; simple yet pretty dress that I can wear with hijab, check; some small halal cakes and juice for those who are there, check. It was the simplest affair you can imagine: nikkah at the mosque with some friends as witnesses, dinner with family later.
So when I got invited to a couple weddings here by friends of my mother-in-law’s, I thought it would be great to see a more traditional wedding in an actual Muslim country.
As you have probably read, I ranted about the covering and the mixing of men and women at weddings in another post, but I was silly enough to go to another wedding after that incident (wearing a pink jilbab set this time, at least!) and what I would really like to write about today are the shocking, extravagant ends that people go to for their weddings, while they are doing exactly the opposite of what is recommended by Islam.
My experience here is with Algerian weddings so that is what I will be writing about, but I have heard just many stories from other Arabic countries as well as many Muslim communities back home in the United States and the United Kingdom.
There are so many things that happen at these weddings that are so far beyond the bounds of what is normal/necessary, and especially the trend here in Algeria seems to be “who can do the MOST” of anything.
Who can rent the biggest hall, who can wear the most dresses (I have seen women change six or seven times in a wedding), who can wear the most makeup, who can have the biggest hair, who can wear the most gold, who can dance the sexiest, who plays the loudest music.
A wedding is no longer about the halal union of a man and a woman, the beginning of a life together, but instead it has become a pageant, who can be the prettiest, who can spend the most.
It all begins with the drive to the rented hall: everyone dresses up in their most showy outfits, decorates the cars (sometimes they even rent four or five extra cars if they don’t have them), and drive through the city at race-car pace, laying on their horns and flashing their lights to let everyone know, “look at us.”
“Give the relative his due, and the needy, and the traveller, and squander not (your wealth) in wantonness. Lo! The squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord.” Qur’an 17:26-27
And then there is the main feature of the party: the music. At the wedding I just went to recently for a cousin of a cousin of a cousin-in-law, we got there around six in the afternoon and were greeted by booming music. It was traditional Arabic wedding music, which in and of itself I don’t mind too much (there are differences of opinion on music/entertainment on special occasions, so I can live with that), but the volume was completely ridiculous.
Even after going outside of the hall, down the stairs, and out into a different hallway, I still could not hear my husband on the phone.
After the bride was brought in and paraded around in a couple of different outfits (accompanied by all male musicians of course), we all went to dinner.
Dinner is always my favorite part of a wedding here—simple, home-made food, that is usually both delicious and healthy. Dinner is, for the most part, the most Islamic part of the whole affair.
After dinner, however, we go back up to the hall, and things take a turn for the crazy.
The music shifted from excessively loud Arabic music, to even louder American and European music. The younger women all changed their traditional gondoras to tight, body-con style mini-dresses, and the dancing began. Honestly, the only difference between this and a nightclub of my pre-Islam days was that there was no alcohol.
And then it got worse.
The DJ put on some strange Arabic music, which was weird enough to begin with. Most of the women stayed sitting at their tables having their coffee or tea and chatting with other women, but sometimes a random woman would get up and start to dance.
I guess you can’t even call it dancing, it was more like flailing, shaking, and swaying around. Other women would get up and hold on to them from the back so they didn’t fall over, and as the music progressed their dancing got crazier and crazier. Some women broke into a sweat, others looked like they were in some sort of trance with mouths lolling open and eyes rolled back, and one even fell on the floor and rolled around convulsing.
As the song came to an end some women started going around with bottles of strong perfume and slathering it on the faces of the dancing women, to bring them back around.
My husband tells me that women who do that have jinn in their bodies, and when they head this kind of music they lose control of themselves, though sometimes they get together and play this music in personal specifically to call some jinn up. He has even seen the men at parties do this and eat glass, or stick knives in themselves.
I can’t even figure out what exactly is supposed to be going on, or why they would even think to do this, but it seems like some sort of entertainment.
And no one else was so disturbed by it like I was.
This is pretty much the standard for weddings here.
So yeah, you can see how I have been thoroughly traumatised by weddings in Algeria. Not only do they go to such extravagant means in the party before the ceremony is even conducted, turning it into a huge competition, but they go to such extravagant means in things that are at best, in the grey area between halal and haraam.
I always ask myself, how is there supposed to be any barakah, any blessing, in a marriage that begins with women writhing on the floor with jinn in their bodies as entertainment? How with there be any intimacy in a marriage that begins with women shamelessly letting men wander around a room where they are all not only uncovered, but in the height of decoration? How with there be any peace and tranquillity in a marriage that begins with pounding music? How will there be any rizq, any provision, any sustenance in a wedding that is founded on extravagance upon extravagance?
How are you supposed to build a life together, when you have just gone bankrupt buying all of this gold that your future wife (or her family) demanded, and taken out loans with huge interest just to pay for the hall and the cars and the DJ and the dresses…
Abu Hurayra (ra) reported: The Prophet (pbuh) said, “A woman is married for four things: for her wealth, for her lineage, for her beauty, or for her piety. Select the pious, may you be blessed.” Bukhari and Muslim
I think this all comes from a loss of perspective in today’s materialistic society. Today in both the West and the East, everybody seems to think that the wedding is the happy ending. In any romantic movie you watch there is the meeting, the dating, then some angst, then they get back together and BOOM, they get married. And there it ends.
Women are told that they need to find the perfect man to “complete” them, and that once they get married they will somehow be the happiest, most perfect woman in the world.
And men get the impression that once they get married they will have the perfect person to do all the housework, look lovely all the time, and also be available to answer their every beck and call.
But really, the marriage is the beginning. Getting married is the farthest thing from the happy ending—it should be a happy beginning. It should be a day to think about your life, your plans, your goals, and decide how you are going to now work together with another human to achieve these things.
It should be the beginning of a lifetime of work, working together and working for each other, to build the best life together that you can.