“Contemporary Muslim Woman” Series: Dating While Muslim by Zeba Iqbal


GOATMILK continues its original and exclusive month long series entitled “The Contemporary Muslim Woman” featuring diverse Muslim women writers from around the world discussing a gamut of topics in their own unique, honest and eclectic voices.

Zeba Iqbal, author of the now famous “Over 30 and Unmarried” post returns with…

Dating While Muslim

Zeba Iqbal

muslim-dating


A provocative title, though I doubt the discussion will be quite as titillating. Before getting into a debate over the title, I’d like to establish some context. Marriage is important in Islam, for men and women. Love and respect are too. To even contemplate loving and respecting someone enough to marry them, one has to meet and speak with the person sufficiently in open, non-judgmental, supportive and protected settings that promote honest and relevant dialogue. That is the premise for ‘dating while Muslim’.

Even before that, men and women both make significant contributions to communities and to families. Islam recognizes that, and encourages respect between men and women. Courtship and marriage come later, but first Muslim men and women need to be able to interact effectively and respectfully with one another.

A Case for Dating

Dating as we know it in broader American society is a taboo with most Muslims. This is understandable because although Islam is not a prudish religion, it is very particular about behaviors within marriage and outside of marriage. Within marriage, the relationship between man and woman is very intimate and one of protection. Outside of marriage, men and women cannot be intimate. They each need to protect themselves. Thus, the free mixing of men and women in unchaperoned settings is not encouraged because of what it may lead to, namely ‘zina’ or fornication.

However, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, really, what is dating? Dating in essence encompasses the communications and interactions between a man and a woman that are based on mutual interest and could potentially lead to marriage. In a Muslim American setting, these interactions can be controlled and adapted to be ‘halal’, relevant, thoughtful and transparent.

Let’s be honest, as a community we may not talk about dating among Muslims, but ignoring it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist does it? Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge its existence, and establish that there’s nothing wrong with it within certain established parameters?

From the perspective of Muslim singles today, really, what option do we have? In our parents and grandparents generations and historically, marriages were arranged. Families were very critical to the decision-making process and the decisions were often strategic, matrimonial alliances. That is not the case anymore.

Now, we are on our own. Family and friends may suggest individuals, or we may put ourselves out into the matrimonial circuit (sites, events, ‘rishta’ aunties or matchmakers), but once the introductions are made, it’s just us.

When meeting Muslims within the community, we are meeting people who are grappling with the same issues of identity, insecurity, judgment/criticism and social pressure that we are. The result of this is that when it comes to potential affairs of the heart, Muslim men are increasingly passive (or passive aggressive) and Muslim women are increasingly aggressive. Without forums for broader discussion and guidance (‘khutbas’ or sermons, dialogues, discussions, roundtables on Islam, marriage, gender relations, sexual relations, etc), this divide will only grow. We need to normalize basic gender relations between Muslim men and women through consistent efforts by the community in order to get Muslim men and women to the table for relevant and meaningful interaction and dialogue.

Additionally, the suggestion has been made that single Muslim women should start looking outside the community (after all that’s what Muslim men do right?). Conceptually, I agree with my friend who says that it’s a form of ‘dawah’ (educating non-Muslims). She mentioned to me that in her very conservative community there is a position that women should be allowed and encouraged to marry non-Muslims who take the ‘shahada’ (the proclamation of faith in Islam) because Islam has the capacity to evolve in one’s heart over time. If communities are in fact encouraging this, how does a woman meet and get to know those men except through some form of dating?

Being on our own, Muslim singles (particularly women) need the support and the protection of the community, whether we are meeting fellow Muslims or non-Muslims from outside the community. Establishing an acceptable framework for Muslim dating that is open and supported by the community might help to enforce a level of accountability, a system of checks and balances, that is not robust at this time.

Why is this important? Let me illustrate. I had an online suitor once, a single Muslim man in another city via a matrimonial website. Initially, he seemed intelligent, interesting and personable. We spoke on the phone once or twice a week for several weeks. As we spoke more, I started noticing evasiveness about basic personal facts. I began to get the distinct feeling that he was not only hiding information, but that he was lying and misrepresenting himself. Additionally, he was trying to manipulate my thinking by consistently quoting particular sections of a certain ‘hadith’ (oral traditions of the Prophet Mohammed PBUH). I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I finally took a friend who was acquainted with this person into my confidence and asked him for his advice. As soon as he figured out who it was, he said three words, ‘Zeba stay away’.

This feeling of being alone and unprotected in these situations is magnified (at least for me) on non-Muslim matrimonial websites and when meeting non-Muslims because they may come from a different moral framework and there are few if any ways to place them (among Muslims I can find a brother, sister or friend that I know). Our families help as much as they can, but the broad based support and protection of the community would be invaluable.

By not considering a progressive position on issues like dating we, as a community, are not only encouraging covert behavior and a lack of accountability, we are also not supporting or protecting our vulnerable populations.

Improving Interactions Between Muslim Men and Women

One of the reasons Muslim singles are facing challenges today in gender based relations is because of the no-talk rule between Muslim girls and boys at Sunday School and through college in the MSA. When many of us were growing up we were told in no uncertain terms that we could not/should not talk to Muslims of the opposite gender.

As a result, Muslim men and women often don’t know how to speak with each other and when they do that little nagging voice is saying, ‘’tauba’(repent)! you are not allowed to talk to Muslim boys/girls’. Once the voice is quieted we realize that we are still about 15 in this arena, and very self-conscious and uncomfortable interacting with each other, particularly in community settings. We don’t know what to expect of each other, and cannot always speak openly with each other.

Another illustration, I once met another suitor for dinner in Chicago. We had spoken and emailed for a month or two. I was visiting and so we met for dinner. After dinner we were walking in downtown Chicago, and suddenly, he disappeared. Or, actually, he ducked. After about a minute or so he reappeared telling me that he saw his cousin driving down the street and didn’t want the cousin to see him with me. Honestly, even 15 is pushing it, I mean how juvenile is that?

The heart of the issue is Muslim men and women need to be able to talk to each other with respect, but without self-consciousness, fear of judgment, anxiety, or the feeling that they are doing something wrong. We need to be strong fellow Muslims to one another and this emotional underdevelopment is crippling. Being able to relax and take mixed-gender situations in our stride is vital if we want to raise the level of discourse and the ability to speak and interact with each other in meaningful ways.

So, I’ll say it again, ‘dating while Muslim’ anyone?

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45 thoughts on ““Contemporary Muslim Woman” Series: Dating While Muslim by Zeba Iqbal

  1. I agree in the abstract, but I think using the term ‘dating’ threatens to strike a lot of raw nerves and needlessly complicate matters. Dating is among the aspects of American culture that immigrant Muslims tend to harp on as touchstone indicators of the depravity of Western values and vices of this society that we must protect our children from (homosexuality, drugs, and alcohol are others). In many Muslim minds, dating necessarily implies fornication and promiscuity. Such Muslims may be receptive to creating an environment where young men and women can interact for the purpose of finding a spouse but would never entertain any suggestion that dating in any form is halal. Any effort to frame the issue as seeking to create an Islamically acceptable model of dating is likely to be dismissed in many Muslim circles as an attempt to assimilate Muslims into the dominant liberal society and co-opt their traditional values.

    This isn’t purely a semantic observation. Keep in mind that colonialism only ended 50 years ago, and the influence of reactionary, post-colonial mindsets persists in the Muslim psyche (even in the minds of American-born children of immigrants and converts, who absorb such thinking from the immigrant-dominated discourse of the larger Muslim-American community). You’re touching upon an issue that implicates the complex psychological phenomenon of how Muslim-Americans perceive themselves and their values vis-a-vis the dominant secular Western society. Staying away from the term ‘dating’ would avoid that kerfuffle altogether.

  2. A wonderful piece Zeba. You said it well. In desi communities “dating” is meant to be “sleeping with” another person. We need to change that image. As you put it so well, “dating” is just getting to know someone. The parameters and boundaries are set by yourself.

    • Great observation, AAB! Yes, typical American dating is STILL considered wrong (even w/ many moderate/liberal Bangladeshis families I’ve met). It’s a BIT better if the couple are Muslim & BD in origin, but some parents I’ve meet don’t even like that! No wonder “kids” in HS and college are sneaking around… Some ppl need to GROW up!

  3. Dating With Intentions While Muslim

    I believe Muslims in the west today can not rely on the old methods of finding a spouse. We need to be more open to allowing the opposite sexes to interact. I’d suggest more of a dating with intentions while Muslim approach. The whole dating for the shear idea of dating which occurs in the non-Muslim west today will not gain acceptance with most Muslims, but I’d like to see an openness to allow Muslims who have clear intentions of finding a spouse to interact freely without the fears of some auntie seeing you together, tauba tauba tauba.

  4. Great Article Zeba. We definitely need more dialogue and efforts towards a viable solution. As some mentioned on FB, maybe learning from other communities will help. It seems that the stigma attached with male/female social interaction is more of a desi thing and not so present in the arab communities. Many times social stigmas are perpetuated because we perpetuate them. We can start with us now and put a stop to them.

    A lot of entrepreneurs have started chaperoned dinner groups and stuff like that. I wonder if any of them have studied their impact, success rate, best practices etc? Maybe some events that allow for more group interaction, such as an outdoor event that takes more than 3 hours and isn’t as formal as a dinner, or sommething like that (which allows for interaction, is open, not as pressured) is better suited to our needs? Just a thought…

  5. We need to differentiate between looking at this issue from a religious perspective versus a cultural perspective.
    The attitude of religious leaders and parents who are conservative is to use religion to justify various cultural and social evils, then throw twisted statistics to prove the point.
    So go out and date, and find your mate. Or ask the same parents to find your the right partner and take share responsibility if anything goes wrong.

  6. I agree with Sabir on many points. While I understand your purpose behind bringing awareness to the challenges of courtship prior to marriage, I believe that people may get the wrong idea of what the proper etiquettes are. Many schools of thoughts prohibit meeting with the opposite sex for courtship purposes without the woman’s mehram (or proper chaperones) present. To be honest, before I got married I think the rules behind the etiquettes were pretty clear cut and were very easy to follow for the most part. And after getting married, I realized the wisdom and beauty behind why it should be done this way. Perhaps posting an article on the proper etiquettes of courtship may be useful to those reading these postings.

    I agree that your intention is the most important thing, but to be honest I don’t think we would have a thriving Islamic society if all of our friends were freely dating in public (even with good intentions). This is already pretty common right now. I’m a little worried as to what will happen in the generations to come. Muslim youth today are already dealing with pre-marital sex, abortions, STD’s, and homosexuality. I don’t believe openly dating is the solution, but will contribute more to the disunity and ignorance in our society. Let’s focus on more important issues like becoming united as an ummah and educating our youth on Islamic values. With modesty, humility and piety, insha’Allah we will be blessed with righteous spouses that will help bring up this ummah.

  7. Great article. the need for proper dialogue is absolutely essential. If proper dialogue does not exist within muslims, then you will find a lot of young people renouncing the culture or religion altogether. I am glad you are one of the few people giving an honest opinion on this issue. It is easy for people (especially desis) to be very judgmental and ignore the changes taking place in society. They turn a blind eye and somehow feel that everything will fix itself. Also, I agree about desi muslim men being passive (in general) as opposed to men of other religions/ethnicities.

    It doesn’t matter what term we use for two people getting to know each other for the purposes of marriage. It is easy for conservatives to create fear among muslim women and criticize someone for using a word. Also, many muslims living in the united states dont have the same family network they would have if they were back home. Where would young people find suitable matches if their only network limited – sit and wait? I am a muslim american woman and although I am still in my 20’s, I see a disturbing pattern in our community of ignorance and hypocrisy.

  8. what is haram,is haram,we dont have any right to mold Islam in any manner what so ever to cater to our own personal or social needs in any particular era.to me,the whole idea of dating while muslim,or courting while muslim,seems to be an effort to deliver that islam to this specific problem,lacks to provide a solution and needs to be revised,which is totally unacceptable as islam has been made by Allah and has no flaws at all,it is already in its best form,and our creator has definitely made it while seeing farther more than we possibly could ever see despite joining all our heads together.now u call it a fundamentalist approach,or extremism,it is THE TRUTH.the bottom line is that islam in this particular issue,or in any issue,any area of life,has been tailored in such a size that can fit all.one needs not stretch islam or cut islam short,but trim the size of his own worldly desires to fit into this divine “DHEEN” ‘s limits.(specially when these desires get too huge that they start seeming to be necessaties that MUST be met by hook or by crook)islam is no outdated,obsolete religion whose rules no longer apply to the so called contemporary world,it has always and will always meet the needs of its believers,it is Allah’s declaration in the great Quraan,that He has completed this religion on us,so why do we keep trying to make amendments to it???give any name to a sin,call it being contemporary,call it modernism,call it neccessaty of the modern age,we ll have to pay the same price for committing it,in the hereafter,as anyone would even if they had committed it 1400 years ago.Please dont try to twist and turn islam,please fear Allah,and trust in his promise,if He has written it for you in your taqdeer,He will grant you just the right spouse while you still stay in the limits of islam,and if He hasn’t,you wont get it no matter what you do.so make it your priority to save your aakhirah instead of finding ways advocating for stuff that has no guarantee for giving u good in this world ,plus,guarantees you great great loss in the hereafter.may Allah azza o jall give us all hidayah,and strength to stay on it,ameen

  9. With respect to Sabir and others advocating specifics on verbage, for the purpose of this dialog I’ll refer to *any* meeting of muslim members of opposite genders as a “medjool.”

    Now why would a medjool occur? Could be for business purposes. One will recall the notion of Muhammed (PBUH) and Khadija engaged in commerce for a significant period of time before the topic of matrimony even came up. Clearly the medjool was appropriate, halal, led to matrimony and one of the strongest marriages in our history. Let’s also be clear Khadija did not have a mehram.

    So we have a shining example that members of the opposite sex CAN meet, have meaningful exchanges, learn from each other, do business, find matrimonial partners AND be halal. There is an argument to be made this type of behavior could be Sunnah.

    BUT: Today’s muslim community has put some pretty interesting barriers to this. ANY medjools are actively squashed. Forget looking for a matrimonial partner – if you want to discuss issues of relevance in the community you had best not do it at the local islamic center. Men will be in one room, women in another and communication will not be the highest order of the day.

    It seems clear within our communities – we are so afraid of the haram we are making the halal EXTREMELY TOUGH.

    “And do not say, concerning the falsehood which your tongues utter, ‘This is halal and that is haram,’ in order to fabricate a lie against Allah; assuredly those who fabricate a lie against Allah will not prosper.” (16:116)

    Zeba’s points here are simply describing the elephant in the room – even halal medjools are described as an expressway to Hell imprinted into kids psyches with all the grace “A Clockwork Orange.” It is no wonder the issue of finding matrimonial partners for those of us in the Americas has become an exercise in near futility.

    To add emphasis: the leadership of mosque/other islamic institutions are rather pessimistic regarding ANY opportunity of halal interactions between the genders. Bigger walls and more finger wagging are the best most will ever offer. The fact this approach isn’t working to strengthen the community is an inconvenient bit of data most choose to ignore. Thanks to Zeba – let’s have a chat.

    Scientist Craig Venter was asked about the economy. but the quote is appropriate here: He related he wasn’t sure whether the optimists or pessimists had it right, “but the optimists will get something done.”

  10. The problem that I’ve felt, in the whole arranged marriage and the larger community of muslims, is that of assuming that people are pretty homogeneous, and that any man in possession of a beard is in want of a hijabi wife, (and vice versa)

    I have been told by muslim ‘well-wishers’ that the boy I am dating, a practicing, decent, hardworking boy, is not good enough for me because, *gasp*, he is clean shaven and obviously not devoted to his deen, and that a girl who’s observant enough to wear hijab deserves better. There are so many things wrong there that I can’t even begin to express them, but it reflects how sometimes the most superficial aspects are given the most importance.

    Yes, I am a 26 yr old hijabed girl, dating. My parents know, my elder brother knows, and its all sanctioned, even encouraged- “get to know him and let him know you, this is your life we’re talking about here”. I know a lot of eyebrows must’ve gone up at that, but after my parents tried to set me up, I realized why that sort of system doesn’t work for me– a lot (not all) men don’t want me, or my brains, or my heart or my personality. they want a generic girl, easily replaceable by another girl of the same ethnicity, age group, culture etc, and personality and compatibility don’t matter. Who cares if I happen to be ambitious? or if I’m sensitive? or if i’m an extreme sports junkie?

    More and more, in the american muslim culture, you see strong, independent women with a strong sense of confidence, self and identity, and its only fair for these women, including myself and others I am close to, to want their prospective partners to know them, appreciate them and even value them. In asian/arab cultures ‘back home’, the more homogeneous culture creates the identity for the woman- for better or for worse, in the US, not the case- the diversity lets us grow in different ways to become individuals with no one label, and can’t be picked off the shelf as easily.

    The non-interacting of genders attitude works okay if both parties subscribe to that sort of belief system, but for that to be the norm is a disservice to others.

    as for vocabulary, my mother calls it my ‘courtship’, and him my ‘suitor’. Its hilarious but it works.

    • “Yes, I am a 26 yr old hijabed girl, dating.”

      Good for you. Take your time in getting to know this guy and I hope it works out for you.

  11. I’m a bit troubled by the confrontational tone of some of the comments here (although in fairness to Zeba, I don’t think her article carries that tone at all).

    The reality is that names do matter. Words carry baggage, and you can’t use a loaded term without pretending like the baggage attached to it doesn’t exist. I’m supportive of the goal of creating an environment that eases the matrimonial process for young Muslims, but a stubborn insistence on tagging it as ‘dating’ would alienate a huge portion of the community that such a model is supposed to serve. Not everyone shares the culture and experiences of upper class, suburban, second generation immigrant Muslims. We are part of a diverse community that encompasses people from across the ethnic and socioeconomic spectrum. If you are going to build an institution that claims to serve the entire Muslim community, you can’t simply dismiss the concerns of those who don’t share your background as ‘judgmental finger-wagging’. There already exist too many unfortunate divides along ethnic, socieoeconomic, and ideological lines within the Muslim community. Why deepen them?

    More substantively, though I agree that a reactionary rejection of all Western norms is wrong, I for one take pride in Islam’s unique value system. I like the fact that our values are more conservative than those of the larger American society. Yes, there are aspects of American culture that we can learn from, but absorbing these constructive Western influences within an Islamic framework (as opposed to vice-versa) would enable us to progress and adapt while preserving our identity. We can brainstorm ways to foster interaction between young marriageable Muslim men and women within the bounds of our value system without using a term that conjures up notions of everything our value system opposes.

  12. If a man and a woman are *alone* together, the devil is the third. But how does that evolve into total gender apartheid? In the Prophet’s time, women prayed behind men, not behind a curtain or in a separate room where they can’t even hear the imam clearly. In the Prophet’s time, women were instructed to cover their bodies so they would not be molested, they were not told to hide; if hijab is the amulet of protection, why would protection be necessary if women saw men only in passing, or from afar?

    As long as you are not *alone* together and you cover your body, what exactly is wrong with dating?

  13. by the looks of this article and these comments you’d have no idea that muslims in america were anything but arab or desi. this article is written
    from the perspective of immigrant communities, which carry their own set of issues as i and the reader’s are very well aware of.

    i am an american. my family is american and we are all muslim. i was muslim born and muslim bread (that means i grew up eating halal food). i can trace my lineage in this country some 400 plus yrs and i can also trace it to before america was ever ‘discovered’. and guess what, there are hundreds of thousands of muslims in america with a similar cultural historical background as me. in fact, according to a recent gallup pole the majority of muslims in america are of african descent http://www.gallup.com/poll/116260/Muslim-Americans-Exemplify-Diversity-Potential.aspx . and by african descent we’re not talking newly arrived immigrants.

    im a 25yr old, single (never been married) african-american muslim woman and when i read articles like this– that only color the american muslim experience as something desi, arab, or immigrant– and when i read comments like these i think to myself, hmmmm, i wonder if these folks are aware of, care to explore, or would bother to even mention the many unique ways in which american muslims (who have no other ‘homeland’ to identify with), like myself, my family, and those in my community tackle issues (i.e., dating), interpret religious texts, and mesh things together in an islamic context befitting to our lives, existence, and ability to thrive as muslims in america. hmmmm, i wonder sometimes.

    • MashaaAllah Basheera, i wish you wrote more about your sde of thestory of the issues of dating in communities other than the desi/arabs. We would love to hear what you have to say. and wish that these cultural / race diides wll just naturally desolve by itself oneday. i guess the community needs to be mor open and encouraging to inter-racial / cultural marriages

  14. Well said but the emphasis should be put on teen muslims because they face the greater challanges because we all live in an American lifestyle and its tough for them to evade dating.

  15. As someone who once reached out to Zeba and numerous other 35+ single Muslim women, through one of the matrimonial sites a long time ago, I believe that her post is very one sided and self-serving. The author would like us to sympathize with her and has concocted a strong case for that. The reality, however, is quite different.

    We see an exponential rise in almost 40 single Muslim women because of, not of lack of availability of suitable suitors, but their arrogance. These women wanted it all when they were in their 20s – money, looks, bragging rights. Even Brad Pitt would have gotten rejected by 50+% of them, if he didn’t have money or fame. Their girlfriends kept telling each not to “settle”, keep looking for the bigger better deal, make sure that the guy is a doctor/lawyer/ivy MBA, don’t marry anyone who doesn’t propose with a 15k engagement ring, etc. All the while, these women believed that they will forever stay young and beautiful and hence, feel entitled to money, looks, bragging rights. 10 years fast forward, we have many Zebas, some never got married, some did but got divorced.

    As an average looking, highly educated, professional, non-drinking, non-smoking, non-gambling, guy, I was rejected by countless women because of lack of good looks, lack of exciting personality, lack of spark and because I chose to drive a sensible Honda versus a flashy BMW. It was a long, painful journey that I had to go through to find my wife who married me, not because of my money or lack of looks, but because she knew I would lover her and treat her with kindness.

    I have moved on, but this post brought back not-so-fond memories from my past, so I thought I’d set the record straight. And please forgive me if I don’t shed any tears at this sob story.

    This is just the case of chicken coming home to roost.

    • Why are you following sister Zeba with the same copy-paste negative comments on her articles.
      May Allah forgie you and show you the right way brother.

      Sister Zeba, we love your writings. please do not get discouraged by negative comments like scooboy and BBMan ( same person actually). However I wish you didn’t use the “dating” word, its a very much loaded word that cause lots of discomfort for many. We would like to hear from you of practical solutions the community can adopt to solve this issues. I would suggest to call for open conferences workshops for the experts and the scholars on the issue. its heart breaking to see the new generation trapped and falling into the world of sins because of lack of appropriate solution to facilitate marriage.

  16. BBMan drinks some bitter tea in the mornings; please forgive his still-simmering resentment regarding the women he wanted to “know”, but never did.

  17. Apparently, it’s also the woman’s fault if the man lacks personality and she’s not attracted to him. Hmm.

  18. To “BBMan Therapist” and “Surprised”,

    In the end it comes down to the laws of supply and demand. If a woman ends up being single because no guy met her long list of criteria, then it means her sense of her own value is inflated. She keeps believing that she can attract a guy worth “x” because she’s worth “y”. One would think that more than a decade of trial and error (and no results to show for) should have taught her that her true worth is probably less than “y”.

    As an analogy, consider a person who thinks that he should get a $150k/year salary. He keeps looking for a long time, but all he could find is a $100k position. Is his worth determined by based on his opinion or the market’s opinion? How long should he remain unemployed in the hope of landing that prestigious job? 1 year, 2 year, 10+ years? Meanwhile, his value keeps declining as he remains unemployed (or ages as a single person gets older)?
    Isn’t this person at fault if he remains unemployed for more than a decade? or is it the society’s fault? Are we supposed to sympathize with him or tell him to wake up and read the writing on the wall?

    So, yes, it is Zeba’s (and other like her) fault if she’s too stubborn to understand her worth. She priced herself out of the market. There is nothing wrong with her. She’s pretty, well-educated, etc. She had numerous suitors, she just deemed them not good enough. Okay, she has that right. But, then you have to live with your choices. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    We all make choices and we live with them. They (Zeba & others like her) made theirs.

  19. Maybe there is a demand for well educated, non skanky, reasonably attractive Muslim men with culture, etiquette, no insecurity issues, no demeaning cultural baggage.
    Maybe there is a very, very, very low supply of these.
    Maybe a lot of Muslim women, who are intelligent, pretty, into their deen, reasonable and vibrant women, don’t want to settle.
    Does your little economic model include this? I don’t think it’s entirely impossible that there are an increasingly large number of great women and an increasingly large number of sucky men.

  20. But seriously, maybe the problem is that before, culturally, men and women really didn’t have to ‘work’ for mates. It was mostly all family arranged. You were raised in a way where you were either provided with a limited pool of choices, or just one option. There really was no question of the boy/girl refusing this because of the fact that it was already decided upon by the family.
    And now, when your own personality, skills, manliness, charm, looks, character, etc comes into it, you see that you fall very short of female expectations, or pale before your contemporaries (adversaries?). Muslim women, in the backdrop of a Western/North American culture, are now able to compare you to the pool of men, Muslim and non Muslim. This is because of greater exposure, choice, and personal power and decision making.

    Instead of blaming women who reject you for having too high expectations, get rid of the ego yourself and perhaps come back to reality. Maybe it is you who sucks. Maybe you just found someone who had to settle.

  21. Seriously said: “I don’t think it’s entirely impossible that there are an increasingly large number of great women and an increasingly large number of sucky men.”

    You are being a sexist to assume single Muslim men “suck” while single Muslim women are “great”. How did you arrive at this subjectivity? Your opinion? Because men are evil (taught in your freshmen women’s education class), right? 🙂

    You are implying that men tend to be morally inferior than women. Classic sexism.

    If this is your attitude in real life, don’t be surprised if you end up single yourself. In general, people of both genders avoid marrying sexists.

    Suprised said:
    “Instead of blaming women who reject you for having too high expectations, get rid of the ego yourself and perhaps come back to reality. Maybe it is you who sucks. Maybe you just found someone who had to settle.”

    I’m smart enough to realize what was my worth and found the best possible deal for me, which turned out to be great for me as I am married to a great woman. She exceeded every one of my expectations and I’m in love with her.

    But, I’m not the one who ended up single and threw his/her youth away based on some unrealistic criteria. You do not see single Muslim men writing articles after articles complaining how there are no women available. Only Muslim women. The players play on, while the nice Muslim guys adjust their criteria and find someone.

    Instead of blaming others (all men) for your problems, perhaps it is time for some real introspection. Single Muslim women should ask themselves what exactly do they bring to the table? Which qualities are valued by guys versus which are just valued by just their girlfriends?

    Moreover, they should also look at the criteria they use to evaluate guys. Islam provides us guidelines on choosing a spouse. We are advised to prefer piety over money, looks and social status/lineage. How many of the single Muslim women you know actually prefer piety over other criteria? The small minority which does, are they single? I seriously doubt it.

    We all settle. Only fools throw their lives away because they are too stubborn to adjust to the realities of life. It is their choice but then they lose the right to complain and receive sympathy.

  22. I am 43 and divorced without kids after an abusive arranged marriage…..I get guys to want to marry me so that I can be “like Hazrat Khadjia and support them” when they dont relaise that they are not even 1/10th o the prophet and he was her employee and she supported him with money for propagation of Islam, not for his personal luxuries!

    • @Seema, Salam alaykum sister.

      It is awful that you had to have an abusive marriage and my sympothies and du’a go out to you.

      Your point is so valid! So many men expect everything from their wives without giving anything in return to their wives!

      You see this a lot with Asian men from countries such as Bangladesh, India, or Pakistan. To these men the whole idea of mutual understanding and love is unfathomable.

      To guys who might be reading this comment, it’s okay to want a good wife, or even the “perfect” wife, I mean who doesn’t? Just ask yourself what can you give in return? Think of ways you can match her goodness with your own. Not just materialistically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

    • Correction.

      Prophet married Khadija when he was 25. Quran wasn’t revealed to him until he was 40. So for 15 years of their marriage, the prophet wasn’t propagating Islam. Fact.

      Stop being demanding and making up excuses. If you are 43 and have a career or money, find a young guy and help him out. What’s wrong with that? Marry a poor man.

      Most immigrants are young single male not women. Marry them and establish them.

    • Salam sister seema

      if you find a religious man who will accept you for who you are, respect you and cherish you, go ahead sister ….
      A man who can see good in you after you have crossed the age of 40 is not a superficial man most probably, if he has god manners wait no more and get him by all means.

      The conveniently selfish “I will only give if he is worthy of it // or he also gives back”. approach brings not the best results …
      So If you give give your husband… give for the sake of Allah .. you will always be a winner.. you win great reward, and win a loving husband for life.. When you give for the sake of Allah, you will not brag about it … not be sad if he is not able , or doen’t give back with same level.. This also applies to men …. in marriage do whatever good for your wife for the right reason, for the sake of Allah first and your life will completely transform. Because you will have no regrets whatever happened after that.

  23. BBMan wrote …

    “But, I’m not the one who ended up single and threw his/her youth away based on some unrealistic criteria. You do not see single Muslim men writing articles after articles complaining how there are no women available. Only Muslim women. The players play on, while the nice Muslim guys adjust their criteria and find someone.”

    That is so true. Why is it only women that are writing articles after articles? Rather than writing articles and childish tit for tat comments, these women need to grow up and just get the job done. Simple. Plenty of guys are looking all the time.

  24. Great article. It reflects the thoughts of many of us who are afraid/not-articulate-enough to express them within our usually conservative circles. I liked how AAB rephrased things by saying that “dating is just getting to know someone; the boundaries and the limits are yours to decide”. We do need to take that negative impression about dating out of the picture. I’ve dated women outside my muslim/cultual enviroment and it was never pleasent cuz they never had the understanding of sturggles/challenges modern muslims face. On the other side of things, I sure would feel nervous about my sister dating someone, but at the same time i recognize her need to get to know the person she’s planning to be with before jumping into the marriage boat. If inappropriate things happen, i’ll blame him and her not the process.

    BBMan you need to take a deep breath and look at the bright side of things. Women and men are allowed to have dreams/expectations and no one should judge the other for the choices they made. If one of those women who didn’t like you married you anyway, you wouldn’t be happily married now and ur life is would’ve been miserable. I’d rather my sister be 40, unmarried but happy and satisfied about her life experiences, than being in a dull,sexless, emotionless marriage that she will spend the rest of her life regretting. The way I see it, the more freedom of choice muslim women have when it comes to marriage, the more happy men will be too, and the more sound solid families we’ll have.

  25. In islam meeting of opposite sexs iz just compeate to cotton and fire together.we did not know when cotton gets fire inside.dating iz nothing but it iz tempetation for zenah so here in islam we r directed that while on dating the presence of third person is necessary otherwise satan will be third person.

  26. Hi my family member! I wish to say that this post is awesome, great written and come with approximately all significant infos. I would like to peer more posts like this .

  27. I apologize, but I just find it hard to take you seriously while you are making a case for dating in Islam. You are correct in outlining that Muslim women and men have been given the right and privilege to get to know one another, but for the purpose of marriage only. In the 21st century where gender interaction is inevitable, it’s very difficult to apply Islamic rules in this matter. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying!

    For instance, while I may need to collaborate with males on projects in my local MSA, that doesn’t mean I’m going to take the time to know them on a personal level. I see this happening a lot- members of my MSA having one-on-one lunch time, sitting side by side and giggling away at school affairs. This is not Islam whatsoever. I often feel isolated in the MSA because while I help out and participate in it, I don’t live this lifestyle I described.

    You can say salaam alaikum to one another, greet each other with respect, work diligently on projects, even inquire about their lives when they are going through difficult times, but why should it go further than this? Such limited interaction does not isolate you from finding a spouse, in fact, your peers that appreciate your modest behaviour will be the first to ask you about marriage.

    I don’t consider myself a perfect Muslim, there is a lot that I can improve on. I just don’t see how compromising my beliefs and principals can result in positive outcomes.

    “Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger will be with those whom Allah has blessed: the prophets and steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and righteous. What excellent company such people are!” (Surat an-Nisa’: 69)

    • One of the great things about Universities is building personal relationships with other students, muslim and non-muslim that will last a lifetime.The way you describe your interactions make you sound completely fake and I am not surprised that you feel isolated. You are not interested in building relationships with people and everyone is aware of that.

  28. This is a very good topic and I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Thank you Zeba for sharing your thoughts.
    I’m an Ameraudi (American/Saudi) and I am fond of a lot of the old method’s to marriage (i.e. dating) in western societies. I believe that “Courting or Courtship” would be a more proper way of describing this topic as appose to “dating”. I also see nothing wrong with men and women who “court” with the intention and “Niya” of finding a suitable spouse.
    However, I also believe that temptation is always the third person when two people of the opposite sex are ALONE in a CLOSED-OFF environment. It is even stated that the devil IS always present in that situation. Therefore, I believe it would be “Islamic-ally correct” If this courtship were to take place in open/public places and if not then there should be at least one family member present to insure that the courtship is not being led astray from what is acceptable in Islam and to ward off the potential threat of temptation and the whispers of the devil.

    To BBMAN: You stated that you are a happily married husband whom is blessed with a wife exceeding his expectations. Correct? Then why is it you are so bitter and filled with evil towards women? I understand your “Sob Story” as you put it. I also have a friend who is until now facing what you faced. He is an engineer, he is a comedian, a writer and he makes more money then I can ever dream of. Yet, he constantly get’s rejected because of his looks. Sadly I’ve noticed that it made him bitter and he self-inflated his own ego which is what I’ve felt you’ve done when reading your comments.
    We all have our share of bad experiences, some of which can make a person lose faith in humanity even. But all of that is a test from Allah (SWT) and he would never give a person more than they can handle. You got rejected *regardless of the reasons* because it was “maktoob”.
    I am 25 years old and I am still single. I do not have high standards, I am not single because I am vein. I couldn’t care less what car a guy drives or his appearance. I am simply single because I refuse to settle for a guy who doesn’t care about his wife’s personality as long as she is WHITE or has COLORED eyes or is AMERICAN. So many men asked for my hand in marriage for trivial and earthly reasons which I believe I have every right to refuse them. I am single simply because my first fiance decided not to marry until he finished college which was in Canada *f.y.i I live in Saudi* and I could not accompany him. I am single because the 2nd man I was to wed was poor and refused to let me be the provider because he’s too proud! Which by the way is an insult to women who have the means to be providers yet their spouses would rather put the whole family through hard times simply because of male ego!

    So PLEASE, stop the hate and sexism. *yes, I can describe you as sexist because you GENERALIZED all women to be trivial and egotistical. I agree with you that there are many women whom overestimate their worth and are single at a late age due to their own unrealistic and earthly demands BUT that is NOT the case with all women *you should know that because you were blessed with one who isn’t*. Does Islam not teach us to be patient and to FORGIVE and to NOT JUDGE? Sadly you are doing all of those which only means that you are no better than those women you criticize. You ASSUMED that the author and all other women in her situation are there due to their own doing, you judge them, belittle them because you still hold the bitterness of past bad experiences in your heart and you did all this without even KNOWING them.

    You are my brother in Islam, I wish you look deep within yourself and find the courage to accept your past and forgive those whom have done you wrong. Do not hold on to the bitterness of the past and do not let it lead you astray from the teachings of Islam. In the end you will stand before Allah (SWT) and you will have to explain yourself and I highly doubt you will be able to justify yourself then as you are trying to do now.

    “May Allah (SWT) forgive us for our mistakes and may his mercy shine upon us on the day of judgement. Ameen”

    • Very well said,
      The brother was very generalizing and harsh on the sisters like zeba. So thank you for defending them.
      Zeba is an exceptional writer who gets you hooked from the first paragraph, and its saddening to see such harsh comments made about her. The humility and honesty in zeba’s article i a clear indication she is not what he thinks she is.

      You also seems to be an extra ordinary woman of substance, mashaaAllah. I hope we have more and more sisters like you. your personal stories were inspiring and educating. 🙂 we are honored to have you here in KSA.

  29. I am a 33 year old single Muslim woman living in the U.S. I really enjoyed reading your article and all the posted comments. Although I found some comments somehow aggressive / judgmental, it was still very informative and eye-opening, because I realize there are many people in our Muslim community in the U.S. with those set of believes and it is interesting to hear their perspective (even though I don’t agree). The idea is to have a discussion, even if we don’t all agree.

    I do agree that the idea of “dating” sounds so scary to our parents and older generation, but when we are left with only two choices “dating” vs “sitting home, and maybe never getting married”, the choice is not so easy. I noticed that it is easier for some people to pass comments such as “no reason to date, you should let family to arrange you, etc.”, when they are privileged to have that opportunity. They don’t realize that all Muslim women have that luxury of having strong family network to arrange them to someone who is “decent” enough. I am sitting here and thinking, what happens to Muslim converts? I am not a convert, but if a non-muslim in the US converts into religion of Islam, who is she going to marry, and how? Is she supposed to just go to some Imam at a mosque and say “I want to marry”? And no idea what role the imams play in finding a suitable match…?

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