PAINFULLY COSTLY, TOO LAVSH

Clerics' call for modest weddings splits men, women, imams

Critics say divorces will increase as cheap weddings provide little incentive to stay.

In Summary

• Some said it will reduce the burden and encourage the young to wed while others said it will demean weddings.

• Clerics resolved that bridegrooms will pay four cows or Sh60,000 as dowry — down from more than Sh100,000.f

National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale attends a nikah ceremony equivalent to exchange of vows in a Christian wedding.
LAVISH OR MODEST? National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale attends a nikah ceremony equivalent to exchange of vows in a Christian wedding.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Muslim clerics' call to lower the cost of weddings has caused a firestorm of controversy and divided men, women and clerics all over Garissa.

In Masalani, Ijara subcounty, last weekend, clerics resolved at a baraza that weddngs were painfully costly and unnecessarily lavish.

They said bridegrooms should only be expected to pay four cows or Sh60,000 as dowry — down from more than Sh100,000.

They also resolved that the bride's gown and accessories should not cost more than Sh20,000. Gowns can cost as much as Sh50,000, even more. Many women and their parents push for a big dowry, expensive weddings and gifts of gold jewellery.

The religious leaders also declared payment in dollars illegal. They set the cost of engagement at Sh30,000.

Weddings in many communities are held in high esteem. The man entering into a marriage should feel the financial pinch so that he can safeguard wedlock.
Masalani cleric

Over the past week, the issue has been widely discussed and many social media users have criticised the call for modest weddings, saying that it cheapens and demeans them when they should be a source of pride.

Supporters said the resolution will reduce the burden and encourage young people to marry.

A Masalani cleric who requested anonymity said the clerics erred in making the declaration "on such a sensitive matter". 

“Weddings in many communities are held in high esteem. In many communities, the man entering into a marriage should feel the financial pinch so that he can safeguard wedlock," he said.

“Making a marriage cheap will only lead to more divorces  because it will be cheap." 

Most Somali weddings are lavish. the bride price is often more than Sh100,000. The newlywed's house is supposed to be furnished afresh and may cost as much as Sh1 million or more.

Bachelor Abdi Yussuf, 34, supports more modest weddings but calls for "genuine conversation", especially involving clerics, on how best to handle the issue.

“Many young men have been suffering silently and nobody is speaking for them, except for [Garissa Township MP Aden] Duale. But because he is a politician, nobody took him seriously," Yussuf said.

The demand for a gold ring or a neckless is outrageous. We should not be out to milk our men dry under the guise of a wedding.
Leila Abdi, engaged

He added, “Even though there's a feeling the decision will demean marriage as an institution, we should also be realistic in our demands, especially when it comes to dowry and other requirements.” 

He said there should be a negotiation between both families.

Leila Abdi, 24, who is engaged, said weddings are a source of pride by many women but with changing economic times, "it is high time some demands are reviewed and done away with."

“For example, the demand for a gold ring or a neckless is outrageous if not unrealistic.  We should not be out to milk our men dry under the guise of a wedding,” she said. 

Some parents make outrageous demands regardless of whom their daughter is marrying, she said. "Personally, when that time comes,  I will dictate what I want from mu husband-to-be."

Religious leaders met separately met with local elders and women who have received most of the blame for demanding costly marriages. They agreed to abide by the clerics calls for more modest weddings.

National Assembly Majority leader Duale recently said imams should be at the forefront to ensure weddings are affordable.

He said immorality has been on the rise while young men ripe for marriage have been faced outrageous dowry demands.

“Hundreds of youths have been coming to us to support their engagements. This is because the new culture has put men under undue pressure," Duale said.

Hundreds of men immediately took to social media, welcoming the move to lessen the burden.

Others, mostly women, said religious leaders should not set standards for weddings but only offer advice.

The clerics have since been educating residents in mosques and at barazas on their resolution to cut the costs of tying the knot.

Edited by R.Wamochie