‘Beware of courtship before marriage’ [Archives:2002/44/Last Page]

October 28 2002

Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson

Ma – Oh Mus’id, what on earth are we going to do? I don’t know where to hide my face from the parents of that girl we asked for for our son!
M – Why? What’s happened? We’re keeping to our word. I’m just waiting for my brother to come from Mukalla to lend me 50,000 so I can pay for the engagement items, then we’ll go and have the engagement.
Ma – Bless you! But don’t bother waiting for your brother, because we’re not going to have the engagement.
M – Why? Have the family decided against it and come and told us, or what?
Ma – It’s just that our son really doesn’t look as if he’s prepared to get married. I can sense that already.
M – What’s he said to you?
Ma – He hasn’t told me anything as such. It’s just that he looks like he’s on an entirely different planet from us!
M – Oh God, give me good news, please!
Ma – Your son, my dearest, is immersed in a world of fantasy and romance.
M – That’s not a problem. It’s what happens to adolescent boys. But when we marry him off to a good girl, she’ll get him out of this world of fantasy and imagination.
Ma – You don’t seem to get what I mean! The boy told me quite frankly, ‘Mum, I don’t want you to get me some girl I’m not going to like, and force her on me like you force feed stalks to cattle!’
M – That girl is certainly not unlikeable, I’ll guarantee that!
Ma – I said to him, ‘Pull yourself together! She’s been blessed by God with beauty and modesty and good morals, even though she may be from rather a poor working family.’
M – If it comes to that we’re all workers. Poverty, Mus’ida, doesn’t shame the poor, nor does wealth honor the rich. Has our dear son become a millionaire who wants to marry a the daughter of a millionaire?
Ma – We’re not talking about millionaires and their daughters! But to be frank, your son came out with something else. He said that young people in the developed countries only get married once they have got to know each other. And we want to marry him off blind, as if it’s a lottery!
M – If he said that it’s not his fault, because he’s at that age, and has been influenced by the satellite channels which set out to spoil the values and morals of honor in our young people. You know that my cousin Naji went to the west and found that the young men and women there meet secretly and in the open, and then get married. Naji got to know a girl and they behaved like everyone else in that country. They went out to restaurants and clubs together. She whispered sweet nothings to him, and he told her she was the love of his life.
Ma – That’s right! Then they got married, and after the wedding nothing went right. The ‘Love of my life’ stuff went out of the window, and they started arguing almost immediately.
M – I’ll tell you why, though.
Ma – Go on, then.
M – Naji told me quite frankly what happened. He said, ‘Between me and you, Mus’id, a month after the wedding my view of her changed, and her view of me changed. From that moment, doubt began to nag at me. I said to myself, if the girl was prepared to go out with a strange boy without any sense of shame before getting married, what’s to stop her doing the same thing once she is married. This never actually happened, of course, but there was always that bit of doubt inside me. It was only then that I fully appreciated the meaning of the Yemeni proverb, ‘It begins with passion and ends in rejection’.1 Anyway, this is what happened, Mus’ida, so make sure you tell our son the story of my cousin Naji before you go to bed tonight, and remind the girls in our family of the saying of the Yemeni philosopher, ‘Beware of courtship before marriage!’2
1 Zayd, p. 43.
2 Agwal, p. 49.