An article by Rabia Chaudhry titled ‘Give Muhammad a Chance’ has been doing the social media rounds lately (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/splitthemoon/2014/04/give-muhammad-a-chance/). The 100+ comments on it ranged from giving the author a huge pat on the back to accusing her of being heartless and having a ‘superiority complex’. If you haven’t read the article and can’t be bothered clicking on the link above, the key argument the author makes is this:
And ladies, I ask you to please, don’t overlook the young men who may be struggling with studies, with finances, who may not have a house or even a car, who don’t necessarily have all the material trappings or the pedigree of a dream husband.
We all know that Islam imposes certain obligations on a male when it comes to marriage. By default, he’s entrusted with the responsibility of supporting his wife; his wife has no obligation as such to contribute to the household finances. But in today’s rather awful real estate market, in practical terms what usually happens is this:
1.) If both hubby and wife are working, both contribute somewhat equally
2.) Hubby is much more well-established than wife due to the norm of men marrying younger women, and so does the lion’s share of the contributing
3.) Hubby and wife are both working, but hubby insists wife doesn’t pay anything towards the household expenses
But let’s take a step back for a moment. Before you even get to thinking about who’ll pay the electricity bill, the real question for the ladies is this: would you even consider marrying a guy who, as of right this second, can’t pay the electricity bill? (Or the internet bill for that matter, because let’s face it-who wants to be without WiFi?) The question for the guys is this: would you even consider someone for marriage when you know you can’t pay the electricity bill?
Question number 1 can only be answered with reference to a number of variables. The first is the stage of life the lady in question occupies. If she’s a uni student, it’s unlikely she’ll be turning down a guy simply because he goes to uni too. This makes little logical sense-after all, where will they get money from if neither of them have a steady source of income? But if they’re both facing the same challenges at the same time, she’ll know that to expect him to have it all ‘together’ when she doesn’t would simply be unrealistic.
If, however, our lovely lady is enslaved in some form of stable employment, things will either go one of two ways. In Scenario 1, she’ll refuse to consider anyone who isn’t employed. This will again have less to do with logic (she’s working-she is in no real need of his income) and more to do with a perception that a guy who isn’t employed just isn’t in the same stage of life as her. She may even deem an unemployed guy of her own age bracket to be distasteful, a ‘loser’. A 19 year old guy being unemployed may be somewhat acceptable in the eyes of the society, but it’s doubtful that society would be as forgiving of that same guy being 29 and not having a job.
Scenario 2 is where things get a little more interesting, and is the kind described in Rabia Chaudhry’s article. In this scenario, we have a gainfully employed lady who decides she really doesn’t care that much if her Prince-Charming-to-be has a job or not. She has one, and this is enough for her. She’s willing to make an investment based on the potential she sees in him, but is well-aware that at this stage potential is all that he has to offer in material terms.
This scenario naturally assumes that the lady in question is completely autonomous in her decision-making. Often, this is not the case. Now, let’s not get carried away and assume that a lack of complete autonomy equates to being under the thumb of some scary male authoritarian figure; the simple fact is that marriage is not a decision many people, male or female, make independently. Nor should it be, necessarily. The input of family and friends certainly has its place, and often that place is embedded with certain values, such as a woman not marrying a man who isn’t at least her ‘equal’ in education level and/or income at the time they get married.
Understandably, the fear of not being able to support a wife scares many men off from even thinking about getting married. They feel they don’t have it ‘together’ enough to seriously approach a girl, knowing that in many cases either her or her family will have serious misgivings if he doesn’t have at least some kind of job. Many parents will also forbid their sons, whether expressly or implicitly, from thinking about marriage before at least graduating from uni. But should this be the case? Well, not entirely. Obviously, some thought should be given to the practicalities of marriage, the logistics of how-much-will-that-cost and where-on-earth-will-we-live-if-this-works-out. But the answers to those questions can really only be determined by asking: how much are we both willing to forego?
If you’re the kind of guy who thinks you need to do everything and pay for everything and sort out everything before you can even think about getting married, you’re going to be waiting a while, especially in this current climate of economic uncertainty. If you’re the kind of girl who wants all the trimmings and wants them paid for, you may also be waiting a while. This is fine, as long as you’re fine with it. I pass no judgment whatsoever against people who want the house and the car and the big function centre wedding with 500 guests. These are deeply embedded values for many people. They simply cannot comprehend doing things another way.
But there is another way. You can opt to have a small wedding, or even no ‘wedding’ at all besides the obligatory nikah. You can choose to honeymoon locally, or even not honeymoon at all. (Gasp!) You can live with his parents, or yours, at least temporarily. You can live in a tiny studio or a granny flat. You can both study part-time and work full-time. You can both work part-time jobs and make enough to survive. Neither of you may have a job, and you can still find a way to make it. There is always a way, as long as you’re both practical and very, very determined.
So ladies, should you consider a guy who doesn’t have his finances sorted? You don’t have to. You have every right to say no on this basis and no one should label you as being a gold-digger. (Stupid Kanye.) But if you want to, know that you can make it work together if you’re both committed. As for the men, should you stay away from all things marriage-related if you’re not financially stable? Not necessarily, as long as you have a plan. Don’t pre-empt the ladies and assume that you shouldn’t even try simply because of your lack of financial stability. Have faith that if you sincerely want to get married, there will be someone who can look past your tiny bank balance and see the many other things you have to offer. (But don’t label a girl who rejects you based on your finances a gold-digger, because that’ll just make you a jerk, and no one wants to marry a jerk.)
Guys, where do you stand on this? Ladies, would you consider a guy who doesn’t have his finances sorted?