I find myself often having a familiar conversation with many young men who are about to get married. One of the first times it happened, I was approached by a guy after I had given a lecture at an Islamic Conference in the United States. He was pretty tall and well put together, but there was a certain anxiety about him. He asked if we could speak in private and when we were out of earshot of most he said he was getting married in a few weeks and needed my help with something. I congratulated him and said I’d be happy to help out. He said his upbringing was such that he never really had a relationship with a girl before and now, with his wedding coming up, he felt like he was expected to go from having no experience in even talking to a girl to being physically intimate with one. The only thing he knew for certain was that he didn’t feel ready or comfortable and had no idea what to do about it.
Most of us find ourselves in similar situations at some point or another. Whether it’s in the context of marriage or something more simple and day-to-day, it’s really confusing for a lot of us as to how we’re supposed to interact with the opposite gender. Questions that arise don’t really ever get asked because of an absence of people to ask them of. Those that do get asked tend to not really get answered in a way that takes away confusion. If anything, it just adds more to it.
I’ve found myself asked on many different occasions by young women, “Isn’t it haraam (religiously impermissible) for boys and girls who are not mahram (individuals that one cannot marry) to talk to each other?” I respond, “Aren’t you talking to me right now?” Usually the woman will follow-up and say, “What do you mean?” To which I say, “I don’t know if you realize it, but I’m a boy.” I’ll then ask her, along with the audience what the word haraam means and more often than not, most people don’t really know, resulting a in a big mess of misunderstanding.
For many Muslims, growing up, the idea is plain and simple — you’re not supposed to interact with the opposite gender unless there is a need. Words like “professional” and “formal” get thrown around in how gender interaction “should” be, which for a 13-year-old is probably not the best word choice. After we get older, it tends to not be so plain and simple, but by that time it’s more problematic because we were never really able to normalize an understanding, and are now in a place where we don’t know things that someone should have sat down and taught us as children. This is not just from the standpoint of not doing something, but helping our young people be smart about decisions they make. Many young women that I’ve spoken to who have had pregnancy scares or young men that have developed illnesses could have been avoided if in their learning process someone spoke to them about relationships in a way that was relevant to their lives, not just with a sweeping statement of “stay away from all boys.”
“And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another…..” The Holy Qur’an (9:71)
The fundamental component of our community is the family unit, and in order for the family unit to be successful and healthy, there has to be a solid communication between the husband and wife. Expectations of what I’m looking for and what I need in a marriage aren’t ever properly understood because I haven’t really figured it out that well. Lectures and classes that I attend on marriage, gender interaction, and things as such seem to not really take into consideration the reality of my life, but the speaker or instructor continues to talk as if what they are saying is what Islam definitively says. I just end up getting more confused.
I spoke at a conference once on a marriage panel in which one of my co-panelists told that audience that in finding a potential spouse, your family will always make the best decision for you and will be able to introduce you to people, so it’s not necessary to go out and find someone yourself. As I bit my tongue and gathered myself, I was approached by a young woman afterwards who said she herself was confused by what the speaker was saying. Her issue stemmed from the fact that her family doesn’t even like her being Muslim, let alone them knowing any Muslims. So how does she deal with what this man is saying in the the context of her life?
A lot of what we understand about gender and topics relevant to it comes mostly from a male voice, whether that male voice is coming from a female or male mouth. Adding perspective in can help deepen our understandings so that we realize the impact that our conversations actually are having on people day-to-day. What we need is more people to explain at all levels of development what gender means, and along with it how gender interaction works. Conversations that help men, young and old understand the overall experience of being both male and female, and similar conversations for women of all ages. That perspective can also be broadened by having more open discussions as opposed to lectures and panels. Talk to the people in your community about what it means to them to be son or daughter, a husband or wife, a father or mother, a professional, a student, a divorcee, a widow, a survivor, a leader, and everything in between. We can learn a lot from hearing other people’s stories — it’s a learning method we don’t really use so much.
Personal development seminars that speak to the needs of a growing population looking for help in simply knowing how to talk to the opposite gender would be great. These should be lead by someone who isn’t regurgitating ideas that I heard at 15 and now at 35 don’t make sense to me. Hearing from real life experience as well as individuals that can help me develop self-esteem and confidence in myself to keep moving forward would be helpful. Most of us don’t know what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like and what processes lead to the development of one. Some of us have come from homes where we didn’t have model relationship to learn from. We saw a lot of fighting, anger and stifled communication. We didn’t see expressions of love or giving of gifts. We saw double standards for how sons were treated in comparison to daughters. We didn’t know how to separate culture from religion and vice versa. As a result, we don’t know where compromise makes sense or where we should stand firm. We don’t know what we are supposed to be looking for or how to go about finding out. Simply put, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do or what challenges to expect.
This is not an issue that simply will work itself out, it has to be worked out. Healthy relationships are key to healthy living and healthy communities. If I don’t know how to interact with the opposite gender, I’m already starting out on a shaky first step. If you are going through this, it’s not your fault. Someone should be there to sit down with you and explain to you how these things work. Hopefully as we grow and learn from each other, we will be able to figure this out as well.
“And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another…..” The Holy Qur’an (9:71)
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.