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Dowry by another name

‘Well done, you are so deep in thought you didn’t even hear the salams I’ve been saying right from the doorway.’ I said to my friend Zuwaira, as soon as I reached where she sat in her sitting room. 

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‘I’m sorry Hajiya Bint. I was truly lost in thought. You are welcome.’ She replied, rising up to hug me. 

‘So what were thinking about? Did you land some big business deal that you are already calculating the profit?’ I joked.

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‘I wish I did Bint, maybe I wouldn’t have found my problem so insurmountable.’ She replied. ‘Can I get you some some Kunun Aya or some fresh fruit juice?’ She asked.

‘No don’t worry, I am observing the non-obligatory fast of Tasu’a before the ashura tomorrow.’ I replied, sitting next to her. 

‘Yes that’s true. But I’ve become so absorbed with preparations for my daughter’s up-coming wedding that I totally forgot about the Muharram fasts. I will try and observe the ashura tomorrow in sha Allah.’ Zuwaira pledged. 

‘So your daughter’s wedding is coming up soon and you are keeping it to yourself? No wonder you are totally preoccupied. How do you plan to do everything yourself?’ I asked.

‘No, I am not keeping it to myself. The wedding is in two months actually and I plan to send text messages to notify you before the invitation cards are ready. But it isn’t the fact that the wedding itself is coming up that is getting me all worked up. It is what Halima just told me that got me so disturbed.’ She disclosed.

‘Really? Halima is the bride-to -be isn’t she?’ I asked.

‘Yes she is. Her fiancé came about two hours ago and asked to see her. Apparently, when she went out he requested her to follow him and have a look at the house he was planning to rent for them. Halima agreed, and the young man took her to a newly painted duplex and told her it was going to be their future home. As they moved from room to room to see what they looked like, Halima’s fiance was just telling her what we needed to furnish each room with. By the time they were through, he had told her that he expected us to provide at least four bedroom sets, one for each room upstairs and another for the guest room downstairs. He also expects us to furnish the sitting room downstairs and the kitchen. By the time Halima finished telling me what he said, I realised his expectations were way beyond what we budgeted for the wedding. I quickly called Musa and told him what his future son-in-law expects of us and he promptly told me that he will not be a party to that extravagance. I tried all I could to convince him that that is probably the vogue now so we should just try our best, but he said ‘no way’, that he will only furnish one bedroom, one sitting room and the kitchen. Since then I have been wondering how to get out of this problem. I mean we can’t call the young man and say we can’t afford to furnish the whole house, can we?’ She concluded. 

‘Why not? Your husband is right Zuwaira, you must not force yourself to do what you can’t afford to do. In any case no one said you should give him a wife and also furnish his house. Let him know that he has to own up to his responsibilities and furnish the rest of his house himself.’ I said.

‘But this is the general practice Bint, it is what everyone else is doing.’ She protested.

‘No Zuwaira, it is what the very rich are doing. And that’s only because they can afford it. But those who can’t afford it must not force themselves to do so. Indeed by agreeing to this extortion by young grooms, you are encouraging the payment of dowry to grooms through the back door. Indians used to insist that brides must pay their husbands dowry and there used to be dire consequences for the brides who defaulted. But we know that in Islam the men mist pay us dowry. How can we now shoulder all unnecessary expenses on their behalf and still say they have paid us dowry? In truth, all those expenses are like payment of dowry to men, by another name. You must resist such exploitation even when you can afford it.’ I advised.

‘All right Hajiya Bint. I will surely send word to his people that we can’t furnish a whole duplex for him. He has the option of going for a two-bedroom house and even then he has to provide the furniture for his own bedroom. At least that’s what Musa insisted.’ Zuwaira declared.

‘Yes, that’s the spirit dear friend.’ I said, patting her on the shoulder encouragingly.

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