The Arab Version of the Marriage Proposal
BY: Sara Alsayed / Arab America Contributing Writer
Western marriage proposals have always been somewhat simple. A guy asks the girl’s father for her hand out of respect, and after he gets the approval, he will buy a ring, plan a romantic proposal, get on one leg and ask her to marry him. However, Eastern marriage proposals are not that simple. The biggest thing is asking of the hand.
In Arab societies, the man cannot just visit the parents’ home and ask for the girl’s hand. The man must bring a Jahaa. A jahaa is a group of people, from family members to close friends. (the more people that come, the better it is for the man, who is asking for the girl’s hand).
The Jahaa gives honor and respect to the man proposing and his family. It shows that the man is not alone but has a group of people who care for him and will certainly take care of the girl if she chooses to accept.
In the past, people would go to the woman’s home, bringing with them a large group of people; however, in the end, she would refuse. Yet, nowadays, the man’s closest women in his life, such as his mother, sister, aunts would go to the girl’s house and ask for her opinion, whether she will agree to marry him or not.
If she says yes, then the family will bring a Jahaa and will formally ask the girl for her hand in front of all the people. However, in the case that the girl says no, then it will end there, and there will be no Jahaa.
Now, let us say for instance, that the woman says yes, and a Jahaa comes to ask for her hand. The man who wishes to ask for the woman’s hand is not the one who asks but rather someone from his family preferably, someone older than him and has a way with words. He will ask for the girl’s hand in marriage, and the one who will respond on behalf of the woman would also be someone from her family who has the same previous characteristics. All this will happen in front of the people who came (Jahaa) and a Sheikh.
As for how they ask, both sides (the man and woman’s side) give a few words about marriage and the beauty of it and recite a couple of verses from the Quran, the only difference between the speeches would be the ending. The man’s side would end his speech by saying: “we would like to ask (the woman’s name) for her hand in marriage according to the Holy Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace be upon him).” As for the woman’s side, they would respond by saying, if accepted: ” we would be honored to have (the man’s name) as a husband to our lady/ (woman’s name).”
So, a Jahaa is a beautiful cultural tradition that brings honor and respect to the man and woman. It glorifies both of them and starts the preparations for the rest of the year.
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