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How Young Muslims Define 'Halal Dating' For Themselves

When 18-year-old Nermeen Ileiwat first began college, she could not wait to get into a relationship — maybe even get engaged before graduation. But after one year, the rising sophomore realized she had no idea what she wanted out of life and was in no position to get into a relationship.

That decision didn’t last long. Only a few months after, Ileiwat met someone at a party, and their friendship quickly turned into something more.

However, dating was not that simple for the now 21-year-olds who are Muslim. They have religious restrictions that limit physical contact in premarital relationships. They chose to focus more on developing their emotional intimacy, with the occasional hug or kiss. Out of respect for their religious beliefs, Ileiwat and her boyfriend decided not to engage in any advanced sexual activity until they’re married.

For young couples like them, the idea of dating is common, and it means balancing their religious views with their desire for emotional intimacy. But the term “dating” still invites an offensive suggestion for many Muslims, especially older ones, irrespective of how innocent the relationship may be. Dating is still linked to its Western origins, which implies underlying expectations of sexual interactions — if not an outright premarital sexual relationship — which Islamic texts prohibit.

But Islam does not forbid love.

Ismail Menk, a renowned Islamic scholar, argues in one of his lectures that love, within boundaries and with expectations of marriage, is an accepted fact of life and religion — if done the right way. This “right way,” he says, is by involving the families from an early stage.

Before the rise of a Western cultural influence, finding a spouse was a task almost solely assigned to parents or relatives. But young Muslims have now taken it upon themselves to find their partners, relying on their own version of dating to do so. Older Muslims continue to reject dating because they worry that a Western world will also create Western expectations of premarital sex in these relationships.

Adam Hodges, a former sociolinguistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, argues there is an added layer of culture and context to the term “dating” that is often overlooked. “We use language to give meaning to the world around us. So the way that we label events or phenomena, such as dating, is definitely going to provide a certain perspective on what that means for us,” he says. Therefore, taking on the dating vernacular to describe their relationship and labeling their significant other as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” does put some couples at risk of falling into the physical expectations that come with dating, Hodges says. But, he adds, these fears can be allayed because “the most important connotation that is borrowed is the ability to choose your own mate,” which is also the main precept of dating in the West.

One way that some young Muslim couples are rebutting the idea of dating being offensive is by terming it “halal dating.” Halal refers to something permissible within Islam. By adding the permissibility factor, some young couples argue, they are removing the idea that anything haram, or prohibited, such as premarital sex, is happening in the relationship.

On the other hand, some young couples believe there should be no stigma attached to dating and, therefore, reject the idea of calling it halal. “My justification is that we are dating with the intention of one day being married and, I guess, that’s what makes it OK,” Ileiwat says.

Getting to know someone and making the informed decision to marry them is not an alien concept in Islamic societies. Abdullah Al-Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, says that the idea of courtship has been present in Muslim societies for centuries but was subdued in colonial times. When the British and the rest of Europe colonized much of the world, they also placed social restrictions on sexual interactions between unmarried couples, Arian says. These social restrictions also took hold in certain Islamic societies, with religious restrictions on sex leading some to go as far as segregating the genders as much as possible, including in schools, universities and even at social gatherings.

These practices began to disintegrate as women started entering the workforce, demanding their rights for universal education and pursuing higher education, Arian says. Segregating because of religious dogma became harder. And so, as the genders mixed, dating relationships also took root in some societies. This, he says, further facilitated the imitation of Western relationships.

Changing ideas about modernity, widespread urbanization and the West’s cultural hegemony influenced something as intimate and personal as relationships, Arian says. But the most influential factor is globalization. “We’ve seen the full impact of globalization … in pop culture, in particular. Western cultural productions: music, film, television shows,” he says. These “shared experiences,” as he calls them, have given birth to third-culture kids. These multicultural generations are growing up with a “very different moral compass that is rooted in a number of influences; and not just the local, but the global as well,” Arian says.

Before social media and the prevalence of pop culture, it was a lot easier to enforce whatever ideologies you wanted your child to follow. But as globalization increased, this changed. Young people became increasingly exposed to the rest of the world. Today, their ideologies and values no longer find a basis in what their priest or imam preaches but in what social media and pop culture influencers might be saying and doing.

Then there’s the limitless online world.

Dating apps and websites that cater to young Muslims looking for meaningful long-term relationships are easy to find. Muzmatch, a dating app launched two years ago, has 200,000 people signed up and reports high success rates for young Muslims who previously had a hard time finding a partner.

These apps allow people to filter their searches based on level of religiosity, the kind of relationship they’re looking for and other aspects such as whether the woman wears a headscarf and the man sports a beard.

While the men behind these apps launched them with the hope of giving young Muslims a positive platform to interact on, they say there are still many in their societies that oppose the idea of young couples interacting.

To combat this, Shahzad Younas, founder of Muzmatch, incorporated various privacy settings within the app, allowing people to hide their pictures until the match gets more serious and even allowing a guardian to have access to the chat to ensure it remains halal.

But no app setting can stop the gossip mill.

Like many Muslim women, Ileiwat has chosen not to wear the hijab, but that has not saved her from glares and stares if she’s out in public with her boyfriend. Because of the prohibition on premarital sex, older Muslims often frown upon any visible interaction between unmarried young people, no matter how innocent. This can sometimes lead to assumptions that two individuals of the opposite sex who are just hanging out have an inappropriate premarital relationship. “I think a lot of older people are under the assumption that all premarital communication between the opposite gender equates sex. Which is ridiculous, but it makes for a juicy story,” Ileiwat says, adding that even some of her younger married friends are subject to the gossip mill.

But the fear of gossip and the older generation’s fear of sexual relations between young men and women have made the concept of dating more intriguing for younger Muslims. Using the word dating to describe relationships has resulted in a schism between older and younger generations. Hodges says children pick up the popular vernacular from peers, leading to a barrier between what children say and how parents understand it. Because of this miscommunication, many couples instead use words like “togetherness” and “an understanding” as synonyms when talking to their parents about their relationships.

Hodges refers to this gap as “that ocean between England and America,” where words might be the same, but the way they are perceived is vastly different. Mia, a 20-year-old Ethiopian-American college student who has shied away from having sex with her boyfriend of almost a year, can attest to this. “The idea of dating, to my mom, is basically haram. I like to use the word ‘talking’ or ‘getting to know.’ A lot of people in the Muslim community don’t like to use words like ‘girlfriend,’ ‘boyfriend,’ or ‘dating.’ They prefer to use things like ‘understanding,’ or ‘growing together,’ ” she says. But words, especially those borrowed from other places, soon take on the cultural contexts in which they are used. “Dating” has only recently seeped into young Muslims’ everyday vernacular, so it may be a while before it takes on the local contexts within which it is used.

“If people realize that dating is simply a normal thing that has been around for centuries everywhere, that you don’t need to learn it from movies, then people start to see it as something independent of physical [acts]. Physical relations are simply a choice,” says Taimur Ali, a senior at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus.

The current generation “really wants to have the [dating] experience without having the full extent of the experience,” Arian says. But perhaps, he suggests, young Muslims need to develop something for themselves that is “more rooted in our own moral sensibilities.”

Source article amended via: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/20/502461218/how-young-muslims-define-halal-dating-for-themselves

2 months ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

Modesty in Modern Muslim Beauty

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.

Hijab and Fashion

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.

Beauty in Makeup

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.

Embrace Muslim Modernity

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.

2 days ago

Inspiration for Muslims Aged 50 And Above

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 Involves Going through Many Changes

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.

Cuando quieras ponerte triste,sonrie,aunque sea con lágrimas en los ojos.
Photo by Luis Galvez / Unsplash

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.

Why the Internet?

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.

Inspiration from Scripture

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.

21 days ago

muzmatch x My Big Fat Halal Blog

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.

DATE SUHOOR SMOOTHIE BOWL:

Here’s a simple recipe for this delicious, filling smoothie bowl packed with nutritious dates… the only dates you should be having this Ramadan! ;)

Suhoor Smoothie Bowl

INGREDIENTS

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

METHOD

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.

POTATO CUTLETS:

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!

Potato Cutlets

INGREDIENTS

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

60g breadcrumbs

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Chutney/spicy salsa, to serve

METHOD

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.

UM ALI:

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!

Um Ali

INGREDIENTS

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

METHOD

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.

29 days ago