So many people appear to be confused about what Jaha means, or entails, so for the benefit of everyone I decided to help demystify this ritual and point out what it means, how it's performed and most importantly WHY it's performed.
Jaha, is a traditional ceremony where the official request for the lady's hand in Marriage is performed. It represents the first stage of the long journey leading to Marriage. Although, it's not quite the true first step.
Jaha is there for three main reasons. Publicising the event, Boasting wealth/hospitality/strength and performing the ceremony where both parties become obligated to fulfill their side of the deal, and I will be giving more details about these and more
The ritual of performing a Jaha, has been passed from generation to generation. A great tradition that has not been challenged by either Muslim or Christian Arabs and continues to live until this day.
It's unfair to think that Jaha is the first event in a marriage. For the most part, the individuals and parents have already met, discussed and gave their blessings for the "formalities" to take place. The first of which is the Jaha
The Jaha is a representation of "intent to get married, in good faith" where people meet, and the formal request is done usually from the elder of one family (or tribe) the the elder of the other family. In which the request is usually granted. But only after deliberating with the father of the bride (and supposedly the bride)
What people don't understand is that this is all for show. It's a display of wealth, might and hospitality which are some of the most important traits of Arabs. Each side wants to show the they're WORTHY of this new bond being created between the two families. Marriage for Arabs goes beyond the individuals. It's called "Mosahara" or "in-law-hood" where the two families share so much in common.
The display of strength and might is very important, to remind the future groom that this woman comes from a strong family that will not be silent if their daughter was unjustly treated. Although, again, this is also for show.
This ritual also serves to publicise the event. Men of the bride's family know that this lady is spoken for. While men in the groom's family know that he's been engaged. Her rights are now preserved and there are witnesses present to make sure everyone fulfills their duties as promised. But most importantly, it's for people outside of both families, neighbors, friends, co-workers to know and understand the intent of the couple to get married.
Jaha is one of the most dignifying rituals for Arab women. She's never paraded in front of people as an object, and performing a Jaha should never be considered a way of depriving the woman of her right to choose. In fact, it's there to preserve it. Once the man makes that formal request, it will be very difficult to get out of it!
The Jaha is also not a place to bargain. There is nothing being sold or traded. Although, it's fine if people make demands before the request is accepted. Remember, the bride's family makes the demands on her behalf, not the other way around.
This promise of good will from both sides is still not marriage, there are couple other steps that are needed before the man are declared Husband and Wife. By this stage the future couple have already knew each other and agreed on everything. The immediate families continue to meet and discuss since the major declaration has been made. The Jaha.
Funniest thing is, neither myself, nor my wife, nor her family were present at our Jaha. But the extended family was there. They made us feel like we have roots way beyond our own little existence. They made us feel that although we're far, things still happen for us. Great people are taking care of our needs
Now, I frankly don't like all these rituals and traditions. I find myself forced into them most of the time. But, I'm a guy. Things that mean a lot for ladies might not mean much to me. Which brings me to my last point
The Jaha is a burden on the groom, and a privilege for the bride.
Let's not make women lose one more of their rights