It was one of the most refreshing and reassuring weddings I attended for a long time, almost over a quarter of a century. Refreshing because since the grip of extremist trends of Ideologies that shun everything that appears, tastes and sounds genuine and indigenous in local cultures and replaces it with its narrow and sterile interpretation that deprives all kinds of enjoyment, music and beauty from life, it was the first time I saw an inclusive wedding where all community members regardless of sex and age celebrated together the delight and festivities of a real Somali wedding.
It was refreshing because it was a joy to see family couples, sometimes with their children, coming to the wedding hall and taking their seats together. No walls divided between women and men, no barricades, no segregation; all well groomed and decently but elegantly dressed for the occasion with traditional Somali Diric and hagoog dominating the scene while the youth dressed trendy clothes to their taste in all fashion styles. Even elderly women who came were dressed in reminiscently Somali style without alien black shrouds.
It was refreshing because the bride and bride-groom made a grand entrance with young men and women as best men and women walking in front of them hand-in-hand. The whole audience fell silent to watch the beauty of youth strolling, a beauty that they knew the Somali people had, a beauty they knew was never meant to be depressed, stunted and denied to breathe and enjoy its prime. “This is the best wedding, I have seen for a long time,” said a friend sitting next to me. I also overheard similar remarks from other people both men and women, with a tone that underlined the nostalgia the Somali people have for their superior culture that they had lost due to the imposition of extremist ideologies on them; Ideologies that see sin mushrooming everywhere where even a teenage son has to police the behavior of his mother let alone his sisters lest they go astray as if the whole Somali community is devoid of moral values and had to be forced on it.
It was refreshing because the party opened with short speeches and poems by old generation men who gave tributes to the married couple and their courage and that of their parents to revive the genuine communal festivities of our culture. It was refreshing because the youth, men and women, danced together to all kinds of music, Somali, Arabic, Hindi and western to make the night memorable for the wedding couple. And the elderly joined the dance sometimes, gracing the occasion and embracing it as a truly community event.
It was refreshing because the youth, both men and women, also joined their parents in performing traditional Somali folklore dances. Refreshing because it was a happy, inclusive, celebratory community event, a true picture of what a wedding should be, and not the austere, segregated and gloomy occasions that Somali weddings have become lately.
The wedding was also reassuring because it proved that the Somali people have started to rebel against the recent trend of segregating women and men in social occasions and denying a common memory to the marred couple about their best day and the community at large.
A wedding is a celebration of life, a celebration of a journey to begin for a young couple who would have their own children to preserve human existence, one of the noblest missions of a person’s life on earth; an occasion that demands a communal festivity in which all members of the society attend and contribute. And to Somalis, weddings were traditionally one of the most important community festivals where new poems were born, new dances improvised, new jokes and riddles weaved, collective memory invoked, romantic melodies enjoyed, decent courting incubated and new loves stories started.
But since the encroachment of the extremist Salafist, and Wahhabist sects on the Somali culture, most of the weddings and particularly those in western capitals have become not places of joy and communal sharing but places of cultural doom, guilt, censorship and draconian rules of moral policing that ban music, singing, and interacting and sharing between genders, thus depriving the youth of experiencing the true culture and identity of their people.
Oddly enough also it is the Somali weddings that take place in American and European cities that wholeheartedly accepted such alien cultural austerity and it has to be a place like Abu Dhabi, in the heart of the Arab world, that Somali people find the mental freedom to invoke the true synergy of their culture and Islam in the way they knew it over the centuries. An Islam that seamlessly blends with their culture, an Islam that accepts and not shuns domestic culture, Islam that embraces life and the beauty of living, Islam that enriches people’s lives with arts, music , dance, and good artistic taste and passion for freedom of cultural imagination, Islam that binds together with love and brotherhood, and does not incriminate them for sharing a public space together to celebrate the wedding of their culture, Islam that enriches our culture and not stifles it, Islam that is a higher calling from a fair God that entails beauty, mercy, perfection, and freedom; and not a lowly edict from a tyrant demigod. For the Prophet told us that: “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” And no wonder with this in mind Somali women used to welcome the bride to her home while singing: “Hoy Nebow , Nuur Allow, Maxamad Nebi Magac Samow.” (Oh Prophet, Oh light from Allah, Oh Muhammad, what a prophet of good name you are.)
I have to conclude this piece by congratulating and saluting the wedding of Ayaan Omar Ahmed Barre hailing from Borama and Zakariya Abdulla Fadal Gabaxady hailing from Oodweyne held in Abu Dhabi on 11th September 2014, as well as their parents for their courage to reject the dictates of the cultural brainwashing and to revive the beauty of inclusive Somali communal festivities.
By Bashir Goth