A typical wedding in Pakistan today is not much different from a traditional marriage ceremony of a Hindu in India, despite how much both nations, and more importantly, both religions are antagonistic to each other. As it turns out, it is so because we shared the same cultural background before the partition, but the reality is much more than that, it is about the Muslims losing the identity they once fought for in India.
There is a lot, to begin with. A typical wedding is, in fact, a party arranged in the plush banqueting room of a five star hotel, one observes the bride, covered with gold, sitting motionless for hours as her shyness is considered good for the guests who are usually seated in rows, like a theater audience waiting for the show to begin. From clothing of the bride to the traditional practices and events in the marriages, all are adopted and connected with Hinduism, the oldest in the world and mother religion of Indian soil. Those practices include using red, orange and yellow colors, which are all strongly associated with Hinduism, instead of white and green which is preferred in Islam. Dance and music are now way more common, both are religious practice in Hinduism while Islam forbids them for collective entertainment. Mehndi, a form of body art, in other words, the ancient way of drawing tattoos from India is so common even in Pakistan that hardly anyone ever objects it today. It is a practice involving decorative designs which are created on a person’s body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves. Not to forget Islam prohibits drawing on bodies and faces, although Mehndi powder for hair color is permitted. Bride’s family is also asked a tremendous amount of ‘Jahez’ (the Arabic word ‘Tajheez’, means to prepare someone for a journey. The goods prepared are called ‘Jahazun’, from which the Urdu word ‘Jahez’ (dowry) has been coined) whose items range from a set of pillows and crockery to a refrigerator or may even stretch to a car today. Bride’s family may even be claimed to bring a certain amount of gold with her and groom’s family will feel no shame to ask that dowry as they use misunderstood Islamic principles, which in reality only include basic items or anything that may not be already available for her in the new house, as the roots of the name suggests, preparing someone for a journey. Another major part of the wedding is for family and friends to come up to the bride and groom and perform traditional mores, one of the most prominent is to take some dry Mehndi powder and place it in a decorative leaf which the bride and groom are holding and feed them, often densely saturated sweets. No one is exactly sure about the reason behind this, then as for any other tradition, and is certainly not part of Islamic culture. The ‘Saath Suhagan Rasam’, literally a sentence from Sanskrit, is when seven happily married women come up to apply the Mehndi and feed the bride and groom. Behind which the thinking is that they pass on their marital happiness onto the bride and groom (since our people have more believe in superstitions, in fact so much that it will be very difficult to include them all in the limited scope of this blog). Hence, widows, who were considered curse in ancient Indian societies, especially for the bride and groom, can’t perform any of those practices. Turmeric paste is also applied on the Bride’s face and body to make her appear fairer on the wedding day since fair is considered beautiful in this region, a thinking carved by their colonial history. Hence, many brown or so-called ‘dull faced’ girls go unmarried since no men wants to marry them due to society’s lack of sensibility. Man and woman have no permission in rural areas to see each other before marriage, where Islam gives full permission to a man to see woman’s face before agreeing to marry as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon Him) said:
“Go and look at her (the woman you are considering marrying) because this will help your time together to be strengthened.”
Though does not allow having a complete private meeting with a woman without her ‘Mahram. Also, Islam gives full authority to the woman to decide when or whom she may marry, as when Hazrat Ayesha (R) asked Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon Him) if women must be asked for their permission of marriage. The answer was, “Yes”.
Most people say it is our culture, or as referred here, our ‘Rasam-o-Riwaj’ (traditions) and make great efforts to justify their theories. The question is that why, if ever wanted to keep them, we parted in the first place. Pakistan was founded on the principles of Islam, and Indians, on the other hand, kept their traditions at their homeland which was un-regretfully left by the Muslims of India. Now it does not imply that Hinduism is backward in any way, it only means that as being a Pakistani, we have to be a Pakistani and to understand how to become one, it is inevitable know why we founded Pakistan in the first place. When they parted, the Muslims also parted from the traditions practiced in India, and they as the citizens of a newly founded nation had a chance to develop their own traditions and principles which they felt were difficult to implement in a multi-cultural nation like India. Where the Indians, whether Hindu, Muslim or a Sikh can continue to practice the native culture they were inherited with as they wish. We Pakistanis on the other hand, have a chance to develop our own, based on true Islamic principles, the same on which our nation was founded. Today, one of the most important ceremonies is not practiced in the true Islamic manner in the only nation founded on the principles of Islam.