Many Muslims think sexual attraction itself is sinful.
“As you grow,” my father said, “your bodies will start to change.”
Listening attentively, my brothers, sisters, and I sat on the carpet of the living room opposite to our parents. It was just after dawn, and we were all having the morning class that my parents held for us each day after Fajr, the first of the five daily prayers.
“And as your bodies change,” he said, “the boys and girls at school will start to look really good to you.” There were a few suppressed giggles and shy glances from the younger ones. “And you’ll begin to feel different things happening inside you.. And when this happens,” my father said, “be thankful to Allah. This means you are healthy and that Allah is preparing your body to enjoy your husband or wife when you get married.”
As early as I can remember, this morning class was part of my family’s daily routine. My mother would get up early in the morning and come to our rooms to wake me up, including my brothers and sisters, to let us know it was time to pray. Sometimes, if we were feeling lazy or resistant, she would sprinkle water on our faces; then we would crawl out of bed, often still with our blankets wrapped around us, and we’d drag ourselves to the bathroom for wudhoo’, the ritual ablution in preparation for prayer.
After praying Fajr as a family, my father—or occasionally one of the older children—would read some verses from the Qur’an, and we would each share our reflections on the reading and how it could benefit us practically in our lives, even though we were only four or five years old. Then my father and mother would discuss different topics that they felt would help us cope with challenges in public school and with what we’d likely face later in life.
Though we didn’t quite grasp it at the time, one day, we had a topic on sex and marriage. My father and mother talked to us about how the physical desires we felt for the opposite sex were not only natural and healthy, but blessings for which we should be grateful to Allah. They told us that there was nothing wrong or shameful in these desires or feelings—even if we were attracted to someone who was not permissible for us at the time—because physical desires themselves are not sinful, they said. It was only a question of how you responded to them, which determined whether it’d be right or wrong.
‘You Have No Right to Mention Marriage’
I think my first real culture shock regarding how many Muslims view sex and marriage came when I became, for the first time, part of a Muslim community that was made up primarily of people who had migrated to the US from predominantly Muslim countries. Previously, most of my interactions on a community level had been with fellow indigenous Americans. But now, as a full-time teacher in a Muslim school in a culturally diverse community, it’s become clear to me that not all Muslims view sex and intimacy as my parents had taught me—or even how Islam teaches.
“I don’t agree with what you’re teaching the girls,” an angry mother, who also happened to be a teacher herself (albeit of a much younger group than my middle school class), said to me as she stopped me in the hall one day.
I creased my forehead in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“The books you’re making them read,” she said. “They’re completely inappropriate.”
I had to suppress laughter, as I was so shocked at the ridiculousness of her accusation; not because I didn’t agree with her, but because I wasn’t “making” the students read anything. The state’s education department had certain requirements for accredited schools, and the county curriculum that the Muslim school was using provided us with a list of “required reading” to choose from. And I, with the help of an administrator, had gone through the list and chose the books that, to the best of our determination, contained the least amount of inappropriate material. And the book we’d settled on for that month was the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
I explained this to the woman as best I could, and I told her that the way I customarily dealt with any inappropriate content in the curriculum was to include in my lesson the proper Islamic perspective on the issue. if any discussion of physical attraction or love occurred in the books, I told her, I would simply explain to the students that though these feelings are natural and healthy, they are to be expressed fully only in marriage.
“You have no right to mention marriage to them,” she said.
What? I think my confused expression said what I could not.
I began to feel a bit uncomfortable with the conversation shift, but I tried not to show it.“In my country, we don’t know anything about these things,” she said as if in reprimand. “When I got married, I knew nothing, I mean absolutely nothing.” She smiled slightly. “And my husband liked that. He had to teach me everything.”
“So it’s not right to discuss these things,” she said.
“You mean ever?” I said, genuinely surprised that a Muslim parent would purposefully avoid discussing the topic of physical attraction and marriage with her young adult children.
“Ever,” she said.
“But…” I said, hoping to keep my voice as respectful as possible. “What about what Allah says about intimacy and marriage in the Qur’an, or what the Prophet,sallallahu’alayhi wa sallam, said about it in hadith? Are we supposed to skip the verses and hadith on this topic?”
“We don’t have to discuss these things,” she said. “They can read the Qur’an, but we don’t have to explain everything to them.”
Except that their desires and stimulating dreams are eerily similar to all the “haraam(religiously forbidden)” videos, television shows, and movies that “good Muslims” don’t watch.It took repeated experiences like the ones I discussed here and in Part 1, before I had this epiphany: Many Muslims think sexual attraction itself is sinful. Thus, these Muslims equate avoiding the topics of sex and marriage with being spiritually “pure” and “righteous.” However, in practical reality, this approach translates into multitudes of Muslim youth being thrust into utter confusion, shame, and dismay when they reach puberty and have feelings and desires that they can make absolutely no sense of…
If we wish to raise our children as truly “good Muslims”, we can start by treating them, especially our young adults, as we ask them to treat us: respectfully. And respect begins with looking at them as we should view all human beings: as individuals who are ultimately responsible for their own bodies and souls—and for whom our duty is primarily to convey Allah’s Message—in full.
“O Messenger! Proclaim [the Message] which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His Message…”
If this is Allah’s command to the Prophet (sallallahu’alayhi wa sallam), our example, why then do we think our responsibility is different as it relates to what the Islam teaches us about physical desires, sex, and marriage? Yes, these topics can inspire discomfort and awkward questions. But we cannot allow our personal and cultural misgivings to keep us from loving and respecting our children as Allah instructed us to.
So let’s give our children the opportunity to practice Islam with proper knowledge and righteousness, particularly as it relates to their natural sexual desires that make them healthy young adults being prepared for the blessing and joy of marital intimacy…
Because good Muslims do think about sex—in the way that Allah has taught them to.
Get married, free, on muzmatch.
By Jennifer Dawson
Preparing for a date can end up being a stress inducing activity most of the time. Fixing up hair and makeup alone takes up nearly forty minutes of a woman's time on an average day. As new trends in fashion continue to pop up, it can seem overwhelming trying to maintain a consistent style and routine, while still being current with today’s fashion. Here are a few ways to enhance your beauty for contemporary styles, while remaining true to the fashion that makes Muslim culture one of the most beautiful.
Dating can be intimidating, and our own insecurities can creep up, preventing us from putting ourselves out there to meet someone special. But those fears can be overcome. We should take pride in the modesty of our culture and commitment to Allah, especially with how we wear our hijabs. It’s fine to cut loose and outfit your hijab in a way that expresses both your beauty and inner devotion. Muslim fashion continues to develop side by side with contemporary fashion, letting diverse appearance flourish within modern fashion.
Styles such as the “casual chic”, which involve letting both sides of your hijab hang loose over both shoulders, are great for pulling off an effortless look that emphasizes your natural elegance and modesty. As long as you stay true to the core principles of modesty found in the Quran, then the elegance of your fashion sense will also shine through.
Make-up is the most powerful way for a Muslim woman to express her beauty while staying true to her faith. Whether with or without a hijab, cosmetics offer the chance for women to emphasis the facial qualities that make them beautiful. Women like Asha Hussein are excellent examples of how beauty conventions of both contemporary culture and Muslim tradition can fuse to create a captivating and popular look. Taking the time to learn eye makeup application and trends, such as having bold colors or strong brows, can be completely complimentary to your visual appearance and upstand the Muslim code of Modesty.
Modern culture is more than prepared for accommodating the belief that supports the styles that support and validate Muslim cultural practices. The fashion world is embracing the empowering virtue to be found in Muslim modesty. Whether through makeup or clothing, the diversity and energy put into your wardrobe should be expressed with pride and confidence. The principles found in our faith are wonderful and should be recognized as such. Claim your style as your own and embrace the beautiful principles that enchant your dress and appearance.
The world around us continues to diversify in ways that are supportive towards the beliefs and attire of our faith. There’s no need to place unnecessary restraint on your wardrobe, as long as you adhere to the principles of modesty which already come so naturally us Muslim women. Trust in your faith and your own uncompromising beauty.
Finding Love After Divorce
By Jennifer Dawson
‘Grey divorce’ has come to be a catchphrase of the millennium, largely because in contrast to general divorce rates (which are declining), the divorce rate among people over 50 is on the rise. Longer life expectancies mean that those who are in their 50s or even 60s can look forward to many decades ahead of a healthy and happy life and for many, this is a quest they would not like to undertake in their current situation.
As noted in a study by Z. Mohamed, Muslim divorce rates, particularly in Western countries, have been on the rise in recent years, with a dramatic increase in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
Divorce can be liberating but also bring fear and anxiety. If you have been through a divorce and you are fearful about what the future holds, find inspiration in the Quran and consider online dating as a way to ensure those you date have the same life values as you. When you are ready, know that you can find love once again online and begin a new path in life.
Divorce is one of the highest entries on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. In a way, it involves saying goodbye to many things – including (in some cases) one’s home, extended family and social circle. The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model on the different stages of loss are also applicable to divorce. You may have to go through many stages – including sadness, anger, and regret, before you are ready to move on.
You will probably know you are ready when you feel that you need to be out and socialize. Positive ideas may pop in your head, such as the thought that you are young and have retired or have free time on your hands, you would love to try out a new hobby or sport, or you feel like dressing up in your finest garb and feeling appreciated as a man or woman once again. Check out what other singles are up to on muzmatch; what starts out as a friendship could develop into something very special.
Online dating has been a big boom for singles who may not have a huge social circle. Muslim men and women who do work and have a good professional network may not necessarily have a wide social one. This is especially true if most of your friends are couples that you only saw when you went out with your ex. As noted by the BBC, online dating is big, especially among Western Muslims.
In Islam, marriage is considered equal to half your religion. It holds great importance, so it is important to make the right decision. Online dating allows you to ‘test the waters’ beforehand, so to speak. For instance, if you are a Muslim woman with a firm believe in feminism, you can ensure the people you date think along the same lines. Because devout Muslims of a mature age may be reticent to go to bars and other establishments were others enjoy meeting,
online dating gives them the safety, choice, and discretion that is unique in the dating sphere.
You are indeed never too old to love or be loved. Muslim scripture espouses the importance of love and marriage in many passages.
“We not see for those who love one another anything like marriage,”
says Sunan Ibn Majah 1847, while Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 1322 notes: “When you love someone, you become infatuated like a child.” These and other words may inspire you to experience the beauty of love and marriage once again.
If you are a Muslim who is aged 50+ and who has just been divorced, you certainly are not alone. So-called ‘gray divorce’ is rising in numbers the world over, but that does not mean you need to be lonely.
Internet dating is booming for Muslims, especially those who don’t want to have to seek love in clubs and other establishments that can seem more about casual encounters than long-lasting ones. If you’ve never been online, sign up on muzmatch and go into it with a view to simply meet others. In time, friendships can unexpectedly bloom and you may find the love of your life.
Hey everyone, it’s Ayesha from My Big Fat Halal Blog (MBFHB)! MBFHB is one of the UK’s biggest halal food platforms where I share halal restaurant reviews, recipes and travel guides! You can find out more about what I do on my website or Instagram.
Today, I’m collaborating with muzmatch to share some of my top Ramadan recipes. We hope you try them out and we would love to see any of your recreations.
Here’s a simple recipe for this delicious, filling smoothie bowl packed with nutritious dates… the only dates you should be having this Ramadan! ;)
1 banana, plus extra slices to garnish
5 pitted medjool dates, plus extra, chopped, to garnish
250ml semi-skimmed milk
2 tsp cocoa powder
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nuts, to decorate
Simply put all the ingredients in a blender, and whizz until smooth. Pour into a bowl, over ice, if you like, then arrange the nuts, extra banana and dates over the top to serve.
Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Ramadan without fried treats! Below is a recipe for my spicy, moreish potato cutlets. They’re always a hit with everyone!
750g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
11⁄2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
Handful of coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Chutney/spicy salsa, to serve
1.Put the potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then cook for 18-20 mins, until tender. Drain and set aside for 15-20 mins, until cool enough to handle.
2. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, ground coriander and fresh coriander to the potatoes. Season, then mash until smooth.
3. Wet your hands, then shape the mixture into 10 round patties, about 1cm thick.
4. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs onto separate plates, then dip each patty first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs to coat.
5. Heat the oil to medium-high, then fry the patties in batches for 2-3 mins on each side, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with a chutney/ spicy salsa for dipping.
A feast would not be complete without dessert! Try out this delicious Egyptian bread pudding known as Um Ali. It’s made with croissants, nuts and condensed milk and it’s absolutely delicious!
850ml semi-skimmed milk
1⁄2 x 397g can condensed milk
1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla extract
100ml double cream
1 tsp unsalted butter
4 all butter croissants, roughly torn
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tbsp unsalted pistachios, chopped
2 tbsp seedless raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.
2. Stir the milk, condensed milk, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla extract together in a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2mins, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and carefully bring back to the boil, then remove from the heat.
3. Using the butter, grease a round baking dish, roughly 22cm in diameter and 5cm deep, and cover the base with half the croissant pieces.
4. Sprinkle over half each of the coconut, almonds, pistachios and raisins, then pour over the milk mixture.
5. Top with the remaining croissants, nuts and raisins, plus an extra pinch of cinnamon.
6. Bake in the oven for 20-25mins until golden and bubbling, then leave to stand for 10 mins before serving.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and will try them out! You can find more of my recipes at mybigfathalalblog.com.