We need to keep in mind that the wedding is a one-day (in some cultures, one-week) event in our lives. Many times we find people sacrificing their religious values for this one day. Yes, it is special and hopefully once in a lifetime, but nothing is worth upsetting Allah just because we did not want to answer questions about why our wedding was segregated. “Congratulations! Let me see the ring!” – These are usually the first words spoken, or heard, when a girl tells her friend she has gotten engaged to be married. The “ring”, a sign of marriage, is universally a tradition which, in a way, “marks” the couple. In the Western world, the ring is a must-have, as well as an engagement band, plus a wedding ring once the couple is actually married.
So where did this all start? It is said that the tradition of a giving a ring began in ancient Rome, and possibly much older than that, as the last gift in a series of marriage gifts. It is also said that historically, the rings were not only a sign of marriage and love, but of money. It was more so to show the exchange of valuables and assurance that the family will be able to take care of the young couples.
In India, toe rings are given as a sign of marriage, and usually in all South Asian culture, a bangle or set of bangles is given to the bride.
The traditions are many, and the origins are all over. Today, we see an extremely common trend amongst all cultures and religions of wearing a diamond ring. Along with the many traditions come opinions. In some families, the diamond rings are seen as a sign of materialism, and almost a waste of money. (In some cultures, this exchange of diamond rings has been stopped due to their commitment of not supporting the violence regarding diamond trade.) On the other hand, for some it is to show the love between the couple, and also that “so and so” is “taken”.
Unfortunately, many women have begun to waste precious time before marriage deciding what ring to buy, instead of asking the necessary questions or getting the necessary information about their future spouse in order to ensure a happy and lasting marriage. It is common to see jealousy or feeling less loved by our future husband when a friend has a bigger diamond ring than we do. Do our young Muslim women today who are marriage-ready think about the right things when they hear a friend got engaged? Or even when they are engaged? Do a little experiment and ask young girls in your community about what they want when they get married.
So what is Islam’s opinion on the matter? As far as my research has gone, there is no problem with exchanging rings during marriage. But it is quite important to do research and make sure that any traditions we do perform, or take part in, during our marriages do not originate from anything that is against Islamic beliefs or principles. Another thing to keep in mind as far as wearing wedding rings in public, as ornamentation, is to make sure to check with your Marja Taqleed (Religious Authority) about exposing ornamentation, having to cover it up, etc. For example, some Maraja do say that a woman must either cover her jewelry, even Aqeeq rings, or not wear them in public at all. We do not want our newlyweds to start off their marriage on the wrong foot, by committing a prohibited or even a discouraged act.
The ring is just one small tradition which falls in the jumble of the hundreds that take place during a wedding. We cannot forget about clothing, event seating, location, dowry, and the list can go on and on. We need to keep in mind that the wedding is a one-day (in some cultures, one-week) event in our lives. Many times we find people sacrificing their religious values for this one day. Yes, it is special and hopefully once in a lifetime, but nothing is worth upsetting Allah just because we did not want to answer questions about why our wedding was segregated. Or why the bride was wearing Hijab. Or even why there was no music or background sound. Is it really worth it in the end?
Whatever it is, we must remember that marriage in Islam is completing half of one’s faith – it is the start and the opportunity for two Muslims to re-focus their lives and contemplate their purpose and goals in life. If our intention to be married is just to look pretty and have a “wedding everyone will remember,” (which is hard for women to not feel) then we need to, as always, look to our role models, the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).
We are all guilty of desiring luxury, and even dreaming sometimes of things that technically just don’t matter in our spiritual lives. But sometimes I wonder if Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) before her Nikah thought about her honeymoon? Or about what kind of ring Imam Ali (peace be upon him) was going to give her. Sometimes I wonder if any of our Imams and Prophets (peace be upon them) thought about how they could only marry a perfectly figured and beautiful woman? What was beauty to them? What was marriage to them? What was its purpose to them?
As we see the divorce rate increase, even in Muslim families and communities, we are saddened. But we have nobody to blame but ourselves. The more emphasis we put on details that are tangible in our marriages, the less emphasis we are putting on things like what A’maal to do on the wedding night, or what kind of preparation a young girl and boy can do in order to choose the right spouse. We need to work as communities to encourage self-criticism through critical thinking amongst those who are ready to be married so that they realize why Islam says marriage is completing half of your faith. Half of our Islam is definitely not just worth a diamond ring – it is priceless.