The following is by Hasan Mohi ud Din Qadri, President of the Supreme Council of Minhajul Quran International.
Since Islam firmly believes in upholding certain basic moral values such as chastity and modesty, which are considered the building blocks of society, it is preferred both morally and ethically that a boy and a girl should not go directly and give his or her offer of marriage to the second party. This arrangement should be done through a third party, preferably the family. Islam most definitely encourages arranged marriages but categorically prohibits forced marriages. Perhaps this is where the basic problem arises requiring the Muslim community to address the issue. The family needs to determine whether it is truly arranging a marriage with the full participation and consent of their children or it is forcing its own consent and views on their children, either through forceful methods or sometimes by emotional and sentimental blackmail.
Given Islamic position on the matter, one may ask why this basic problem still exists. If Islamic law is so categorical then why does the Muslim community continue to abuse their position? Why are Muslim children still being forced to marry against their will? These are the questions that need to be understood and answered.
Firstly, there is a fundamental difference in Islam regarding rights and duties as compared to secular law and culture. According to the Islamic societal order and family structure, parents are compulsorily responsible to take care of the upbringing of their children, to provide for their education, their food, their clothing, their lodging and most critically fulfil all of their needs up to their marriage and attaining adulthood. As the parents reach their old age and have no independent earning, during that period of life it is then the responsibility of their children, in particular the son, to look after the parents. This mutual and reciprocal fulfilment of rights and obligations continues between both the parent and the child, right from the birth till death. Indeed parents, children and other blood relations continue fulfilling the rights of one and another even after the death in the form of charity and other pious deeds. In this way the spiritual, secular, earthly and ethical relations, rights and obligation continue from generation to generation.
In contrast, within other societies, as soon the children attain adulthood or maturity they are not expected to support their own parents in any manner but are free to live totally independent lives. The parents are no more obligated to support their children who in turn have no duty or obligation to help their own parents, even if they are elderly and in great need.
The beauty of the Islamic system of rights and obligations is to maintain a balance between both parties, each knowing their rights but also their limits. However many Muslim parents continue to further their responsibilities, going over and above what is legally required of them. In the particular case of marriage, for example this can include payment of all expenses of the marriage ceremony and settlement of the newly wedded couple. Often this includes even buying a new residence until the son becomes financially independent and he is able to bear the expenses of his family or in the case of a daughter, they will support her until she moves to her husband