I finished watching the first episode of ‘Extremely British Muslims’ – the documentary on channel 4. After watching ‘Muslims Like Us’ recently on BBC and now this, I am beginning to see a trend. Documentaries which are supposedly made and broadcasted with the aim of reducing stigma and segregation within British society but do very little to actually address anything.
I finished watching the episode feeling that it did not represent me at all. The programme was partially focussed on Pakistani culture within the Muslim community in Birmingham but didn’t explain this – it was simply conveyed as Islam.
The topic of the episode was about marriage within Islam and specifically how the young generation of Muslims are finding it difficult to find spouses in this day and age. Apparently, young Muslims want to find a partner in more western ways but are merely trying to please their parents and the older generations in their methods of spouse searching.
The main issue, according to the programme, is the fact that dating is forbidden in Islam therefore, young Muslims are finding it impossible to find an appropriate spouse as they can’t get to know them before marriage.
Throughout the episode, the non-Muslim man making the documentary was addressing questions to the Muslim subjects. On numerous occasions he would credulously question the way they were doing things and proceeded to state the way he did things and how that must be the better way of doing things. This irritated me in itself. Not only that but at no point was any real understanding conveyed nor explanation given regarding the issue of dating in Islam.
If a non-Muslim watched that documentary they would not learn anything about Islam except that apparently all young Muslims are unhappy with the rules and their lack of freedom compared to their non-Muslim counterparts. That is not ‘breaking down barriers’ and it won’t lead to any understanding. If anything, it will lead to more non-Muslims telling Muslims that their religion is oppressive and backwards.
Having watched this episode I just wanted to share my own experience and perspective regarding marriage in Islam. When my husband and I met for the first time there was no physical contact whatsoever. We talked about the things we looked for in a husband/wife and what we each wanted to get from and put into a marriage. We talked about the characteristics we were looking for and the characteristics we each had. We talked about our backgrounds and families to give each other context and understanding of our upbringing. On my part, I discussed with him the difficulties I face as a revert and the way this affects my relationships with my family. We discussed the subjects which were important to us; one of which being our religion. We discussed our goals and aspirations and our hopes in life. We also discussed the extremely important topic of what animals we each wanted as pets (cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, fish… basically a zoo). After talking through topics such as these we could tell whether we were interested in each other; whether we were compatible and whether there was any potential.
Obviously, we both decided that indeed we were interested in one another. We both prayed istikhara several times and shared our feelings from the outcome of these prayers with one another. The second time we met, we did our nikkah. That was a year and a half ago and alhamdulillah we are happy. As we have gotten to know each other more and more every day we discover new reasons why we are perfect for each other. That is the blessing of marriage and the way Allah guided us both. The fundamental things for us, which we have built our marriage on, we ascertained when we first met. The importance of our religion for both of us told us many things about one another.
This is something any young Muslims can do. Meet potential spouses and discuss all of the fundamental topics and issues which are important to each individual. If you agree on all of the points which matter to you, then everything else you can build on and learn from each other.
On a side note: dating is haram (forbidden) in Islam because it leads to, not only sins, but also heartbreak. When people are dating they inevitably get attached to one another and because they are only dating they are also much more likely to leave if things get hard. I’m not saying all marriages are perfect and never lead to any hurt or heartbreak however, people who are dating are often unsure of the other persons intentions or feelings and it can get very complicated. Dating is forbidden to not only protect us from sin but also from hurt and heartbreak. That is my perspective.