Relationships - Male/Female
| The marriage process among Muslims
in Gambia is a relatively simple affair. If a man is interested
a woman, after informing his parents, then male representatives
(uncles, brothers, close relatives) of the groom are then
sent to the woman's house. They present some Kola nuts &
express the groom's interest. If the woman's representatives
agree then they set a date for the wedding & announce
this to all relatives. Usually such weddings are held at a
Mosque of Jaka but could just as well be held in the woman's
Usually only men are allowed at the Mosque or Jaka ceremony
and the bride and groom are very often barred from attending
the gathering! At the ceremony more Kola nuts are handed over
as well as some token dowry money maybe between £50 to £100
though this could be higher as it is set by the brides family.
Speeches and prayers are then said and that is more or less
it. The process at the Mosque is called "Takka"
which means to tie (much the same as tie the knot in English)!
It should be noted that a wedding can take place even if the groom and
bride are outside the country and living in different continents for
that matter. Furthermore there is virtually no engagement period as it
is simply announced a week or less before the wedding date, though
arrangements would have taken place one or two weeks prior.
If a Christian woman and a
Muslim man are to wed then it could be
possible to have a ceremony in the Mosque and a civil ceremony in
Banjul at the registry office.
Should the marriage turn to talk of divorce then it
is up to the man to write to his wife's parents or failing that her
uncle or close elder relations and say in the letter that he is
divorcing his wife giving an explanation of the reasons why. There
then follows a period of talks when a family delegation from the man's
family would try to talk to the husband asking him to re-consider his
decision. This is something that has to be done under
unions among people of the Moslem faith, usually follows certain
traditional Islamic tradition with an infusion of ethnic customs and
practices. It is an elaborate ceremonial tradition with its own rules
and forms of etiquette. Although men marry at a somewhat later age,
most women marry between the ages of 14-20 (20-30 in urban areas).
The wedding is mainly an arrangement between two families and not between
individuals, especially when it is a case of a second or third wife,
although today in most of the country the couple to be wed is
consulted and their wishes respected. However, great importance is
still placed on marrying within the social group.
The courtship begins with the offering of kola nuts to the parents of
the bride-to-be by the suitor's family. If the father accepts them, a
bride price is established ("la dot") and a date for the ceremony at
the mosque is arranged. The origins of "la dot" probably signify
imparting a guarantee of stability and also a compensation to the
bride's family for the loss of one of its members.
When all the dowry is paid and accounted for, a wedding date
can then be set. Wedding ceremonies should be held on Thursday
evening, but today because of work constraints the weddings
are often held on Sunday. The bride prepares herself at home
as close friends help wash, perfume and dress her in white
clothes with a white veil or pagne (cloth) covering her face.
Her hands are dyed with henna and her hair is braided with
beads or coins. If she is Fulani or Tukulor she will wear
3 gris-gris around her neck to protect her against evil spirits.
The day of the "tying of the marriage" the uncles
and fathers of the betrothed (the couple to be wedded are
not present) meet at the mosque. Three witnesses are present
before the Marabout, and kola nuts brought by the bride's
father are distributed to the guests. The remainder of the
dowry is now handed over to the bride's father by the groom's
father or other male relative. The average dowry now is over
D3,000 but among the urban bourgeoisie it may be a lot more.
After the mosque formalities the groom delivers to the bride's
home all the gifts she asked for and which have previously
been agreed upon: usually a wooden bed, a radio, a watch,
shoes, etc. (Today this may also include a television or VCR.)
Then a goat, a sheep, or a cow is killed and food prepared
for the assembled guests (the bride and groom remain separately
in their own homes.)
After drumming and feasting all night at the bride's home
until about 5 o'clock in the morning, she may go to the home
of her new husband. There a cow or sheep is killed and more
food prepared and the celebration continues until evening.
From this time on the bride stays with her husband. The next
few days involve various rites and ritual feasting marking
the bride's official membership in the husband's compound.
One week later the "jour de linge" (laundry day)
marks the end of the honeymoon.
The wife and her friends gather up all the laundry from the
week and go to the well. Clothing and linens may be deliberately
soiled by the husband's friends; dancing and celebrating highlighted
by a special feast mark this day.
Relationships - Male/Female