Between Us Only!
Marriages Between Cousins!
Marriages between cousins – or the Medical Term – is ‘Consanguinity Marriages’.
In some Western countries – like in USA – they even ban such marriages – and perhaps because medically proved to be harmful and resultant genetic disorders and deformities – especially to the offspring!
Encouraged, however, in many Muslims (Arab) societies – mainly for ‘the family, tribe and other ties and preservations’.
I do not know if you agree with me or not – but I am a firm believer that before one can be allowed to marry – he or she should undergo a sort of test to determine suitability of being parents – and bringing children into this world – looking after them as they are growing and being nurtured! Why is it that we have licenses for driving cars – or businesses – or even getting education and training certificates, diplomas and degrees? The idea must sound absurd – but is it really? Think on it for a minute!
Image – Arab Henna
In one of the famous light-hearted moments that my late father would not ever forget to his dying day was when he called me in front of the Council of Family Elders in that distant land – and told them that M – still only in Primary school at 16 years – had something to say – a request – to the Elders – and if they would ‘please pay attention’ to listen to him! I was a very naïve trusting boy – and did not notice that the ‘sniggers’ were already forming – and trying hard to be subdued!
You are going to marry her!
So my late father says promptly and encouragingly to me – Okay – your Uncles are listening! The word in English remains as Uncle – but in Arabic there are differences between father’s brother and mother’s brother – but they were all there waiting interestingly for me to begin. I started in my broken Arabic – but they encouragingly said to me to speak in the local lingo – we will understand you! Subdued sniggers again!
When I finished talking – everybody had already fallen frolicked on the ground – laughing uncontrollably and incessantly! I was really puzzled and confused as to what was going on – so they again asked me ‘to repeat myself’ – followed by more laughter and mirth. One of the uncles hugged me tightly – ‘you made my day’ – he whispered to me. Warped sense of humour these elders!
Then they offered another solution to my request – and that was why the council had met! To hear me on the ‘second option’ they had on me – as the first one ‘was completely out of the question’. Then dried dates and coffee were served – whilst I felt like sinking into the ground! Simply and smugly put – it was just a question of ‘the birds and bees’ at my age then – but nobody had explained to me about these things. In today’s lives – I would hardly dare to do that to my son – because I would end as the more ‘Embarrassed One’ than anybody else!
I got him!
The meeting had been held because I saw that very beautiful girl – and I had followed her to her house. I wanted to get married to her – and that was the ‘Big Joke’ going around! Forget about the ‘birds and the bees’ for a moment – but this girl’s family never allowed anybody outside their tribe to get married into the tribe – even if they were the same Omani stock like us!
It was always marriages inside the tribe – but more between cousins – first ones more! So the meeting of the elders was set – to determine my second option to choose from my other 16 cousins – and if I forget who was who – they would bring them ‘to show me’! Thus the big gathering in the house – M was going to choose a bride today! Happy occasion! My late Mother was so upset that I had not discussed this first with her – she was closer to her own Mother – and thought that we would follow suit – but we were ‘macho kids’!
But I had badly disappointed them – because it was the other girl ‘I could not have’ that I was still interested in! Years later I met this girl – and we had a long laugh together! Yes – she was married to her first cousin – but the marriage did not last! Even after the children! These families were not ‘really rich and famous’ – but they had their ways of doing things – even now to a lesser extent with the changing times and modernity!
Not My Cousin!
Indeed, there was a very beautiful article by one famed (Salalah) Omani lady about these problems in The South – followed by another Omani lady from Muscat in another daily. There is nothing more that I could add except to say that especially with us stock from The Interior – these things still do exist – even if they emigrate to other countries – as vividly displayed by the Council of Elders – and the always dried dates and coffee that followed!
Years and years later – my heart had gone to one first cousin – but she had her own priorities than me! On the day of the wedding my late poor feeling father saw me depressed and again he asked me – Just say it – and I will stop this wedding just now! Whether she likes it or not – she will get married to you. I said to him – Sorry Dad – let it be – but I certainly do not want an ‘unwilling tied by rope wife’ to come to me!
The sad part was that our late grandparents had already marked me for her to get married to – but none in the lists left behind ever were accomplished – everybody got married to everybody else – with no exceptions – non in cousins – and or first cousins – included! When my son wanted to get married to ‘a sort of a foreigner’ – I tried my father’s ways – but failed badly! Yuk – my son declared – Are you out of your mind? She is my sister – we grew up together! Be serious dad! How can you dare to suggest such a cousin to me?
And that is The Society for you – now! But yes – in some quarters still continue – but slowly changing too! Take Care!
By Majid Al Suleimany
Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. Jules Renard