October 2019

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people maybe to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

1. Work on yourself: You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Make amends and take actions of love to improve your ties with them if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterwards. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you have a snoring problem, get it checked out. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a mental health professional. Bottomline is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process: Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only thing you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on and manage everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions and multitasking, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving: The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it: Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility of someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

5. Work to bridge religious differences: One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgement about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partners’; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s: If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no baraka in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness: The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft recited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learnt. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.


Written August 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man, regardless of possession of a good fortune, is in want of a wife – who is not his first cousin. New mobile applications such as Minder, Muzmatch, SalamSwipe and others are a potential remedy to the limiting options available for young Muslims to meet new people. So, if you’re a gentlemen caller out there looking to court your Elizabeth Bennett, here’s what you can expect to find.

1. The DAP i.e. The Desi American Princess
She loves wearing shalwar kameez; if her pictures are any indicator, that’s all she wears. You’ll see her pose by the grand staircase of her double garage house in a suburb of California, Chicago or Toronto. There is at least one picture of her at a Starbucks. Harry Potter is all she reads. Don’t dare ask her about cooking; her mom’s done that for her this whole time. Weddings are her favourite social outing. In fact, that’s the only reason she wants to get married – so she has date to take to her friends’ nonstop weddings. Just arrive galloping at her house on a white horse and you’ll win her over in no time.

2.The Traveler
All her pictures are somewhere abroad and she’s always carrying a massive backpack. She mainly wants to get married because her parents won’t let her travel alone and she’s sick of having to concoct excuses to leave town. If you need a roommate to cut back on travel costs for your next trip, she’s the one for you.

3. The Professional
Dark pinstripe suits are all she wears. There is usually a picture of her sending emails late at night. She makes far more money than you do and has no tolerance for insecure chauvinists; she’s probably a lawyer, doctor or an executive. Every morning she looks in the mirror and sees the next Amal Alamuddin. If you’re her George Clooney, go get her!

4. The Mipster
She’s too cool for you and way out of your league. Don’t even bother. She only wears ankle-length denim, bright tops and white converse shoes. You can’t tell if that’s a hijab, hat, toque or turban on her head – and never ask her what that is. She models part-time for Louella. Suhaib Webb is her favourite Imam. Ideally, she’d like to go to a Mumford and Sons concert for a night out. She’s probably organizing the next illMuslims event in your city; if you need cheap tickets, this is your girl.

5. The Niqabi
Sister, you are not getting how this app works….

6. The Academic
This one’s probably doing her Phd in Islamic studies at Harvard or McGill and is a self-described ‘sapiosexual’. Before going to bed, she likes to read Sayyid Hossein Nasr and René Guénon – en français, bien sûr. She does a khatm of the Study Quran every month – don’t ever criticize the perennialsim in that work in front of her. Tariq Ramadan and Jonathan Brown have already turned her down since they don’t do poly, so she’s willing to settle for you. You’ll disappoint her no matter what; just try not to be too boring. If you want to impress her, quote from Heidegger’s Being and Time and she just might respond to your message.

7. ‘Serious Inquiries Only’
One question: why so serious?

8.The Pious One
This girl feels guilty for just setting up an account on Minder; she seeks forgiveness every time she swipes. She couldn’t attend a seminary in Syria, so most of her time is now spent studying for Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s demanding online-classes at SeekersHub. She’s Hamza Yusuf biggest fan and goes to the Rihla every year. All her outfits were bought from Shukr. Her ideal soul mate has spent several years studying in a desert in Yemen, Mauritania or Morocco. If you’re a broke student of knowledge abroad, get to the nearest wifi spot and message her.

9. The Single Mom
This woman loves her kid, like a lot. That’s why she decided to put him in every single one of her pictures. No pressure though. She’s strong, independent and an excellent cook. She can smell a mama’s boy from miles away; so if you are one, don’t go near her or she’ll eat you alive. If you’re looking for a real adult, this one’s a keeper.

10. The Desperate One
Her profile usually goes like “Omg! Omg! I am 25 and still not married. All my friends have kids! I want to move out of my parent’s house… I don’t want to die alone…or be married to my cousin…save me…”

One word of advice: RUN!

11. The Uptown Girl
She’s tired of playing with her high class toys, and she’s looking for a downtown Muslim man – who preferably works on Wall Street. On religion, she describes herself has more ‘spiritual’ than ‘religious’. She probably went to NYU and SoHo is the only place where she shops. You can expect to spend a good chunk of your life at fashion shows, art galleries and operas with this one. She’s all about fine dining, so don’t go near those $5 shawarma parlours. If you want her to say ‘Yes’, just show up with a pair of Louboutin’s and you’ll be set.

12. The 18-year old
Alright kiddo, you need to finish high school first – get off this app!