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Crisis of The Institution of Marriage

Arranged and love marriages have become two sides of the same counterfeit coin.

Whether it’s the East or the West, the institution of marriage is plagued with crises everywhere. However, the crisis of the institution of marriage in the West has reached its extreme. Not only in America and Europe but also in Eastern countries like Japan, many young people often delay or avoid marriage, and even when marriages take place, they are not successful. The divorce rate in America and Europe has risen to the point that marriage has become an excuse to obtain a divorce. In the East, including Islamic countries, the institution of marriage is also in crisis. There was a time when the word divorce was rarely heard in Muslim countries, but now in Muslim countries too, incidents of divorce and Khula have not only increased dramatically but are accompanied by so much pain, ugliness, and absurdity that marriage appears to be an experience of enmity rather than love. It feels as if marriage was intended not for love but to inflict pain and humiliation upon each other.

There was a time when marriages based on love or choice were considered successful and promising. However, now the marriages arranged by elders are as unsuccessful as the ones based on love, if not more. As a result, “arranged” marriages and “love” marriages have become two sides of the same counterfeit coin. The question is, what are the causes of this crisis?

There was a time when 4 things were always considered when entering into an arranged marriage, under the supervision of the elders:

  1. The man’s character
  2. Family background
  3. Educational background
  4. Job/Employment

In this way, the foundation of marriage used to be based on various aspects and strong values. While considering a girl for marriage, employment was not typically taken into account, but it was certainly assessed how skilled she was in household matters. However, nowadays, when getting married, generally only one thing is observed, and that is the potential spouse’s financial status. This is not a recent phenomenon. Even during the time of Akbar Allahabadi, this issue existed, which is why he said:

“People don’t ask about the love for Allah,

Everyone asks, how much is your salary?”

However, as time has passed, salary has become the sole criterion. If the groom has a good salary, then it’s great. If the groom is employed somewhere in the Middle East, it adds more value to him. The presence of the groom in Europe or America increases his value even more. This means that nowadays, most marriages take place under the shadow of wealth. In such unions, qualities like virtue, integrity, and love either have no importance at all or if they do, their importance is like “makeup.” And the issue with makeup is that it fades with a little warmth. Consequently, after marriage, when difficulties arise in the relationship, people tend to forget about virtue, integrity, love, and affection. They only remember one thing, and that is how wealthy they are. The more wealth there is, the less significance there is for virtue, integrity, tolerance, and love.

There was a time when it was said that marriage does not just happen between a boy and a girl, but between two families, and this statement was correct. However, nowadays, most marriages solely revolve around the boy and girl, while the family takes a backseat. Consequently, if any issues arise between the husband and wife, the family and its members generally do not play a positive role in improving the situation. Instead, at times, their role becomes negative, and rather than resolving the issues, they contribute to further complications.

There was a time when the experience of large families was common, and typically, girls would transition from one big family to another. However, due to financial pressures, instability within family institutions, and the effects of urbanization, particularly in big cities, the experience of large families is no longer common. Consequently, in arranged marriages decided by elders, most girls now move from smaller families to relatively larger ones, which gives rise to two issues. Firstly, it becomes challenging for the girl to assimilate into the new family. Her mental, emotional, and psychological framework is limited and insufficient for adapting to the new circumstances. Secondly, the problem arises due to the individual who has central authority within the household. Generally, this authority is neither the girl herself nor her husband, but rather her mother-in-law, father-in-law, or other similar figures with whom it is not easy to deal. As a result, the girl fails to establish a strong bond within the family for an extended period. This situation also affects her relationship with her husband and plunges the marriage experience into crisis.

The issues surrounding love marriages are slightly different. The fundamental reason for the failure of love marriages is that the thing commonly referred to as “love” is not actual love; it is something else. For example, “Imitation of love”. The issue of imitating love existed even in the era of poetry and fiction, but now we are immersed in the era of television dramas and films where love takes on a central role. These dramas and films are watched so frequently that love becomes ingrained in the mind, leading the young audience to imitate the characters in movies. This situation renders the manifestation of true love impossible in some cases and challenging in others, as the majority of young people are caught up in the love of dramas and films. This imitation of love, this shallow form of affection, this love that has been distorted, becomes feeble when faced with real-life challenges. Then this love, as expounded by Faiz, Obaidullah Aleem, and Jaun Elia, expresses itself in the following form:

اپنی تکمیل کر رہا ہوں میں
ورنہ تجھ سے تو مجھ کو پیار نہیں

(I am completing myself,

Otherwise, I don’t need love from you)


عزیز اتنا ہی رکھو کہ جی سنبھل جائے
اب اس قدر بھی نہ چاہو کہ دم نکل جائے

(Hold onto me so dearly

That your heart finds solace

But don’t desire so intensely

That it takes your last breath away)


زیست اب کس طرح بسر ہو گی

دل نہیں لگ رہا محبت میں

(How will life pass by now?

My heart no longer feels attached to love)

There was a time when love in movies was an experiential journey of “revolution” and “wholeness of life.” For example, in the film “Mughal-e-Azam,” the experience of Prince Salim’s love for Anarkali is such a big deal that he confronts Emperor Akbar, endures the hardships of imprisonment, challenges authority, and is ready to embrace death with a smile on his face just to be close to her. His love is depicted in the film through these lyrics:

زندہ باد زندہ باد اے محبت زندہ باد
دولت کی زنجیروں سے تو رہتی ہے آزاد


عشق بغاوت کر بیٹھے تو دنیا کا رخ موڑ دے
آگ لگا دے محلوں میں اور تختِ شاہی چھوڑ دے
سینہ تانے موت سے کھیلے کچھ نہ کرے فریاد
زندہ باد زندہ باد اے محبت زندہ باد

(Long live, long live, O love, long live!

You dwell free from the chains of wealth.

When love rebels, it can change the course of the world.

Ignite fires in palaces and abandon the throne of power.

Let the heart play with death, never make any pleas.

Long live, long live, O love, long live!)

Similarly, in Dilip Kumar’s famous film ‘Devdas,’ the experience of love consumes Devdas’ entire life, and he departs from the world without getting married. However, his death becomes a symbol of love. But now, in dramas and especially in films, the experience of love is like eating ice cream, ordering burgers, drinking Coca-Cola, and having picnics. In this experience, there is no greatness, no revolution, no sacrifice. Therefore, just as the experience is, its impact is also the same.

In the present era, a fundamental aspect of love experiences is that what is perceived as love is actually a manifestation of “self-adoration” and the resulting “egotism.” Becoming the center of attention and holding onto the notion that someone likes us and is restless for us brings great comfort to the ego during youth. However, true love contradicts selfishness and egotism. Love does not make the one who loves important but rather elevates the beloved. Love teaches to give more and take less. However, in love born out of egotism, the one who loves becomes more important than the beloved. Love born out of egotism is all about “taking,” and “giving” either doesn’t appeal or is only appreciated because what is given will be returned in abundance. Therefore, under the influence of such love, marriages are destined to fail, with nothing else possible except failure.

Love teaches us to dream, but true love blends dreams with reality in such a way that reality becomes dreamlike despite being real. In contrast, artificial love is born within dreams, remains alive within them, and dies as soon as it emerges from the dream. Unfortunately, our dramas, films, and modern culture are cultivating seasons of such love.

Artificial love creates a Himalaya of desires but weakens the ability for action. Consequently, as we witness love marriages, we gradually see the graveyard of desires being populated, and eventually, even the husband and wife become offerings to that same graveyard. Therefore, it can be seen that most of the marriages referred to as love marriages are not actually love marriages but marriages built on false pretenses. They are marriages of inflated egos, marriages abundant in desires but lacking in action. Hence, it would not be incorrect to say that such marriages are constructed with bricks and mortar of failure.

Islam builds the institution of marriage on the pillars of love, obedience, service, and sacrifice. Love makes obedience, service, and sacrifice easier, and obedience, service, and sacrifice provide evidence that love is not just an illusion or selfishness but a tangible reality. In the realm of Islam, marriage may not appear initially as the most beautiful and attractive, but it becomes enduring. The important thing to note is that if marriage appears less beautiful and attractive within the realm of Islam, the fault lies not with Islam but with Muslims themselves, who have reduced marriage to a mere social act, whereas within the scope of Islam, marriage is a cosmic phenomenon. In this act, the union is not just between two individuals but between two cosmic entities. In this union, the soul takes on a physical form, and the body merges with the soul. There is a verse from our university days:

اس قدر لذتِ وصل

 جسم ہو جاتا ہے جاں

(The pleasure of union is such

That the body becomes the soul.)