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This is the beginning
It’s a special event or ceremony marking a major life stage. This is usually associated with births, but can also be the transitional ceremony from childhood to adulthood or marriage. Rite-of-passage is an even more elaborate way of organizing a life by dividing it into “before”, “after”, or stages. In each society, different rites are performed according to culture or religious beliefs. The rites are divided into three stages that indicate the various transitions in life. First, there is the preliminal or separation stage. The second phase is the stage of rites, which focuses primarily on the transition. The final stage, the post-liminal phase, is when an individual returns to society’s norms but has a different status. Thomassen (2009) emphasized the importance in transitions to any society.
In Brunei and every Malay Muslim country, there is a set of rituals that are followed by the brides. There are many customs, beliefs and traditions that are required to be followed. The Malay Muslim marriage rites usually include different events such as merisik, bertunang, pre-wedding training course and bersanding. The transition from being a child of parents to becoming someone else’s wife or husband is a very overwhelming experience. This essay will discuss how a couple goes through the wedding rites. It is based off of my experience as a witness to a Malay Muslim bride’s wedding. The essay will cover pre-liminals, liminals and postliminals.
She had married in September last year and adhered to a few Malay wedding traditions. Her family waited for a man to visit the woman at her home before proceeding with bertunang. Merisik, part of the wedding tradition, involves a representative of the man’s family – the wakil- visiting the woman’s home with his other family members. This is a pre-wedding formality. This is done to determine if the woman is single or if she is someone else’s fiancée. The reason for this is that it’s not allowed to ask the woman to marry you if she’s already engaged. Merisik is a crucial tool in determining the real status of a woman. Merisik aims to gain the consent of woman’s family. It is also a way to get hints about the woman’s background and interact with her future family. A woman may only remain in her own room during the merisik. In this case, the woman’s elderly relatives and parents will speak for her. During the merisik ceremony, there was a discussion about the date for the engagement. Also, it was decided how much dowry will be given to her and how many dulang-hantaran gifts she should receive. In this pre-liminal period, the woman’s single status is being replaced by being “booked”. It is at this stage that the woman begins her rites. The woman’s identity is lost because she is not yet officially declared to be the man’s fiancee until the engagement ceremony has begun.
A ceremony of engagement is held after the couple has reached an agreement in merisik as a way to show that they have “united” together. During the “majlis-bertunang”, or engagement ceremony, gift-trays are traded between the man’s and woman’s. The woman also received the dowry. A gold ring will also be brought to the woman’s house. This ceremony is attended only by the close family members of the couple because it is not recommended that many people attend the ceremony in the Malay Muslim culture. The woman is asked to remain in the room until the ring is placed on the finger of the man by his representatives. It is often the woman’s sister or mother who represents her man. The woman will also tell the man to wait until she has a ring on before going to her house. The elderly will usually exchange conversations with the woman before allowing her to marry the man. It is when the woman is permitted to leave her bedroom and enter the room where the event is taking place. The woman’s sister escorts her out of her bedroom and she pays respect to the mother of the man. The woman’s mother then puts the ring in the woman’s hand, officially indicating her engagement. This stage is when the woman’s identity changes from “booked”, to “engaged”, to “booked”. She felt like a completely different person as she moved closer to her wedding. At this stage, the woman must also balance her time between the family of the man and that of her own. She will attend events and gatherings with her man. The man must also dedicate time to her side. Both parties must now manage their time in a way that is not selfish. The fiancee and fiance have to deal with obstacles maturely because of their new status. In the preliminaries, social behavior changes as people are no longer attached to their former status.
The night preceding solemnization has a strong emotional impact. In the room of her daughter, the mother gave advice about being a good spouse and managing life after wedding. The mother also embraced her before the daughter was handed over to her husband. The pre-liminal phase is over as the daughter will soon become a wife.
The woman then moves on to the second stage. Before the solemnization starts, she is given some passages to swear in front of both her parents and her imam. The woman must sign a passage that gives her consent to the imam taking over the solemnization in place of her father. The woman feels saddened and moved by her father’s willingness to let go of her daughter. As soon as a man arrives at the woman’s house, his imam is there to accompany him. His family will also be present. Gift-trays are brought from both sides to the woman’s home and exchanged. The imam then reads the sermon about marriage and starts the akad. The imam will then read the marriage sermon and the man must follow the akad. After reading the sermon, the imam made the akad which the man was required to follow. Imam asks for clarification from his two witnesses as soon the man says this aloud. The imam will note the exact time that the man reads the akad without making a single mistake. This marks a transitional period for the man as well as the woman, who both become a husband or wife. This role continues until the end, when the couple gets married.
The religious council will also require that the couple attends a prewedding course as part of wedding preparation. The course teaches them how to deal with certain situations and prepares them for marriage. The pressure to play the role that will be required in the future is felt by both men and women. The “next-life” is a new experience and they need to be prepared. This course can help.
The wedding ceremony is the last event, and it’s attended by friends, family, and close relatives. The bride and groom will be celebrated as newlyweds. This is the stage where the man and woman go through their final incorporation, allowing them to re-enter into society and incorporate their new status. They have successfully passed their rite-of-passage and accepted their status and new identity. Now they are married and embark on a new phase of their lives together. The couple will be living away from their families and building their lives together. She must also get her husband’s permission to leave the home. Before marriage, women only had to ask their father for permission. As the roles have changed, now everything must be coordinated by the husband. It is the woman’s responsibility to cook for her husband at every meal. Her husband is now the one who provides emotional support for her, as opposed to her parents or friends. She can’t spend as much time with her friends like she did when she was single because she now has to care for her husband.
ConclusionTo summarize, each individual goes through a different rite of passage which signifies a change in life or status. Van Gennep’s claim that rites-of passage are universal, even though they may vary in content, is supported by Andrews (1999). Pre-liminals, liminals, and postliminals are all stages in life that an individual goes through during rites. Post-liminal is the stage when they accept the new reality of their role and their changed status. Even though they remain the same person, they have changed their social behaviors in order to reflect the new status. Overall, rites are still important in a person’s life because they show how people go through different stages in life. Rituals aren’t just static structures or fleeting events. They also flow with the life process (Grimes, 2001).