Thursday, October 20, 2005

Get Real. And how to do so. (rant ahead!)

peace, y'all

Okay, so, I've been doing some reading and I've been doing some thinking (ohhh no- a thinking Black woman! Danger, danger!) and I've decided that I don't like a certain situation I'm facing.

I feel conflicted between my faith and my reality, and that is not good, since I am a person who MUST live my faith AS a great part of my reality.
I feel like the debate must go on and the questions must be asked (sheepish grin at Umm Zaid) in order for me to get answers and feel out my path.

Islam, as most of us know, has a concept called hijab. I'm not referring to the dressing modestly part of hijab, but the acting modestly part. (I won't get all technical here in part because I can't; I haven't memorized all of the sirat (surah, pl?) and hadeeth that explain this concept.) The important and relevant part here is contact between the sexes (as well as nonbelievers vs believers but that's another blog entry entirely and I'm not going there just now). Specifically, that a woman should be modest and communicate with non-mahrams and non-related men on a modest, non worldly basis; or, importantly, 'for the sake of God /Islam (depending on which source you're using)'. This, as I understand it, is better for all involved. It promotes a realistic mindset and living out your spirituality in your actions- not just for lustful reasons, etc. In other words, it keeps you and everyone else "real" about your motives and expectations when interacting with people of the opposite sex.

This also (back to my 2005 USA reality here) precludes one-on-one dating, and, really, any exploration of sexuality in a relationship context (meaning, outside of academic and religious context) that isn't a person seeing what goes on between familial and societal role models. This isn't your do-it-yourself sexuality or interactions or marriages here. Since I live in the USA as a single female convert, I have to be able to get around in this world within this society. That's reality. With me so far?

I truly believe in the modesty and God-focusedness (yes I made that up) of hijab. I dress modestly because I see a reason for it and I believe in it. I have and still sometimes do feel like it is a sacrifice, but one that gives me real satisfaction. Sacrifice is not only part of life but, really, what we should relish (not in a suicidal way! I am not Asima Blomaselfup here, people. Please don't take this to an extreme.) because it does, again, keep you 'real' in your motivations and actions. They are gut checks, and really, who wants to live a life superficially? That's a waste. Anyway.

My problem is not common amongst my friends in reality, and so I'm turning to my peeps inside the computer for some insight. Its this: in the reality that is Mainstream Metropolis, USA where I live, there are very few opportunities to suss out good, stable, reliable, non-repressed men without dating. And I'm saying 'very few' to be charitable and open, here.

Dating one-on-one, as I've noted, leaves openings for lustful intentions that may happen outside of that God-focusedness, or can fail because young Muslims feel as if they're doing something incorrect (and they would be correct...). You can find someone by interacting in a group, but you have to find that group. And since I've left college and that nice MSA atmosphere, where there are plenty of group and community-oriented activities, I've hit this wall when it comes to meeting potential. I don't have the family circles and connections that most young Muslims who don't date rely on and have used to good result. God (swt) "heps them who heps themselves" in my G'mama's words. I'd like to meet someone believing as I am, and it's problematic. I don't feel comfortable going to the masjid by myself (although I return to the MSA one instead) since I am a single convert (read: No Mahram, No Family cooperation, No Pattern or Role Models from a similar background or an understanding viewpoint to give a clue). The sisters I do meet are not really about helping me, which I can understand since they've got their families to think about. They've got their own lives. How do I involve myself in this kind of community? How does anyone know I'm ready to be looked at if I'm not in a place where I can be?

Yes, I know I'm supposed to have a wali. Here's a thought: any wali I have will not be a mahram. This would involve knowing someone well enough that I could trust them in helping me initiate and negotiate a REALLY important part of my life. This would also involve meeting someone who is Muslim and knows both the ways of Islam and the ways of Muslims but can understand, again, my reality. I ain't in the Khaleej, yo. Yeah. How many people do I know like that? I could think about an imam. But this involves again going to a masjid or otherwise getting in contact with one.

Shoot, let's talk about that one for a second. Where is the DAWA, people? How is it that I can call four different masajid and only get a courteous, respectful-if-apologetic response at ONE? (Incidentally, supposed to be the nicest and biggest masjid in the area, therefore almost inaccessible by public transportation.) It's RAMADHAN! Nevermind finding my man, let's talk about spiritual isolation. I have yet to go to tarawih prayers that weren't at GWU. That. Is. A. Shame. It's also a sign of the issue I'm talking about.

And I'm afraid that men I do find when-not if, y'all should know me better by now-I get through all of that, who have lived within a "hijab-enforced" and (please God) God-focused society or family or community will have serious issues with their sexuality, or worse, with mine. This is a sticking point with me. People, sex is important! I think because Muslims don't talk about sex in public sometimes we forget to talk about it in private, and that... should be a crime. In any type of situation where anything is placed under pressure/wraps it has to either have a way to let off steam or explode. In perverted or inexpressive ways. In Islam, marriage is the only and very simplistic answer to that issue. Unfortunately, a person with my reality has very little chance of getting to marriage...without dating. And here's the kicker, I really believe in marriage. I don't believe in hasty marriage, or marriage where you don't really know a person first, where things jump out from behind masks when the rings are exchanged. In short, the kind of marriage I believe in, is the kind that is traditionally preceded and begun with dating.

Understand my dilemma now? I'm a little too real for my own good.

I'm coming to face this because it's Ramadan, but also because I'm doing a lot of introspection about relationships in general and Nishat in particular.
I thought when I 'met' him that I was on the up and up, but really, what we are doing is long-distance dating without having met face to face. I need to meet him, to have seen him. My reality is just not going to stand up for me marrying someone I've seen a handful of times, and as a matter of fact, Islam doesn't do that either. I get to choose. I have to choose. (Thanks to Amina F. who told me the story about Salma, her father, and her suitor.) I guess I'm questioning whether the path we've taken is healthy or even viable, because it is really a one-on-one thing. I don't want exclusivity yet. I think I have to have a selection in order to have one person stand out and be sure of what I like and want/can live with for the next sixty or so years Insha'Allah. And I want the man who's interested in me to have the same conclusion. If I were OF this world as I am IN it, the response to this would be to date. I think if I did not believe in what I've learned and been taught 'bout Islam, I would date, quite chastely but definitely one-on-one. Not for marriage partners but just to meet people and see what's out there, what I like, how I am with men who aren't family, etc.

Now. What is the Muslim solution to the converts' need for dating? The need for that interaction and decision-making? To be adopted by Muslim friends? To just throw yourself into masjid activities and hope for the best? My friends, muslim and not, inside the computer, I'm asking y'all for your opinions, surah, hadeeth, and reality solutions to the problem. Let's get real, cuz that's how we have to live.



  1. Salaam 'Alaikum

    I have a few thoughts on this.

    One is that I would not say it's a convert's need to date. There are converts who don't think in this mindset, and there are PLENTY of born Muslims (including in the Muslim world) who DO. I do know brothers and sisters who converted and did not have this struggle with the idea of formal settings, walis, no one-on-one dating, etc.

    Two is, I would not look at your wali situation as a man-who-is-not-a-mahrem. If I were a single lady again, I would look for a married couple to act with me and for me. And yes, you can get to know him in a semi-formal environment with his wife present... and always trust your instincts about someone, but don't let me digress.

    But as with choosing a male wali, I would say that you need to make sure that the wife's interest (as well as her hubby's) is YOUR best interests -- not marrying you off to her husband's relatives or friends, or building a reputation as the community matchmaker. There are sisters like this, who do not consider the best interests of the women when they say, "Do you want to meet this brother?"

    Three is, if it's not working for you now, maybe there's a reason fer that. I met with many men, recv'd a half dozen proposals, and seriously considered three before I even heard of my husband. I realized it then, and even more now, that each time, though I felt frustrated, puzzled, etc. when it didn't work out -- that I was NOT right for him, that he was NOT right for me (in ways I couldn't see then), or that it just was not my time -- diynwise -- to drag another human being along for the ride.

    Four is, I would not worry too extensively about sexual dysfunction in men raised in those societies. I just think that, for most of us, this is something that is not going to be discussed b/c of modesty, walhamdulillah. I don't know if there's an adab-y way to bring it up without embarassing yourself, or him, or him having a negative reaction to you, or whatever. Not talking about it, or remaining a virgin until your 20's or 30's doesn't automatically equate with serious dysfunction. On the other hand, look at our society / culture, where sexuality is definitely not underwraps or under pressure... we still have quite a fair share of perversion and repression and sexual violence.

    Fifth is, you need to keep istikhara in mind. Don't use it as a last-minute tool when you've basically made up your mind about who to marry. A lot of people do this, and a lot of books / marriage advice sites treat istikhara like it's a last minute formality. I say, make istikhara your signposts on the way. Make it often, at every stage of your search -- before you find a guy, when you've found your potential walis, when you've met a few guys to talk, when you've gotten a proposal, so on and so forth.

    OK. End excessive wordiness.... NOW. --- UZ

  2. peace,
    THANK YOU for your thoughts.

    I know it's not a need to date (I don't date and didn't even when I wasn't Muslim) but I don't know what else to call it. I definitely want to KNOW the person I marry, and the people I've been around are on some shady you-only-need-to-see-him-once-or-twice mess. I can't be havin' it, as we say round my way. I think that's part of what's going on; I'm feeling blocked into a particular way of thinking.

    I had a married couple acting "for me" when I was in PR. Issue is that they were one of like 2 families who would even socialize with me, and although they're very good people, they have the secularized mindset you described above in point 1.

    I think I'm seeing that I need to change what's (who's) around me. Because I need a couple who isn't super secularized, but doesn't have fitty-leven kids yet, can understand why I actually have a need to really know the person I'd marry but want to do it the RIGHT way.

    In terms of the whole sexual disfunction thing... again, maybe I'm just catching the perverts and need to change what's around me. But also, I've seen way too much of that in my professional training (I taught sex ed and had counseling training as well). This society is messed up period.


    As for istikhara, you are absolutely right.

    Thanks for the gut check. Keep'em comin.