It is once again that glorious time of year, when flowers are in full bloom and everything is greener than ever. New beginnings and new weather are upon us, and so is wedding season. Yes, it is indeed that time of year when the lucky among us drive off into the sunset to a happily ever after and the unlucky among us are condemned to a life of never-ending loneliness and misery.
Just kidding. Not quite.
In an event titled Gender Relations & Marriage, UCLA’s Muslim Student Association explored in detail the Islamic etiquette and the how-tos of everyone’s secretly favorite topic, marriage. Through a discussion led by Sister Lobna Mulla, a prominent youth leader within Southern California and the host of the YouTube channel, Double Shot Mocha, attendees were able to inquire about some of the oft-wondered questions on how to approach marriage. The following are the questions asked and their answers:
How are Muslims supposed to get married without dating?
According to Sister Lobna, dating in the American sense is drastically different from dating in the Muslim sense, or ‘halal dating.’ In the Islamic tradition, it is forbidden to be alone with a person of the opposite gender without having a chaperone present because according to a hadith narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Hakim, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised, “no man is alone with a woman but the Shaytan is the third one present.” Also, there should be no physical contact whatsoever. Sister Lobna advised us to not underestimate and strictly adhere to the Prophetic words and Quranic Principles. Some of the conditions of ‘halal dating’ are interacting in public spaces and with the full knowledge and consent of the guardians of both parties. For men, this usually means seeking permission from the woman’s father ahead of time and expressing a sincere interest in her for the sole purpose of marriage.
Despite making good on ‘halal dating’, relationships sometimes fail and the two biggest reasons are that people fail to maintain their relationship with Allah and that people fail to maintain the boundaries prescribed. We cannot and should not compromise our Islamic values based on what is trendy in present-day dating etiquette. As Allah Subhanahu wa’Taala mentioned in the Qur’an,
This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.) [Qur’an 5:3].
Hence the bottom-line: If you are interested in someone, you have to be serious about getting to know them through the proper channels and within the proper Islamic boundary. It is indeed a leap of faith but if done correctly, there is nothing indecent or embarrassing about it. Allah knows best.
How much can you really tell about someone’s character?
In the Islamic tradition, you do not really know someone unless you live with them, travel with them, or have dealings with them. However, none of these might actually be possible due to various reasons. So, in this day of overexposure in social media, do what prospective employers do; research a potential partner’s social media presence or Google their name. Ask mutual friends about their character, their demeanor, and if they would be a good fit for you. Sister Lobna believes that a true test of a person’s character is through dinner with family. Do they respect their parents in front of everyone, and do they treat the servers compassionately in the case of a mistake? Do they get frustrated easily and do they tip well? It is definitely possible to get a good sense of someone’s character by observing their interactions in not-so-ideal situations.
If someone asks for your opinion on certain people for marriage, Sister Lobna advised that a part of dignity is covering someone’s faults. People may have changed since you last interacted with them and it would be extremely unfair to taint their reputation. But in the case of major sins, she asked us to be tactful in our response.
How can a sister indicate interest without coming off as creepy?
“Just be you,” Sister Lobna exclaimed! “And keep it clean and modest while at it!”
But in all seriousness, it might be a more comfortable option to express interest in a group setting, or by asking a friend to inquire for you. This too was how Khadijah (RA) approached Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for marriage. If not, speaking to an Imam or a wali (guardian) is also a good idea. However, if you so dare, ask them yourself!
On the topic of asking friends to help out, it is very important to ask someone trustworthy and weighing their responses before getting them officially involved.
Is it true that it gets harder to get to know people after college?
Sister Lobna believes it to be very true. While people do continue to be involved within their respective Islamic community, life after college comes with more responsibilities and obligations, and people may find it hard to find time to actively search. If you are in college and close to being ready, why not start now? Today, we have immensely lengthened the time frame approaching marriage, and we wait for accomplishments before tying the knot. But in the end, where is the guarantee that you will actually find someone and not have to settle because too much time has passed?
If you are ready, get on it now!
However, something to keep in mind is that you do not have to start off rich to get married right out of college. Our parents did not just become rich overnight; it was a culmination of hard work and time. In the case of uncertainty about one’s self and identity, Sister Lobna disagrees with needing the entire twenties to explore one’s self. She trusts that both men and women in this age-frame are more aware of who they are than they think and are capable of making sound decisions regarding marriage. However, there are definitely situations wherein people need to take them time to explore their personality, their emotions, and their coping mechanisms. But the most important feature of any relationship is mutual understanding and any significant differences need to be worked out before proceeding. These may include employment prospects, breadwinner scenarios, spending habits, socioeconomic statuses, family influences etc.
What about social interactions? Are co-ed socials allowed? What about Snapchating, texting, instagramming etc.?
This is where things get tricky. There is a fine line when it comes to matters of the heart. According to Sister Lobna, generally speaking, co-ed socials are where things tend to get exaggerated. She advised that both men and women put on their conservative glasses during co-ed socials and be more conservative and cautious than usual about interacting with the opposite gender.
The case of social media is no different. She explained that pictures sometimes could be quite intimate as they are super-close glances into one’s life since people usually do silly things on social media that they may not necessarily do in public.
How do we tackle hyper-sexualization in mutual spaces?
Despite what is out trending out there, what we as Muslims hold standard within the Muslim community should be no different in our interactions with the non-Muslim community. Do what is right everywhere and be consistent with your behavior within and out of the community.
What are steps to take to start anew if you have been betrayed before?
Getting over broken relationships is not easy and takes concerted effort. Sister Lobna recommends seeking help from professionals with a therapeutic background. It is also good to accept that just because one relationship does not work out, that does not mean another will not work out because ultimately, Allah Subhanahu wa’Taala is in charge. Before putting yourself out there again, it is imperative to work on emotional states and any unresolved issues.
Interracial marriages and how to get the parents on your side:
Is it a good idea to marry someone from a different cultural background ex: overseas/back home?
According to Sister Lobna, marrying from a different culture, where both parties are raised in different countries, comes with many challenges, and should be considered with great caution.
How do we approach parents regarding interracial marriages?
The first thing to work on is a mutual understanding between the people getting married. There should be room for flexibility for adapting to the other’s cultures and for fostering goodwill with the in-laws. In Islam, interracial marriages are encouraged because they transcend cultural notions and have Islam as their sole basis. Since parents do want the best for us, be compassionate as you try to get them aboard!
What about interfaith marriages where people convert right before marriage?
It is advised against such marriages because the newly converted are oftentimes not on a desired spiritual level, and there is no guarantee they will actually become practicing Muslims. Muslims do not realize what they take for granted and because of differences in spirituality, a lot ends up being compromised. Hence, Sister Lobna said, marry people for their true understanding and their application of the deen. People who just convert for marriage do not usually have a fundamental understanding and regard for the deen.
Lastly, how do you deal with abuse in a marriage?
Sister Lobna strongly urges that despite divorces being discouraged, in the case of abuse, it might be the only right option. Absolutely, by no means, should men or women be patient and stay in an abusive relationship. There is nothing Islamic about abuse. Moreover, statistics show that children from abusive relationships suffer from high stress and depression and often end up becoming a part of the abusive cycle once they are older.
If you have witnessed abuse in your relationships, it is of utmost importance that you seek out professional help, and work through unresolved issues before pursuing marriage. Do this to learn about yourself, how to cope in triggering situations, and how to think before reacting.
Issues of the heart have been delicate since the beginning of time and will continue to be so. Living in a non-Muslim country can make it quite difficult to find prospective spouses due to a myriad of reasons, but in the end, a spouse is rizk, and rizk comes only from Allah Subhanahu wa’Taala. As you all pursue marriage, may Allah bless you with ease and with spouses that become the coolness of your eyes. May you all find all that you are looking for, and may you find them as soon as the time is right, inshaAllah.
“Sufficient for us is Allah, and He is the best disposer of affairs.”
The Myers & Briggs Personality test:
The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman
- All the personality tests in the world!!!!!!!