Compare and Contrast Paper

Title: Comparison and Contrast Between Muslim and Christian Marriages in Syria

Muslim and Christian marriages in Syria are characterized by both similarities and differences. For instance, Syria is a conservative society where arranged marriages are a common phenomenon among both Muslims and Christians. This approach to marriage in Syria has been widely associated with lower divorce rates than regular marriages that are the norm in Western societies (Arlandson 79). In both religions, engagement is not prescribed in holy texts, but it is a fundamental step towards marriage in this conservative society. In terms of differences, Christian marriages typically take place in churches while Muslim marriages can occur in different locations. Besides, polygamy is allowed in Islam, but not in Christianity. Overall, social values, cultural beliefs, and family lifestyles in the conservative Syrian society among both Muslims and Christians greatly contribute to low divorce rates, and therefore, should be promoted. This essay will demonstrate the importance of adhering to these cultural beliefs as a way of strengthening the marriage institution in Syria.

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            To begin with, arranged marriages are the norm for both Muslim and Christian couples in Syria. The process commences once a man reaches an age that is considered appropriate for marriage. Both he and his parents must agree that time has come to find a spouse. Consequently, they stay on the look-out for an acceptable girl primarily within the circles of their close-knit community (Rabo 84). The aim of searching for a potential bride inside the social circle is to ensure that the man finds a spouse who is of the same socio-economic standing. Meanwhile, it is acceptable for the girl to be slightly less financially endowed than the groom considering that it is the man’s responsibility to provide for his family. The most important attributes of a potential bride for both Muslims and Christians in Syria include virginity, beauty, and membership in a reputable family.

            Upon identifying a potential bride, a time comes for both families to come together to mark the commencement of marriage proceedings that will potentially end up in an engagement. To mark the official start of an engagement, both the bride and the groom are required to wear engagement rings. It is during engagement that the two potential spouses start getting to know each other. The main social activities at this time include chaperoned meetings, numerous phone-call conversations, and family gatherings. If all goes well, a times comes for the wedding date to be set. However, for both Muslims and Christians in Syria, not many engagements end up in marriage. Along the way, some couples realize that they are not compatible and subsequently resort to breaking up the engagement. Still, official engagements remain the only way of bringing prospective brides and grooms together to know each other in this highly conservative society. Notably, engagement has no any religious importance in Islam, although it is an important step towards a successful marriage.

            Meanwhile, one important religious distinction in Syria is that polygamy is allowed in Islam but not in Christianity. Muslims are allowed to marry up to four wives at a time. Religious texts offer a number of reasons for marrying more than one wife, including inability by a wife to get pregnant and the need to avoid cheating on the part of the man. In the latter case, the argument is that a man would rather marry and solemnize an official marriage relationship than cheat on his wife.

            Another important difference is that Christian marriages take place in the church while Muslim marriages can take place in diverse locations. Muslim families regularly arrange weddings in different places, including houses, wedding halls, and even hotels. Regardless of these differences, though, marriage for both religions is a civil contract. It is considered an important initiation rite that protects conservatism in the Syrian society by legalizing sexual intercourse and helping in the continuation of the human race through procreation.

            In Islam, marriage is viewed from three perspectives: social, legal, and religious. Again, two types of Mahr are identified, the most common of which is the specified dower which is arrived at by mutual consent of both parties. It can be paid immediate upon marriage, after its dissolution, or on the occurrence of a specified event in marriage. The second type of Mahr is the prompt dower, which must be paid immediately on marriage through mutual consent by both parties or as demanded by the wife. The concept of Mahr is not applicable in Christian marriage. However, the religions has put in place conation procedures to be followed by all believers. A fundamental rule in Christianity is that a man must not have more than one wife at the same time. The religion also calls upon both the man and woman to be singularly committed to the marriage. Meanwhile, certain values are shared by both religions in regards to marriage proceedings and values. For example, both religions acknowledge the importance of inviting witnesses during the commencement of the marriage contract (Krayem and Farrar 103).

            In Islam, the Quran provides guidelines on dispute resolution in marriage through the concept of “Talak”. Even if mediation by family members fails and the wife keeps “Mahr”, the husband is required to stay in good terms with his former wife. Similarly, divorce is strongly discouraged in Christianity. The only grounds on which the Bible provides for divorce is when one of the spouses engages in adultery. Coupled with the conservative nature of the Syrian society, these practices have created a cultural context in which divorce rates are much lower than in the western societies (Arlandson 79).

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            As shown in this analysis, arranged marriage is a cultural practice that has permeated Middle-Eastern societies, and Syria is no exception. Moreover, this practice seems to transcend religious boundaries. The same case applies to the adherence to strict cultural rules of engagement. Meanwhile, there are many situations where religious factors necessitate differences in the way Muslims and Christians address marriage issues in Syria, for example, the issue of polygamy. Despite these differences, the conservative approach that these two religions adopt in regards to marriage has led to the strengthening of the marriage institution through low divorce rates, and therefore, should be used as a model for all contemporary societies.

Works Cited

Arlandson, James. Lifestyles of the Rich and Christian: Women, Wealth, and Social Freedom. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.  

Krayem, Ghena and Farrar, Salim. Accommodating Muslims Under Common Law: A Comparative Analysis. New York, NY: Routledge. Print.

Rabo, Annika. ‘We are Christians and We are Equal Citizens’: Perspectives on Particularity and Pluralism in Contemporary Syria. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 23.1 (2012): 79-93. Web.

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