Dating Not Just A Non-Muslim Problem Anymore!

By Hwaa Irfan
Writer, counselor, editor - Egypt

Dating is a concern for all parents, regardless of religion, but even more so for Muslim parents these days. Adolescent hormonal changes are metaphorically like the illusion of individual personal freedom within non-Islamic societies. The late Mohammad Baqir as-Sadr argued that, "it does not have power over its will and is not in a position to control its existence for it did not liberate the inner content of man. Hence, the surrender to its desires and lusts under the banner of personal freedom. This move has contributed to its losing its freedom to those desires" (as-Sadr, p.4). This description is usually fitting for those who are not guided through their teenage years.

Currently, young Muslims - not wanting to make the same mistakes they witness in some of the examples around them - want to be more involved in their choices. But unfortunately, familiarity does not always protect one from the wrong choices. The problems that can arise are no longer confined, as has been argued, to non-Islamic societies.

In Iran, young girls stroll freely in brightly colored lipstick donning 'half-hijabs' - scarves worn to cover the hair. As a young woman put it, "they don't look very Muslim anymore." Rape, murder and prostitution are on the rise while Western pop music blares from cars and young couples hold hands in cafes. Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi complained, "Girls and boys both like to show off their beauty" (Carnegie, p.1, 2). While premarital relations offer an opportunity to explore and gain experience, they also open the door to a misplaced notion of love that soon evaporates, often after it is too late.

A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that an increased number of girls are at risk of dating violence, pregnancy, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, eating disorders and suicide! 

Four thousand girls were surveyed in the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey '97 and '99 and Dr. Jay G. Silverman of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston commented that, "tremendous numbers of young women suffer in silence, not telling anyone out of fear or shame or not wanting to lose the relationship. Even for those young victims who choose to speak out, there are very few specialized services" (Reuters Health, p.1, 2). Approximately 1 in 5 female students, 20.2% in '97 and 18% in '99, reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a boyfriend (Silverman, p.1).

At the end of a 6-day Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (July 30) in Pretoria, participants expressed their pro-abstinence argument in a statement saying, "Apart from the possibility of condoms being faulty or wrongly used, they contribute to the breaking down of self-control and mutual trust" (RNS, p.1).

Since the 1960s, premarital sex has become a growing phenomenon - delaying marriage, playing a role in its breakdown and contributing towards the increase in dysfunctional families. Some are beginning to think again. An 18-month study of college women conducted for the Independent Women's Forum - by the Institute of American Values, investigated women's feelings about premarital relations. Out of the 1,062 college women involved in the study, 40% admitted to having premarital relations and 83% agreed with the statement "Being married is a very important goal for me." In addition, 63% agreed that, "I would like to meet my future husband in college" (Banks, p.1). It is apparent that young people still wish to be involved in a decision that would affect the rest of their lives. Additionally some do not see a conflict between the formal commitment of marriage and informal premarital relations.

The example of how best to involve the two people desiring marriage, while still protecting them from the ills of premarital relations, lies within Islam. It was through a business relationship that the widow Khadija knew of the good qualities and traits of the young Muhammad (saw) before his prophethood; and it wasn't until speaking on the issue of marriage with her close friend Nafisah that the young Muhammad (saw) became aware of Khadijah's interest, eventually resulting in a sound marriage (Geyoushi p. 48-49).

Another example is that of the daughter of the Prophet (saw), Fatima, and his cousin 'Ali ibn Abi Talib. In this union, the intermediary was Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) believed that since Fatima would be the one to live with the prospective groom, her permission was essential. Not allowing her to voice her opinion would be a violation of her honor, degradation of her personality and disruption of her soul.

It took the friendship of Saad ibn Ma'adh to persuade 'Ali ibn Abi Talib to approach the Prophet (saw) and subsequently the Prophet (saw) inquired of his daughter's feelings on the matter. Through Ali's knowledge and understanding of her qualities and traits in social settings, and vice versa, they formed a sound marriage. Their ability to judge objectively and not by emotions had only been nurtured by the Islamic teachings they grew up with (Ordoni, p. 113-118).

In neither of the two examples given were the two people involved ever alone together before marriage. However, it is always easier if those involved are from the same community. Thus, they have sufficient information beforehand by which to base a future life together. But as that luxury is not always available, it takes honesty and the right intentions of all those involved (family and friends) to make the most suitable match likely.

"And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other they enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Apostle; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them; surely Allah is Mighty: Wise" (Surat ul Baraat 9:71).

  Hwaa Irfan is the Editor of the Family, Cyber and Parenting Counselor Pages at Islam Online.net. and the Managing Editor of the Social Desk: Family & Counseling Services as well as Muslims 4 Humanity (Youth) 

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