Anonymous question I received: Is it ok for the female to be the one to initiate the getting-to-know-each-other-for-marital-purposes ok? E.g A (male) and Z (female) have known each other for X amount of years as acquaintances, they get along really well when they see each other occasionally. They are both now grown up and Z feels that A might possibly be the one. But she never knows how A might react to the idea. Z keeps rejecting other males as she feels they don’t live up to A’s standards. Should Z just do what Khadijah (RA) had the courage to do and see if A would be willing to go down that path?
Recently I heard a story I found rather sad. A friend of a friend (you know how it is in the Muslim community) had been pursuing a guy by sending him messages across various mediums. At no point did she express outright interest, but her intentions were clear: ‘I like you, let’s make this happen.’ But the guy in question was instantly turned off by her behaviour. Even though he admitted to friends that under ordinary circumstances he would’ve been interested in her, he found her obvious interest in him unattractive. He quickly slotted her into the ‘desperate’ category, following which he made an equally quick run for the door.
When I heard this story, I immediately wondered how much of his distaste was due to the simple fact that he wasn’t used to the idea of a girl taking the initiative. We all know the story about Khadija (ra), so it’s not like the idea is alien to Islamic practice. But while many Muslim guys will say that in theory they’re fine with the girl expressing interest, this isn’t always the case in practice. If a girl does like a guy, she’s often expected to wait for him to make the first move. If she even implicitly expresses interest, she runs the risk of scaring him off as well as attracting a reputation amongst both guys and girls for being desperate.
I find this state of affairs sad and rather silly. Are girls supposed to sit at home, waiting for Prince Charming to throw a pebble against their window? (‘Rapunzel, let down your hijab!’) Surely we’ve moved beyond that. Or maybe we’ve regressed, if the example of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is anything to go by. If he, the best of creation, could marry a wealthy older woman who happened to be his employer and who also happened to initiate things between them, who are we to object? Strong, empowered, gutsy women are the opposite of desperate, but not in the eyes of the community it seems.
I certainly don’t mean to bag out Muslim guys here, because the problem isn’t one-sided. Many girls expect guys to do all the leg-work, but reject those who fall short of their criteria in one fell swoop. It can be a very cruel business. I can understand why some guys give up all hope of ever finding a girl who’ll simply accept him and not make him jump through a thousand hoops just to have a shot with her. Guys are also not immune to being slapped with the desperate label; they usually get it if they make the ‘mistake’ of looking to get married before society thinks they’re up to the job. It also appears that if you’re good-looking, you’re allowed to express interest without reservation. The implication is that a good-looking person can never be desperate because they can get someone at the click of a finger.
I think that the idea of someone being desperate, whether male or female, is one that needs to go. So what if someone makes it known that they want to get married? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Of course I’m not suggesting indulging in stalkerish behaviour, (like the one guy I heard of who sent the same message to three different girls after meeting them at an Islamic event) but I don’t think that anybody should be called out on making it known that they’re wanting to get married. If they meet someone they like, why not take that extra step and see if anything could eventuate? Even if the person doesn’t reciprocate, they should at least respect the initiator for putting their heart on the line.
The issue of girls being expected to sit back and wait for Prince Charming isn’t even Muslim-specific. I’ve read so many relationships columns based on exactly these sorts of notions. ‘Play hard to get’, they say. ‘Let him make the first move’. It’s all a bit depressing. But for Muslim girls, the concerns of modesty and propriety are always paramount, which adds another dimension to this issue. But pursuing a guy needn’t be immodest. Let’s take a look at 3 common approaches:
1.) The Upfront Approach
This one goes straight for the kill, no messing around. Marriage is a serious business after all, so why not get right in there and cut to the chase? But beware: I’ve heard of this horribly backfiring, so only the very thick-skinned should opt for this one.
2.) The Slow and Subtle Approach
This one requires a bit of creativity and a deft touch. Too little, and the interest will be imperceptible, too much and the desperate stamp will come banging down. Basically, it requires the girl to demonstrate that she is that tiny bit more inclined towards the guy in question than she is towards others. It’s in the salaams, the slight smiles offered and the gentle humour. In this way, she in fact induces him to make the first move without him being fully aware of it. Check this nasheed out for some hilariously corny inspiration:
3.) The Third Party Approach
This is probably the easiest and least confronting. Get a mutual friend to do the sussing out-you can even do it without revealing that you’re interested by making it seem like it’s the friend’s idea. That way, if the guy isn’t interested, it’s less awkward for all parties involved.
So in answer to the question, in my very humble opinion there’s certainly nothing wrong with a girl expressing interest in someone for marriage purposes. Weigh up the risks involved and if you feel he’s worth it, then go for it. But be careful about how you go about it so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Do you think ‘let him make the first move’ is outdated? Guys, do you think a girl should leave it to you to do the initiating?