Growing up Christian in the American South, I began dating at 13. It was the early 90s, and even then, I was considered a late bloomer since my peers had all been dating for a few years.
The initiation of my romantic life at a young age was something even my parents encouraged, saying I would need to date to figure out what kind of man I wanted to marry.
By this time, I had watched all the Disney princess movies and believed the message that love will save the day, that finding your “prince” is the completion of life’s purpose. I believed that to get married was to live happily ever after.
As I went through high school, I watched romantic comedies, TV sitcoms, read Romeo and Juliet. I was indoctrinated in the cult of love and romance, trusting that love is the one thing for which all else should be sacrificed.
As I moved on to college, I was introduced to fraternity (or dude bro) culture. I was heartbroken to learn how young men were taught to view women (as non-human objects), love (as a lie), sex (as the ultimate goal), and marriage (as a trap).
By the time I was 20, these constructs and Western mores of romance, sex, and love—as conflicting as they are—left me embittered, disillusioned, and heartbroken many times over.
I credit my miseducation for seeking something better for myself. Since accepting Islam, I have viewed my miseducation through a different lens, ultimately realizing:
… they do not follow anything but conjecture, and surely conjecture does not avail against the truth at all. (Quran 53:28)
Sex Without Strings
Tinder, “bed” buddies, friends with benefits… these are products of modern, Western sexual mores. Sex has become like fast food- cheap and easy, but unhealthy and rather disgusting.
The problem is that, just like fast food, it will make you sick. Even if pregnancy and STDs were guaranteed to never happen, which is never the case, the neurological research says that there is no such thing as sex without strings.
A study by Concordia University concluded that emotional attachment is a natural outcome of sex. The human brain doesn’t just start working differently, after untold generations, just because we have birth control and STD prevention methods. We are still human and in need of real intimacy, partnership, and emotional fulfillment.
Sex is and should be fun. But, like anything, for it to be healthy, sex must come from the right source and be in a safe and appropriate context. Otherwise it has a great potential to harm the human being either physically, emotionally, or financially.
In the Islamic context, sex with one’s spouse is a good deed. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
In the sexual intercourse of any one of you there is reward” (meaning, when he has intercourse with his wife). […] (Narrated in Muslim)
The Cult of Love
We have all heard the phrases: all you need is love, love will save the day, I did it all for love. Love has become a false god.
The problem is that by putting so much trust in love and the object of our love, we start to deify limited, flawed concepts and beings that will ultimately let us down and break our hearts.
Love is a very important part of life. It is natural for us to feel love and it is even central to all we do. But we should not worship love.
Worship is only for a Being worthy of it. Flawed concepts and limited beings are not worthy of our worship because of their limits and flaws. When we put something flawed in the place of God, it is guaranteed to break us, just like putting water in our gas tank would break our car.
Islam teaches that there is only one worthy of worship, and He is the Creator, Owner, and Giver of love. It is only through The Source that we can love. It is only this Creator of love who will never break us.
And He (Allah) is the All-Forgiving, the All-Loving. (Quran 85:14)
Putting Love before Commitment and Emotion before Logistics
In modernity serial, dating is considered the only way to find a spouse.
The problem with this construct of dating is that it puts the cart before the horse. Individuals must become invested in each relationship, making themselves vulnerable to many protentional mates and outcomes.
And ultimately when the person they are with is not “the” person they will marry, at a minimum their heart is broken. And at most their lives are shattered.
This emotional roller coaster takes a toll, but it is considered just a price of finding the right one, as the saying goes: “You have to kiss a few toads to find your prince [or princess].”
In the Islamic context, seeking a mate works in reverse order and does not involve getting warts from kissing several slimy amphibians. All the logistics come first before the emotional, financial, and even intimate investment.
Potential partners should:
– Determine if both parties are interested in marriage and physically attracted to one another. If interest and attraction exist, then…
– Both parties share what they want for their married life and their greater life goals. If both are in sync and share or will support the other’s life goals, then…
– They do a thorough background check to make sure that the potential spouse is legit and of good character. Usually the families do the sniffing around and either approve or disapprove of the potential partner. If they are given a green light, then…
– They get to know each other a bit better to determine if their personalities are compatible. If they are compatible, then they should…
– Draw up a marriage contract, determining what each wants and what the roles and responsibilities will be. Once both parties agree to the terms, then…
– They get married.
Only after the couple has signed the marriage contract, do they allow themselves to invest emotionally, financially, and intimately. It is about using the head, then using the heart.
Marriage is Outdated
There are several schools of modern thought that all claim marriage is outdated. Some believe that marriage is just an unnecessary piece of paper the government issues to affirm that a couple is in a committed relationship.
While others believe the motivation for marriage is outdated. They say we no longer need marriage for safe sex or knowing paternity. We no longer need marriage to protect and provide for women. And we no longer need marriage because it is a religious construct and many people are no longer religious.
The problem with this is that the motivation for marriage is misunderstood and the document affirming marriage is incomplete.
An Islamic marriage is not just a certificate from your government affirming your commitment to your spouse. It is a legally binding contract with specific rights and responsibilities of each party. It is a kind of prenuptial agreement that is obligatory.
Similarly, the motivation for marriage in Islam is not what modern thinkers imagine. Marriage is for the human being to find peace and tranquility:
And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21)
Even if you are not a religious person, Islam employs practical and realistic approach to life, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.