Dowry — Getting Rid of it

You may have read a lot of articles about the evils of dowry and read real stories of women suffering at the hands of evil in-laws. Before I move forward about what is the article for, let’s define dowry. So, what is dowry? According to definition on Google (which you can obtain by typing define: dowry on Google)

Image taken from https://dailytimes.com.pk/535522/dowry-a-curse/

an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. (Google definition of dowry)

Mahr

This is different from mahr, money that a groom owes to the bride which in Arab culture may also mean paying to the bride’s father as well, as mentioned here in the following words:

The bridegroom pays the bride’s father a sum of money for a lavish wedding, with some left over for furniture.

The Arab world has their problems with mahr, but I’ll focus on the dowry, as practiced in the sub-continent, in general, and what I feel is the solution, in particular.

My Resolve

Ever since the Al-Mighty gave me hidayah and I started mending my ways, of the first decisions I made was: “No dowry”. This decision was greatly influenced by being in the company of a pious Shaikh from whom I learned a lot of things and to whom I shall remain indebted forever.

Lower the Expenses

The marriages of our beloved Prophet Muhammad ( ﷺ) were extremely simple and there is a famous saying, attributed to our beloved Prophet (ﷺ), which means that the marriage/nikah with the least expense is the most blessed one.

Dowry Items

Photo by Evan Dvorkin on Unsplash

One of the most significant contributor towards the cost of weddings, apart from lavish dinners and what not, is dowry. Parents of the bride are burdened with expenses way beyond their ability because the list of things typically given in a dowry is long, for e.g.:

  1. Complete furniture set including bed, mattress, dressing table and a 2/3-door cabinet
  2. Furniture list can be further extended with living room furniture like sofa set, dining table and chairs
  3. A number of electrical and electronic items like refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner and an assorted list of kitchen stuff
  4. At least two sets of serving sets
  5. Some even give cars, homes, land and what not

One can imagine the cost of all the things listed above. To me it is completely unfathomable that a girl’s parent are expected, not only to give their daughter away in marriage (which they have so lovingly brought up), but also to finance the initial beginnings of their daughter’s married life.

In our society, we typically ascertain a boy’s marital age as the one when he has enough source of income to support himself and his new family. This support encompasses everything, like providing food to eat, clothes to wear and roof under which they can live. When giving a roof to live is a groom’s responsibility, how can it be that things needed to live under that roof is considered the responsibility of the bride’s parents/family? If men cannot provide for these things, then they should frankly postpone the thoughts of marriage to a point when they can afford it.

Who Should Stop It

Now the question comes, who is responsible for stopping this evil? Governments can do so much. I firmly believe that is the groom’s responsibility to take this decision of not accepting the dowry and standing firm on it. He should not hide behind his own parents/family and behind the hypocritical messages to the bride’s family that they can “give what they want”.

To me, this message of “give what you want” is loaded with hypocrisy. Internally, a groom’s family is willing and even wanting to accept anything and everything that comes along the bride, yet try to take a moral high ground by saying “give what you want”. Although I agree, that this stance is still better than those who actually give out lists of items they expect in dowry. I am not inferring that the groom’s family is greedy but why is their even expectation that the bride will bring things needed for basic living?

In our society and culture, the bride’s family is under tremendous pressure and it is naive to expect them to take a stand and not give dowry. I certainly wish we had the culture where the bride’s family can say no, but unfortunately that is not the case. The default is for them to give dowry and being a father to a daughter, I can understand this. In fact, the bride and her family is typically the secondary partner in this as the groom and his family dictate almost everything.

Time for Men to Grow Up, Grow Out and Stand

Photo by Louis Smit on Unsplash

It is in this context that I say that it is high time for grooms to stand and grow up and grow out from the shadows of his family and take this firm stand that they will not accept any dowry, come what may. They should not leave this matters to their parents or family, who have chained themselves to the diktats of the culture and society. They should give a very clear message to both his and the bride’s family without any ambiguity that the sentence “give what you want” infers.

One more reason that we should do away with this tradition of expensive weddings and dowry is that it puts tremendous pressure on those sections of society that are in no position to spend so much money on their weddings. The argument that we are only spending and giving of what we can afford is not good enough. The have’s will have to support and bring forward the culture of simple weddings in order to alleviate the pressure on the have not’s (this includes not splashing Facebook with pictures of the wedding). And the one person who has the most responsibility in ensuring such a change is the groom.

And this pressure is just not limited to dowry items. It transcends all activities associated with marriage in the sub-continent, like lavish wedding and valima receptions, expensive exchange of gifts, over board bridal dresses which mostly turn out to be useless beyond their use, huge guest counts, multiple dishes, unnecessary ceremonies of mehndi/mayoon (I cannot translate this to English as I cannot find any no equivalence of such a foolish function in any other culture), renting of expensive hotels and marriage places and; the list goes on. We have made marriage so unnecessarily difficult that people end up taking loans or asking for help from others in case they are not able to finance it. All this money can be spent wisely on other things which may help the newly married couple in more productive ways.

Practicing the Preach

The purpose of writing this was not to show-off what I did but to counter the claims of “easier said than done” and to also show my gratitude and thankfulness to the Al-Mighty Allah ﷻ. All good deeds that we do are nothing but His blessings.

I don’t claim that my marriage was very simple with the least expense, but there were few things that I was determined to abandon and taking dowry was one such thing, Alhumdulillah, among a host of other things. When my in-laws asked about it, I, respectfully but categorically, communicated my decision and stood firm. I did not hide behind my family or any vague messages of “give what you want and can”. I did not do it because I was living in Sweden at that time and anything given from the list above will go useless, I did it regardless and did not take any amount of money in lieu of these things. Alhumdulillah, my family backed me and my in-laws also happily agreed. I bought stuff which I could afford on my own.

Message to Groom’s Parents

This is a very humble message to all the mothers and fathers looking to get their handsome and educated and what not son married to a girl of their (and hopefully their son’s) dreams. Please, let go of past traditions and culture and let their son grow up and take decisions. The most you should do is show them the right path and encourage them, rather than discourage, to take bold and right decisions. Only then can we hope for a better culture for our future generations.

Message to Bride’s Parents

I understand every parent wants the best for their daughters but if you are afraid that by not giving much dowry you risk your daughter losing her respect and value with the in-laws, time to rethink the relationship. If a family ties respect and honor to materialistic things, better to stay away from such a family.

The honor and respect of a girl lies in her values, morals, modesty, knowledge, intellect and behavior and not what she brings with herself in marriage. If you really want to give your daughter a gift, give it strictly within your means, keep it a gift and not a dowry and and say no to anything else, very clearly and unapologetic-ally. I understand this is difficult in our society, but to stop this tradition, we all have to play our roles. It is important to broach this topic with the groom’s side as early as possible to have a healthy discussion on this topic and to minimize the unnecessary expenses marriage incur.

Conclusion

All in all, I firmly believe that in this day and age, it is the groom’s responsibility to stand up and break this tradition. It does not mean that the two families cannot make this decision themselves, but the kind of society we live in, the groom’s responsibility increases that much.

Some may feel that this stance of mine is a little rigid and extreme but I firmly believe that in today’s society and culture, we, the men need to take this tough stance to do away with this menace which has destroyed too many a lives and put people in debt which they are unable to pay off for years.

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A reluctant researcher, making the transition to industry. Opinions expressed in my posts are mine and not of my employer.

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Syed Asad Alam

Syed Asad Alam

A reluctant researcher, making the transition to industry. Opinions expressed in my posts are mine and not of my employer.

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