Saudi Arabia: Arranged Marriage or Love Marriage – How Do You Know If Either Will Work?

arranged marriages


Saudi Arabia is not the only country where marriages continue to be arranged.  Much of the Middle East, Asia and Africa continue to have arranged marriages.  Additionally, those who come from countries and cultures where marriages are arranged generally continue to follow their heritage and traditions even when they have departed their country of ethnic origin.

Marriages can be categorized as arranged, forced or love.  An arranged marriage is where either a representative of the family or a matchmaker will facilitate the introduction of a young man and woman for the intent of marriage.  However, both the young man and the young woman are to have the freedom of choice to say yes or no to the proposal.

That sounds pretty simple except when families are keen to have a new bond forged in a family through marriage, many young men and women are reluctant to stand up to their parents for fear of them and perhaps the family losing face.

A couple will enter into an arranged marriage likely with the same hopes of a love match – that the marriage will create a special bond, spark and intense feelings between the new husband and wife.  At the same time, a couple who has agreed to an arranged marriage will likely approach the union as one which they will make the best of and learn to adapt to one another.

On the other hand, there are forced marriages.  These are marriages which families may attempt to call arranged but either the man or woman strongly opposes and does not want the union.  However, due to familial pressure, the feelings and emotions of the man or woman are not taken into account.  It is with forced marriages that abuse may begin and these marriages to ultimate end in divorce, abandonment or the man taking another wife.

Last but not least are the love marriages.  Love marriages can come about naturally between a man and a woman.  In Eastern cultures where a man and woman have met one another without an intermediary, the relationship may segue to one along the cultural norms of bringing extended family into the picture in the hopes of further bonding the families prior to a happy marriage.

In the Western world little thought is given to the concept of an arranged marriage.  Yet, the Australian show, Insight, had an interesting and very candid program about arranged, forced and love marriages taking place in Australia.

I highly endorse everyone watching the one hour video.  This is an excellent video to give anyone greater understanding and insights to the distinctions between marriages (arranged, forced, love), the reaction and acceptance to the differing types of marriage and especially from both men and women of all age levels and strata’s of life.



50 Responses

  1. For me to take time to watch this whole thing, means I found it interesting and informative. The show host was good and careful as a moderator.

    As I have said before, my parents’ marriage was semi-arranged. My father was already in Canada for 7 yrs. He and mother exchanged photos, wrote letters. Yes, my mother met him for the first time when she landed in Canada. They married a few days later.

    I do consider their marriage not perfect, but there was no domestic violence in their marriage. Their marriage “worked” because my mother accepted her more traditional role as mother and wife. They are compatible because my mother has a fiery temper whereas my father is more milder, mediator in his role.

    Yes, they did try to do some minor social arranging for us. But not good and nothing further happened as a result.

    I am sad for the women in forced marriages. Most certainly they are in very difficult situations. Yes, arranged marriages in some cases blurr the line into forced marriages.

    One has to understand that there are 3 interracial unions in my family, including mine. And my parents opposed vehemently the first one for a decade. It was terrible.

    And now…we haven’t touched the issue of homosexual adult children. Can you imagine….?

  2. thanks for the video….this is an interesting topic to me

  3. Most of my codons, siblings have had an arranged marriage, some ave had long engagement periods, some short, ome have broken up after the engagement and have ad arranged marriages with others. I not know of forced. It’s just a way to meet your future spouse. Like a blind date arranged by a common arty or parents. I don’t know what the big deal is about it. I mean you have o somehow meet right? How diff is that to meeting on matrimonial sites?
    Have to say we hooked up very early in our college life :-). Else who knows we would have gone the arranged way???

  4. In the UK arranged marriage is still the norm for muslims in my community (British/Pakistani). We are not so lucky as Saudi’s as most of us do not get to meet our future spouse before hand. Most people I know are married to cousins that come from Pakistan. It seems to be a way of backdoor immigration. Family promise a UK passport to another family member. There is no tests done for genetical screening, as that type of thing is put down to the will of Allah. We get to see a video or photo of our spouse before hand, but we don’t usually dare to object.

    Although we are not forced to get married, most of us don’t want to. Emotional blackmail and constant nagging will be used to persuade us. As well as threats of what may happen if we say no, we will most likely have to leave the family and not see them again as it would bring great shame. It’s all about family honour, this seems more important than love. My friend’s mother who was already very ill stopped eating until he agreed to get married, another friend was taken out of school to be shipped to Pakistan, kept there for 6 months, and brainwashed until he agreed to get married.

    Most of these marriages are unhappy, with abuse and infidelity. I do not know a single person in an arranged marriage who is in love with their spouse. Yet only a few will divorce because that is still such a taboo. When my friend divorced it caused a huge scandal and a rift between two branches of the family. I think one of the reasons our parents make us marry cousins is because we won’t want to divorce and risk splitting the family. I hope the UK immigration laws change, making it harder for spouses to come here from abroad, as its obvious to me that marriages between people with such different backgrounds will never work.

  5. Hasna, thank you for sharing. I hope you will be happy.

  6. The stories of 14 year old girls getting married in Australia are scary. Those kinds of marriages might have been able to work decades ago in Saudi Arabia where most people were illiterate. In a modern Western country (I cringe using the word West for Australia since it is neither West nor North), like Australia, you are dooming a young women to a life of misery. Unless her husband is very successful she will be stuck in a life of poverty and ignorance.

  7. In Pakistan, I met to a woman writer and scholar, she did love marriage and I asked from her what’s the difference between a love marriage and an arrange marriage, she said after 6 months love marriage is as much like an arrange marriage.
    As in our society there are very rare chances of mingling opposite sexes, mostly among first and second cousins or the friends brothers. In our society girls and boys had very minimal experience of relationships before marriage and honestly the men or boys who had experience they think of women very low, because they assumed all girls or women are unfaithful.
    This lack of experience create a very big problem, the first boy who said to the girl, you are beautiful and love of my life, they both started believing this infatuation as love.
    Another aspect I learned that because young girls and boys has very less experience of life overall and specially relationships. One cannot compare western norms with eastern traditions.
    In west a father feels happy that her kindergarten girl fell in love with a boy.
    Islam taught us modesty, faithfulness and respect. Quran guides us
    “And among His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find comfort and repose in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (30:21) 
    As I saw that love marriage is not any guarantee that it ‘ll be successful. Indeed I read in a book that in British society women married to a man for his financial stability and give birth to the children of the man whom they love.
    As in our society if a girl and a boy get married against their respective families and left out, they become very isolated and life become really really difficult for them and when the realities if life hits them, love jumped out of the window.
    Parents are more experiend and has their children best interest in their hearts.
    I saw problems in both marriages, and in love marriages much more. Allah tala put love for husband and wife when they do Nikah.

  8. This article ––details the ludicrous and psychosis of the state of affairs as they relate to women in a country of perpetual relapses.

    Shariah law has outlived its need and credibility. It must be replaced by a codified rule of law that does not consider and treat women, half of society, as sub-citizens or is it subhuman.

  9. i posted my comment at 12:26 and i don’t see it here…

    All first commentators have to go through moderation

  10. Arranged marriages are nothing but a huge bet with the cards stacked against you.
    Especially if the couple are cousins, it’s not good to have close family members having offspring and nature has her way to make cousins less attractive to each other.

    My parents were very happy for their whole lives, because they loved each other, they chose each other, and they had the freedom to find the one which suited them best.
    I have been very very lucky, and I wish other people were free to find their true partner instead of being ”matched up” with a stranger.
    Nothing is as wonderful and magical as meeting a person with whom you are truly compatible in every sense.

    No union can be as fulfilling as the one where you are together with your best friend, your greatest love, and your most trusted partner.

    The only one who can know who this person is is yourself.
    And the only way to find this person is to go out into the world and to meet people and talk to people, go on dates, do stuff together, and get to know other people.

  11. I’ve known many arranged marriages here- and many seem very happy. I think the common denominators are NOT forced and the family used good sense and tried to select on common values- not just a big bank account. Most of the happy ones are of the older generation- but they are well educated people- not just ignorant and accepting their lot in life. Also, while I personally would want a love marriage- I don’t at all believe that “love is enough” or “love conquers all”. I think that’s where love marriages often fall down. People can and do fall in love with abusive idiots, alcoholics, lazy, and unethical people. That will not sustain a marriage.

  12. Saimã Abbasi, on February 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm said: ” …. Allah tala put love for husband and wife when they do Nikah …”.

    LOL … God/Yahweh/Bhagwan and other “skydaddies” claim the same to same :)-

  13. I deliberately didn’t use the word ”love marriage”. I think one should listen to one’s heart, and then use one’s brain. And when the brain approves of the choice of the heart one can look further.

  14. My mother and my mother in law are twin sisters, my mother in law and father in law are first cousins, so are me and my hunsband, so are my brother and his wife, so are my brother in law and his wife. We all have healthy children. I’m not saying we are perfect, yet I feel so much secure among all these people whom I have known all my life. In fact I’m more close to my mother in law than my own mother, because we share more compatibility.
    My comments sometime not get posted and lost some where and I saw a comment that was posted later appeared so I wonder where is my comment? Vanished again?

  15. Hasna, I seriously pity on you and the whole lot of your kind, these British Muslims were from very poor families and without family bindings back in Pakistan. Your parents spend lives in earning pounds and enjoying the Britain socitey’s librations. You are the product of very disturbed species. I strain myself normally to say things like that to people, because I think if my Allah al Mighty ask, why I’m being so harsh?
    Yet on the internet their is whole kind of these creeps are trolling, who has no idea whats coming out of their big mouths.
    If you don’t understand Islam, go and learn about Islam.
    You don’t want to remain a Muslim, go ahead. Remember my name and on the day of judgement, I ‘ll be there and ‘ll ask from Allah al Mighty, I told many of them, you are going on wrong path, they made jokes about You being the Creator and all knower. Today they can see it from their own eyes. Today made them pay for what they said, without any knowledge and authority.

  16. Saimã Abbasi

    “In west a father feels happy that her kindergarten girl fell in love with a boy.”

    I not sure how to respond to this crapola except to say that at kindergarden they don’t fall in love they are friends.

    You statement indicates just how sick you and your society are.

  17. Hello to all. I am a peace loving,caring,honest,down to earth,romantic,sexy and God fearing man. i am from Africa.i really want to get married to any nice woman from any part of the world. Is there any woman out there looking for a trustworthy man to married? well if you are a single woman looking for a man to married,then contact me through my e mail address.

  18. Forced marriage is obviously wrong in any case. Even if two people love each other, in a culture where education is very important they shouldn’t be allowed to marry until at least 16 years old with parental consent, 18 years old without. If a couple gets married at 16 years old, it should be with the full financial support (“sponsorship”) of their parents until age 25 even if the couple divorces each other. This way, the couple will have plenty of time to complete their studies at university while also dealing with married life and the possibilities of children. Obviously, there would also need to be allowances made for teenage couples who are pregnant.

    I’ve seen a difference between people marrying young (17-21) because it’s part of the culture (typically seen in rural communities) where the couple has no problem paying bills because rent is inexpensive and people marrying young where they have huge bills to pay with little to no support. When young couples are still trying to figure out who they are, any extra stress on simply being able to provide food for couples can cause all sorts of nasty problems from abuse to serious emotional issues to causing a couple that would otherwise be happy to break up.

    I tend to like the idea of a semi-arranged marriage the best. I think whether someone uses, a friend, family member, or matchmaker, it amounts to about the same. That said, it was practically love at first sight for my husband and I. The timing wasn’t convenient, we had a lot of cultural issues to work through, and I was scared of being hurt. I didn’t want to lose my heart to someone else again; in fact, I wanted to run in the opposite direction. However, he was so kind, so loving, and so honest that I just couldn’t walk away. I think it’s a tragedy when couples like my husband and I aren’t allowed to marry because of cultural and tribal traditions.

  19. Oh, and I disagree with what the guy said in the video about lust being the same as love at first sight; it’s not. It’s a different kind of attraction. Lust is purely physical while love at first sight is more than that. It’s more like seeing the beauty of the inner core of a person, almost like you can see straight into their soul. Love at first sight is about falling in love with who the person is rather than what physical characteristics the person has. And yes, some people can make that distinction.

  20. Completely agree with Strange One!
    What a nasty mind that man must have 😦

  21. I had an arranged marriage after finishing college and being employed. My husband and I were very happy to marry each other although we didn’t really ‘know’ one another when we got engaged. We had met a few times but for me the key was prayer.
    I pray for a long time before even considering anyone specific that I would find a good match with someone who valued spiritual values as I do. I did have a few offers before my husband but my parents wanted to wait until I had finished studying.
    When my husband was first suggested to me I prayed again. My Mum met him and grilled him for a couple of hours. Then I met him. I would say I was guided in my choice by dreams which i felt to be the response to my prayers – dreams being (for me) a way that God communicates with supplicants.
    After 11 years and 3 children we are still going strong. We have had our ups and downs but in hard times I always remember that I married this man because I felt it was spiritually right, not because I thought he was good looking or had a good job, not even because I felt he was a good match.
    Overall I would say we are happy and have built a good life for our children, not perfect but good. What all couples need, regardless of how they met, is patience and tolerance because there will always be little differences over the years.

  22.  I felt it was spiritually right, not because I thought he was good looking or had a good job.

    ol blue eyes this is beautiful and exactly what i believe and experienced mashallah.

  23. Arranged marriages are best suited to societies where there is no freedom or opportunity for people to independently meet potential suitors.

    Nevertheless this trait is getting less effective as with social media this is becoming less of the case, even in conservative societies. Thus such marriages nowadays do tend to fail, while in the past they wouldn’t as they would be the only option for most.
    Most 20 somethings in conservative societies have interacted with males either through telephone or the internet, whereas in the past that option would never be available making the subjects more appropriate for external arrangements.

    Nowadays in liberal societies this option would never work as it is not an acceptable form of finding a spouse.

    Personally I am very happy to be living in a liberal society where I was able to chose for myself my spouse and I would not want any other way for my children.I would cringe at the idea that my children would not have the same opportunities as me.

    Furthermore most couples in the west do not view their arrangement as a ‘love marriage’ as ultimately falling in love is not the only reason people marry, they do take into account a number of considerations regarding a future spouse.

  24. I did not make use of magic to make my choice of life partner, or rely on somebody else to make my choice for me.
    I married my husband because he is a wonderful man, he is super intelligent, funny, wise, and kind and good and has the highest ethics I know. I made sure I knew all this by spending lots of time with him.
    And he is wildly attractive, or as we say in Dutch ”woest aantrekkelijk”
    We went on a road trip, best way of finding out if you can stomach life together.
    I like being alone, I am not fond of having other people around me all the time, it makes me get very irritable, my husband is the only human I am happy to have around me all the time.
    My husband chose me on the same basis of rationale and love.
    (Or he looked at my knockers.)

  25. I think arranged marriage are failing more and more when women get more opportunity to get out of them. Very often the societies where they practise arranged marriages are so constrictive, and so bad for women’s rights, that they are stuck, While the men can get other wives, or have mistresses.
    When women get more rights, and are less forced to do what the family wants, and have opportunities to make their own money, arranged marriages will fail to a large percentage.

    And anyway, getting a divorce is not a bad thing. Many people jus grow apart, and have less in common. It’s better for everybody that they then separate and start anew with somebody better suited to them.
    In that view an ”arranged marriage” is more like ”arranged dating”. If it works out fine, but if you find you don’t suit you should separate and try with somebody else.

  26. I think it is wrong to assume arranged marriage as only suitable in countries with ‘less freedom’ whatever that means. There are many individuals who are career driven and have less time to socialize or maybe just needs a helping hand in finding them a partner. My sister for example, forcing our parents to match her up since she has not found the right guy whereas my parents gave us the freedom to choose our own spouses. More and more people see arranged marriage as a positive option. Even in the west, the more liberal countries, there are so many matchmaking programs in real life or on tv. I met my husband through his cousin who was a friend of mine. We clicked instantly and although not a traditional arranged marriage, we would look back and said thank goodness for that cousin of his as God’s mediator per se. Of course we made a lot of magical prayers to ask God’s assistance. and until this day, our spiritual connection as well as our physical and worldly attraction still allows us to be happily together mashallah.

  27. Afake-Art,
    I am glad to hear that you are happy with your husband. I hope you share many more happy years together.But I disagree that arranged marriages are found mostly in constrictive socitieties. All of my Muslim friends have had arranged marriages where they freely agreed to marry their spouse. They range from stay at home mums, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. They chose to have an arranged marriage because they believe their faith does not endorse dating.

    I also disagree with –
    ‘It’s better for everybody that they then separate and start anew with somebody better suited to them.’
    It depends on the situation but this is a very general statement. I think many children do suffer where there parents are divorced.

  28. IMHO, arranged marriages are essentially forced marriages. According to Sheikh Ahmad Nutty of the Islamic Institute of Toronto:

    “The stated requirements of marriage in Islam are as follows: Full consent of both partners to the marriage, expressing the above consent through ijab (offer) and qabul (acceptance), finally the presence of two reliable witnesses. Apart from the above, in the case of females, their guardian’s/wali’s consent has been considered essential for the validity of marriage according to the majority of imams and scholars. Also, many times the silence (protest) of the bride is considered acceptance”.

    The fact that a young woman has to have the consent of her guardian, or Wali, indicates that the woman is not really a free agent and cannot readily marry someone of her own choosing. In a well publicised case in Malaysia a few years back, a 22-year old woman who had married a 32-year old man and was five months’ pregnant, was taken to an Islamic court by her father. He claimed that, being her Wali, his approval was not sought before the marriage. The Islamic court annulled the marriage.

  29. And if the girl is underage, like a really tiny little girl, in Islam her father can consent for her, actually her opinion doesn’t count, the father decides. Really bad law/custom.

  30. I don’t think arranged marriage is ”suitable” only in societies with lots of restrictions, especially for women. I think it’s the only possible way you can practice it. I think that as soon as women are educated, can make their own money, and have rights, and are not forced by their family and religion to adhere, arranged marriage will happen only rarely, and women (and men) will get out of the marriage when they are not happy in their marriage, arranged or not.

  31. Arranged marriage or love, both have pros and cons, both marriages need prolong maintenance to last and mutual respect. I had a ‘love’ marriage, so did my parents who met each other while attending universities in USA, most of my relatives had love marriage while others had prior arrangement which they gave consent too (all the brides were well over 21++) and there is only one divorce in my huge family mashallah (the arranged one). I just can’t understand the negative perception towards arranged marriage. If it was forced than yes I disagree wholeheartedly but if the couple had difficulties finding their partner on their own, a little ‘meddling’ is very good for them. The aspect of not knowing the partner before marriage is not a problem since engagement is the time for them to get to know each other, and see if they ‘fit’. Granted it isn’t the same as knowing that person if you were to co-habit with that person but that is another issue I don’t understand. Why get married if you’re already living together like husband and wife and know each other inside out. Why the need for a paper qualification if the institution of marriage isn’t held sacredly?

  32. So Mrs. B you are ……. Interesting.

    Comment edited.
    If you trouble to read the blog rules you will notice we have a rule against spreading information about third persons which you have gleaned elsewhere.

  33. Hasna, that link you gave about forced marriage is really good and basically explains the difference between Islam and cultural dilemma. It is a good read and highly encouraged but I dont understand why on one hand you seem to oppose the typical Islamic marriage while on the other hand you gave a link that showcases Islamic marriage in a positive light.

  34. Hi Bigstick! Yes it is me, why is it interesting? Welcome to my blog and feel free to comment if you like. Don’t worry, I won’t moderate you as long as you behave 😉

  35. Mrs. B:

    I kinda think you know why I find it interesting. I haven’t been to your blog yet but……….BEHAVE……………..your kidding right..????????

    That is taking all my charm and character away and making me dull and limp ……….:)

    Could you even handle me as a nice tame blogger with no spunk, no pizazz, no spit and fire????????? I don’t think so……… thrive on my being a bad boy……………….:twisted:

    I am going to check it out now. 😀

  36. BUT please call me Mrs B or Mrs Bawazir(family name) since Umm…. is my daughter’s name and I do not want her name being used Willy nilly or being lumped in the same sentence with words such as under educated or insane etc. I am known as Umm…. only among Arabs or Muslims as it is our custom and we hold in high esteem.

    Edited because I edited Bigsticks comment

  37. No problem, I can respect that. 😀

  38. Goodness Bigstick, I just realised you’re are correct! You’re not Bigstick if you’re tame. Ok just try to not be too charming over there. It is still new and boring, need to find time to make interesting articles.

  39. Good luck with your blog mrs B!

  40. Thanks Aafke and hope to see you there. Thanks moderator, I was rather uncomfortable with the whole daughter’s name situation too. But it’s not a big deal since people can know it simply by knowing Arabic and seeing my web address. Still, thanks a bunch for your discretion to the privacy of commenters here.

  41. Hey moderator:

    She used the moniker name in the past. It is not third party anything it is from her.

    So back off.

  42. Mrs. B:

    You have tied your monikers together by your email so that name is linked to the picture so if you don’t want it known then you might think about reassigning an email to your current Gravatar.

    Just a heads up.

  43. Hasina,

    I found the article on “arranged marriages” that you referenced quite informative. Guess different people reading the same article can come to different conclusions.

    What I got from the article personally, besides adding to my knowledge base, was that it gave simple and clear definitions on arranged marriages, various forms of arranged marriages prevalent today, historical narrative of arranged marriages from ancient through the modern times, etc. etc.

  44. Actually Bigstick I have never used that name on this website before. As I said, i use that name only with Arabs and Muslims due to custom and the tendency to be insulted or considered mentally deficit is less likely. But again as I said people might guess from my website but hopefully people will abide by the blog rules and never resort to insulting children. It has happened once in the past on Muslimah blog owner but the owner of the blog immediately deleted the repulsive comment. But thanks for the heads-up about the link between my Gravatar and my info. i need to change that.

  45. Mrs. B:

    I tried initially to give a subtle hint and tried to be nice. I will not attempt being nice again. I have never insulted your child and I resent the implication.

  46. Bigstick, what is wrong with you? i never said you were the one who will resort to insulting my child. In fact if there is one thing about u that i actually admire is your compassion for kids. But, there are people out there who are not so moral nor compassionate about children and might use my child against me hence my apprehension. sorry if you thought i meant you in my earlier comment.

  47. by the way, about the repulsive comment about my child,i was referring to an incident on an Australian Muslimah blog which had nothing to do with you. chill Bigstick. i thought i already cleared my issues with you last time n haven’t insulted you since then.

  48. Yeah, let it go or go to the debate page.
    Carol is not doing well, she has been in hospital with serious symptoms. Let’s support her by keeping the conversations interesting and on topic.

  49. Here is a question related to arranged/love marriages: Why do some people who seem obviously meant to be together divorce after 15+ years while people who probably never should have been married to begin with stay together 50+ years? By “meant to be together”, I am referring to people whose life values and goals align, fell “in love” with each other, and still are (or at least appear to be) attracted to each other after 20 years. By “never should have been married” I am referring to people whose values and goals in life don’t align and are only mildly interested in each other. They may not even like each other all that much, but they stick the relationship out for whatever reason. I’m not saying either is good or bad necessarily, I’m just curious why this happens.

  50. @StrangeOne – Habit? Fear of the Unknown? Unwilling to face or make changes?

    On Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 12:21 AM, American Bedu

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