Love, (Muslim) American Style Part I–Courtship

August 29, 2007


This is my response to the call for solutions after Umar Lee’s 8/21 post, Sex and the Muslims Part III.

There really has been an understanding, popularized by some American muslims themselves, that American-style love romance is inherently bad.  This comes of course, from the view that pretty much anything American-style is an awful idea and should be replaced with the modus operandi of select countries with majority muslim populations.  Or rather, with what is perceived as the way things are done there.  Or the most austere version of the way things are done there.  You get my point.

As we know, love and romance isn’t the be all and end all.  Historians often argue that it never used to be a goal of marriage, and that marriages and societies were more stable that way.,10117,15468574-38198,00.html 

Marriage was not about bringing two individuals together for love and intimacy. Rather, the aim of marriage was to acquire useful in-laws and gain political or economic advantage.

Only in the past 200 years, as other economic and political institutions began to take over many of the roles once played by marriage, did Europeans and Americans begin to see marriage as a personal and private relationship that should fulfil their emotional and sexual desires.

As muslims we want to have islamic marriages, and courtship to some, seems incompatible with that.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Certainly we don’t want brothers and sisters hanging out alone at each other’s apartments, or parking the car at Makeout Point.  But we don’t need to go about marrying people after only 2 weeks of preliminaries, consisting the wali interviewing the prospective brother, a few phone calls, and one or two face-to-face meetings.

When you are looking to get married you can go through the usual channels to find possible mates:  family/friends, conferences, online.  When meeting we should certainly stick to certain protocols:  no going out (or staying in) alone, for example, no making out, etc. 

I think that we should bring a business-like practicality to the process at the outset.  Get all basic info on matters such as:

–level/type of practice:  If you break out your Mariah Carey cds every now and then you obviously don’t want to marry someone who thinks that music is haram.  If you hang family photos on your wall then obviously you are not compatible with someone who takes off running at the sight of a camera.

–financial compatibility:  Do both of you want to work for that bigger house/newer car, or do you prefer for the wife to stay at home full-time?  Do either of you like to shop often, whether it’s new earrings or the latest technological gadets?  How much value do you place on saving money and do you put your money where your mouth is?

–social compatibility:  Do you like to visit and go out with friends all the time, or are you a homebody?  Somewhere in the middle?  Would this person mind if you visit friends while they stay home or vice versa?

You can ask other questions such as these: 

Question 1: What percentage of our income are we prepared to spend to purchase and maintain our home on a monthly or annual basis?

Question 2: Who is responsible for keeping our house and yard cared for and organized? Are we different in our needs for cleanliness and organization?

Question 3: How much money do we earn together? Now? In one year? In five years? Ten? Who is responsible for which portion? Now? In one year? Five? Ten?

Question 4: What is our ultimate financial goal regarding annual income, and when do we anticipate achieving it? By what means and through what efforts?

Question 5:
What are our categories of expense (rent, clothing, insurance, travel)? How much do we spend monthly, annually, in each category? How much do we want to be able to spend?

Question 6
: How much time will each of us spend at work, and during what hours? Do we begin work early? Will we prefer to work into the evening?

Question 7
: If one of us doesn’t want to work, under what circumstances, if any, would that be okay?

Question 8
: How ambitious are you? Are we comfortable with the other’s level of ambition?

Question 9: Do we eat meals together? Which ones? Who is responsible for the food shopping? Who prepares the meals? Who cleans up afterward?

Question 10
: Is each of us happy with the other’s approach to health? Does one have habits or tendencies that concern the other (e.g., smoking, excessive dieting, poor diet)?

Question 11:
What place does the other’s family play in our family life? How often do we visit or socialize together? If we have out-of-town relatives, will we ask them to visit us for extended periods? How often?

Question 12:
If we have children, what kind of relationship do we hope our parents will have with their grandchildren? How much time will they spend together?

Question 13
: Will we have children? If so, when? How many? How important is having children to each of us?

Question 14:
How will having a child change the way we live now? Will we want to take time off from work, or work a reduced schedule? For how long? Will we need to rethink who is responsible for housekeeping?

Question 15:
Are we satisfied with the quality and quantity of friends we currently have? Would we like to be more involved socially? Are we overwhelmed socially and need to cut back on such commitments?

Question 16
: What are my partner’s needs for cultivating or maintaining friendships outside our relationship? Is it easy for me to support those needs, or do they bother me in any way?

This “interview” process may seem totally unromantic and that’s good.  What’s the use in falling in love with someone’s smile or pretty eyes if you aren’t compatible on the basics?  After all, their charm isn’t going to save the marriage if your bedrock values are too different.

After you get the basics out of the way, you need to spend some time simply observing your prospective wife/husband.  How does she react to peer pressure?  Does he have his own mind?  Is he logical or easily swayed by his emotions?  How does she handle conflict with the people closest to her?

This is the period in which you can do your “halal dating.”  Always use a chaperone.  This can be your brother, sister, friend, your mom, whatever.  Have dinner with each other’s families.  Spend time with them doing everyday things like grocery shopping and yard maintenance.  When you going out to dinner, the couple can sit alone at a table with their chaperones seated nearby.  Go out to the county fair.  Brothers, try your hand at a silly carnival game and see if you can’t win the sister a teddy bear.  Sisters, surprise the brother by mailing homemade cookies to his house. 

When you have established compatibility and then gotten to know the person’s character, you can have that romance, and the excitement of that “lovey-dovey” feeling.  The great thing is, you’ve fallen for someone with whom you can actually have a happy future insha’allah.


6 Responses to “Love, (Muslim) American Style Part I–Courtship”

  1. This is lovely, ForeverLoyal. Practical, sensible and very in keeping with today’s world. I know a lot of Muslim families are already okay with this sort of getting-to-know-one-another routine and can only hope it reaches more of us. Marriage is after all, the biggest deal. And it’s great that you brought up the most important point in the beginning [level type of practice].

  2. safiya Says:

    Very good advice, masha Allah.

  3. mahamud abdulahi Says:

    frist one assalamu alaikum
    after that great i,m muslim i was bron in mogadishu somalia in 1983 i,m very active to reading the holly kuran i know teaching holly kuran and ahadith nabawiya muhamed sallalahu alaihi wasalam .
    my application to request for you ,my prother muslim i request you to give me the girl muslim american and i like to court ship that girl after that i marriage .
    thank you .
    contact with me :00252-24158356.
    and this my e-mail and wassalaamu allaikum

  4. foreverloyal Says:

    Thank you for the responses.
    I hope to employ this method when our children are of age. They are so little right now but time flies.

  5. Ahmed D. Suleiman Says:

    Assalamu ala kum, i so much love your article on how 2 select a compatable partner,what 2 look for, how 2 critically scrutinize the desired attributes. I innsha Allah, will appreciate if u help find a muslim sister who is ready for marriage. The address is ahmedsuleiman67@yahoo.Com and the phone numb is +2348080329807………,….Masha Allahu..

  6. Nina Says:

    “What’s the use in falling in love with someone’s smile or pretty eyes if you aren’t compatible on the basics? ”

    Yes, and it goes both ways!

    What’s the use in falling in love with someone’s basics if his or her smile or eyes turn you off so much that your body cringes at the thought of being touched by him or her?

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