Barter Marriages in Pakistan

By Zara Mansoor.

Bartered in marriages is a big social problem facing by masses. It is not only in Pakistan but has also been marked outside its boundary line, but very common in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pashto it is called “zawaaj al-badal” (exchange marriage). It is known to all of us that barter marriages involve a brother-sister pair from one family to a sister-brother family in another family. It is noted that marital discord in barter marriages is higher than non-barter marriages.

One has to deal with the angry life partner every time there is a minor spit between the other couple tied in the old tradition of watta satta. Such type of marriages doesn’t let the couple to lead a happy and successful married life. It affects the second person’s life in a brutal way. Roots of this social evil should be eradicated.

I have come across various couple who are not as happy with their married life as they should be and the reason behind is the social evil “watta satta”. Many are under the dreadful circumstances created by barter marriages. This tradition practised by old humankind plays a horrible role in young generation’s life and brings destructive changes which shake the entire lifestyle of today’s generation.

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Here’s a pitiful story of life which is wrecked by the old tradition or belief of barter marriages. It is a personal history of a very good friend of mine actually he meant the world to me. One day may be destiny smiled on them or whatever that was; he and his sister were grabbed by the social evil of shighaar. Ibn Numayr added that shighaar means give me your sister in marriage and I will give you my sister in marriage”. My friend refused to marry the girl who was his cousin also, not because he used to like someone else but he liked her not even for a single minute. Earlier both families agreed to his refusal but his sister’s knot was tied with her cousin.

Later something horrible happened which transformed my friend into a completely different person. After more than seven years of continuously rejecting the proposal he finally took a bold step and tried his level best to make everyone understand that he wasn’t going to marry his cousin. Effects were astonishing for the whole family. After knowing this his brother in law decided and asked his wife to leave the house till she makes her brother agree to marry her sister in law. She always tried to live up on her husband’s expectations, and that namby-pamby man hadn’t even once tried to save his relationship with wife. She never argued and did whatever her husband said but all her effort went down the drain when her husband blamed her for what her brother did. He didn’t take any stand for his wife and children, left them helpless in the world of those boorish people who don’t allow a single mother and her children to live a peaceful life. He permitted society to make them feel unsecured and disdained. At least a brave and literate man can never do that, he never spoils his relationship because of these silly cheap things.

It’s been many months he didn’t ask his wife to reunite. How can one become so cruel and harsh with his own children and life partner?? Does this make any sense to leave your lifetime partner or kids because of your sister or parents?? No it doesn’t. But yes it makes sense to those who are actually untaught about the loyalty or about developing good relations.

Now she is at her parent’s house and going through some unspeakable phases of life. She is one of those people who have to suffer a lot because of domestic abuse of watta satta marriage.

This old tradition needs to be stopped before it makes many others to suffer like those innocent kids. Elderly persons of that time are gone who used to believe in cousin’s marriages or watta satta and with them we should also bury this ancient tradition. Such marriages not only ruin the lives of girls but can take two families to war. Even if one girl takes good care of her husband, children and in-laws, she will surely be blamed for everything wrong in her sister-in-law’s life.

It is narrated that Abu Hurayrah once said “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) forbade shighaar”. Once it is also narrated “no shighaar in Islam”. Like these many Saheeh Ahaadeeth indicate that nikkah al-shighaar is haram, invalid, it goes against the laws of Allah and everything that goes against the Islamic laws is not good for Muslims to adopt.

It is all prohibited and forbidden according to the teachings of Islam. Barter marriages need to come to an end.

About Author:

“Zara Mansoor is a student of media studies and based in Islamabad. She is an article writer, blogger and contributes to various magazines. She can be reached at

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