Tag Archives: friendship

Love

For a blog called ‘Love Haqtually’, there really isn’t very much about love itself on here. That’s simply because it’s just so darn hard to do justice to the concept. Much of what’s written about love focuses solely on romantic love in its early stages. Sure, love is transcendent and magical and may just involve locking eyes and lightning bolts and dodging giant boulders just to be together. Those love stories uplift us from the drudgery of our everyday lives and are the lived experience of a select few. But love is also an everyday occurrence, and to deny its everyday manifestations is to deny ourselves so many chances to be grateful for its quiet, unceremonious presence in our lives.

Love is when you get up for Fajr and stub your toe because you’re trying to keep your eyes closed (it’s easier to get back to sleep that way, right?), but instead of getting mad you just laugh because you love Him enough to try it again tomorrow, this time with at least one eye open.

Love is all those times when your mother tells you to do the dishes, but you ‘forget’ and she quietly does them herself.

Love is that look spouses give each other across a crowded room which says, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go home and eat ice cream on the couch.’

Love is this morning, when my mother ironed my shirt for work because she knows my ironing is terrible.

Love is every time my father tells me to hold my folk like I’d hold a pen. Love is when he persists in telling me, even though I get annoyed and keep holding it like a bag of potatoes just to annoy him back.

Love is when your best friends take you out for hot chips and gravy because you’re miserable over some boy/girl who didn’t want you. Love is when they pretend to be interested every time you moan about some boy/girl who didn’t want you, when all they really want is to eat their hot chips and gravy in peace.

Love is in the silly nicknames your siblings have for you and all the times they forgave you for snapping at them over who got the remote control.

Love is me staring at my wriggly baby niece, marvelling at her wrinkly fingers and toes and spongy head.

Love is snoring on each other’s shoulders in front of the television. Love is folding socks and taking out the garbage on a Tuesday night and passing each other the butter across the table before being asked.

Love is remembering those who are no longer here and sending up a brief prayer for their forgiveness, not often enough because you’re forgetful, but often enough.

Love is knowing He forgives, always.

Love is posting a soppy status about your wife on your anniversary and getting 50 likes.

Love is sitting in the passenger seat as you drive home in silence, sleepy and full of food.

Love is not giving up even when you just can’t be bothered. Love is holding your tongue when you know it would be the most satisfying thing in the world to say, ‘I told you so’.

Love is those thousand forgettable moments of tiny kindnesses and concessions amongst the few memorable chocolates and flowers and fancy, overpriced dinners.

Love. The extraordinary thread running through and holding together the ordinary. This is love.

Why people ignore the obvious (but shouldn’t)

A while back, I wrote an article about the ‘new girl/guy effect’ i.e the phenomenon whereby a person who isn’t known to a certain circle of people enters it and suddenly becomes the talk of the town. In the few months since I wrote that post, I’ve been pondering on the opposite of that: to put it bluntly, ‘the old girl/guy effect’. In nicer, more nuanced terminology, this is the phenomenon whereby people feel that they’re a bit too well-acquainted to ever be anything more than just ‘friends’. Many people have a specific rule that they will not consider someone who’s somewhat part of their social circle, as if the pools of friends and potential partners simply cannot overlap. They might ‘use’ their friends of the opposite sex to get to their friends, but the friends themselves will never be potential spouse material.

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you’d know that I usually try to keep my personal opinions out of the picture. But hey, it is my blog, so once every so often I think I’m entitled to leave them in, and in this case I’ll freely admit that I find the above mentality both puzzling and slightly distasteful. As a lawyer, I’m used to thinking in terms of arguments and counter-arguments, so let’s have a go at the common justifications for this mentality and why I disagree with them:

Argument 1: It’ll be too awkward if things don’t work out, so it’s easier just to not even go there.

Counter-argument: Things are always awkward when they don’t work out with anyone. Plus, there are many bonuses if it actually does work out.

Of all the arguments against considering friends, this one has the most logical validity. I get it; there’s a lot more at stake when we know someone well and interact with them socially than when we don’t know them from a bar of soap. We can’t just walk away if things don’t work out because it’s highly likely that we’ll have to see them again and again and again…and maybe even again.

But getting to know anyone at all requires at least some point of intersection. At least with friends we have an easy way ‘in’, if not an easy way out. We know a lot of basic facts about them and can vouch for the fact that they aren’t clinically insane. Plus, if things do work out, it’s all the more beautiful: there’s already a closely-knit group of people to provide support, advice and lots of duas for both parties. If it doesn’t work out, the pre-existing friendship may provide grounds for mutual respect long after the romantic ardour cools.

Argument 2: I already know them, so if there was relationship potential I’d have known it long ago.

Counter-argument: How well do you know your ‘friends’ of the opposite sex in any case? Not all that well, perhaps.

We all know that there’s a wide spectrum of practices in relation to male-female interactions amongst Muslims, ranging from people who only interact where necessary to people who are happy to hang out in group settings or even one-on-one for a coffee or an outing. But even amongst the friendliest of the friendlies, how friendly are we talking?

For many of us, there are deeply ingrained sensibilities regarding what we can and can’t talk about with people of the opposite sex. Even amongst people we are reasonably ‘friendly’ with, it’s not very likely that we’ll be touching on (lol) very personal topics such as our family dynamics, our struggles with our nafs and especially not our romantic successes and failures. In effect, this means that we don’t necessarily know our so-called ‘friends’ very well at all. Our interactions are probably in group situations for the most part and not one-on-one, which again limits how well we get to know them. We may know a lot about their hobbies and whether they approved or disapproved of the ‘Happy’ Muslims video, but this barely scratches the surface of who they are, or for that matter, who we are, because they will only know the same of us.

This being the case, it hardly makes sense to relegate someone to the friendzone simply because they’re, well, our ‘friends’. We don’t treat our workmates the same way we treat our siblings, so why do we assume that we know what someone will be like in a relationship just because we are superficially acquainted with them on a social level? I don’t assume I know someone well because I see them at events or have seen some of their posts on Facebook, and I certainly hope they don’t think they know me based on these things either.

Argument 3: There’s no chemistry/spark. That’s why we’re just friends.

Counter-argument: Have you ever even tried to see them in another light? Or are you only looking for ‘love at first sight’? (Rhyme not intended, but meh, it’s there, it can stay there.)

I see the same thing happen again and again: someone will have any number of people of the opposite sex that they interact with regularly and get along with really well, but they’re either too busy pining after someone they barely know or looking for some magical ‘click’ to even notice. They may even lament the lack of ‘available’ people, but they know any number of singles of the opposite sex that they just won’t consider.

The problem is that familiarity breeds contempt. In a romantic context, this means that it’s very difficult to maintain a sense of mystery, a thrill, if we’re interacting with someone on a regular basis. This sense of mystery, that slight distance, is an integral part of what many people deem to be attraction. But if, for example, X is working closely with Y on a project, or they’re part of the same wider social group, they’re likely to see each other first thing in the morning. They’ll see each other grumpy. They’ll see all those Whatsapp messages with the stupid memes and hear all the jokes that don’t quite hit the mark. They’ll see them chowing down their lunch, and we all know that nothing kills romance faster than seeing someone with their mouth full. We just don’t seem to want someone who’s seen us sans mystique, which makes no sense whatsoever; the proximity of married life will very quickly and brutally knock the mystique out of the coolest of customers.

The funny thing is that the very qualities we’re seeking in someone are often the same qualities the people in our direct vicinity possess. Why else would we be part of the same sphere as them? But because they’re right in front of us, we just can’t see them. They remind us too much of our ordinary, everyday lives, and what is love but a yearning for the extraordinary? We want to be transported, inspired. Good old-fashioned conversations just don’t cut it; we want sparks and lightning bolts and all manner of natural phenomena. We don’t take note of the fact that our easy, free-flowing conversations might translate well into a romantic context, and we certainly don’t marvel at their intelligence/good looks/good character because we’ve stopped even noticing these things, if ever we did.

Of course, I’m hardly suggesting that people consider those they find repulsive or unlikeable. But if someone is our friend, how likely is it that we find them repulsive or unlikeable in any case?

Argument 4: I’m just not thinking about marriage right now.

Counter-argument: Okay, but if/when you are, you’ve probably already dismissed your ‘friends’ from the equation because they saw you precisely when you weren’t ready to think about it.

It’s the stuff of many terrible movies: someone ignores their best friend in favour of some out-of-their-league hottie, then realises their friend was the right one all along after falling flat on their face. But many Muslims seem to eschew this kind of Hollywood-esque journey. Once we place someone in one category, we seem to find it very hard to re-categorise. This tends to mean that once someone has been friendzoned, they don’t often escape from its confines. If someone wasn’t ready for marriage and decides they now are, they often feel slightly ashamed of their former self. They feel it’s easier to be with someone who didn’t see them in larvae stage; they only want to be seen as they now are, fully formed.

I don’t buy this at all. If someone has seen us progress along our journey, they ought to respect the path we’ve taken and appreciate how hard we’ve worked on ourselves to get there. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that someone has seen us at our formative stages, nor should that person feel that they have the right to look down upon us because they have. (Besides, when can anyone claim to be fully formed? A line in Shantaram describes it well: ‘The fully mature man has about two seconds left to live’.)

Anyway, that’s that. The reality on the ground means that that if we’re interested in someone and want things to work out, we probably shouldn’t try to use friendship as an ‘in’ unless that friendship is simply a transient pretext to get to the next stage. ‘Stay away, or make it happen right away’ seems to be the order of the day. (Not intended either, but I suppose it’s kinda catchy.)

 

My Article on Daily Life today!

Dear lovely readers,

If you’re not in Australia, you probably haven’t heard of Daily Life, but they’re tagged as Australia’s number 1 women’s website with over 100,000 unique browsers a day. My article is titled ‘Can (Muslim) Men and Women Be “Just Friends”?’ and I’d love to know what y’all think! 

http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/real-life/can-muslim-men-and-women-be-just-friends-20140519-38jia.html

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.