It is that period of the year, the month or weeks leading to Ramadan –
a 30-day fasting period observed annually by millions of Muslims
around the world in fulfillment of a religious requirement – when The
Gambia particularly witnesses unprecedented marriages. It is a period
that many refer to as the “marriage season” just like trade season for
Marriage of course is a very significant aspect of human life as it is
needed in a sustained manner so that the human race could continue to
reproduce for generations and generations to come. Looking at the
genesis of marriage, it stemmed from the time of Adam and Eve, the
first human beings to set foot on this troubling world. Even though
Eve was made out of a fraction of Adam’s rib – the first human being –
yet God said it was befitting that they got married for the
reproduction of what has now become billions of their children spread
all over the world.
So marriage is an integral part of human existence. The fact that God
could make the only two humans on earth (at that time) to get married,
speaks a lot about its significance as well as its indispensability.
Although, society has now become so delicate and mixed that this
important element of human existence is undermined by a lot of
But coming back to The Gambia, we are talking of the marriage season.
Almost every day at work, a colleague is bound to tell you a friend,
relative or someone he or she knows is getting married. And virtually
every weekend at this time of the year from Friday through Sunday is a
busy period of wedding activities. In most cases, different wedding
activities take place simultaneously in the same area. At least it
happens in my area and I myself had attended a few of them out of my
But why are so many marriages happening especially in the run up to
the Ramadan? Why do many people choose to get married at this time?
Why do many people choose to start the Ramadan as couples? These are
the questions I have been scratching my head for the right answers,
because assuming that it’s in line with religious dictates is not
convincing enough to me. Is it because many of those marrying believe
that their new union could be blessed by the advent of what many
Muslims describe as one of the most important months in the Islamic
calendar during which Almighty Allah opens his doors of enormous
While I searched for potential answers to my questions, I thought of
contacting the Supreme Islamic Council for assistance and the
president of the Council, Alhaji Momodou Lamin Touray was right there
“Marriage actually is important because Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be
Upon on Him) had enjoined Muslims, especially youth to do it if they
have what it takes to take care of their spouses to avoid fornication.
Marriage has so much importance because it helps one to avoid
adultery (which is very sinful), prevents diseases related to
intercourse and so on.
But the point here is that marriage can take place anytime of the year
whether it is Ramadan or not. The reasons why many young men and women
rush to marry in the run up to the Holy Month in my view, is because
all good deeds recorded during this special period (Ramadan) are
doubled. Even those who are married and are far from their spouses
would like to be together to have the blessings of the month of
Ramadan,” the veteran Imam told me in a brief chat.
From this, it is clear that it’s not only a concept that has developed
over time, but religion also is a contributing factor. The belief
that marriage is more blessed during this period is what motivates
many to do it at this time.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this myth of a so-called nuptial
season is the high prevalence of the most shocking disappointments.
This is a period when a lot of partners who built years of a love
relationship will sadly part company. Of course no one is saying
marriage is not good, but the nature in which relationships end are
just uncalled for. From the experiences of a few people I know, is
certainly a difficult pill to swallow.
Whilst some lovers will be invited to dinner to break the disturbing
and heart-breaking news, some are informed through telephone, and yet
some will receive a single straight-line message. But the most
degrading and unacceptable means of informing a partner of his or her
marriage is doing it without even letting him/her know about it. For
that person to know about it through friends is the worst form of
disappointment in my view.
Furthermore, marriage boycotts are also common during this period. For
instance, someone I know had telephoned me to announce his marriage
ceremony scheduled for a fortnight. I remember it was on a cool Sunday
evening when I was exhausted at work and this person couldn’t believe
he has had a partner finally to settle down with after years of
working in the Sahara Desert trying to find an oasis.
Announcing his marriage to me, he joyfully said this in Mandinka:
“Kebba fala kuma, simayaa duwaa” (meaning in English an unfortunate
man should pray for longevity.” I jumped to ask what he specifically
meant by that, and he added: “Finally I am getting married after the
rough journey of searching for ‘Madam Right’. It has been a tough
search for me my boy.” My friend even went far ahead to inform others
about this development and bought a packet of black mint to distribute
at the office for all to attend this all important day of his.
But guess what, my friend would later receive the shock of his life
just two days to the wedding reception when the fiancée chose a
different path. The man who happily informed me two weeks ago turned
around to sadly tell me on my face in the most depressed form in
Mandinka again, “boy abeketa bileh” literary meaning in English “the
worst has happened today”. He sadly said: “My fiancée has decided to
renounce her plan to marry me next tomorrow and I don’t know how to
face my family and friends like you.”
This is just one among many other stories that occur during this
period. Whilst many rejoice their new unions, a lifetime requirement
and achievement, many really soak in pain, finding answers from left,
right and centre and even from space why they could be abandoned for
another person; answers only their ex-partners could provide for
But this period is not only a season for marriage; it is a moment for
kola nut dealers to make as much money as possible. This is because
kola nut is in higher demand. As dictated by tradition, kola nut is
presented to the in-laws when seeking a daughter’s hand in marriage.
This is a deeply rooted tradition in The Gambia and most parts of West
Africa, dating back centuries .
Also disturbingly observed is the fact that this process of marriage
is commercialised to some extent as dowries charged by some in-laws
before a daughter’s hand could be secured seems on the high side for
many a people. This in fact has discouraged many men to do this all
important venture as their in-laws would not only stopped at the
dowry, but would request for many other things that are not
necessarily important to the marriage. Some people really have tough
times to get to the final stage as in most cases; one would have to go
through a lot of steps as required by tradition before a daughter’s
hand could be secured.
Good luck to the new couples and a big sorry for those abandoned!