On Marriage by Khalil Gibran

The Collapse of a Tradition, from Sacred to Profane: The Abolishment of the Institution of Marriage

by George Nicolas El-Hage, Ph.D.

In the Middle East, in general, gender equality, love, sex, marriage, emotional relationships, and the proper place of women in society and in the workplace are still issues of debatable outcome and still draw mixed interpretations and polemic conclusions. Simple rights, whether a woman should be allowed to drive, to walk into a mall unescorted, to openly date and be free to choose a mate, and to climb the corporate ladder and lead a company, such topics can still fuel serious debates and bring down questionable consequences. Of course, there are cases, in many Arab countries, where the few have dared to challenge the tradition and break the norm. However, these are rare instances where a woman, or a group of women have been bold and “wild” to take such dangerous steps. Overwhelmingly, women still lag behind and remain treated as second class citizens.

I have spent the last six months in Lebanon and have witnessed firsthand the destruction of what is commonly held as the sacred “marriage institution.” Of course, there are couples who fall in love and fight for their togetherness and try to make it the old fashion way, by earning the right to a successful marriage and a happy family, but by and large, marriage has become a commodity, a sort of contract that should yield a lucrative mutual gain, a connection with benefits, at best, a necessary evil that in some cases is performed under social, parental or economic pressures. Even further, unfortunately, it has become a monetized, materialistic show of wealth intended to keep up appearances while in reality; it is rather void of romance and any traces of love burning in the heart of either partner.

In a country standing as a bridge between the East and the West and fast forwarding towards modernity and globalization while struggling to preserve its heritage and tradition, the institution of marriage in Lebanon is in jeopardy. At face value, the marriage ceremony has become a big business. Wedding planners, expensive venues, live entertainment, fireworks, beautiful dresses, professional make-up artists and hair services, and sit-down dinners are all in vogue. There is almost a competition to have the most expensive wedding ceremony. Yet the seriousness of marriage is a thing of the past. A life commitment, a common expectation prior to the war, seems to have become all but a faded memory. Sadly, a great number of marriages in Lebanon today end in divorce. As a result, many of the young generation are not in favor of tying the knot.

Perhaps it is due to the newly acquired freedom of this generation, the available and open means of communication, the high cost of living or fear of betrayal and lack of loyalty now common in marriages. Young men and women are simply afraid to get married, are not seeking a permanent relationship, or are postponing this frightful decision to a much later date. They are too busy working, living and enjoying their single lives. They want to experiment first, to live it all and then consider settling down. In many cases, it becomes too late to get married. But so what, they say, for it is better to be alone than to end up in a marriage that ends in divorce. Or perhaps there is not a sense of urgency because no one is really alone. The young generation still lives with their extended family, and typically parents, siblings and maids cater to almost all of their daily needs. In addition, extra marital affairs are common, and so are pleasure offering females from Lebanon and many foreign countries who are available through social media outlets, and in cafes, clubs, Super Night Clubs and hotels, who offer affordable prices and who are only a click or a phone call away. This self-defeating phenomenon is perhaps the most discouraging of social norms that saddens and disturbs me.

Notwithstanding all this, sex as an act of passion, love and pleasure remains one of the biggest complexes that young and middle aged people face and have to deal with constantly. Hence, my poem below.

عقدة الجنس
لن اكتبَ اسمكِ في دفترْ
ما ذنبُ الدفتر يلتهبُ

والمنبرُ.. أخشابُ المنبر
ستُجنُ بحبكِ .. تنتحبُ

اني أهواكِ معذبتي
تنأين.. ونحوكِ أقتربً

أبدو كالعائدِ من سفرٍ
وجهي بالدهشةِ يختضبُ

أغدو والصدفةُ تلعبُ بي
كالطيرِ ويأخذه اللعبُ

فالغربةُ بعضُ هواياتي
بمجاهلٍ شعركِ أغتربُ

أظننتي سينهكني تعبي
أصحابٌ عمري والتعبُ

عيناكِ سماءٌ مظلمةٌ
وتنامُ بعينيكِ السحبُ

وغدا العيدُ وفرحتهُ
والعيدُ ظنونٌ تُرتقبً

وأنا والعيدُ بلا حبٍ
أفراحي حزنا تنقلبُ

وهدايا العيدِ وبهجته
ورؤاه وما فيها العُلبُ

هَزجاً كالطفلِ أناديكِ
الحلوى همّي واللُعبُ

لا تبقي صامتة.. غني
كالنسمةِ ساورها الطربُ..

إني أحتاجكِ يا امرأةً
زُرِعتْ بضفائرها الشهبُ

أدعوكِ يرجّعُ أصدائي
النهرُ وينشدها القصبُ..

أقسمتُ بنهدكِ والحلمه
والفخذ وما تُخفي الحجبُ

سأبعثرُ كرمكِ أنهبهُ
الآن سيعتصرُ العنبُ

وأبيحُ الخمرَ لمن يشربْ
والناسُ شهودّ إنْ شربوا

في الشرق يعقدنا الجنسُ
ونريدُ وتقتلنا الريبُ

عيبّ الجنسُ نمارسه
كذبّ يا سمرائي.. كذبُ

استلقي قربي يانعة
أشتاقُ اليكِ.. وهل عجبُ

سنوات مرّتْ قاسية
من قبل تضاجعنا الكتبُ..

شفتاكِ قوالبُ من سكّرْ
وأنا تموز.. أنا لهبُ

سأذيبُ شفاهكِ.. أمحوها
السكرُ أثمنُ.. لا الذهبُ ..

نهداكِ قوافلُ مرهقة
ما عاد يراقصها الخببُ

تركتْ للرمل حقائبها
وسرتْ بأنينٍ تقتربُ

صدري غابات النخلِ أنا
وجذوري ثارت والعصبُ

لكن لن أرضعك الحبَ
سيثور الشرقُ او العربُ

مسكينّ شرقُ قبائلنا
فالنجمةُ ليستْ تُغتصَبُ.