Adil proves that he is one of the few Muslim writers working on something actually relevant (or worth reading) with this blistering and controversial follow up to his important original article ’11 Problems With The Muslim Marriage Market’:https://asharisassemble.com/2014/05/21/11-problems-with-the-muslim-marriage-market/
Though, I’m pretty sure he’s going to need a lot more articles before he can get on top of this problem…
One of the most problematic issues with the Muslim community, both in the West and in Muslim majority countries is the state of our ‘marriage market.’ This article is the follow up to an original article titled 11 Problems With The Muslim Marriage Market. I recommend reading part 1 before this one as it discusses some of the most mainstream and obvious problems, though the ones here are similarly crucial. So here goes.
12. The Lack of attraction
I will be frank here; as a community, attractiveness is not our forte, which is destructive for Muslim youth with marriage aspirations. Attraction is important in a marital relationship and provided that attraction does not blind one to unacceptable personal qualities (or a lack of good ones) or morals, there is nothing wrong with that. We are only human, and a relative absence of attraction in one’s own community serves to tempt people to venture outside it. Invariably, Muslims, male and female, become dissatisfied with the choice given to them (specially as that it may already be unnaturally narrowed down due to tribal restrictions on culture, nationality and province amongst other things) and risk their potential offspring growing up with a different faith, or none at all.
Regarding my claim of a general lack of attraction, I anticipate well-meaning protestations and counter anecdotes, but these do not diminish my argument; I am not claiming that the prettiest girls hailing from ‘Muslim’ countries are less inherently beautiful than the respective females from any other, (I know some incredibly beautiful Muslim women) but rather that overall, as a community we are deficient in attractive people. If you doubt this, spend a weekend in Rotterdam or Stockholm, then take a trip to Blackburn or Bradford; then tell me that the Muslim community (in Britain at least) is as attractive as any other.
There is no genetic determinism proposed here; this is our fault. Sadly, the Muslim communities living in the West, usually from the Indian subcontinent or, in the case of France and Holland; North Africa, are abysmal at looking after themselves. Muslim girls in particular, who do any form of physical exercise so rare that it makes it to the papers when it happens (even if it is to false crocodile tears over how oppressed Muslim girls are and to imply that these girls are probably going to face honour- based violence for bringing shame on the family and so forth). Your average Pakistani girl living in the UK sadly, is likely to either be overweight, or slim due to a generally restricted diet, often leading to the equally dire ‘skinny fat’ look. As for middle aged members of the Muslim community; you would be hard pressed to find an Asian uncle who doesn’t have a paunch and twig arms! The health of middle aged gentleman across the Western world has much to be desired, but sadly we are probably the worst. I propose the seemingly radical suggestion that Muslims actually start re implementing the seemingly forgotten Sunnah traditions entailing staying in shape. A few such steps could involve:
-Reducing the amount of oil which our food is usually saturated in.
-Exercising to a high intensity at least every other day. Walking on flat ground is useless; you might as well do the dishes instead.
-Reducing our meat intake considerably; Muslims forget that the Prophet and his companions by our standards would be semi vegetarians. Our excessive meat intake is damaging our health, putting pressure on global resources and encouraging industrial meat production and factory farming which results in unspeakable cruelty and mistreatment of animals. The way ‘halal’ animals are raised is exactly the same by the way.
-Cut down on the Rubicon, and the Asian sweets; honestly for all the scaremongering about coca cola and sunny delight, the drinks that we end up drinking probably make sunny delight look like organic vegetable juice; no wonder type 2 diabetes in rife in the Indian and Pakistani community.
-Remembering that we are ambassadors for our community; one which we do not wish to be seen as lazy and apathetic
-Sacking the excuses. You are not too busy. No matter what your job is. Doing something is better than doing nothing. If you cannot give up three hours a week to exercise, or even less, you are doing the wrong job.
13. Asian ‘rudeboy’ culture’
How physically, morally or spiritually appealing is a youth who inhales more scented tobacco smoke then oxygen, endows himself with cheap, tasteless gold ‘bling,’ and thinks the most spiritual activity he can possibly do on Eid is curb crawling in a rented Lamborghini with blaring music (probably by Imran Khan; not the cricketer/politician)? While there are some especially depraved girls who consider this to be ‘gangster’ and thus highly attractive, even such hapless females would be unlikely to consider such a person to be a successful marriage prospect.
This ‘rudeboy’ culture is exemplifies everything that is antithetical to Islam; grotesque materialism, the obsession with the superficial, ostentatiousness, vulgarity and spiritual depravity. True, this is often a temporal phase, but sadly many young Muslims who ‘turn their lives around,’ do not turn towards the spiritual yet proactive and intellectually rigorous interpretations of Islam followed by thinkers like Shabir Ally, Gai Eaton, Hamza Yusuf, Tim Winter et al; rather they become ultra puritanical Salafists, keen to excommunicate others and make their own children’s lives a misery with an arduous and difficult as possible a form of Islam. Hard to know which outcome is the worst really. Perhaps if Mosques revived their roles as being places where children actually loved to go, and become kinder, more spiritual, more moral and even physically more viable (due to sports; people forget how much physical activity the Prophet and his companions actually did) people, as opposed to places which are dull at best, and terrifying at worst, our teenage boys might actually age into valued members of society who could be trusted to responsibly take care of a family.
14. Spoilt princess culture
One consequence of scarce attractive prospects is that attractive persons in the Muslim community receive disproportional amounts of attention and ‘offers.’ We are only human and such ego boosts can inflate ones head as I can personally testify to; as a teenager, I was skinny and buck toothed with spots and terrible hair; but growing into adulthood my appearance became suddenly more ‘Muslim friendly,’ and I would be lying if I said I never developed any resultant narcissism. It is natural. Combine this with the materialistic worship of fashionable and expensive items and horrific classism that many Asian parents have, and you have a toxic combination which is particularly noticeable in certain sisters who embody what I call ‘Spoilt princess syndrome.’
A ‘spoilt princess’ is likely to be incredibly brattish, very un world-wise (even if her formal education is high, as it often is), emotionally sensitive (because she has been mollycoddled into life and thinks everything exists to make life comfortable and convenient), and very money orientated. Sadly, brothers often fail to realise however is that a girl will seldom if ever initially reveal just how much credence she gives to money and power, especially if she knows deep down that Islam is at odds with her wants and desired lifestyle. Girls will instead say phrases such as:
She says:”I try to go beyond looks and be objective:”
She means: ”Money matters. Alot”
She says:”He has to be able to look after me”
She means: ”He has to be rich”
She says:”I want a man who is motivated and has goals.”
She means: ”I want a rich man”
She says:”I want someone from a good family”
She means: ”I want someone from a rich family”
She says:”He’s not ambitious enough”
She means: ”He’s not/will not be rich enough”
She says:”I want a man who knows how to treat a woman”
She means: ”I want a rich man”
Contrary to claims made by some ultra-misogynists however, not all women think like this, and even many who might initially think in such terms will realise that these are not good principles to follow in practice. Generally, the more God conscious a person is, the lower they will prioritise material goods, (though be warned; some people are excellent at compartmentalising; being very God conscious during prayer and far less so when choosing what to do with their work bonus). Relationships can and do break down because of one party being unsatisfied with the ‘ambition’ of the other and their inability to give as luxurious a lifestyle as they want. Look out for the danger signs, test the waters, and do not delude yourself.
15. The scarcity mentality
What happens when you have an inadequate number of potential attractive partners? People become desperate; people lower their standards; people compromise on things which should not be compromised on; like goodness and morality. Many people stick with, and marry someone who may be morally unacceptable, because they think that better does not exist; and they are right to the extent that ‘better’ may be rare. This mentality cannot be entirely refuted per se, largely because it is not entirely irrational but rather a product of the other grievances discussed. However, I implore young people to have the courage to retain their dignity and treat unacceptable behaviour for what it is. A relationship with someone who does not have your best interests at heart, or is selfish, vengeful, uncommunicative or abusive is far lonelier then being single.
16. Delusional naïve requirements
In my experience, sisters are probably the worst for this. Brothers can be equally or more shallow, but the sisters who have very specific and untenable requirements never ceases to amaze me. Ask a bunch of sisters who are ‘searching’ and you will invariably hear something like:
”Must resemble Brad Pitt, must be at least 6’1 1/2, must have memorized the Qur’an and must be a surgeon who drives a Bentley”
On unkind days I often feel like saying ‘look at you!’ It is not just the general untenable nature that astounds me but some of the niche requirements the sisters want; I remember a sister after giving numerous requirements like muscular, male model and super religious, added ‘and Turkish.’ And these were pretty ‘must be’s’ not ‘in an ideal world…’ Invariably, people with untenable requirements will be disappointed, disillusioned and jaded about marriage. Sure, no one should ever have to feel like they are settling, but we should be pragmatic with our requirements, particularly the more superficial ones. If there is anything that is most reasonable to be uncompromising with, it is the character of the person; yet time and time again people get heartbroken because they overlooked unreasonable, or simply vile traits in a person because the person was otherwise attractive or ‘from a good family.’ One requirement that never gets mentioned enough is: ”He/she must be a person who I myself can make happy, and fulfill.’ Imagine if we accepted or rejected people because we felt we could, or could not make them fulfilled human beings, not the other way round? At the current moment, hoping for a shift towards this mode of thinking seems as delusional as the next 30 something year old sister who thinks a Muslim George Clooney is waiting round the corner to sweep her up.
17. The inability to talk to the opposite sex
If even talking to the opposite sex in any remotely meaningful way is allegedly haram (forbidden), how are people supposed to know how to interact with the opposite sex i.e. how can we actually gain the ability to hold a conversation? Many brothers I know just can’t do it with any girl. Maybe at a push they can talk about work, or the Islamic lecture they just went to, or something business like, in a mundane and sterile way. But who can blame them? If almost every gathering of people they have been to is a ‘sausage fest,’ how could they be otherwise? This inability to speak usually manifests itself in several ways (note: I am writing this from a brothers perspective as the onus to be proactive often falls upon them, but it is applicable to sisters too):
-Elevating a woman you find attractive as if she’s some sort of Goddess. You might find her attractive; you might have discerned that she has a good nature too; but she’s not your wife yet! You don’t exist to serve her and you owe her nothing special. If she says jump, don’t ask into what mud! Try asking ‘whats in it for me?’ with a cheeky smile instead! Trying to please someone by doing nice things for them purely because you are attracted either leads to your exploitation and/or your acquisition of a ‘friend,’ who has as much romantic interest in you as she does her brother (which she will probably start to refer to you as; if this happens, it’s over. Trust me.).
-Being extremely shy and awkward; why wouldn’t you be! Women are very perceptive and sense this a mile off. A little nervousness is not inherently bad; some women actually want to see a degree of vulnerability (especially if they are nervous themselves) but if you are so awkward that your real personality cannot come across, you’ll get nowhere. This is less likely to be the case if you have some practice talking to the opposite sex; they don’t all have to be people you find attractive or even ‘eligible,’ they just have to a different chromosome makeup to you.
-Having nothing to talk about; once you know what you do workwise, and you’ve exhausted discussing the Islamic talk that you ‘coincidently’ turned up to when she did, what can you talk about? How can you avoid back and forth interview questions which will bore you both to tears? If I want to make a conversation more interesting, I find asking words to the effect of ‘so what do you do for fun?’ a useful phrase. If they say some interesting things, you have something to talk about; and they’ll likely ask you in return. If they say ‘nothing,’ there’s a chance for some friendly banter at their expense until they confess that there are some things they do for fun, and depending on what they say, you know more about the person because you know what their idea of fun is and how it matches your own.
-An inability to turn friendship/being an acquaintance into a romantic interest. This is a tough one, and given that my own other half was the one who ‘had the balls’ (her words not mine) to first suggest that our talking was definitely going somewhere, I will try to be marginally less self righteous here then I have doubtless been throughout the rest of this article. Telling someone you like them, even if you are fairly sure they like you too is no mean feat; mainly because of the fear of rejection, which can be devastating to one’s self confidence and potentially create an awkward situation if the other person is someone who you will unavoidably see in future, such as a work colleague.
Some people advocate asking through someone else, a mutual acquaintance perhaps. Each to their own, but I personally feel that this increases the potential ‘awkward situation,’ and would not ease the low that comes with rejection any way. I would suggest looking at it from the perspective that a rejection is a long term favour, and you should not take it personally. Easier said than done yes, but someone who rejects you is someone you probably couldn’t make happy, and probably couldn’t make you happy either. If you ask someone if they want to get to know you better or if they want to go on a ‘halal date’ with you (not that you have to use the phrase!), do not think you’re asking them a favour. You are giving them your approval and letting them know that you think they might be suitable for you; you aren’t pleading for them to accept you! If they say yes great, if they say no, take it with a pinch of salt and some humour. Tell them in a matter of fact way that you think they have some great qualities but if they don’t feel you are suitable in return then you wish them all the best. If the person gives an ambiguous answer that’s probably a no by the way
”I’m not looking for anything right now” means ”I’m not attracted to you”
”I’m getting over someone else” means ”I’m not attracted to you.”
”I really don’t have time” means ”I’m not attracted to you”
‘We have a great friendship and I don’t want to ruin it’ means ‘I’m not attracted to you’
To allow a woman to see you as more than a friend or acquaintance, you need to let them know you find them attractive. For all you know they might find you attractive but not want to show it unless you show them some interest. Of course, this must be done in a decent manner; not the desi style ”I just want you to know you are very beautiful.” This just sounds needy, and will place you in the friend zone. Similarly you can’t sound sleazy either. Many men fear that starting a conversation where there is no ‘need’ is socially unacceptable; but I ask readers to think back to when someone did so with them. Did you look at them like they were a mugger or sex offender or tell them to get lost, or that they had no business talking to you? Unless you are a Londoner I very much doubt it. So don’t think the same will happen to you.
Just how is a Muslim actually supposed to find a partner when any sort of interaction with the opposite sex whatsoever is forbidden? (unless of course you are a spokesman for iERA who has so much self discipline and control that he can be trusted alone with a group of women, who we would never ever take advantage of)
The answers are simple. They aren’t, and it isnt
Let me also point out that for all my gripe against enforced segregation, the critique that it is ‘sexist’ (usually put forward by self-proclaimed humanists and feminists), is plain silly; just an opportunity to claim that Islam oppresses women; clearly it disadvantages both genders and could just as easily be sexist towards men for implicitly or explicitly claiming that they think and act purely with their testicles.
I have listened to some advocates of strict segregation and their advice as to how Muslims should actually find partners. Unfortunately I personally find it about as practical as a chocolate fireguard.
A guide from a popular Dawah Carrier who advocates both segregation and Niqab claims that one should:
-Find people at Islamic events (I agree that this is a good idea as long as you aren’t disingenuous to yourself about it; go because you want to learn, and if you find someone, that’s a bonus.)
-‘find someone who catches your eye’
-‘Obviously not be freemixing’
-‘Look at someone obviously lowering your gaze’ (And taking the phrase ‘lower your gaze’ very literally as opposed to ‘do not leer at someone’)
-Not meet the person after they have ‘caught your eye’ but ask about them to get an idea of their character
At the same time this Daiee compares an Islamic event to a night club because of ‘flirting’ in the form of a girl saying ‘you look like a doctor’ to a man.
Clearly some of these ideas for finding a partner are mutually exclusive and ‘finding someone’ can only be done if segregation is improperly enforced. What is the decision ‘to like someone’ meant to be based on, especially if you cannot even look at them properly? A sneaky peak? Peripheral vision? What if the lady is wearing a niqaab, as many Salafi brothers advocate; can you tell by the eyes? Clearly, this approach is not always going to succeed. Sure, you can learn much about someone from asking their friends and true, ‘dates’ can be deceiving because a person is likely to be on their best behaviour, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that two people considering each other for marriage actually have a fair few conversations to base their decision on! And it pays to be honest in these conversations; if you have some pet hates, you might as well say them! If your wants and values and habits seem like a diametrically opposed to the other persons, don’t agree with them for the sake of politeness lest you destroy two lives!
For all the scaremongering about ‘free mixing’ and the perils of social media and the need for the strictest segregation, I have yet to see any solid, or even moderately compelling evidence that meeting another person in a public place with the intention to get to know them better is in any way Islamically wrong.
19. Continuous cousin marriage
Successful cousin marriages exist, I know. I know of many successful marriages between first cousins, and my gripe is not with the intrinsic idea of a cousin marrying another cousin (though admittedly I am not personally comfortable with the idea at all). My problem is with continuous cousin marriages, to the point where a husband and wife are interrelated such that their relatedness is similar to that of siblings. The probability of offspring having birth defects or inherited diseases from two cousins from families who have never intermarried is very low, but when it occurs in families who have already married within themselves for generation after generation it becomes staggeringly high, and is the source of terrible misery, pain and suffering. Because this, in some families is almost the norm, they treat any resultant defects as something that just comes with the territory. Why does it keep happening in light of all the problems caused? Because it’s the easiest thing to do? Because it will make divorce even more difficult? Seriously, we need to expand the gene pool. Beyond our families, beyond our provinces and beyond our ethnic origins. All artificial barriers which Islam does not recognise.
20. Delusions about how non Muslims (especially non Muslim sisters) live
The best way to make oneself feel better? Attack other people. Maybe our appalling marriage situation won’t seem so bad if we can attack the ‘kuffar’ and make ourselves feel better that we aren’t like them. The problem is, most of these stereotypes about say, how non Muslim sisters will copulate with anyone or anything with a pulse are about as reliable as Maajid Nawaz (The Muslim version of Stephen from Django unchained). True, most non Muslims in Western society will have sex outside marriage, but whilst we may respectfully disagree with this, this does not make them promiscuous whores who would sleep with anyone; one wonders if certain famous Dawah carriers with their backstage ‘antics’ would even be able to ensnare non Muslim girls who were even as high as a ‘5’ or ‘6’ with the same ease that they’ve managed to do so with gullible Muslim sisters. Food for thought.
Furthermore, there are many ways in which people can be promiscuous and it is not limited to the physical act of sex. Many Muslim brothers and sisters who do not have sex outside marriage (though the number who do may be surprisingly high) will remain incredibly promiscuous with their emotions (being infatuated with multiple people because of the way they ‘looked at me’), and, like anyone else susceptible to cheating. Not all cheating is physical; leading someone on and keeping them ‘on hold’ and then dropping them for someone better (e.g. richer, more physically attractive) is cheating too, and this happens more often than we would care to admit.
21. Secret relationships
Okay, if you meet someone you like of the opposite gender, you might get to know each other a little more before getting your family involved; perhaps a few phone conversations, chats on social media, or public meetings. This is not what I’m talking about here. I am talking about people who feel committed to each other and have been ‘together’ for a considerable amount of time, but won’t tell their families and, convince themselves they have a good reason for not doing so. Usually, the vague line is that: ‘We’ll tell when the time is right.’
These secret relationships (which are often kept secret from at least some friends as well as family) will often initially feel daring and romantic; with more intensity added to the relationship because of the feeling that people are (at least passively and unknowingly) opposing you.
There is one slight flaw in your relationship however; it probably won’t work. The simple reason being that neither person has sufficient moral courage to do what they need to. Usually it is fear of awkwardness and discussion with parents from one or more side (sometimes, one party is willing to tell their family, and may have done so). Nothing more. If you cannot tell your family that you have found someone because ‘telling is too difficult,’ it doesn’t matter what you think you feel. You don’t love them (unless you have a justified fear that your parents would take your life, in which case elopement would be the best plan!) and that’s all there is to it. Similarly, if your partner is unwilling to give a good (i.e. ‘my life would be at stake’) reason for not telling their family about you, they don’t love you. And no, it is not ‘complicated,’ nor is it something which an outsider ‘does not get.’ It is actually quite simple.
Like the possession of The One Ring, a secret relationship will slowly poison your mind; the daring steps you take to avoid others seeing you together will start getting tiresome, the lies you tell your family about who you are meeting will weigh on your conscience and your inability to be yourselves in public will destroy your interactions.
If you think someone is a keeper and they claim to feel the same, then know this; there is no such thing as ‘the right time,’ to tell your family. Every and any time is as right or wrong as it can be. Do not delude yourself into thinking you can catch them in a good mood and it will somehow be different. So tell them. If you allegedly cannot, then you have proved your inability to face a lifetime of tribulations together. So break up, however much it hurts. If it’s coming from their end, say you that you have nothing to talk to them about until they have told their family, unless it is to support them in taking that step. If you fear awkwardness when telling your own family (which is usually the reason that many young Muslims don’t do it, though they will often invent reasons for themselves), I recommend saying something like the following (after making duah):
You: ‘Mother/Father,’ in your ideal world, when would you like to see me married?
(Positive start; you are asking for their advice and opinion; they feel important and valued)
Parent: *Answers* (Note, you will likely be surprised at how young your parents suggest, just what I have known to be the case anecdotally)
You: ‘Okay, it’s just that I know someone who seems like a good person/suitable/seems interested etc etc, what do you think I should do?’
(Again, they feel valued and will want to know more. Regardless of your self-imposed fears, in most cases, this will end with your parents wanting to meet the person themselves)
That’s just my suggestion; one I gave to a brother who found approaching the subject with his parents difficult and he managed to speak to them with far less difficulty then he feared.
But all in all, forget the whole secret relationship thing. And advise those you care about against them too.
I have been the fool who learns from his own mistakes. Be the wise man or woman who learns from the mistakes of others. Asalamaleikum, and have a blessed day.
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You’ve listed all of the problems but you’ve blatantly missed the most obvious one – that parents do not let their children marry someone from another “sect” of Islam because it won’t look good on their communities. Some are very anti about such relationships to the point that they’d retaliate with violence. I think your #21 touches or alludes slightly to it, but it is a very major problem. And were the people to go to their parents in this case, there might be disastrous physical consequences. Please touch on this if you write next. Interview some shia/sunni couples, or such people of their attitudes towards such relationships. You’d be surprised about how much hate you see (from older parents of course!).
So what if there is hate between Sunnis and Shiites? Why shouldn’t there be hate between people who disagree about important topics? Isn’t religion and important topic for you?
There shouldn’t be any hate between them – is my point. That there exists still hatred between them over something that happened 14-15 centuries ago in a small corner of the globe, is preposterous.
What I meant was, in the problems with the muslim marriage market, the author has forgotten to take the sectarian lens, and how community and parental pressures disallow intersect marriages.