Tag Archives: heartbreak

The Muslim Relationship Status Dilemma

I remember seeing an advertisement for a party in first year uni and being slightly scandalised at the time. The rules of the party were that single people were to come in green, maybes in orange and ‘taken’ people in, you guessed it, red. As crass an idea as this is, Muslims could really do with some kind of system for knowing when people are actually single  and looking to get married, and when they’re just not. Instead, people are often forced to ask around, looking for mutual connections to tell them whether the person they’re interested in is already otherwise engaged. (Lame, but I couldn’t resist.)

The problem is that people generally don’t make it known that they’re getting to know someone, at least not initially. This is understandable and perfectly reasonable, because it often goes no further than the getting-to-know-you phase. You don’t want to be telling every Hassan and Hussain when you meet someone for the first time. It’s just not feasible, nor does it serve any real purpose for any of the parties involved.

Let’s say person X is getting to know Y. They could seal the deal within a couple of months, seal the deal in this case meaning progress to an official, publicised engagement. If this happens, X and Y are reasonably safe. It’s unlikely that people will ‘catch’ them in the act of getting to know each other, and even if they do, it doesn’t really matter. Things will progress quickly enough for tongues not to wag or for X and Y to have define their relationship in social terms.

But if there are complications and things don’t progress as quickly, X and Y are in a bit of a bind. Technically, they’re ‘in a relationship’, as the Facebook status goes. But Muslims just don’t utilise the relationship status option on Facebook. In fact, unmarried couples tend to try to keep their relationship secret, or at the very least, an open secret. Their friends and acquaintances might know, but the information doesn’t always trickle out evenly.

This is where things can get really sticky. Some people might know about X and Y’s relationship, some people might not. Z doesn’t happen to know, and develops feelings for one half of the couple in question. Is it Z’s fault? Or the person’s for even talking to Z in the first place? Or can the blame be attributed to this weird state of affairs amongst Muslims, where hearsay has to be used as evidence (a big no-no, as my fellow lawyers can appreciate) and no one wants to actually have the hard conversations because deep down, they’re just a big ball of confusion?

This cuts to the very heart of the problem: people may be keeping their options open. They may be talking to one person without having defined the relationship, and as such they feel like they have license to be talking to other people simultaneously. Even if they’re actually in a relationship with one person, they may be feeling uncertain. This uncertainty combined with the fact that very few people know about the relationship may lead to icky situations, like two people thinking they’re getting to know the same person. (An extreme example, but certainly not unheard of.)

The line between friendships and romantic relationships isn’t always easy to ascertain either. This is a universal issue, but is compounded by the fact that different Muslims have different boundaries when it comes to the opposite sex. This leads to all kinds of weird pseudo-relationships popping up, like guys and girls who are constantly talking but haven’t defined their relationship. Often both people like each other but are afraid to admit it, but sometimes only one person has any kind of romantic interest and the other person is simply enjoying having someone to talk to without the hassle of actually being in a relationship. (Or maybe they just genuinely like talking about photography/philosophy/video games.)

And then there are those who are secretly pining over someone who they know will probably never reciprocate their feelings. They get stuck in a waiting game, hoping the tide will turn but acknowledging that it most likely will not. These people are technically ‘single’, but are about as available as a change room at the Boxing Day Sales. The sad thing is that the object of their affection could actually be in one of those secret relationships mentioned above, which means that their efforts are doomed from the outset and may in fact bring them great embarrassment should word get out. The other common scenario is that the person they like just isn’t looking to get married, and so liking them at the present moment is just a waste of energy.

All of the above scenarios are a result of the lack of transparency around the whole issue of marriage. No one wants to admit that they want to get married for fear of looking ‘desperate’, but nearly everyone does. No one wants to admit that they’ve been in a relationship, but nearly everyone has been. No one wants to be the one to put their heart on the line and have the are-we-just-friends conversation, because they know it’ll be just awful if the answer is yes. (And if you’re afraid to ask, it’s often because you know the answer is ‘yes, we are just friends’ and you don’t want to face up to it.)

I don’t claim to have solutions to any of these issues except to very humbly suggest that personal responsibility is key. Sensitivity to the feelings of others is key. Talking to someone may mean nothing to you, but it could mean the world to them. (On the other hand, assuming every conversation with someone of the opposite sex is romantic in nature is just a recipe for disaster.) A little tact and discretion never goes astray, but excessive secrecy and vagueness can lead to unnecessary complications for all parties concerned. Human dignity should be preserved in all cases, even when you don’t care an iota for the person in question. If you know categorically that you’re not looking to get married, don’t let your guard down with the opposite sex, and if you are looking to get married, make your intentions clear at the earliest opportunity.

Do you consider yourself to be ‘single’? What’s the best way to avoid dilemmas about a relationship status?


Moving On

Imagine if you were to attach your skin, bit by bit, inch by inch, to the skin of another. It’s a painful image, but imagine then the pain of having to take those stitches apart. Whether it’s done stitch by stitch or in one rapid rip, the agony would be almost unbearable. This is what a breakup is like. In getting to know someone, people slowly but surely intertwine parts of themselves with that person. It can be a painful process, simply because you’re forced to share your vulnerable spots-your thin, uncalloused skin. But if and when you pull apart, you’re forced to sever each and every connection you forged together. It’s little wonder then that on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, ‘death of a spouse’ comes in at number one, followed by ‘divorce’ and ‘marital separation’.

Breakups can make sobbing, dithering messes of the coolest customers. They can cause people to act irrationally, neglect their own health and well-being. The desire for ‘closure’ can drive people to the brink of despair. You yearn for answers almost as much as you yearn for the person. Why don’t you love me anymore? Why are you giving up when you told me you never would? Why did I believe you? How could you treat me like that?  Why won’t you talk to me?  Why does eating half a tub of  this fudge icecream only  provide a temporary release from the pain?  Why am I eating the other half of the tub as well?

From what I’ve observed, there are two main paths taken by the broken-hearted, both of which have their pros and cons. The first one I like to call the ‘desecration of the altar’ approach. This is a neat little trick employed by many in which all memories of the person and the relationship are trashed and defaced with defamatory graffiti. People hone in on all the vices of their former love and convince themselves that they had ‘a lucky escape’. They tell themselves things like, ‘he was a loser anyway’ or ‘she never made me happy, but I just put up with it at the time.’ This exercise can even lead to a complete denial of the feelings they once had for the person in question. (‘I never really loved him.’)

I understand why people do this. To some extent, it’s probably a necessary reaction to the sting of a breakup. After all, if you continued to believe that the person was the bee’s knees, you’d be likely to keep worshipping (figuratively, not literally-astaghs) at that altar for months and years after the breakup. But the problem with the ‘desecration of the altar’ approach is simple: it’s often based on complete and utter lies. Why was Person X with Person Y in the first place if they had little to no redeeming qualities? What does it say about Person X when only last month they were planning to marry such a complete ‘loser’?

This is why approach number two, the ‘path of excess platitudes’, works far better for a lot of people. After all, Muslims live off platitudes. Even when you’re railing against fate, you tell people, yourself, that ‘it’s all naseeb’. Even when you feel like you’ve just lost the best thing to have ever come your way you say ‘Allah swt will never take something from us without giving us better’.  You smile, you pray,you post inspiring quotes about faith and kids in Syria on Facebook, then you go and cry yourself to sleep and wake up with balloon-like faces in the morning. You put your best faith forward and you keep walking, knowing that Allah swt is with you, even if you don’t quite feel it right this very minute.

The greatest platitude of all is ‘moving on’. People move forward, yes, they go to work, they eat TV dinners, but there’s no such thing as people ‘moving on’. Rather, life moves on. You still have to do your tax returns, even as you’re mourning a lost love. The washing up still needs finishing and the socks still need to be bundled and put into drawers. Slowly, the tasks become less mechanical. Slowly, the light pokes its way in through the thickly drawn curtains. And then, one day, you say ‘it was all naseeb’ and you find, to your surprise, that you actually sorta kinda mean it.

If you’re not there yet, be patient with yourself. Not being able to let go is something society tells us is weird, even a bit ‘obsessive’. In a world where all possessions are upgradeable, disposable, replaceable, holding onto something seems utterly out of place. But all the same, don’t let life move on without you moving with it. Keep doing those job applications. Keep ironing those clothes. Go to those parties, even when you don’t feel like it. And most of all, keep praying. As the wonderfully cheesy platitude says, ‘when the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.’ C’mon, as if that doesn’t make you feel just that teensy bit better? (Ok, maybe not, but it was worth a try.)


A Muslim’s Guide to Surviving Heartbreak

*Disclaimer: Author’s identity has been kept anonymous.

Sometimes in life you meet someone who makes you smile from the inside out. A person who you may never want to imagine a life without. Someone who ticks all of your boxes, makes you happy, makes you think about what you would both name your children and whether they’d have the eyes of their father or the smile of their mother. It’s beautiful when it lasts. We humans were made to love. Love our families, friends and our soulmates when and if we happen to meet them. As easily as we may begin to have feelings for someone, circumstances can present obstacles. Each moment that follows can make the difference between whether this special person becomes a part of your life permanently or not.

Recently I was considering someone for marriage quite seriously. A person whom I was sure was the one for me. I had placed all my hopes into one basket and was ready to submit fully to the winds of love in order to make our feelings an Islamically sustainable reality-marriage. Things didn’t work out, and when we had to part ways it was a very deep cut. It felt like someone or something had died. A concept died. The idea of ‘us’ that we had imagined and dreamed left this world and ceased to exist anymore. It was therefore a matter of immense grief and sadness.

This is only natural, and feeling a sense of loss over someone who we care deeply for is a part of life we cannot always escape. People come into our path for a reason and we cannot delete them from the hard drives of our lives like we delete a file from our computer. It is a much more delicate process than that. The following tips I believe have helped me to come to terms with heart break in my life and move on.

1)      This is the decree of Allah.

Let this mantra be the answer to every time you question, “Why?!”. If you have consulted Allah during the process, then there is khayr (good) in all sequence of events. If you have reached out to God when you were in such a vulnerable place by praying to him, making istikhara (guidance prayer) and had the right intentions in pursuing someone, then you must know that God is on your side and He will never let you down.  There are a whole host of reasons why Allah may have taken this person away from you. It may be a way for you to have learned and gained life experience and wisdom. It may also have been saving you from a greater difficulty.  He may want you to turn to Him so that He may deliver something which is actually better for you as an answer to your prayers. Your duty is not to find the answers to why, your test is to accept His divine decree and in the depths of your grief respond with “Alhamdulilah”. Be sure that your sacrifices for the sake of God will never go unacknowledged. I came across this passage of the Qur’an during the sadness I was experiencing. It reminded me of trying to see the bigger picture,

“Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence for whom He pleases; and they rejoice in this world’s life, and this world’s life is nothing compared with the hereafter but a temporary enjoyment”

(Ayah 26, Surah Al Rad)

2)      Let go of Hard Feelings

Just let all the animosity go. It’s all wasted energy, I promise. Be civil with each other and try to end things on good terms, it helps you both move on. (Unless the person was an abusive nutcase, then yes, be angry and report them to relevant authorities!)

It is the case that people will hurt you. They may have said or done a few stupid things, but holding onto hard feelings against them is not going to do anyone any favours, especially yourself. The easiest way to relieve yourself of the pain is to forgive the person for whatever ways they may have wronged you. Accept that, like you, they are also human, and susceptible to making mistakes. People often hurt others even if it was not their intention to do so. It sucks, but it could have easily been you doing the same thing if you were in a different situation.  It is wise for you to ask for forgiveness yourself, especially if this person has expressed their hurt to you. Sometimes it takes time to front up and do this, but when it comes out, it can really bring a sense of closure. Pray for good things for this person as often as you think of them.


3)      Find space and time to heal

The hardest thing about heartbreak can be the sensation of being completely alone again. Loneliness is often something we are afraid of, but we only feel it because during the time that we have someone else in our life, we are conditioning ourselves to happiness or validation in the presence of their partnership. Un-condition yourself. Shift this paradigm and make it all about you again. Sometimes after we have given so much of our energy to someone else, and especially when that has gone under-appreciated, we really need to find ourselves again. We need to build back our self esteem within the seemingly intimidating world of singledom and brave the currents to re-establish our self confidence. This task can seem very difficult when we are often left swimming in an ocean of personal insecurities after heartbreak. These feelings are completely normal, but you must not let them overcome you and drown as the circumstances can be very harmful. Give yourself the time and space to heal and be easy on yourself. There will be difficult days and more easier days, times when you know you have to take things one day at a time.  Indulge in the activities you have always personally known and loved and just work on taking care of yourself better.

Don’t feel the need to jump into anything new without feeling completely ready, it’s not fair on yourself or any other parties involved. If you give time for yourself, it will put you in a safer place to open your heart to the right person at another time in your life, God willing.

Everybody’s journey is different, and you may think of a million different ways to deal with heartbreak but I think the best thing we can take out of these experiences are the kinder memories. All the people that have ever mattered to you in your life will shape you and impact you, ultimately adding to the person you are. People we have encountered in heart break are not just people you either marry or don’t marry. These people are souls in and of themselves, experiences, lessons and moments of mercy that Allah has placed in our lives, even if you can’t see it. Don’t try and eradicate them completely from your hearts, but understand and appreciate their place in the greater scheme of things. If marriage is what you want, know that that is a noble ambition, it is the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w) and a means for you to draw closer to God should you have the correct intentions.

You may come across further trials in your search for the right person as it is not a necessarily smooth ride, nor is the journey of life in general. One day you are going to find the Man or Woman who raises you up and helps you place all your past experiences into perspective. Try your best to be the most healthy and strongest person you can be for them when you find them, so that you may also raise them up. And never forget to keep loving, even when the world turns upside down around us and love seems like it causes more pain then relief, there is the impenetrable love of The One who created both love and heart break. And He is The One who beautifully mends our hearts at the times when they were meant to be broken.