Now that Valentines Day is on the horizon and the idea of dating seems so prescribed in Hollywood ideals, it can be daunting for a single Muslim who is getting to know someone for marriage. The space between falling in love and finally get married becomes a canyon of question marks and uncertainty. There may be a yearning for a deeper sense of connection, but how can you do that before getting married?
Here are 4 tried and tested ways to enjoy meaningful intimacy with your partner before marriage without opting for the usual candle-lit dinner in a restaurant.
Thanks to the advancements of technology, it is now easier than ever to feel like you’re in the same room as someone else even though they could be thousands of miles away. With tools such as Skype and Face Time, you can set up your camera and log on with your partner to enjoy conversations, share screens and media. Get creative and organise your space as though you’ve planned a cosy date. Get your favourite snacks or a cup of tea and share your day with each other. You can even plan to watch the same movie or documentary and hit play at the same time whilst sharing your commentary throughout. As long as you've got reliable wifi, the possibilities are endless.
Remember to be mindful of the same Islamic guidelines of modesty and respect between the opposite sex whether you’re both using your camera or not.
Set up a book club for two
Remember what it was that drew you to each other in the first place. Was it a common interest in comic books or Netflix documentaries? Did you both make a pact to improve your knowledge of the Quran or specific books? Use these shared interests as focal points for meaningful conversations. You can decide to read a chapter of a book a day and share your thoughts on your readings with each other, or you can discuss a podcast that you both listen to. Seeking knowledge and having intellectual conversations can be a form of creating intimacy between you and it helps to envision a future together based on shared interests.
Send each other thoughtful gifts
Nothing that says intimacy and thoughtfulness more than a well thought out gift; and thanks to the postman, you don’t have to be in close proximity to take part in this. Sending a gift to your partner is a great way to show them that you are a great listener and that you seek to understand them and celebrate them. These gifts don’t have to be sent on a special occasion. In fact, a ‘just because’ gift can be a much more considered gesture.
To do this, you’ve got to pay attention to the little things. Pick out a small inexpensive gift based on something they mentioned in conversation. Choose a gift that is related to the hobbies and activities they enjoy doing in their spare time. Or, you can get them something that helps to tackle a problem they’re having. For example, if they’ve told you they’ve been struggling to sleep you could get them a nice pillow spray or a warm blanket. You can be as creative as you can. After all, it’s the thought that counts and they will feel touched by the fact that you were thinking of them.
Volunteer for a common cause
If you’re focussed on building a marriage that is founded on common Islamic values, then getting involved in a charitable cause with your potential spouse is a practical way to nurture this vision. There are so many benefits to doing so: you get to invest in your own hereafter, you can observe your potential spouse in settings that involve dealing with people (often those less fortunate or vulnerable) and you make meaningful memories along the way.
Ultimately, your efforts to sustain a halal and meaningful way of getting to know your potential spouse will be noted by Allah. Remember who you’re doing it for. It’s not about what society wants, or even what your friends and family say you should want, it’s about listening to your own gut and having tawakkul. It’s about making time for the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with and having sabr. All good things are worth being patient for.
Maybe you’ve been talking to them for months or years. Maybe they’ve met your family. Maybe you’ve spent hours daydreaming about your future together and you’re afraid you may never feel like this about anyone else again. Maybe you think it’s too late...
Think. Give yourself room to breathe. Clear your diary for the day and find a quiet place because it’s time you to have a frank and honest chat with yourself about the fact that you keep trying to get away from: it’s not working. Your relationship with the person you thought you were going to marry and be with forever is simply not what you’d hoped it would be and you’re afraid you’re settling.
'Allah does not charge a self (anything) except its capacity; it has whatever it has earned, and against it is whatever it has acquired. Our Lord, do not take us to task in case we forget or we make mistakes. Our Lord, and do not burden us with an obligation as You burdened (the ones) who were before us. Our Lord, and do not over-burden us with whatever is beyond our capability.'
These days being single and finding the right one to marry can be a form of hardship, but as Allah mentioned in the above excerpt from the Quran, Allah does not test us beyond our capability. The road to a successful and happy marriage is paved with heartbreak, temptation, and the abundance of empty, convenient relationships that don’t fulfil us.
So what do we do when we realised we’re neck-deep in a relationship with someone who we thought could be the one but turned out to be the very opposite? How can we take off the rose-tinted glasses be honest with ourselves?
Here are three steps to take that could make the whole process a lot easier.
Allah created us, so he created our hearts. He’s the one who has given us the ability to feel; to fall in love, to hurt, and to be healed again. When we decide to prepare ourselves for marriage and open our hearts to someone, we should talk to God before we talk to anyone else. We should ask Him to give us the best from the situation and guide us through the journey. And when we think things are no longer working, we should still talk to God. Let’s not be of those who stand in prayer and ask Allah for righteous spouses but abandon our instincts to seek Him when things get tough.
If you’ve made the decision to leave a stagnant relationship that is not working for whatever reason, it’s worth praying istikhara. Put your faith in Allah and call it quits, then ask Allah to guide you along the way.
An ideal marriage is one that provides a safe space for you to communicate your feelings. If you’ve felt like you’re walking on eggshells about where things are going with your partner before marriage, this may be a sign that it probably isn’t meant to be. Nevertheless, take the leap and start a discussion about the things that have been bothering you.
The talk doesn't have to be the dramatic glass-smashing argument that you fear it’ll be; maybe you’ll realise that the feeling is mutual and you can have an amicable break-up. You may both reveal hidden anxieties and concerns that help clear the air and allow you both to get closure on a union that isn’t working. If approached gently, this conversation could prove to be healing and transformative and it may help you learn a lot about yourself and what you want from the future.
Once you’ve had time to reflect and have a practical conversation with your partner about ending things, you need to be prepared to take a step that most people skip in the process: revisit your expectations. Re-examine the things you want out of an ideal husband/wife and ask yourself if anything has changed. Sometimes in the height of emotion, we forget to think about whether the person we like and see a future with is able to fulfil our rights in marriage and sometimes we forget to enquire if we are even in a position to fulfil their rights over us. The things we swore we would never compromise are simply forgotten when a relationship seems smooth-sailing...and then it ends.
The end of a relationship or marriage can be a pivotal time to ponder on those qualities we treasure in a spouse. Think about what matters now; things may have changed. Write them down. Promise to check in with these notes at several points in your new relationship.
Sometimes the silver lining at the end of heartbreak is simply having the perspective and clarity we need to understand ourselves, let go of what could have been, and reach towards the things we truly deserve.
An frank open letter about intercultural marriage
Salamu’alaykum muzmatch Kings and Queens,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zubair, aka Zu, aka @ghetto004 on twitter. “Eww why is that your @?” because I’m your local ghetto spy, that’s why. Insult me again and I’m calling the police. I’m a Graphic Designer and the creator of the “Book of Zu” podcast. It’s a societal/ cultural podcast where I speak about things from a minority, Muslim perspective. I’ve covered topics like “the lack of sex education in the Muslim community”, “the communication gap between first-generation immigrant parents and their second-generation immigrant children” and another episode to mention is “the lack of emotional intelligence and communication amongst male friendships”. You can find it on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
So, let’s get into it. Why is marrying outside of your ethnicity still an issue in the Muslim community? You might think “racism and xenophobia in the Muslim community? Since when has that been a problem?” Since the day you’ve been selectively choosing people from specific backgrounds to get to know for marriage because you can’t bring those from countries that aren’t on that list home. If we’re going to have this conversation, let’s be transparent, open, and honest. Let’s keep it all the way one hundred because some of you have been keeping it 10, give me 90 more.
We cannot continue to condone these behaviours; it’s inhumane and degrading. The only things that should matter when considering someone for marriage is their character and deen. That’s it. No ifs, no buts. Rejecting people on the basis of their ethnic/racial background is haram. Point, blank; period. When we return to Allah SWT, are we going to be judged according to our skin colour and ethnic background? We’re not. The only things we are taking to our grave is our deeds. That’s it. Imagine, the one who created us is not judging us based on our heritage and physical appearance but (we) the creation are? Do we know better than Allah SWT? We don’t! This is what happens when people mix their religion with their culture. All parts of your culture are not compatible with Islam. Sometimes, culture and Islam is like water and oil, they do not mix.
Allah SWT tell us in Surat Al-Hujarat, 49:13 “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
It’s so sad that we are battling these issues in our community. We should know better, do better, and be better. But some of you don’t want to. “I have to obey my parents, I don’t want to go against them.” You should absolutely obey and honour your parents where it is halal, emphasis on the halal part. Your parents refusing someone on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity and race is haram. If you loved your parents like you say you do, you would want them to do and be better and if your parents are discriminative, you should respectfully correct them. They may not change that day, but learned behaviours can be unlearned. Mentalities can be changed. The saying “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” is a crutch to allow negative, toxic and backward behaviours to continue.
It’s also a cop-out; if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. So, ask yourself “is this who I want to be?” Someone that is intolerant and hateful?” because that’s what it is. We’re already ostracised for being Muslim in the West, we don’t need more hate and intolerance in our community. Fight for what is good and right, even if that fight involves your immediate family, friends and whomever else.
I’ve heard of so many stories where people have been made to believe that they are going to marry someone, all for it to come crashing down on them. The ending seems to be so similar “I spoke to my parents about you and they won’t let me marry you because you’re ______”. That is the sign of a weak person and someone who is not worthy of your love and energy. Those that won’t defend you and honour you are not worthy of being allowed into your space. It should be a privilege to be able to marry you and those that don’t have the strength to fight against what is wrong are not people you should want to build a life with. You should always make sure that you are a priority and if your love and efforts are not being appreciated, it’s time to find the receipts, refund your time, energy and love, and invest it into yourself. Marriage is something sacred and should be treated with the utmost care and respect, you’re going to complete half of your deen, complete it with someone who supports, motivates, encourages and allows you to grow as a person. Not with someone who won’t bring you home because of the colour of your skin or background. We’re loving ourselves even more in 2020 than we did in 2019 and that means removing ourselves from situations that are hurting us. We’re going to do better. We’re going to grow. We’re going to elevate. Whatever your marriage journey is, whether you’re single at the moment, divorced, newly-wed, may Allah SWT bless you with happiness and shower you in his mercy. Ameen.
Take care, Kings and Queens.
My name is Zubair aka Zu, known on twitter as @ghetto004. I’m the creator of the “Book of Zu” podcast. I cover topics from the minority, Muslim perspective. You can find it on: Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts & Spotify. You can also find me on Instagram: @bookofzu. Reach out and let’s chat!