I don't want to have my parents arranging a marriage for me in my thirties. At the same time, many Muslims insist that the Qur'an does not allow for Muslim men and women who are not related to each other to meet. As a young woman who has grown up in America, I'm not willingly going to consent to an "old world" arranged marriage like my mother had. At the same time, I know, as a Muslim and Pakistani, that I'm certainly not free to date, meet (and probably have sex with) men. So how do I marry if I don't intend on having an arranged marriage, yet I'm not ready to turn my back on cultural and religious standards against dating?

Early marriage is not the solution. One man wrote, in our E-mail discussion, that, "Most (but not all) of the sexual-urge hastened marriages that I've seen have broken up miserably in 1 to 3 years, or are mired in despair and miscommunication." Obviously that's not what we want. He said he was concerned for older Muslim women who were not meeting nice Muslim men because the communities are often segregated. One female friend of his "questions whether or not she has to 'be haram [unlawful] now in order to be halal [lawful] for the rest of my life."' He ends by saying, "I think we've reached a point where the Muslim youth of America have to establish communities that are separate from masjids [mosques; his point is that mosques will not allow men and women to meet because of Islamic guidelines] in order to foster effective and indigenous social services, promote intellectually free and challenging discourse, and create healthy and Islamic interaction between the sexes."

Some Muslims say that you can meet a member of the opposite sex within Islamic guidelines. You must only be sincere in your interest in marrying this person. You can't just shoot the breeze and hang out with them for the hell of it. As a result, first meetings are loaded with expectation. The man who began the discussion pointed out that we need to move away f om this idea of relationships between genders as only leading to marriage and allow men and women to meet accepting, in his words, "the possibility that things would not work out." One woman wrote of girls to whom she teaches sex education, who say that young Muslim men are justifying as Islamic all sorts of sexual escapades, especially engaging in premarital intimacy without intercourse, whereas these same men look down on women who engage in similar activities as unIslamic. She calls this "an abuse of our religion . . . a form of self-deception" concluding that the Prophet was open to all topics, including sexuality, and that we should try to be "creative and courageous" in these "challenging times."

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