Why Can’t we be (Halal) Friends?
Can’t we be (Halal) Friends?
"We should accept that what is forbidden in Islam is seeking privacy with someone of the opposite sex without a third party present... What we need is firstly to recognise that there is nothing at all wrong with young people meeting in situations where intimacy cannot occur because of witnesses; and secondly to create occasions in which they can meet safely in halal ways, so that they CAN get to know each other."
By Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
I am commencing this article with a quotation of a passage that seems to me typical of the writings on and expectations of Muslim marriage in the minds of authors.
'A healthy marriage is based on strong iman (faith) and strong taqwa (fear of God). Because the couple unites for the sake and love of God, they are able to make decisions and resolve problems based upon this commitment. Fikr (reflection) and dhikr (remembrance) of God are a regular part of the marriage. The couple keeps their obligations to God and remembers Him often, even in their most intimate affairs. They reflect on what He has given them and on ways to improve their relationship with Him and thus with each other. The couple not only strives in the cause of God but are also knowledgeable of their own and each other's rights, roles and responsibilities in a healthy marriage. The spouses honour and ensure that each other's rights are fulfilled and they work together to develop a strong Islamic personality. Both have realistic expectations of each other and of the marriage, and they practise good communication skills, engage in mutual consultation, and are calm tempered. Honesty, trustworthiness, humility, and a willingness to co-operate and compromise, help to build a strong relationship; reliance on the Qur'an and Sunnah for decision making are essential.'
Khurshid Ahmad, quoted by Aneesah Nadir in Islam in America, Images and Challenges, University of Indianapolis Press, Editor - Phylis Lan Lin, 1998, p.131.
What could any potential Muslim spouse say to such a description but 'Yes, please!' And what might any Muslim struggling with the actualities of marriage comment but 'If only!'
The very same article, an excellent one, also made the frightening point that marriage and family as the foundation of Islamic society seems to be crumbling. Divorce and marital discord are reaching epidemic proportions, with perhaps 60% of new marriages ending in divorce within the first year. Canny wedding-gift givers are beginning to wonder whether one should not wait to see if the marriage lasts five years before giving the gift.
Shahina Siddiqui of the Manitoba Islamic Association commented that individuals entering marriage neither practice forbearance nor patience, and do not commit themselves to each other for the sake of God. On the other hand, many have subconsciously adopted an attitude of self-sacrifice at the expense of their own emotional or physical wellbeing, creating a dysfunctional family possibly quite unaware that this is not the Islamic way.
There are all sorts of suggested reasons for the large numbers of mariage failures, and I would just like to consider a couple.
Firstly, I have a sneaking feeling that a vast number of Muslim boy-children are spoiled rotten, under-disciplined in matters of helping out in the home and taking responsibility for the household wellbeing, and treat their mothers like personal servants. At the same time, they no doubt adore their mothers, particularly the fact that they are waited on, their every need is seen to perhaps at the expense of the needs of others, and they develop a great love for their mother's cooking.
This leads to immediate conflict when marrying a girl brought up in the West, for she will have been led to expect independence, equal treatment, responsibility, freedom of expression and the like, and will probably not have mastered much in the way of cookery skills. She may well expect to be a doctor or engineer, and not a housewife. Consequently, she will not appreciate a husband who is totally inept in the household, or who has no intention of helping out even though she may be working equal hours outside the home and be exhausted when she comes in. At the same time, he will not appreciate a wife who may never be able to cook like his mother.
We have a big problem here. When a husband starts comparing a wife to his mother, it is the wife who usually comes off worst. Someone once said, a man can have a hundred women, but he only has one mother. Mother is an enormous figure of power, and she often plays the role to the full with her son once he marries, even if she had no luck with her husband and was never much more than a drudge to him. She may do this, consciously or unconsciously, by dominating not her son but his wife. In the worst scenario, a husband may get so fed up with his wife that he really yearns to be back with his mother again. In a battle of wills, the wife often loses.
Here's another massive problem. Our Muslim youngsters go to school on the whole with non-Muslim friends and colleagues and teachers, and inter-act freely and happily with most of them. When they have friends of the opposite sex, they are almost always non-Muslims. Why? Because there is no stigma whatsoever at the school in thus mixing freely and exchanging views and feelings - but there is enormous suspicion placed upon young Muslim men and women who try to mix freely and exchange views as friends.
We partly have the problem of those Muslims who simply regard this as a strict no-no, and feel teenagers of the opposite sex must be kept apart at any price. Usually all that happens here is that they are kept apart from other Muslims, but mix pretty freely with non-Muslims. Others take the line that if a Muslim sees someone of the opposite sex, one glance is allowed but then the eyes must be cast down modestly, thus making normal conversation a difficult matter, to say the least. Perhaps it is time to consider the real importance of those words - modest BEHAVIOUR, and the duty of a young Muslims adult not to 'eyeball' members of the opposite sex. In other words, seeing someone is not forbidden, but using the eyes in a certain way is. Our conversations with members of the other sex must not be sexually inviting or flirtatious in order to stir up feelings it is difficult to control, especially in the young.
Young Muslim adults are certainly not expected by their elders to mix freely, and if they did so, they can be certain that it would soon be noted and reported, and trouble would ensue. Unfortunately, there are many major spin-offs from this.
(i) Young Muslim adults don't actually know anyone of the opposite sex as friends.
(ii) Young Muslim women don't actually like young Muslim men very much, for they are not making the same efforts to be charming and helpful towards them as the non-Muslim friends are.
(iii) In situations where young Muslim men and women have become friends, they are expected to treat themselves as brothers and sisters, and a 'love' relationship then seems out of the question.
Personally, I feel it is high time we Muslims organised ourselves to do something about this ridiculous situation. We should accept that what is forbidden in Islam is seeking privacy with someone of the opposite sex without a third party present. When that happens, there are grounds for suspicions, criticism, affronts to family honour and so forth. Some cultures go to the lengths of committing murder of their young women for the slightest of suspicions - a matter I regard as totally unIslamic in view of the highly stringent rules for four competent witnesses to actual acts of full sexual intimacy, with floggings for those who rush in with false or unproven accusations.
Incidentally, the laws of Islam which allow females to be alone with mahrem males has unfortunately been much abused, and girls need to be warned that sometimes even their male relatives are not safe to be alone with. The incidence of fathers, uncles and brothers (and teachers and pir-sahibs) sexually abusing Muslim girls is sadly on the increase - or, at least, is being increasingly reported.
What we need is firstly to recognise that there is nothing at all wrong with young people meeting in situations where intimacy cannot occur because of witnesses; and secondly to create occasions in which they can meet safely in halal ways, so that they CAN get to know each other. The more of these occasions we can organise, whether family events or mosque events or conference events, the better. I also heartily recommend that males and females find at least some opportunities for sitting together at meals, and conversing afterwards.
We also have the problem that the type of young Muslim man or woman most praised by many Muslim elders is the ultra-serious, committed, ritualistic type of Muslim, whose Islam runs the danger of being judged by their ability to memorise Arabic passages (with or without understanding), or the growth of beard or school-uniform type of hijab, or the number of hours spent in prayers and Qur'anic study. Needless to say, I have no wish whatsoever to denigrate the efforts of these admirable people - quite the contrary. Please let that be clearly understood. However, having said that, Muslims of that type do not always make the best of husbands or wives, for they have that ascetic streak and zealousness of commitment that is beyond the reach of the majority.
In an ideal world, they would find and marry each other. In an ideal world, people would realise that all people have personal gifts and abilities and temperaments, and would learn to live and let live without constantly criticising others.
It may surprise (or enlighten) some brothers to see the results of a little survey conducted at one Marriage seminar in London UK. The simple exercise was to give three invented descriptions of Muslim men and see how many would go for each type. The brothers seem to have automatically expected that the sisters would go for type 3.
1. Hi, my name's Adam. I'm currently working as a doctor in a humanitarian charity. I'm easy-going with a sense of adventure. I've recently come into Islam and am hoping to pursue this more once my worklife slows down.
2. Asalaam aleikum. I've been working as a lawyer for the past few years. I go to Islamic circles regularly and try to do my bit to help the community. In my spare time I enjoy entertaining Muslims and can make an odd curry or two.
3. Asalaamu-alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu. I am a Muslim brother who takes his deen very seriously. I teach Arabic as a profession and want to make Islam the focus of my life. I believe that this dunya is a distraction from our real purpose in life which is to worship God.
To the chairman's surprise, the majority of women/girls chose Number 1, with Number 2 a close second, and Number 3 came in with very few votes. Many of the women explained that No.1 was probably just as good a Muslim as No.3, and was far more active in a practical humanitarian field, and would develop into a wonderful Muslim man. Poor old No.3 was almost dismissed as a 'type' that they knew only too well, and did not wish to live with in marriage - the exceptions being the girls who took precisely the same attitude as he did.
There are many things to ponder in this. Of course, the exercise was simplistic, and intended to be taken light-heartedly, but even so it was an eye-opener.
May God grant us the grace to think seriously about the plight of our youngsters seeking good life-partners, especially our girls - many of whom may feel they are 'condemned' to marry Muslim men rather than look forward with joy to the prospect. Our young people of both sexes need to see beyond the facades, and to appreciate the nobility and talents of each other, so that they may move forward with confidence and not have a hopeful marriage collapse in trauma and dismay.
Now days we as Muslims have to spread the voice to learn quran online and so we could gain the true knowledge and the quran teaching that is give to us by our beloved prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and do quran reading. Do we as Muslim ask our self that why we are at the peak of destruction? The answer will be simple that we have left our roots the holy quran we should guide promote Islam from in our homes first and let learn our kids quran and encourage them in doing quran memorization this should be our first goal for it we can do different stuff like let then participate in different online quran recitation competition to let them read quran from different online quran reciters and along with it we elders should learn quran also and improve our knowledge of quran and Islam and learn holy quran tafseer because to understand and learn quran Arabic and for this now a days there are many online quran tutor available who teach tajweed quran and its translation and tafseer so let us join our hands to be the voice of Islam and let improve the image of it as well and full fill our duty