In her bedroom, Saleema was sitting on her bed, staring at the beautiful red sari with rich jardosi embroidery on the borders.
“Saleema baaji … Saleema baaji!” Sabeera sounded excited as she entered Saleema’s room.
“Baaji, guess what?!” The excitement in her tone was increasing.
“Papa has agreed to take me on Hajj after your wedding.”
Saleema forced a light smile and said in a low voice, “Oh, that’d be good, Sabeera. I’m happy for you.”
“Baaji, you don’t sound too good. Are you OK?” Sabeera asked with concern.
“I’m OK, don’t worry. I haven’t slept properly for the past two days so I’m just tired.” Saleema patted her sister’s head and smiled.
“Oh OK! I understand. You’re gonna be married in a week, so you must be nervous and excited and the excitement is not allowing you to sleep, I guess!” Sabeera winked at her sister. Her eyes fell on the red sari.
“Wow, this is so beautiful, baaji, you’re gonna look like a doll in this sari!” Sabeera exclaimed pointing to the red sari on Saleema’s bed.
Saleema smiled, “Is Ummi back from Mousy’s house?”
“Not yet,” Sabeera answered.
“I just got a call from the seamstress and she said she would finish Ummi’s sari in another two days. Please tell her about this because I might forget. My memory hasn’t been good for the past few days,” explained Saleema.
“Sure, baaji, I’ll do that, but now I’d better go and clean my room before Ummi returns!” Sabeera pecked a kiss on her sister’s cheek and left her room.
Saleema was alone. She latched her door, leaned against it, and closed her eyes. Tears flowed from her cheeks. Her heart told her, “Saleema, you have the freedom to choose and you need to express your feelings before it is too late. Marriage is for tranquility. Will you have tranquility in this marriage that you don’t want?”
Saleema struggled with her heart. She asked herself, “But how will I tell them? What if they hate me and alienate me for expressing my feelings about this man?” Finally, she decided to tell Aunt Najeeba, her father’s sister whom she considered to be the most understanding and considerate member in the family.
After an hour passed, Saleema heard her mother’s voice downstairs and went down the steps slowly in order to speak to her mother. Saleema’s mother had returned from her aunt’s house with a dazzling jewelry set for her to wear on the wedding day.
“As-salamu `alaykum, Ummi,” Saleema said quietly. Her mother turned around with a big smile on her face when she saw Saleema.
“Wa `alaykum as-salam, Saleema. Look at this! I got this jewelry set for you. See whether you like it.”
“It’s beautiful,” Saleema said with a smile.
“I know, and you will look gorgeous in this. I can’t wait to see you as a bride!” Her mother was euphoric at the thought.
Saleema smiled faintly and said, “Ummi, will Mousy be coming home today …?” Before she completed her sentence, she heard the doorbell ring. Saleema answered the door hoping and wishing that it would be Aunt Najeeba and it was.
“As-salamu `alaykum!” Najeeba greeted as she entered the house.
Saleema was glad that her aunt had come and hugged and kissed her. “Wa `alaykum as-salam, Mousy. I knew you would be coming today.”
Najeeba laughed and said, “I come here almost every day, especially since your wedding got fixed. Tasneem would not leave me even if I didn’t come …” pointing to Saleema’s mother.
Tasneem laughed and greeted her. “As-salamu `alaykum. Of course, how could I leave you? You are not only my sister-in-law, but also my best friend and the bride-to-be’s aunt.”
Najeeba sat on the sofa with a huge grin and remarked to Saleema, “So you must be counting your days now.”
Saleema sat quietly next to her aunt and pretended to read a magazine until her mother left to set the table for lunch. Saleema became restless and was wondering how to approach the subject about her feelings for the man whom she was going to marry. Najeeba noticed Saleem’a restlessness and asked her, “Do you want to say something, Saleema?”
Saleema poured out her feelings and thoughts only to her aunt and like other times, Najeeba could sense Saleema’s frame of mind. Saleema always approached Najeeba if she had a problem and needed counsel.
“Yes, Mousy, I want to talk to you alone,” Saleema responded. Najeeba got up saying, “OK, let’s go to your room.” They both went to Saleema’s room and Saleema latched her door. Najeeba looked at Saleema worriedly.
“What is it, Saleema?” she asked. Saleema was thinking of how to start the topic and then said, “It is about my wedding, Mousy.”
“What about it?” Najeeba asked.
“Oh, Mousy, I really don’t know how to start …” Saleema’ s eyes were filled with tears. “Mousy, let me be honest with you. I don’t want to marry Ahmed.”
Najeeba was shocked, her eyes widened, “But why, what’s wrong with him?”
“I grew up with him, Mousy and my heart has always seen him as my own brother and now suddenly everybody says I’m going to marry him and the marriage date is fixed without my permission.” Saleema continued tearfully, “My heart is not inclined towards him. I cannot accept him as my husband. Oh please, Mousy, help me,” Saleema pleaded.
“Saleena, sweetie, the marriage is fixed. Don’t you think it is too late …” Najeeba said softly.
Saleema’s tone rose, “Mousy, it will only be too late after I marry him!” She bursted into tears.
Najeeba hugged her niece and said, “Sweetie, even I had the same feeling when I married my husband, but in the course of time I started getting comfortable with him, especially after having children.”
“What if we end up not being compatible?” Saleema spat out.
“But you will. I was not happy for 15 years, but now I am happy, in fact very happy,” Najeeba persuaded.
“GOOD!” Saleema shouted irritably. “So you want me to marry him and wait until I become 40 to have a comfortable married life?” Saleema was angry and disappointed. “I thought you would be the only one who would understand me. Nobody asked my permission, Mousy. Everybody arranged it and then they come and tell me that I’m going to marry Ahmed and my marriage is fixed.”
“I do understand, sweetie, but this is our culture. We all went through the same thing that you are going through,” Najeeba said pathetically and hugged her niece.
“So, I HAVE to marry him and I have no other choice?” Saleema retorted.
“Yes, sweetie, being born as girls, we need to be patient and undergo all of this. Allah will reward you for your patience,” Najeeba said. Saleema was unable to hold back her tears and cried so much that Najeeba’s sari blouse became soaked. Najeeba kissed Saleema and tried to pacify her.
Islam is a way of life; it is a religion that is moderate and balanced. Islam has the Qur’an and the Sunnah to guide people.
The Prophet said, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! How can we know her permission?” He said, “Her silence (indicates her permission)” (Bukhari 6:62 #67).
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying, “A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted, and a virgin must not be married until her permission is sought.” They asked the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), “How can her (virgin’s) consent be solicited?” He said, “That she keeps silence” (Muslim 8:3303).
Marriage is a beautiful and a sacred bond that allows each spouse to live in tranquility.
[And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.] (Ar-Rum 30:21)
There are thousands of “Saleemas” in different parts of the world. They are forced into marriages and the result is that they also ruin their own daughters’ lives. Parents and guardians need to reflect on the words of Prophet Muhammed and the Noble Qur’an before they give in to their culture if they call themselves Muslims. After knowing what the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, can we still consider forced marriages to be valid in the sight of Allah?