All posts by Matchbox Staff

Arranged Marriages, Toronto Style

Today’s Young (and not so young) Muslims are reclaiming the narrative and space of who, how and why to get married. In this article stemming from Nanjiani’s film The Big Sick, Siminpillai quotes Toronto’s Imam Yusuf Badat showing just some of the ways that this process is being reclaimed.

A local Imam says arranged marriages aren’t the archaic custom they once were, and they’re not the same as forced ones

From L to R: Shenaz Treasury as “Fatima,” Adeel Akhtar as “Naveed,” Anupam Kher as “Azmat” and Kumail Nanjiani as “Kumail” in THE BIG SICK. Photo by Nicole Rivelli. Image Source :

Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani spoke to me about his desire to rehabilitate Western perceptions around arranged marriages in his new semi-autobiographical film, The Big Sick.

While Nanjiani himself eluded arranged marriage, his rom-com depicts modern South Asians’ attitudes to the process, as a new generation reclaim it – minus some of its more archaic elements.

Imām Yūsuf Badāt from the Islamic Foundation of Toronto presides over approximately 80 marriages a year. He’s noticed changes when it comes to arranged marriages over the 20 years he has practised in the GTA.

“There used to be immense parental involvement in deciding who the partner could be,” says Badāt. “A lot of cultural practices were included in that process. Over time I’ve seen less control from the parents. Decisions are being made by the marrying couple, and younger individuals are more concerned with religion than culture.”

Badāt is careful to separate cultural and religious practices. He points out that it’s often culture that translates the purpose behind a dowry (in Islamic terms, it’s an agreed-upon gift from the husband to the wife) or restricts marrying outside of clan, tribe, language or race.

“From the religious perspective, it is absolutely fine to marry outside your culture. It’s not a problem. Younger individuals want to do what’s religiously accepted, not necessarily what’s culturally accepted.”

If arranged marriages carry a stigma, perhaps it’s because they’re often associated with forced marriages, a completely separate thing.

In 2013, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) published a three-year study that reported over 200 cases where women were forced into marriage in Ontario; many more probably go unreported.

It’s an urgent issue that affects communities as varied as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses. SALCO, which offers tool kits and legal services to victims, keeps the difference between arranged and forced marriage clear. The latter is an act of violence and a human rights violation.

“This is not allowed in the religion,” says Badāt. “It might be culturally acceptable, but it is absolutely wrong.”

The Imam has seen few instances over time but admits it still happens. Nine out of the 10 times it’s a girl who’s victimized. He recounts situations in which parents pressure a young woman to marry a man they’ve chosen, sometimes forcefully ripping her away from a relationship she’s already in. Families may disown a girl who rejects an arranged marriage.

He addresses these matters in sermons, particularly during wedding season, and intervenes when issues are brought to his attention. His organizations offer workshops to educate couples and their families, though the elder generation typically refuse such counsel for fear of airing their dirty laundry.

He reminds them that in the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad terminated a marriage forced upon a woman.

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How can I make my marriage a means of drawing closer to Allah?

Marriage means different things for different people. A common question our clients ask us matchmakers is how do we make our marriage for God, but still enjoy it. This beautiful, and very short, comment by Shaykh Aslam is a great insight into doing just that. When your daily acts and reminders within your marriage are a means of becoming a better person and helping your partner become better – through love, mercy and concern; then you’re really completing half your deen.

This excerpt was originally extracted from a 2016 lecture by the lovely folk over at Sout Ilaahi.

Q: Shaykh, how do we make our marriage a means of having a relationship with Allah, meaning husband and wife and the intimacy with Allah (swt), can you give us the secrets?

A: (Shaykh Aslam) The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If the husband wakes up and then he wakes up his wife for the Morning Prayer, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, Allah have mercy upon that husband. And if the wife wakes up and she awakens the husband for the Morning Prayer, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, Allah have mercy upon that woman who wakes up her husband.”

So this relationship of marriage should also be companionship of treading the path to Allah (swt) by encouraging each other upon worship, reminding each other of Allah’s blessings and Allah’s favours, reminding each other of righteous and pious acts so that both stay strong in worship to Allah (swt).

This question was answered by Shaykh Mohammed Aslam at a public lecture in 2016.

Alhamdulillah, Shaykh Mohammed Aslam will be coming to Singapore from 11Aug – 12 Aug for a series of spiritually recharging, soul-awakening lectures and workshops.

Embrace the true reality of Divine Love, find inspiration and hope in the Everlasting Friendship with Allah and the Prophet ﷺ, and learn how to manifest both Divine Beauty and Majesty the way the Companions did.

Tickets selling fast! Details & registration link here.

For bank transfer, email us at

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