Mogadishu, Somalia, June 16, 2012 – Running away to get married is part
and parcel of Somali culture and society, though Islamic clerics have
different opinions regarding the legality of this type of marriage.
Wahabis and other Muslim radicals believe that eloping is against the
teaching of Islam.
The practice is taboo because it ignores the consent and the knowledge
of the parents. But the moderate Sufis argue this type of marriage is
valid as long as the spouses live 90 kilometers away from their parents.
Sheikh Abdall Ahmed is one of the moderate clerics. He says there is no
distinction between running away to get married and a marriage with
parental consent.“According to Islamic law a man and a woman can
contract marriage without consent from their parents, therefore clerics
like me approach the couple to carry out the ritual as we normally
welcome them,” he explains.
According to current official statistics, one in every three Somali
families were created after the couple had eloped but the practice was
totally banned by Al-Shabaab, a militant group that has links with
Al-Qaeda when they were in control of large swathes of south and central
Somalia. They say eloping is un-islamic therefore its eradication is
A few months back it used to be rare in areas under Al-Shabaab control
that a girl would run-off with a boy and get married without the consent
of the parents, but where the militias have been driven away it seems an
It was only a few days ago that Somali troops backed by the African
Union’s peacekeeping mission, Amisom, forcefully took control of Afgoi
in Lower Shabelle region. This raised the hopes of many couples who
heard that the next step would be to free Wanleweyn, a town 90
kilometers away from Mogadishu, known for hosting the majority of
elopement marriages in south and central Somalia .
Mohamed Ahmed, who is unable to afford the lavish sum that a wedding
normally costs, is now getting ready to pack as he and his partner are
planning to travel to Wanleweyn town.
“I can’t wait until Wanlaweyn is liberated, but time proves that the
days of the ban on eloping to get married are numbered. I and my fiancée
will be the first to reach Wanleweyn town, in order to formalize our
long standing relationship and to reap the crops of our beautiful love”.
Most arguments involve economic aspects. The huge amounts of expenses
incurred are said to be too staggering for families from a poor country
like Somalia.Khadro, Mohamend's fiancée, says only sweet words, smooth
love, open hands, beautiful behavior, sweetness and togetherness is what
yields success and she is against pressurizing her husband to pay what
he cannot afford.
“I have to follow what my fiancé sees as appropriate for our love and
oppose whatever obstacles are in our way, I have never dictated to him
nor stipulated that he must have a fortune that is why our love has
endured so many years”
Elopement is also a common way for a Somali woman to avoid an arranged
marriage. However, the practice is frowned upon in Somali society and a
woman who elopes may be risking her family's anger and weakening the
bonds between her parents and her husband.
But sometimes after a lengthy wrangle between the two families, parents
finally reach a compromise on the expenditure of the wedding feast and