Tariq wrote another timely post on Muslim marriages. I’ve read the Washington Post article and it raises a number of major issues of Muslims finding partners in the US. I’ve heard a number of the issues tossed around, often in private intimate discussions.
Contrary to some of the commenters on Tariq’s blog. Many Muslims believe in love between spouses and emotional and spiritual intimacy. Those who choose the traditional route in finding a spouse clearly don’t have Harlequin Romance versions of marriage. Muslims often have romantic views of love and their particular set of needs can vary from person to person, as much as culture to culture. And in many Muslim societies, love has lived on, as evidenced by the large body of poetry and belles lettres dating back before Islam and spanning across 1400 years. And yes, rulers loved their wives and their wives loved them back. And so did average everyday men and women experience love and heartbreak and even at times fulfilling lifelong relationships. Marriage is half of their religion. Through the joys and challenges, triumphs and tests of marriage, they become fully human. For many Muslims their love for their spouse and is a way of connecting with the Divine.
For most American Muslim women, finding that one is like a miracle. It doesn’t come easy. But with hope, moments of despair and trembling, and then a leap to faith, it happens for many of us. And unlike the guys, us sisters don’t get promises of houris al jennah. Instead, we will see our husbands in the afterlife (I am sure he will be a new and improved version of his earthly manifestation). This is why you hear many Muslim women talk about naseeb. Our choice needs to be a good one.
And Muslim men are also seeking emotional fulfillment in their relationships. Many see women as human beings, and marriage is not simply reduced to a contractual relationship that simply allows a man access to a woman’s sexual reproduction.
While a growing number of Muslims are rejecting stranger marriages, time and time again I have heard Muslim women advocate for more structures to be put into place to facilitate matchmaking while safeguarding women who are often vulnerable to predatorial or irresponsible men. Sure, we can get a Wali (guardian who looks after the interest of convert or women without male relatives). But many of the walis do not act as true guardians and protectors. And the proof in the pudding is in the treatment and care they give to their own daughters compared to the women they are supposed to look out for. Convert women are often left in a lurch when it comes to arranging the courtship and if they want chaperones, forget about it. Most walis are too busy for that. And many new converts are often married without anyone but their husband’s friend acting as their wali and signing off on the contract.
On a positive note, the search for love has sparked the creative juices of some Muslim writers and filmmakers. I’m going to leave you with this link to the work of a young Muslim director, Zerina Usman, titled Muslims in Love
How do you find a mate when you don’t date? ‘Muslims in Love’ shows us the trials of devout Muslim youth as they practice the Islamic means of pursuing of love in modern American society.
In a culture where people choose to date, live with a significant other, and move from relationship to relationship to find the right fit, Muslim Americans often need to clarify that their alternative isn’t the stereotypical arranged marriage. In “Muslims in Love,” Mohammad and Ferdaus tie the knot with the aid of friends, family, laptops and cell phones. Yet, the issues are complex. Michelle, a convert to Islam, frets over the slim pickings of Muslim men. Jameelah, an African American, clashes with racism and double standards. And Zahra, a law student, avoids drama at all costs. She leaves Mr. Right to fate. For better or worse, this generation of Muslim Americans walks a tightrope between faith and modernity in the quest for their heart’s desire.