Tag Archives: courtship

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?

‘Islamic flirtation’

Muslims, strictly speaking, do not ‘flirt’. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have our ways of showing when we’re interested in someone. This has led to the creation of the tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘Islamic flirtation’. What this means is that Muslim guys and girls will convey interest, whether consciously or not, through the guise of something relating to the deen. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can mean that the guy and girl in question are able to connect romantically in the best way possible: a mutual appreciation of their deen.

However, it does lead to some pretty funny situations arising. The oft-repeated joke about a Muslim guy (to use a crude turn of phrase) ‘picking up’ a girl by offering to wake her up for Fajr is actually not far removed from the truth in some cases. Here are some other examples of how Muslims may convey interest in someone of the opposite sex:

1.) You post in an Islamic forum or Facebook page and they PM you to commend you for it or ask an unnecessary follow-up question, usually followed by an equally unnecessary friend request.

2.) You’re at an event and they offer to help you move chairs/distribute flyers/clean up afterwards. For the sake of Allah of course 😉

3.) They like every Islamic-themed Facebook status of yours, often volunteering some generic comment like ‘Ameen’ or ‘InshaAllah’.

4.) Your younger sibling of the opposite sex accompanies you to an event and they make best friends with them, ostensibly to ‘introduce them to some good brothers/sisters’.

5.) They ask you for some advice on a deen matter over Gmail when you just happen to appear online.

6.) They retweet some Islamic-themed tweet of yours.

7.) You go to Rihla and they suddenly develop a burning need to go, and of course they need to ask you all about it.

8.) You’re in the same Arabic class and they ask to borrow some notes because yours are so well-organised, mashaAllah.

9.) They spot you at an event and feel the need to ask you what you thought of it, despite the presence of several hundred other attendees who the question could be directed at.

10.) They stare excessively at the ground whenever you’re in the vicinity.

I’m only half-joking here, peeps. Obviously I’m referring to people at  a middling level of conservatism here-at the most conservative level this type of behavior would be considered too out there, while less conservative people will express their interest in a different manner altogether. That doesn’t mean their signals will be any easier to read though. In fact, in less conservative Muslim circles things can get a lot messier, because people will hide behind the ‘we’re just friends’ line.

I’ll go into the different types of free-mixers in my next post, but in the meantime, do you find this type of ‘Islamic flirtation’ hilarious or simply part and parcel of the chase when you’re Muslim?

When should he knock on your front door?

Of the Muslim parents I know, the overwhelming majority seem to have had ‘arranged’ marriages. This could mean anything from marrying someone they met once or twice before the wedding to simply being introduced by a mutual friend and proceeding from there with a relatively low level of familial interference. When things are done in this way, the lines are, for the most part, clearly delineated. The parents on both sides are fully aware of what is going on and the potential suitor comes in through the front door from the outset.

However, this is not always the case for their children growing up in Australia and elsewhere. People are meeting of their own accord away from their living room, whether it’s at community events or through the university MSA. When people meet in this way, the question must be asked: when should he knock on your front door? This leads to two very common scenarios arising:

1.) The ‘Let’s Do Things The Right Way’ couple

These two may have conversed on a casual level at Muslim community events and may have engaged in some friendly yet restrained online contact. But once interest has been formally expressed, they will proceed almost immediately to the doorknock. Online contact may continue simultaneously, but this will be kept to a minimum and will have some degree of formality.

For this scenario to work,  both parties must be in a position to introduce the idea to their parents. If the guy isn’t seen as financially stable, he’ll have to be extremely stubborn to get his parents to come on board at this stage. If he doesn’t receive the okay from his parents, he will be unable to proceed to doorknock stage immediately and the couple’s social status will be in limbo. In theory he can come doorknocking without his parents, but this rarely happens. More commonly, the couple will now find themselves in category 2.

2.) The ‘Let’s Wait and See’ couple

This couple may have met in the same way as couple 1, but for some reason they are unable to proceed to doorknock stage right away due to anticipated or actual parental disapproval. This is particularly the case where the couple are from different ethnic backgrounds; this type of couple will often try and bring their parents around to the idea gradually rather than risk an all-out fight. Parental disapproval will also be commonly anticipated where the male is considered to be too young and financially unstable to consider marriage. In this case, the couple will often introduce the idea to their parents and then play the waiting game until he finishes university or obtains a job his and/or her parents deem to be sufficient.

Of course, where the couple are both from different ethnic backgrounds AND considered too young, this will only compound the anticipated parental opposition. These types of couples may wait years for the parental sanctions to be lifted. Their biggest concerns in the meantime? First and foremost, how to keep it Halal, and secondly, how to sell their story to the Muslim community i.e. to use Facebook terms, are they ‘engaged’, ‘in a relationship’ or ‘it’s complicated’?

What do you guys think? If a guy cannot proceed to doorknock stage from the outset, is the whole thing doomed to failure?