Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Tatar Muslims Choose Islamic Marriages Over State Registration

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 17 – Young people in Tatarstan increasingly are choosing to marry according to Islamic precepts in the mosque rather than register their marriages with the state, a change that some are making because of the ease of dissolving such unions and a step that others are taking because of the increasing importance of Islam in their lives.
In the Tatar-language newspaper “Shehri Kazan” on July 7, journalist D. Zeimullina notes that ever more young people in Tatarstan are choosing to affirm their marriages through the Islamic ritual of nakat rather than officially register with the state’s ZAGS office (http://www.islamrf.ru/articles.php?razdel=1&sid=727).
Several young women told her, Zeimullina says, that they were doing so both to avoid “awkward questions” from their parents about their relationships and also to be in a position to dissolve their marriages without recourse to a lengthy legal process should the match not work out.
Those calculations undoubtedly lie behind at least some of this trend, but a local imam, Is’dus-khazrat Faizov of Kazan’s Bulgar mosque, said that in his experience most of the young people choosing the religious service over state registration were doing so because of their commitment to Islam.
“For a Muslim,” Faisov continued, “earthly laws are secondary.” And consequently, it should come as no surprise to anyone that many Muslims, having taken part in the ritual of nakat “do not consider it necessary to reaffirm the bonds of matrimony in ZAGS.”
And he noted that “if a young man and a young woman begin their join life with the thought that they ‘will wait and see,’ then any nakat between them is something forbidden, and it would be better if it never took place.”
The “Shehri Kazan” article does not address two other issues that this article implicitly raises. On the one hand, it does not discuss the impact such unregistered marriages have on the statistics maintained by the governments of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation.
And on the other, it does not talk about what it means to the broader society when an increasing number of people opt out of government-mandated registration, when they truly believe, as the imam put it, that for them, such “earthly laws” are not only “secondary” but something that can be ignored.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Muslim community of Butovo announced plans to open a marriage agency to help young Muslims meet and fall in low. So far, this community has been helping informally but in the near future plans to launch its own website (http://muslim-press.ru/, July 17).

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