*disclaimer: The identity of this poster has been kept anonymous.
I was having a chat to a non-Muslim friend of mine about the differences and similarities between the Muslim “courting” world (I’m using this word here because it’s probably the most appropriate way to describe it) and the non-Muslim dating world. We made some interesting observations that I’d like to share. To start it off, there are generally three types of people in the non-Muslim dating world: the uncommitted dater, the monogamist and the “Muslim” non-Muslim.
The uncommitted dater
This group is actually becoming more common than the monogamists. These people casually date multiple people without committing themselves to an individual. They may be intimate with multiple people at a given point in and do not see marriage on the horizon. Marriage is probably a word that brings shudders to their spine. Most people in this group eventually move to the monogamy category when they are “old” and have “been there, done that.”
This group of people may not see marriage in the near future or at all, but they are in a committed relationship or looking for a committed relationship. They tend to be older (although this is not always the case), wanting the emotional connection that uncommitted dating doesn’t offer, and searching for an individual to share their future with.
You also have the serial monogamists in this category. The individuals who, although they do not date multiple people at once, are constantly in committed relationships one after the other, without much uncommitted dating in between. They usually have many partners, but these partners are not concurrent. These guys are probably searching for “the one” but haven’t found them yet and are tired of disappointing relationships.
The “Muslim” non-Muslim
This is the non-Muslim who could almost be mistaken for Muslim because of their approach to the dating world. They are probably from a traditional culture or are religious. Examples that come to mind are Indians with traditional parents or practising Christians.
In my opinion, the practising Christians have it tougher than us Muslims. They usually restrict themselves to getting to know someone who is also a practising Christian of their particular religious group, so a practising Anglican for example. Unfortunately for these guys, they are of a culture that no longer follows the “courting” tradition that was once common, so these practising Christians are left trying to find their a practising Christian in the huge non-Muslim dating world where no rules apply; the “Love Actually” world where the practising Christian may become attached to non-Christians and throw their requirements out the window in the name of love and in the hope that faith will come to their chosen partner. Or, remain single for a very long time until a religiously appropriate partner is found (I’m sure a lot of Muslims can relate to this latter point too). Luckily for us though, we don’t have to venture into the non Muslim dating world, Alhamdulillah. So it’s easier for us. We have our own Muslim courting world that is still very much so embedded in our culture and widely accepted, unlike the Christians whose religion encourages courting but Western culture does not.
I think it’s safe to say that non-Muslims from traditional cultures have somewhat similar experiences to Muslims when it comes to all things love-related. It’s usually a box ticking exercise, it’s probably not ‘romantic’ and involves parental approval. Muslims tend to relate well to this group because besides the religion factor, these friends understand the logic to our supposed “restrictive madness.”
Actually, to digress for a moment (okay, more than a moment), this takes me to something that is forever brought up with non-Muslim friends. The idea that as Muslims, we restrict ourselves too much and care too much about the “Muslim” box being ticked, rather than looking at the content of the person’s character. I call bulls$$t on that, but let’s indulge in a discussion of it regardless. This is something that is endlessly on the debating table with non-Muslim friends. Putting the “haram” factor aside, since this is never an argument that non-Muslims take well to, this is how the conversation usually plays out:
Non-Muslim friend (John): “But why are you being so restrictive, shouldn’t the most important thing be that they’re a good person?”
Muslim (Fatima): “Of course that’s important, but why can’t they be Muslim AND a good person?”
John: “It’s hard enough these days to find someone decent, you’re being too picky. ”
Fatima: “Being Muslim isn’t just a label, it is my purpose and is a part of my everyday life. There is no point marrying someone who can’t share my lifestyle.”
John: “But a non-Muslim could still take part in your Muslim stuff and support you.”
Fatima: “Would you wake up at 5am every single day of your life to support your Muslim wife? Would you fast for 30 days every year?”
Fatima: “Yeah. There you go.”
Okay, so the conversation is usually a lot more detailed than that but putting the sarcasm aside, this takes me to the #dontevengothere mentality that non-Muslims generally do not understand. I’m talking about the “uncommitted dater” and “monogamist” types mentioned above, not the “Muslim” non-Muslims. Generally speaking, dating and relationship stuff in the non-Muslim world is a free-for-all. No one is off limits. It doesn’t matter which religion, culture, situation, or even gender that the person is, pretty much every person that you find attractive is date-able. This is definitely not the case with us Muslims. We have what I like to refer to as the “don’t even go there” mentality. We are excellent (for the most part) at restricting ourselves to what is (usually, Allahu Alam) good for us.
Non-Muslims are always in the #dontevengothere group for us, as well as sometimes particular cultures. We may #dontevengothere seemingly suitable Muslims who might not be at the level of spirituality that we feel that we need. Or we may #dontevengothere girls who don’t wear hijabs or men without beards. Some of these restrictions may not be Islamic, but I’m simply trying to illustrate a point. We are (usually) really good at limiting ourselves to choices that we believe are good for our worldly life and the hereafter. We are disciplined. Non-Muslims aren’t because they don’t have to be. There is no other-world punishment for their romantic choices. Their objectives are different. And so our restrictive approach is always something that rarely translates and seems to lack substance in the non-Muslim’s mind since, when it really comes down to it, our objectives in this life are vastly different.
And that’s what it comes down to boys and girls. No matter how much we analyse this, no matter how much non-Muslims are perplexed by this, it always comes down to one thing: why are we here?