by Fudia Muhammad
Do you remember the 1988 hit movie, Coming to America, starring Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem and Arsenio Hall as his annoying, but hilarious sidekick, Semmi? The premise which propels the plot of this movie centers around the notion that arranged marriages are antiquated and everyone should be free to choose with whom they will spend the rest of their lives. Based on that belief, Prince Akeem and Semmi make their journey to America on a quest to find a bride of the Prince’s own choosing, rather than agreeing to marry the woman his family had arranged for him. Of course, Prince Akeem did not want his potential bride to know that he was the wealthy heir to the throne of the kingdom of Zamunda. He preferred a woman who would genuinely love him for who he was on the inside. I will stop right there for the sake of that one person who has not seen this movie.
Arranged marriages are now far removed from being commonplace in most American families; though the practice was widespread through the early 1900s. An arranged marriage is defined as, “a marriage planned and agreed to by the families or guardians of the bride and groom, who have little or no say in the matter themselves.” Today the term ignites negative visceral reactions because it is now associated with the horrors of child trafficking, child brides and the abuse of women and girls around the world. In its inception; however, it was nothing of the sort. At present, there are many cultures who continue this practice around the world. Those who maintain righteous intentions and actions at the core, are finding the practice to be mutually beneficial for the families; boasting countless successful marriages.
However, we do agree with Prince Akeem, in that everyone should be free to choose with whom they will commit to spend the rest of their lives in holy matrimony. Both parties should definitely have the final say in such a personal and consequential life decision; and no one should ever be forced to marry anyone for any reason. What needs to be arranged is not the marriage, but the courtship. America’s exceedingly high divorce rate dictates a need for a radical change in how we are choosing our mates. We need HELP!
Courtship is not marriage. Courtship is also not dating. There is one intention during courtship: to determine whether or not the two individuals are compatible for having a successful marriage. As with court – questions are asked, discovery is permitted and witnesses are called, before the final judgment. There is no physical contact during courtship because no commitment has been made. If both individuals prove compatible, then there is a wedding; if not, the courtship ends with everyone’s reputation and character still intact.
Who knows us better than our parents, our grandparents, close relatives and respected elders who were involved in our rearing and watched us mature from childhood into adulthood? It seems that in-laws; particularly mother-in-law, tends to get a bad rap. Why is that? What causes a mother to become seemingly unhinged and intolerable to the in-laws when she believes that her daughter or son has married the wrong person? Though disguised, her true motivation is sincere. After the love of God, there is no greater love to be found, anywhere, that can equal the love that a mother has for her child. This is not to excuse the bad behavior that some in-laws inflict on others in the name of wanting what’s best for their child, but only to highlight the root; which is love.
Children are the greatest investment that parents make. Good parents are constantly investing in their children; and we’re not talking about stocks and bonds. We invest in their future by making daily sacrifices to ensure that they will have a good home, a solid spiritual base, quality education, opportunities to travel and to have experiences that will benefit them considerably. Not to mention the mental, emotional and physical sacrifices that only another parent can begin to understand. So after decade’s worth of investment, the hope of every parent is for their child to make a good choice for a spouse and to build a family that is greater than the one they were born into. What seems to be happening, particularly in the Black community, is that every generation is starting over from scratch; instead of building upon what was established. The choices made can set the whole family back for generations; or they can propel us towards a limitless future.
In an interview conducted by Brother Jabril Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan discusses the three sciences that the slave master did not want the slave to ever learn. Regarding the science of mating, the Minister said, “The third science is the science of mating: to know how to properly marry this or that in order to produce a better future. They learned how to produce great horses, pedigreed dogs and how to do this with other life in the animal kingdom. This same science is applicable in the human sphere. (He touched an example where Caucasians used this knowledge among themselves in Europe). They did not wish for us to learn that science because that would mean that through proper mating we might produce those that would free us from their grip, ultimately and challenge their ruler-ship over us and over the planet.” Great and powerful families whose influence crosses regions and extends for generations, are not produced accidentally.
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad was taught the science of mating and wanted his followers to practice it as well. There were many arranged courtships by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad – couples that he wanted to get married because he knew they would produce great offspring and their families would contribute to the future of our great Nation. Wise parents are ideal for this role. They know the strengths and weaknesses of their children better than anyone. This information helps them to know who may be compatible. In the game of basketball, sometimes the player can make the shot by simply going one-on-one against a defender. But other times, they need an assist; the right pass at the right time before they can score. Parents and other close relatives are great at making the assist. An assist does not guarantee a made basket, but it sure helps. Believers in our mosques and churches are also ideal. These houses of worship should arrange the proper social settings and circumstances where single Brothers and Sisters can meet each other.
Keeping in mind that while the courtship may be arranged, the decision to marry should only be made and agreed to by the courting couple.
Although Prince Akeem wanted his wife to love him purely for who he was internally, we are the sum total of our life experiences. So, it was the family that he was born into, his way of life and the education and culture that he was exposed to that ultimately made him such a good man. If we are going to establish a strong Nation that will make perpetual progress, we have to look beyond our personal superficial desires. In a recent lecture, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said to the sisters, “The man that God made for you may not be very handsome.” Allah (God) never intended marriage to be just about you and me, that’s why it is referred to as the institution of marriage. If marriage were just about the couple, then its success or failure would have no impact on anyone beyond the two; but it does. The strength of our Nation is directly proportional to the strength of our marriages and our families. Let’s provide a righteous assist by arranging courtships among those whom we love in an effort to strengthen our Nation through strong marriages.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)