Of the Muslim parents I know, the overwhelming majority seem to have had ‘arranged’ marriages. This could mean anything from marrying someone they met once or twice before the wedding to simply being introduced by a mutual friend and proceeding from there with a relatively low level of familial interference. When things are done in this way, the lines are, for the most part, clearly delineated. The parents on both sides are fully aware of what is going on and the potential suitor comes in through the front door from the outset.
However, this is not always the case for their children growing up in Australia and elsewhere. People are meeting of their own accord away from their living room, whether it’s at community events or through the university MSA. When people meet in this way, the question must be asked: when should he knock on your front door? This leads to two very common scenarios arising:
1.) The ‘Let’s Do Things The Right Way’ couple
These two may have conversed on a casual level at Muslim community events and may have engaged in some friendly yet restrained online contact. But once interest has been formally expressed, they will proceed almost immediately to the doorknock. Online contact may continue simultaneously, but this will be kept to a minimum and will have some degree of formality.
For this scenario to work, both parties must be in a position to introduce the idea to their parents. If the guy isn’t seen as financially stable, he’ll have to be extremely stubborn to get his parents to come on board at this stage. If he doesn’t receive the okay from his parents, he will be unable to proceed to doorknock stage immediately and the couple’s social status will be in limbo. In theory he can come doorknocking without his parents, but this rarely happens. More commonly, the couple will now find themselves in category 2.
2.) The ‘Let’s Wait and See’ couple
This couple may have met in the same way as couple 1, but for some reason they are unable to proceed to doorknock stage right away due to anticipated or actual parental disapproval. This is particularly the case where the couple are from different ethnic backgrounds; this type of couple will often try and bring their parents around to the idea gradually rather than risk an all-out fight. Parental disapproval will also be commonly anticipated where the male is considered to be too young and financially unstable to consider marriage. In this case, the couple will often introduce the idea to their parents and then play the waiting game until he finishes university or obtains a job his and/or her parents deem to be sufficient.
Of course, where the couple are both from different ethnic backgrounds AND considered too young, this will only compound the anticipated parental opposition. These types of couples may wait years for the parental sanctions to be lifted. Their biggest concerns in the meantime? First and foremost, how to keep it Halal, and secondly, how to sell their story to the Muslim community i.e. to use Facebook terms, are they ‘engaged’, ‘in a relationship’ or ‘it’s complicated’?
What do you guys think? If a guy cannot proceed to doorknock stage from the outset, is the whole thing doomed to failure?