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Muslim Dating: The Reality of our Ummah? (Part 2)

When parents eventually learn about their child’s alternate reality their reaction is of one of two:

 

1) Overreact the situation, curse and damn the child to hell, take away worldly possessions such as a phone while spitting out every Quranic verse to guilt the child to stop

2) Deny the situation entirely and never address it.

 

Astonishingly, the latter occurs at a much higher frequency.  I’ve seen parents bow in prayer begging God to help and guide their child. Unfortunately, that is usually the extent of their effort. Waking up an hour early to pray in the wee hours of the morning isn’t the solution. God doesn’t help people who don’t help themselves first.

Acceptance of Gender Mixing:

Humans need to socialize and interact with one another. It’s part of life. Contrary to most Islamic Scholar’s interpretation of Islamic teachings, I believe that healthy interactions among the genders is needed to build self-esteem and healthy choices in life. I sometimes wonder why scholars emphasize the importance of community values among Muslims (Jummah, Eid, visiting the sick, keeping relations with kin), yet spend most of their time speaking of the evilness of mixing with the opposite gender and the horrors that come about.

I believe that God has commanded us to be social beings. There are no exclusions. The forms of these contacts are different in nature. Some are more intimate than others but with every relation one could discern the proper form of interaction.

Many Muslim children are raised on the notion that mixing with the opposite gender is haraam. Recently, I visited friends during a dinner party. The children were separated by gender and were asked to not interact. I heard a mother tell her daughter “Good little girls don’t play with boys.” Of course, Muslim parents aren’t concerned about today’s innocent playdate but the future is what’s on their mind. They believe if they allow their six-year old daughter to play with a little boy now, ten years later she'll still want to play, but maybe more of a mature type play?

The mistake occurs the first time parents restrict interaction. Boys and girls grow up curious about the opposite gender thanks to the limited interaction they were allowed as children. However, the same standards aren’t into play when it comes to school, especially when they're in a public school setting. The child learns to discriminate: when he/she is at school, they are free to interact as they please, but once in the presence of a parent or a Muslim member of their community, they learn to avoid contact with the opposite gender. From here the infamous dual-lifestyle begins.

When the child approaches their parent to discuss their social life at school or ask to invite a male classmate to their birthday party, they are quickly reprimanded and reminded that ‘this is not our way’. Soon after the child learns that certain topics aren’t safe to discuss with one’s parent, so they turn to friends to seek advice or confide their secrets. The friends cheer on the alternate life the child creates, and as a result the parent and other community members remain in the dark.

 

The Solution?

  • Allow children to freely interact with the opposite gender in academic and social settings
  • Teach children of both genders to work together on community service projects
  • Equip children with the interpersonal skills (how to socialize with one another, etc)
  • Teach children proper etiquette across settings
  • Encourage and reward honest and thoughtful dialogue
  • Set fair rules, be consistent, open to criticism, and follow-through when rules are broken
  • Model islamic behavior
  • Provide a safe environment free of hostility and disrespect

 

Preparing Children to be Responsible Adults with Mature Goals in Life:

Our youth complain that religious folk don’t get them. They are there to throw rules and judge them at every given moment. The rules state clearly: gender mixing of any kind is haraam; liking, loving or dating someone is haraam; any emotions towards the opposite gender is haraam; being curious is haraam; speaking about your emotions and desires to your parents is haraam and disappointing to your parents; talking OPENLY about sex is haraam; talking about what happens at school is haraam; being honest about your needs is haraam and shameful; if you are alone with the opposite gender–even in pubic–thats haraam; if you want to have a friend of the opposite gender, it’s haraam - yet we live in a society where all these issues are being thrown at us via friends or media, except they're being depicted/articulated from a non muslim standpoint, so if our parents dont clarifiy these issues to our youth from an islamic perspective, how can we expect our youth to do this for themselves?

The massive language and generational barrier has resulted in the mess we refer to as the “dual-identity of the Muslim youth.”

Parents remind their children that all the above rules can be broken when married. So one must wait and be patient until then. Ironically, the parents do NOTHING to prepare these children for marriage.  We all know that education is key to a successful society, so why dont we educate our children about these non-academic, yet critical issues?

Recommendation:

  • Parents must accept that their children at whatever age will naturally seek a partner. This is nature at play
  • Parents should be approachable so their child can consult with them when needed (without fear)
  • Involving the child in community service, work, house chores and in decision making will expose the child to more experience, thus maturity. This should be part of the family’s culture
  • Teaching children to relieve their natural feelings through acceptable means: marriage
  • Parents should teach their child that marriage is the only way to have a wholesome relationship with someone
  • Liking someone is acceptable; however, the ultimate form of the relationship should be marriage (or what leads to it), nothing else. Our problem today, children are scared of marriage. We should prepare our boys and girls to be the husbands and wives of the future. Marriage isn’t scary, it could be a beautiful thing when two healthy individuals are involved

 

So do muslims date?

My answer is yes and no.

When my non-Muslim friends ask me this question, I'm often stumped. In our mainstream culture, dating doesn’t always lead to marriage or start off with that intent. Of course, ultimately, any couple wishes their relationship evolves to that stage, but it’s not necessary for the relationship to continue.

In my opinion, the ‘getting to know someone’ part could be given the term dating. A person gets to know another person with the initial intent made clear: marriage.

I am often surprised at my Muslim friends who date with no intent of marriage. Why would they invest so much energy, time and emotion on someone they don’t have any intention to remain with?

When we equip our Muslim youth with a balanced childhood where friends are of both genders, awkwardness is absent because gender relations can take many forms like friendship (not only sex as many Islamic scholars like to emphasize) and finally, honesty, respect and Godliness are integral parts of the value system of a healthy Muslim child. I believe with all in place our youth will see the beauty in Islamic values that past generations have unintentionally destroyed in the Name of God. 

 

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    2017-08-22 23:03:37

    Meilani Lim

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    2016-04-03 18:24:26

    shareefMuslimah

    This is really nicely said. I think that parents need to be friends with their children especially when they live within a society like this where in every environment they will face the different gender. Kids get scared of their parents and even talking about marriage is looked upon shamefully. I don't understand how certain societies dont understand how they can make their children turn into someone who does not want to be with someone. Regardless of how much we say that we don't want to get married, we have this desire ingrained in us. May Allah SWT make it easy on us.

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