Category Archives: Meeting a Partner

How important are looks?

A dear friend of mine was recently at an event. Following the event, she was told that a guy had expressed interest in her and wanted to get to know her. Given the fact that she hadn’t exchanged a single word with the guy in question, the only thing his interest could possibly have been based on was her looks.

Anyone who is (un)fortunate enough to know me will know that the concept of beauty has always intrigued me. I’ve bored any number of friends to death with my forays into the issue of how looks influence perception. While I don’t claim to be some sort of professional commentator on all things aesthetics, I do find the issue fascinating. Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Well, studies have shown that this adage is largely untrue and that particularly in this globalised age, representations of beauty are becoming more standardised. Do good looks get you places in life? Studies have shown that yes, good looks are an asset, even in the workplace.

I won’t bore you any further with the academic stuff, but instead I’ll turn my attention to the more interesting, anecdotal stuff. It’s obviously impossible to quantify the extent to which looks are valued in the world of relationships, but I’d hazard a guess that they’re fairly valuable. How often do we see some old billionaire with a series of young models on his arm? Without casting any aspersions on the character of billionaires (I’m sure they’re lovely people), it isn’t too difficult to conclude that looks are an asset in the game of love.

This issue is particularly interesting when examined in the context of the Muslim community. The little example I mentioned above is repeated again and again, with some girls getting asked about practically every time they attend something. This is a strange by-product of segregation. Because people often aren’t given the opportunity of speaking with members of the opposite sex at Muslim community events, they’re in effect almost forced to assess people based on their looks. I’m certainly not attacking segregation on this basis or suggesting it should be dismantled, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder: if there was more space for contact between the sexes, would personalities be given more of a centre stage role as opposed to looks?

Of course, the answer may simply be no. As a friend put it, if someone doesn’t meet your looks threshold, many people simply won’t consider them regardless of how amazing their personality is. People often won’t admit this to themselves, of course. They tell themselves that they just don’t see X in that way, or that Y is awesome but just ‘not for them’. The sad truth is that many of the people who get friendzoned immediately are those who aren’t conventionally good-looking. People may be happy to befriend them and may have a great deal of respect for them, but they just don’t consider them in romantic terms. (‘They’re nice, but’…)

I say that this is sad, but I understand that attraction is certainly important in any relationship. But here I’d like to make a quick little distinction: good looks and attractiveness are not necessarily the same thing. X could appreciate that Y is conventionally good-looking without feeling any attraction whatsoever, and A could find B attractive while rationally appreciating that B isn’t conventionally good-looking. But this is perhaps where the question is asked again: if you don’t have much contact with people of the opposite sex, how can you feel attracted to them on any basis other than looks?

The funny thing is that while looks are undeniably important to many people, anyone who’s too overt about this being a requirement of theirs gets blasted. A guy who specifies that he only wants a skinny girl (it happens) will get hated on, even though many  may secretly share this sentiment. A girl who says she only wants a tall guy will be branded as ‘superficial’, while many others may filter out guys on this basis without even admitting it to themselves. The guy who asks about a girl after seeing her at an event is often rejected by the girl in question because she feels objectified, but perhaps he’s simply more open about it than others.

A related issue is that of clothing and style, which again is particularly interesting in a Muslim context. People may sometimes have preferences as to the clothing of a potential partner and depending on their level of conservativeness, an outfit choice may attract or repel. Wearing skinny jeans may be a no-no for some, while others may find it funky and attractive. Others may simply not care at all, as long as it looks good. Some people consciously modify their choice of clothing depending on the scene they’re in, which suggests, rightly or wrongly, that people may make judgments based on whether they wear a skirt or a dress, or pants as opposed to shorts for men. I wrote a post about hijab being a must for some and a repellent for others, and this certainly factors into the debate on outward appearance.

At the end of the day, perhaps much of the assessments we make of the looks of others may be in fact linked to our assessment of our own looks. Someone who considers themselves to be good-looking may make a point of seeking someone who is also good-looking, just as a person who considers themselves to be intelligent may seek a person they consider to be of a similar level of intelligence. If looks trump all else, then that’s frankly a little depressing given the advice of the Prophet (saw), but it’s not something that can be easily altered without some open and honest conversations.

How important are looks to you? Have you felt that people place a disproportionate emphasis on looks when it comes to finding a partner?

Ready or Not?

An acquaintance of mine recently got engaged. After contemplating on what a cute couple she and her fiancé made, my mind turned to their different positions in life. He, working a full-time job, she at uni for several more years with no immediate career prospects. But somehow it didn’t seem to be a major issue. Time and time again, I hear of a couple getting engaged and then married while the female half is still studying at uni. ‘Readiness’ seemed to be a concept that applied to men exclusively in many cases.

The whole concept of ‘readiness’ has always intrigued me. For some reason, it’s been cropping up an awful lot lately amongst people I know. As a Social Inquirer, I must confess that I’ve struggled with the term. (Postmodernism and relativism immediately comes to mind, and with them a whole host of other academic footnotes.)  The above paragraph refers to financial readiness most obviously, but ‘readiness’ encompasses much more than that. It’s a term often bandied about when relationships fail. ‘Oh, he just wasn’t ready’. ‘In hindsight, neither of us were really ready’. But what does it actually mean to be ready to get married?

I have no definitive answer to that question. For some people, especially men, the question is mainly one of finances. This is due to the emphasis placed in many cultures, and indeed Islam, on men being carers and supporters of their families. Even if a woman works, as the majority do, many men, their families and prospective wive’s families like to know that they have a steady income before they go door-knocking. Much of the familial opposition to a person their son meets of his own accord (e.g. at uni, or through Muslim community events) stems from the fact that they feel their son is just not ready ie. financially stable.

‘Readiness’ also encompasses emotional and intellectual maturity. As you might guess, this is where things start to get really murky. Who deems when a person is in a fit emotional state to get into a relationship? How are you supposed to assess whether you’re fit to be a good partner before you even enter into a relationship? This, then begs the question: precisely how ready do you need to be to even approach someone for marriage?

As someone who firmly believes that emotional and spiritual growth is a lifelong project, I have trouble comprehending the idea that there would be any moment where you’d feel like you’re ‘there’. As mentioned previously, I also take issue with the fact that this type of ‘readiness’ is often underemphasised when it comes to the female half of the equation. Some claim that this is because women mature much earlier than men. Perhaps this is the case; popular discourse and anecdotal evidence certainly screams it. But that doesn’t mean that an eighteen year old female is necessarily ‘ready’ for marriage, or even a twenty eight year old female.

When it comes to ‘readiness’, people tend to fall into one of several categories (forgive me for the cake analogies, I have a soft spot for baking):

1.) ‘Still raw in the middle, total no go’

These people feel that they’re not ‘ready’ at all for marriage, and as such they’re pretty much untouchable. They feel it’d be unfair and irresponsible to get into a relationship while they’re still figuring it all out, and so plan to stay well clear of romantic entanglements until they do.

2.) ‘Still need a few more minutes in the oven, but can be taken out if necessary’

These people will generally avoid romantic entanglements wherever possible, but if it happens ‘organically’ they’re not too fussed. They feel they’re not quite there yet, but that they can get themselves over the line without too much hassle. They keep one eye open for potential partners and one eye firmly on their career/spiritual/ intellectual advancement.

3.) ‘Fully cooked, get me outta here!’

These people are keen to seal the deal. They are generally well-established and feel they’re at a stage in their life where the only thing ‘missing’ is companionship. They’re on the look-out and tend to bring things to a head (i.e. propose and get the parents involved) pretty quickly once they meet someone they like.

4.) ‘Cooking time? What is that?

These people don’t buy into the whole ‘readiness’ thing. They feel that when they meet a person they like, they’ll be ready to meet whatever challenges come together with that person, regardless of what stage of life they’re both in.

At the end of the day, no one can tell you precisely when you’re ready to get married. It’s not a scientific measurement with its own scale. Socially constructed, contextual parameters can and do assist in its determination, but ‘readiness’ is as much a state of mind as it is a concrete state of affairs.

Do you feel ready to get married? When do you think a person can be said to be ‘ready’ for marriage?

The space in between

Believers are urged to be cognisant of their own mortality. It sounds morbid, but in fact can be the exact opposite: recognising that life is transient can be the most freeing realisation we can ever come to. This is especially the case when it comes to relationships. In my last post, I spoke about competition for spouses. It’s an icky topic and not one I particularly enjoy speaking about, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less important than other, ‘fluffier’ concerns. In fact, the topics that make our skin crawl are often the most pressing and immediate.

Yes, competition does exist. It’s downright silly to be a climate change sceptic when its by-products are felt on the skin and in the air i.e. they affect us in tangible ways, regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Conditions are certainly not conducive to meeting a partner when:

a.) the overwhelming majority of the population are off-limits

For those of us who live in countries with overwhelmingly non-Muslim populations, 99% of the people we meet are not potential partners, as cool as they are to discuss stuff over the water cooler with.

b.) the opportunities to meet eligible people of the opposite sex are scarce

I don’t want to weigh into the segregation debate because it’s a topic far too heavy (yes, I did go there-lame) for the likes of me, but in practical terms there are few opportunities for Muslim men and women to even converse. The flip-side of this issue is when Muslim men and women begin to mix so closely and on such friendly terms that marriage doesn’t even enter the equation, as is the case amongst in some circles. Neither set of conditions provides fertile soil for the seeds of romantic interest to grow and blossom into fruition.

c.) let’s not even speak about opportunities, do Muslims of the opposite sex even exist? (as the popular catch-cry goes)

For some, it’s not a question of opportunity: they’ve begun to doubt that people of the opposite sex even exist in equal number or quality. They haven’t seen evidence of it, and have stopped waiting to be proven wrong. They’re more hopeful of encountering a dodo (and a flying one, at that) than a ‘decent’ man/woman.

If this was where the narrative ended, we’d all be tearing our hijabs and kufis off in despair. We certainly shouldn’t, given the hopeful state a believer is meant to uphold, but it’s all too understandable, this fear of being forever alone. The strange truth of modern life is that for all our means of staying ‘connected’, true connections feel more tenuous and elusive than ever. The worst type of loneliness is that which we feel when standing in the middle of a crowd, and there’s no escaping the crowd in today’s world, whether on Facebook, Twitter or the multitude of annoying Whatsapp groups.

So where do we go from here? Do we all clamber over each other like wild beasts whenever someone half-decent pops up? Do we simply give up and wait for ‘fate’ to take its course? There must be a space in-between, surely. A space between fear and hope, between action and passivity. A space which allows us to be open to giving our heart to someone, but closed enough to maintain our sense of self-worth. A space in which we recognise the Divine as sufficient, but human company as the greatest comfort of this world. A space where we can laugh at the absurdity of it all, (c’mon, as if the phrase ‘getting to know someone’ doesn’t make you laugh too) but still maintain the sanctity of our feelings and the feelings of others.

All this may sound wishy-washy and idealistic in the face of the tedious, painful slog many people face on the path to marriage, but let’s put things into perspective. I’m not advocating we all adopt a meek, resigned form of fatalism; I truly believe that we’re meant to get right in there and tie that smelly old camel. But we should do so with regard to that middle ground. In real-world terms, this means giving someone a go where no obvious incompatibilities exist. It means not waiting for that state of mythical ‘readiness’, but saving our pennies for the fridge and dryer we might need one day.

When we’ve tried and tried and it still hasn’t worked out, it’s not unexpected that we bang our heads against the hardest object we can stand. (For most of us, this is our long-suffering pillow.) Once we’ve exhausted this option, we can tell ourselves that life is transient and that whatever was meant for us would never have missed us. All these platitudes are no less true for all that they’re clichéd. And if they help us get to that space between InshaAllah i.e,  I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure this one works out and Alhamdulillah i.e. you know what, I’m cool either way as long as I have my faith, family and those Nutella jars, then I think we might just be doing okay.

Game On

Darwin would’ve had a field day with the Muslim community. It’s all about survival of the fittest here, baby. Only the strong survive. Those who survive do so because they develop adaptations  suited to the specific environment they reside in. (Who knew, I was actually paying attention in Biology and not just sneaking potato chips under the table.)

To translate this into Love Haqtually terms, what this means is that the Muslim marriage circuit is extremely competitive. This is particularly the case for females, for reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts e.g. perceived early ‘expiry’ date, possible number imbalance between males and females. But males are not immune from the race to the (figurative) altar, and so entire subsections of the community are constantly plagued by uncomfortable romantic tensions and undercurrents.

The problem is that because people tend to stay within their own circle, there really is very little to go around. If you attend the same classes and events with the same people, the chance of meeting someone diminishes significantly. If you do meet someone, you most likely have to reconcile yourself to the reality that Prince Charming has probably gotten to know someone within your circle, or that Princess Charming has probably been romanced by several fellows before graciously settling on you.

When ‘fresh meat’ comes into the territory, the change in the air is palpable. Everyone wants to know who the new guy or girl is, and if they’re even half-decent everyone clambers over each other to get there first. This becomes extremely awkward for both participants in the scramble and bystanders. No one wants to be too obvious, except that everyone is. Whether the approach is coy or flirtatious, demure or bold, it’s meant as a silent marker of territorial rights.

This unspoken, ever-present competition manifests itself in many ways. It’s often played out on social media, where ‘likes’ and comments act as weapons to add to the arsenal. The other way the competition tends to play out is a game of interest-matching, where the competitors try to demonstrate that their interests align so closely with the prized object that they must emerge victorious. You like X scholar? He’s totes one of my heroes! Now marry me, stat!

All this scares the heck out of me. Frankly, I’ve never been good with competition because of my huge fear of confrontation. But that’s a silly attitude to have when the stakes are high. Finding a partner is like landing a job in some ways; you need to take risks, put yourself out there and be prepared to find out that one of the other candidates has nabbed the position and not you. It’s pointless to complain of not being able to find a partner if you’re not willing to get your hands at least a little bit dirty.

If you want to avoid competition, go the ‘traditional’ route and let your parents find someone for you. But even this isn’t fool-proof. Some suitors are known to be notoriously picky and do the rounds with any number of girls, leaving each new victim wondering who will be the one to finally capture his heart over lounge-room cups of tea.

I know this all seems dreadfully cynical. What about feelings, you ask? Don’t some people just click? Sure they do, and it’s beautiful when it just works out like that. But if you’re an environment with five other girls all thinking they  click with the same guy, things get just a little bit dicey. If two or three people are interested in the same person, they obviously all feel some kind of connection with that person. Determining whose feelings are the most ‘legitimate’ is impossible; it then simply comes down to who is chosen by that person based on their own selection criteria.

How do you increase your chances in this dog-eat-dog world?  Here are some tips:

1.) Attend different events. Go to a place you’ve never been before if you want the ‘new girl/guy’ factor.

2.) Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Connect with different people through different interest bases.

3.) If you’ve gotten to know someone from one circle and it doesn’t work out, cut your losses and move on. Try not to double-dip if possible.

4.) It’s a big, big world out there. Don’t confine yourself to just your city or even just your own country.

5.) Positive vibes and a sweet, friendly personality will do wonders. It’s hard when you’ve been through a few romantic setbacks, but if you’re bitter and resentful this will not only blacken your heart, but also decrease your chances of meeting someone.

Please forgive me for the following cliche, but it really does come down to naseeb. This doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting for someone to throw a pebble at your window. Be proactive and fight fairly and honestly for what you want. But in the game of love, you have to accept that things don’t always happen when and how you want them to. You can’t force someone to like you when they don’t, and if you have to make yourself into a show pony to get someone to notice you then you’re fighting a losing battle already.

Trust in Allah swt and make the most of whatever opportunities He sends your way. Don’t nitpick, but uphold your standards of what matters to you. If you like someone, don’t wait for them to make the first move, but don’t compromise your self-respect. If someone isn’t interested, realise that it’s not about you: they simply have a different idea of what they’re looking for. You’ve been given a whole life to live and you are wholly you, regardless of whether you have your ‘other half’ by your side or not.

Do you feel silent pressure to get in the ring? Have you ever liked someone who was being pursued by someone else?

A Night Out, Muslim-style

You walk into the room, slightly apprehensive. Will anyone be there that you know? There’s a registration table, but you ignore it. Registration is one of those things organisations like to do to make them feel, well, organised. Instead of ticking your name off, you make your way to one side of the room or the other, demarcated by sex.

You look around, searching for a familiar face. A few acquaintances come in for the kiss and hug, the awkward, well-meaning chit-chat. ‘How’s work?’ ‘How’s your husband?’ ‘So, when’s your turn?’ (The worst question of all.)

To your relief, you locate your friends and swoop on them eagerly. Much hugging and wild gesticulating ensues. You feel instantly at ease. You guys own the joint. You sit wherever you feel like, comfortable now that you’re safely ensconced in the midst of the group.  This is what you’re here for, after all. To learn, surrounded by people you love and trust. Your love and trust is built on nights like these, on shared scribbles and meaningful glances when the Shaykh says something you find amusing.

You look around the room, and observe the usual suspects:

1.) The Veterans

These people know everyone. They know you too, but only because you see them at every event.

2.) The Semi-Famous ‘Celebs’

These people are known to everyone for writing some article or being on television once. They probably don’t know you, but they’ll pretend to just to be polite. (Alpha people are always polite. It’s key to their networking activities.)

3.) The Newbies

These people are new to the scene, and you feel a strange kind of pity for them in all their starry-eyed, hopeful gazes.They have no idea what they’re in for.

You could observe for longer, but the Shaykh is starting his talk. You concentrate, or try to. There are always distractions at these things. A baby crying, an appealing refreshments table, a guy/girl you’ve been admiring from afar. You soak it up, check your phone occasionally and try not to look to the side of the room where the opposite sex are seated. It’s not the done thing, to allow your gaze to wander. You’re here to learn.

It’s time for a break. You have a laugh with your friends, exclaim over the amazingness of the Shaykh. It starts up again while you’re still in mid-conversation, so you hold the thought for later. You hate Q&A. People never seem to ask questions, just make long-winded statements or disguise personal problems in generalities. Just let the Shaykh speak, you think. The babies are restless now, and so are you.

And then it’s over. People stir as if waking up from a spell and immediately set upon the refreshments table with vigour. Little groups start forming across the room, the gender boundaries relaxing as people mingle over their teas. The unmarried couples come together tentatively, despite the fact that everyone knows who they are. The almost-couples avoid each other’s vicinity, afraid to make the first move, until someone just does it. The unattached people laugh loudly and uninhibitedly. People who know of each other from social media pretend not to know each other here, until someone just blurts it out.

You’re tired now, your head pleasantly buzzing with the noise and the newly gained knowledge. You make your way out of the room slowly-there’s always another goodbye to be said, another cheek to kiss. You walk out with a friend or two, laughing at something silly they did, like not know someone’s name or spill their drink as they were talking to someone ‘important’. Maybe your friend has met an interesting someone. Maybe you have. Maybe neither of you have, but it really doesn’t matter.

This is where you belong. Single, married, divorced, you’re absorbed into the fold, with all its pettiness and squabbles. Because at the heart of it is knowledge, and this is where your heart longs to be, warts and all. This is home.

How Muslims “Date”

I love speaking to people about relationships. Have I mentioned that already? (Answer: only about a trillion times.) Part of the reason I do is because people are so different in their perspectives on what they’re looking for, and furthermore, what to do when they meet a person who could possibly be what they’re looking for. A lot of people’s ideas on how best to get to know someone are informed by their religious leanings, but a lot of them are also derived from their social sphere and their culture. As such, trying to determine ‘the right way’ to get to know someone becomes a very complex exercise i.e. I’d rather not attempt it.

What I will try and do is list some of the common ways I’ve seen people go about things. People generally don’t stick to just one method; at different times and in different relationships different methods may be more appropriate. Anyway, enough of me jabbering on, let’s get into it:

1.) The Front Door Friendlies

Typically, people who only do the guy-comes-over-to-girl’s-house way don’t know each other from a bar of soap when this happens. They’ve been suggested to each other by a mutual family friend or relative, and as such everything has to go through the formal mechanism of the home visit.

This might seem like the most religiously appropriate way to “date”, but for some of these people religion barely enters the equation. It’s simply the done thing. This lack of religious considerations is illustrated upon the parties becoming socially engaged, upon which it suddenly becomes Halal to go out alone together, despite the lack of any official Islamic standing.

Pros: Aside from the ‘Halal’ factor, this method allows people to scope out each other’s families from the outset. It also minimises issues of commitment-phobia and immaturity-someone is simply unlikely to even go for a home visit if unready.

Cons: Some may feel this method isn’t conducive to getting to know someone well due to the formality of the proceedings.

2.) The Chaperoning Shorties

This method usually involves people who either don’t know each other very well or who are concerned about doing things the ‘Halal’ way. For people in the first category, the chaperoning can simply act as a way of facilitating communication.For people in the second category, the primary concern is avoiding any religious impropriety. Having a chaperone present, even though the chaperone may simply be a friend and not a mahram, also makes the meeting a lot less scandal-worthy in the eyes of the Muslim community.

Pros: It’s less formal than the above method, but still considered to be fairly ‘Halal’.

Cons: Chaperoning becomes difficult to sustain after the first few times. After all, who has an endless supply of friends or family who are obliging enough to continually play the third wheel? Not many. Either the parties will proceed to the home visit stage a la category 1, or they’ll slip into category 3, the Meet-up Mavericks.

3.) The Meet-up Mavericks

This method is for people who are used to more casual gender relations. They’ll often have friends of the opposite sex and as such will feel fairly comfortable getting to know someone by meeting up alone with them in a public space such as a café or shopping centre. These people are not irreligious; they simply feel that there a lot more grey areas in gender interactions than more conservative Muslims would like to admit. They examine their intentions, and upon finding them to be pure, will proceed without many qualms to get to know someone one-on-one.

Pros: It’s perceived to be an easier and more natural way of getting to know someone as it eliminates external distractions.

Cons: Apart from being slightly less socially acceptable in the eyes of the wider community, it’s also a lot more tricky as the parties involved have no external hand guiding the process. It can also be difficult for these people to know when to step things up to the more formal, meet-the-parents stage.

4.) The Computer Cuties

In today’s world, social media reigns supreme. For many Muslims, it becomes the primary hunting ground for both meeting and getting to know a partner. While eventually these people will have to proceed to any of the categories above, the online space will often remain their comfort zone until they get married. Often these people see each other in person at university or Islamic events, but their online interactions are far more in-depth and frequent.

Pros: It’s seen by many as a ‘Halal’ way to get to know someone without the formality of the home visit or the external distractions of being chaperoned.

Cons: A social media persona can be deceiving. It can be difficult to gauge compatibility over a computer screen.

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What do you think is the best way to get to know someone? Are you willing to try a number of methods or just one?

The Love Actually World…

*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.”

The monogamist

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.

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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?”

John: *dumbfounded*

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?