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Different communities, different attitudes toward marriage

by Zahid Jadwat

There has been a growing trend in the Western world whereby people seek marriage later on in life. South Africa has not been spared, but there are nuances in attitudes towards marriage between cultural communities.

That’s according to Moulana Luqman Skink, who shared his thoughts in an interview with Maryam Mkwanda.

When asked whether he believed marriage was increasingly seen negatively by youth, Skink said: “It depends which community you’re talking about because we have different ethnicities and I think every community has different attitudes towards marriage.”

According to a report on marriage and divorce published by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) in 2021, marital statistics have steadily shifted in the country.

The report revealed the average South African married later in life than previously. This is indicated by the median age of bridegrooms increasing from 36 years in 2015 to 37 years in 2019. Similarly, the age of brides increased from 31 years to 33 years over the same period.

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Cultural differences

With the extensive diversity that exists in South Africa, there is a contrast in the “ideal” age for marriage between cultural communities.

“For the traditional Indian Muslim community, marriage is an aspirational thing for the man and the woman. The gentleman would like to get married as soon as possible, while still young,” he said.

“In African communities, men get married in their thirties, mid-thirties and even early-forties. That is seen to be normal because now you’re mature, your career is pretty much stable [and] you can have a family,” Skink added.

However, as Skink pointed out, there exists yet another nuance: cultural differences are often set aside for religious ideals.

“[In Islam], being married is actually the gateway to your rizq – in the sense that, when you get married, Allah will open your doors of rizq. You find that maybe you were walking when you were single.  And after you get married you get a car and a house,” he said.

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It is widely understood that shifting trends in the West are largely a result of greater emphasis on financial success. However, Skink noted that the trend among Black Africans could be attributed differently.

“The thing is that among Black people, regardless of whether you’re Muslim or non-Muslim, the issue of lobola is always around.”

Lobola sometimes referred to as the “bride price”, is a customary practice among African communities. It is generally accepted that cows, at a minimum, are required in a lobola within the Xhosa and Zulu cultures.

High-profile figures, such as Nelson Mandela practised the custom. He paid a lobola of sixty cows for his wife, Graça Machel, in 1998.

“That is why,” he explained, “in the Black community men will put off marriage for much later [when they have] a better financial position.”

Islam encourages marriage at a young age where spouses grow in the safety of each other. Where they are better protected from ills and temptations.

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