A series where we tackle the many myths that permeate within Muslim dominant cultures (mostly South Asian ones, but it's definitely not exclusive to this region). The thoughts and views in each article belong to the writer/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of muzmatch.
“Don’t wait too long okay, or it will be too late for you” said my mother days before I turned the ripe old age of 23. “Too late for what?” I asked foolishly. She replied back with the inevitable monologue of the importance of getting married at a respectable, young age because with each year that passes by, I drift away from being a suitable life partner for a man. My counter argument of the importance of shaping a career for myself was met with scoffs and an insistence that “a job will always be there, but marriage isn’t always guaranteed”. And that’s when I realised, I would probably never fit into the world my mother lives in and the social narrative she’s been immersed in.
Growing up in the midst of a British school as a girl in a strict Muslim Pakistani family resulted in the unavoidable struggle of juggling two very different cultures and the image of the subservient daughter that my parents projected onto me. Surrounded by peers who were going out on weekends, dating boys at 16 and wearing miniskirts, I was always looking on as if something in my own life was missing. Maybe it’s the notion that the grass is always greener on the other side, or maybe the grass was actually greener on the other side. Regardless, the double life I started to lead helped to shed the image of me my parents had and I started to choose my freedom over my traditional family’s expectations.
Pakistani society is one in which culture and religion are often so interlinked that differentiating between the two becomes impossible. For example, from a young age, girls are told that they will only be valued in relation to a man. That no matter how much she accomplishes individually, the most imperative thing to achieve is to get a ‘good rishta’ and settle down. Being single and above the age of 25 is often seen as a failure and probably a sign that there must be something ‘wrong’ with the girl. However, this is much more about culture than it is Islam because even Prophet Muhammad’s ( عليه السلام) first wife was about the age of 40. Instead it is the Pakistani culture that perpetuates shame to girls who remain unmarried for a long period of time. But it begs the question: would the same be asked of a man? Is anyone going to tell him that he’s run out of time to find love?
A Pakistani man’s identity is very much different from a Pakistani woman’s; assumptions that one would make about a man are far removed from those one would make about a woman. A young unmarried Muslim woman is assumed to be less valuable and less worthy than a man. There is the assumption that her life has yet to have begun in spite of everything she has achieved thus far. And there is the notion that the dreams she aspires to achieve are only possible after she finds a man. How many times have young Pakistani girls heard the sentence “you can travel anywhere you want to, but only after you’re married, with your husband”. With options such as these, how much is the decision to get married really the woman’s?
But this isn’t a tirade against the patriarchy (well, only a little). We can all agree that obviously not every family and every Muslim girl shares the same thoughts. Some girls never want to get married. Some girls want to get married the minute they turn of age and that’s amazing. Because they’re doing what they want. Yet, in a conservative South Asian family, the marriage market is not a fun one to be in. You always feel as if you are on display and you need to be taken off the shelf before the expiry date. And if you are a little chubby and don’t know how to make the perfect round roti – all hell would break loose. Because aunties want a girl who acts the part as the daughter in law they can show off to their community; in a Pakistani society, reputation means more than people are willing to acknowledge.
Now on the other hand, being part of a generation within the west where being single and career focused is celebrated becomes utterly confusing. The age at which people get married is increasing each year as the current generation becomes more focused on experiencing the joys of uncommitted life before finally settling down, if they even do. But that first paycheck, the first promotion and the simple feeling of independence can arguably be as fulfilling as a marriage.
It would be a logical conclusion to make that I seem like I never want to get married, but the thing is I do want to one day. But I want it to be on my terms, with someone of my choosing and at an age that I decide I’m ready to share my very full and thriving life (fingers crossed) with someone who adds to it rather than consumes it. With halal dating becoming more and more embraced, men and women can get to know each other with the intention of getting married. Therefore, we have more choices than we ever had before. But that’s the point. It’s our choice to make, not anyone else’s.
I’m 23, Muslim, and Pakistani, and am not married. But I am not unique. To those trying to survive in a culture where single women are told they can’t survive by themselves, you’re not alone.
Written by Anonymous
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So you’ve matched with a guy on muzmatch, and after a while of getting to know each other and talking to your wali, you’ve both agreed it’s time for you to meet his family. This is a really exciting moment, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience. A million questions might whizz through your head the night before like ‘will they like me?’ and ‘what will I wear?’
Having a bit of anxiety about what to wear is totally normal! After all, that first impression counts. But choosing an outfit doesn’t have to be a draining experience. Blogger Zaynah let us peep into her wardrobe for some inspiration on how to dress for one of the most important days on your journey to marriage. Here are 5 modest, comfortable, and stylish outfits to help you slay with grace.
The scenario: on the first-ever marriage meeting, your potential family-in-law have planned an intricate 3-course meal, On the inside, you’re shaking like a leaf in the winter wind. On the outside, you at least want to look like you’re calm and collected.
The look: light, cool tones. Colours have an effect on our energy. Light colours such as pastel blues, cream and white will help you exude serenity. If you don’t want to faff around with multiple pieces to your outfit, you may want to choose a dress for this occasion. Accessorise with a simple bag in a light or neutral colour and let the dress take centre stage
The scenario: your potential’s family have invited you out for a casual meal on the weekend. It’s a crisp autumnal day so you know a single layer won’t cut it. As much as you want to be casual, you don’t want to be underdressed either. Finding that fine line will be a challenge!
The look: layer knitted pieces in complementary neutral tones for an elegant but cosy look. Longline cardigans are an easy way to stay warm but keep your outfit loose and modest. If you’re a trainer girl, wear your trainers! Inject your own personal style into the look. Zaynah was finished went for classic a pair of white Nike airforces.
The scenario: you’re planning on meeting your potential’s family on a weeknight after work. You’re not sure what to wear since you’re not exactly planning on turning up to work in a shalwar kameez or a floor-sweeping abaya. Ideally, you want something suitable for both day and night.
The look: a smart co-ord. This tunic and trouser set with an asymmetric hem is a fashionable and modest choice for both work and meeting the parents. You can add an extra layer with a long coat or even an open abaya later in the day to make that transition from the office. Accessorise with a pair of pointy flats to match the asymmetric lines of the outfit.
The scenario: so you’re getting pretty comfortable with your potential’s family now and you’re starting to see them more like family. They’ve called you over for their big Sunday roast and you know there will be lots of carbs involved, with a possible food baby as a result! A silky dress isn’t going to cut it.
The look: picture the warmest, most stylish roll neck jumper dress you can find! Pair it up with a pleated midi skirt to give it a more playful and feminine upgrade.
The scenario: to say things are getting pretty serious would be an understatement at this point. Your families have had a series of discussions over endless cups of tea and you’ve even witnessed your dad and potential father-in-law almost come to blows over nikah negotiations. Regardless, you’re playing it cool because you’re almost at the finish line. You need an outfit for that final meeting before the nikah.
The look: you can’t go wrong with an iconic open abaya. Pair it with heels if you’re about that life, or opt for some comfortable flats. Underneath you can wear anything loose and elegant like a slip dress or a smart two-piece.
So there you have it! 5 looks for 5 different occasions. Modesty doesn't mean having to compromise your personal style or personality. It doesn't mean having to orchestrate a complete overhaul on who you were when you were single. Remember to have tawakkul, give yourself plenty of time to get ready and b r e a t h e.
For more fabulous outfits and beautiful photos, check out Zaynah's Instagram.
And that's a wrap! On our TfL tube ads that is, not Brexit. Unfortunately, we've got a looooong way to go with that one still.
Here's a few of our favourite mentions on social media about our ads that either made us chuckle or cry.
(This one wins btw 😂)
For years I scrolled past the pictures of succulent steaks from this place, so I grabbed the chance to dine here with some colleagues.
Since it was all going on the company tab, I decided to go all out with a t-bone steak and hand-cut chips accompanied by chocolate fondant cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The glaze on the steak was unlike anything I have ever tasted before! The meat itself was cooked to a tender medium served with peppercorn sauce. In line with the spectacular standard of food, I expected nothing less from the service. You’re made to feel welcome from the moment you’re shown your table.The waiter carefully ensured that we understood the menu and checked on us every so often.
This would be suitable for special occasions with your spouse or if you really wanted to treat a loved one to something unique.
Years have gone by and I haven’t changed my order at the Banc: a Beef cheeseburger costing roughly £12-£14 plus an additional topping of caramelised onions.
The burger is by far the best beef burger I’ve ever had in my life. You can see the oozing sauce they used to flavour the burger when you take a look inside of its perfectly layered cross-section! And the caramelised onions offer just the right sweetness to bring it altogether
The service has always been 10/10 whenever I’ve been, and if on the rare occasion something isn’t up to scratch, they make sure they rectify it quickly.
The atmosphere of this place is lively as it does get really busy most evenings so it’s best to book ahead of time. Remember to note that the restaurant has a no tracksuit policy, so opt for something smarter. This is suitable option for date nights and special occasions with your other half.
When I saw this pop up on my Instagram feed from other bloggers I had to try it ASAP! My platter featured a bit of everything. but the real star of the show was the brisket burger.
Platters here vary in cost, depending on what you want, but expect a bill of roughly £15-£30. Individual items on the menu are around £10 with sides ranging between £3-£6
The combination of slowly smoked meat with a subtly sweet jalapeño jam and bbq sauce is a beautiful combination that's hard to find elsewhere.
The owners wander around the restaurant offering the best care and will go out of their way to cater for bespoke needs. This place is suitable for dates with your other half, as well as a family outing.
I had never heard of a halal Venezuelan food in London before I went to this restaurant. I was curious about the cuisine, so I had to go and check it out.
I opted for the beef pabellon rice box with slow cooked brisket, costing between £8-£12. This meat is absolutely sensational. Juicy, flavoursome meat is combined with seasoned avocados, plantains and salsa, and then topped off with house sauce. One spoonful made me go WOW!
It's a homely vibe as it is owned by a husband and wife who make guests feel like family.
This is a street food vendor, however, the market they’re in has plenty of seating so I would say it’s suitable for a lunch date or even casual get together with friends,
I was eager to try an authentic Mexican restaurant and steer away from the casual takeaway joints. So of course I went for steak tacos & a beef chimichanga. A squeeze of lime unlocked the flavour in the tacos and cleared my palette for the next round.. Everything inside was just tender, juicy and full of flavour.
The service here was impeccable and timely. The restaurant takes a no-frills approach to interior design, with casual seating and decor
This would suit for various occasions such as date nights & family events/parties & special occasions or even a casual get together with friends/family.
It was well documented that this place is known for their steaks and burgers, so I had to swing by
I ordered a customised brisket burger, but standard meals range from £15-30 per person. Occasionally, you may find a deal for under £10.
The brisket melted in my mouth as the chilli gave it a gentle kick. You can really taste the quality of the brisket owing to the careful smoking process.
The rustic decor make it ideal for date nights, special occasions & casual get togethers & it’s good value with decent portions as well.
Malaysian food with halal duck and beef rendang is a triple threat. I got the roast duck dish with a side of rice which roughly came to around £7-£8 and the beef rendang around the same price which is an absolute bargain in Central London. The aromatic duck mixed with rice was a match made in heaven. The beef was just as soft; with a rich, creamy, texture and the right level of heat running throughout.
It was ridiculously busy which is a testament to how good the food is. It's normal to have to queue outside, but I was seated quickly regardless. The atmosphere here is buzzing as it gets packed & everyone is talking amongst one another.
This would be ideal for lunch with the significant other should you wish to try something different to steaks & burgers which is very common.
I was told this place would challenge my views on Turkish food so I approached it with anticipation and took a few good friends.
The food was succulent and full of flavour. This place definitely transformed my views on Turkish cuisine as every mouthful was flavoursome and intricate. We got the jumbo platter which came up to roughly £62, but bear in mind there was 5 of us. This platter came with assorted meats and rice.
To avoid disappointment, it is best to book ahead as it gets very busy most nights. The atmosphere here it is relaxed with a slight buzz and very efficient service.
This place is ideal for dates with your spouse, family/friends gatherings whether it be a small or large gathering.
I was looking for a nice change from the typical English breakfast, so after I heard how much people were hyping this spot, I decided to give it a try.
I always end up with the desi breakfast which includes masala egg (a choice of scrambled or omelette style) batakani potatoes, lamb Keema, and parathas/rotis. The food was so good it was as though a relative lovingly prepared it. The keema was delicious and had just the right amount of spice suitable for breakfast (or lunch). As you eat, you'll start to plan your subsequent return.
The atmosphere in here is relaxed as families with kids dine here regularly, he simplicity of the decor lets the food take centre stage.
The service during busy times can be a little on the slow side, but rest assured that everything is made fresh making it worth the wait.
It’s perfect for families or couples who want a hearty meal in a relaxed environment.