Tag Archives: Islam

Wedding Shower at the Kumasi Central Mosque

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a Muslim wedding ceremony in the zongo surrounding the Kumasi Central Mosque. The ceremony involves the bride reciting verses from the Quran with the guidance of a Mallam (religious teacher). During the recitation, guests and family members offer gifts of cash to the bride. The groom was not present as he was undergoing the same ceremony at his home. It was wonderful to see the entire community organize the wedding together. The bride was flanked by classmates from her madrasah who diligently wiped away every bead of sweat or tear on her face. Not far from where the ceremony was held, elder women of the community cooked wakye (pronounce wah-chey), a local dish of rice and beans to serve to wedding guests.

Watch the video for a snippet of the event.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fApYkwZkZg

A Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar…: religious harmony in Ghana from a Muslim perspective

[pullquote]“The Qur’an commands us to live next to them, to be kind to them, to do justice to them.  We eat their food and marry their children.  They attend our ceremonies and we attend theirs.  Our children go to Christian schools.”[/pullquote]

In Ghana, there’s no questioning that religion plays a big role in things – it informs political decisions, defines cultural practices, and sets societal standards.  From billboards to taxis, religion is everywhere.  One of my preferred pastimes during the long trek to and from work is to see what kind of religious names cabdrivers have named their cars; so far, some of the best ones include Holy Spirit Makes Me Fast, God’s Chariot, and my personal favourite, Jesus Power.

It is thought that about 68 per cent of Ghanaians are Christians, and at least 25 per cent are Muslims, with higher concentrations of Muslims in the north.  Before we came, I was concerned with how this might affect traveling throughout the country; would Lin be hassled down south because she was a Muslim, and would my Christianity be accepted up north?  I had been keeping up to date with the happenings in Nigeria, the country most often compared to Ghana, where tensions between Muslim rebels and the Christian government have reached deadly levels in the past months.

Then I got to Ghana, and all of my fears were alleviated.  If there were ever a model for peaceful coexistence in a country, I found it in Ghana.  In Canada, conflict between Christianity and Islam, two religions with an uneasy history, is avoided mostly by exactly that: avoidance.  Muslims go to mosque, Christians go to church, and they generally don’t associate too much outside of a professional context.  There isn’t dialogue, there’s no framework in place to encourage religious harmony; religious tolerance is all that’s expected.

Not so in Ghana.  Here, Muslims and Christians live side by side, often in the same compounds, sharing meals, laughs, and as it turns out, family.

“In Ghana here, since we have been born our fathers have lived peacefully with the Christians,” says Alhaji Mohammed Abdul Wahab, Deputy Iman of the Ashanti Region.  “The Qur’an commands us to live next to them, to be kind to them, to do justice to them.  We eat their food and marry their children.  They attend our ceremonies and we attend theirs.  Our children go to Christian schools.”

When I press him about what the Qur’an says about sharing the Muslim faith, something that the Bible is very adamant about for Christianity, Abdul Wahab quotes me a verse from the holy text he has been studying for most of his life.

“There is no compulsory religion,” he says.  “I won’t force you to come on the right path.  It is open, and if you see it, you will come.”

It’s a startlingly refreshing perspective on such a historically volatile issue, one that has been the cause of many global conflicts for centuries.  I decide to poach the elephant in the room, and mention the Crusades, Israel and Palestine, 9/11, threats of Qur’an burnings in Florida, bringing it all home by pointing out the religious blood feud currently taking place a couple of countries over.

Abdul Wahab sighs.

“It’s not a religious conflict,” he says, contradicting everything and anything I’ve ever known about Christian-Muslim tensions.  “If you go down to the roots, you will find other reasons – tribal, ethnic, political.  People just want to mask things with religion, to hide behind it.”

“What is going on in the world, it worries us.  We don’t know what it will bring tomorrow.  But here in Ghana, we will continue to do as God commands.  We will continue to live in brotherhood.”

Imam Abdul Wahab says he considers Christian Ghanaians to be his brothers and sisters. The world could learn a few things.

The price of love

A Ghanaian bride is primped by relatives

You’re bound to come across a wedding in Ghana on a weekly basis. Weddings here are similar to what you’d expect in Canada—a church service, a big white dress, a groom in a sharp suit and a large reception.

This month, I attended a friend’s wedding in Kumasi. I was excited since it was going to be a traditional Muslim service, which I have never witnessed before.

I arrived armed with a new dress and pair of sandals, giddy with excitement.

But, when I saw the groom, Mufty Mohammed, he was stressed, more than the typical day-before-wedding jitters.

“They’ve just demanded an extra 400 cedis ($285 CAD)!” he exclaimed.

“Who did?” I asked.

“The lady’s family. They are squeezing me for  all I’m worth,” he said.

A traditional Muslim wedding can be very expensive for the groom. Beyond covering typical expenses, he has to pay a bride price, a gift in cash to the parents of the wife, and a mahr, a gift of money, possessions or property given to the wife, a compulsory part of an Islamic marriage contract.

In some cases, like Mufty’s, the woman and her parents may request an extremely high mahr. He had to reschedule his wedding date three times as well as sell his car to satisfy the financial demands of his future in-laws.

“It is very annoying,” he says. “Assuming a struggling young man like me, you expect me to pay thousands of cedis to marry your daughter and the relationship doesn’t work out. It’s very psychologically damaging.”

The mahr is typically set according to a prospective husband’s financial situation and should not normally be more than he can easily afford.

But in some cases, overzealous family members negotiate on the bride’s behalf, looking to host a flashy wedding.

“With the advancement of society, the token of bride wealth has become very huge and can result in some heavy debts,” says Osei Piesie Anto, a professor at the Islamic University College in Accra. He admits that some families take advantage of the tradition and consider bride wealth and mahr as a way to get rich quick and end up straining the marriage.

“Now it’s about extravagance—spending money to look good to the public,” says Mufty. “But, if you drain the groom, how can he support the wife?”

A Ghanaian Muslim marriage is considered the union of two families, not only two individuals. The marriage customs allow the in-laws to get heavily involved in all the wedding arrangements and the setting of the bride price and mahr.

“It’s a bond between the two families and it’s very important,” says Anto. If you take my daughter who I’ve put through university, what are you going to give back to me? It’s a token.”

Anto compares the bride price and mahr to the tradition of a man buying a woman an expensive ring to exhibit his commitment. But, he admits the tradition should be polished to make it more modern.

Of course, cultural traditions should be valued and maintained, but culture is fluid and adapts with the times. The idea of two families bound together in the Ghanaian Muslim tradition can ensure a more stable and secure marriage.

According to Mufty, there’s something moderately unromantic about literally putting a price on love.

“All this frustration and anger has been eating away at me,” Mufty laments. “The night your wife is presented to you, the joy is not always there. You think, ‘Is this lady worth all this money?’”