What does a Muslim do when they like someone?

I have a few friends who managed to avoid any serious entanglements of the heart. Some did so intentionally because they believed that a Muslim should be in control of their feelings and not allow themselves to like someone. Some did so by chance; they simply never met anyone who caught their eye and so opted for the ‘traditional’ route I described in my last post.

But the majority of Muslims, like most people, have experienced the feeling of being romantically interested in someone. The sweaty palms, the averted gazes. (Muslims are the masters of gaze-averting under normal circumstances, but when we like someone it’s even harder to look them in the eye than usual.) The earth-shattering thump of the heart. The desire to know every little detail about the person, down to their favourite colour and whether they like their steak medium or well done. But once a Muslim knows they like someone, what on earth do they do about it?

The answer to this question is largely dependent on several factors.  The first of these is the level of conservatism of the parties involved. If you think you can dismiss people at the most conservative end of the spectrum from the world of romantic entanglements, think again. Humans are humans. Just because someone doesn’t interact much with the opposite sex doesn’t mean they’re any less susceptible to forming a romantic attachment. In fact, these people are particularly susceptible to interest of the mooning over variety. (Fleeting glimpses and prolonged gaze-averting tends to have that effect.) Their conservatism just means they’ll go about things a bit differently.

If a person from the most conservative end of the spectrum does develop a romantic interest in someone, they’ll be sure to keep it well-hidden. They’ll be well-aware that in some circles admitting that you like someone is akin to admitting to shoplifting, the underlying assumption being that good Muslims are above such things. Therefore, in person they’ll maintain their usual level of decorum despite the butterflies on speed roaming around their belly. In the meantime, they’ll analyse their interest and ask themselves: is this really someone I can see as a future spouse? Do they have the requisite qualities, or is this just a silly crush? If the answer is in the negative to both, they’ll quietly file the episode away in their mental cabinet. If they’re sufficiently disciplined, they’ll file it so far back that it’ll give them no further cause for concern.

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If they do decide that their feelings align with rational box-ticking, they’ll proceed as though the feelings were never a significant factor to begin with. (As I mentioned above, they won’t want anyone to think less of them for being in love. In fact, they probably dislike thinking of their interest in those terms even in the privacy of their own brain.) If they approach the person, it’ll be in measured, formal tones. In many cases they’ll enlist the aid of a third party to convey their interest, which they’ll have watered down so much that the girl in question won’t know any more than ‘this brother thinks you’re a good sister’. Thereafter, the process tends to take on a life of its own independent of any feelings which may have sparked it off. Those feelings will only come to the fore once the contract is signed, sealed and delivered.

For Muslims who are somewhere in the middle , things get very confusing. These Muslims tend to have a bit more contact with the opposite sex, which opens the door to all sorts of covert activities of the does-he-like-me variety. Cue the Facebook stalking, the online banter and the awkward in-person chitchat at Islamic events and classes. The main purpose of all these activities will be to gauge the other party’s level of conservatism. If they appear to be the type who is generally open and friendly with the opposite sex, it’s very difficult to discern whether they return your interest or whether they’re just being themselves. I’ve seen disastrous things go down where A likes B and thinks B likes them too because they talk regularly, but all B was doing was being their friendly self.

If one of these middle-of-the-spectrum Muslims does start to like someone, they’ll suss it out by being slightly friendlier than usual. They’ll be careful not to overdo it. That way, they can make a quiet exit if it appears the person doesn’t share their feelings. They’ll linger slightly in conversations, drag a necessary PM exchange out for a just a tad longer than the topic requires and laugh just that little bit more at their jokes. If the person responds in an equally friendly manner, they’ll keep going. But the interest can remain unspoken for a long time. Even where the parties are constantly talking online or have even exchanged a few text messages and phone calls, someone still needs to express outright interest.

The way this can happen ranges from the subtle to the hammer-blunt. ‘What’s going on here?’ is a common one. The translation of that from Muslim-speak into normal English is: ‘We’re talking all the time, and both of us are single. If you’re not going to take it any further, stop wasting my time, buddy.’ The blunt approach includes simply asking ‘Are you interested in me?’ or ‘What are your intentions in talking to me?’ Placing the focus on intention often makes the other person feel guilty; if they weren’t actually interested in the person they may feel as though they led them on. This is where levels of conservatism come into play again. If both parties are fairly liberal, they may feel free to have frequent interactions with neither party interpreting it as a sign of romantic interest. But for everyone else, regular interaction without a concrete purpose means only one thing.

Another factor I should mention which influences if and how people will act on their feelings is their perceived readiness for marriage. If they feel unready, they’re a lot more likely to keep their interest to themselves unless it’s burning a hole in their stomach with its intensity. But if nothing’s stopping them from getting married, they’ll most likely just go for it, either by telling the person or getting someone else to do the job for them. Circumstance plays a huge part in governing feelings due to the simple reason that Muslims don’t date. Therefore, it’s all or nothing. If a Muslim likes someone and decides to act on it, they have to be prepared to go the whole hog and get married if the getting-to-know-you game works out. This understandably makes a little crush or romantic inclination a lot more serious.

If you liked someone, what would you do about it? Do you think feelings should play a significant part in determining whether to get to know someone?

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13 responses to “What does a Muslim do when they like someone?

  1. What does a Muslim do when they like a non-Muslim?! Muslim hijabi that is…I think give up; what do you think?

  2. Thanks- I commented

  3. So here’s what I did. I (a boy, early 20’s) am by nature quite friendly, and while conservative, have had Fb exchanges with a couple girls. I can’t explain why necessarily, it was nothing serious and to myself I thought it was innocent, but then again I probably wouldn’t have had slightly drawn out conversations with my male friends. One day I sat down and forced myself to write down what my intentions were with such activity and such interaction. I made myself write down what I want in a spouse (maybe a bit purposefully ambitious!) and thus declared the people I was talking to incompatible.

    This was not an exercise in arrogance, it was an exercise in self-discipline – I don’t have reason for the interaction, and when I found the human interest kicking in (when I saw their name I’d get the feeling of looking for an excuse to chat) I realised it’s time to get out, especially in case it felt as if I was leading them on. I now have more limited interaction with girls outside of professionalism/activism, and I am getting on very well thank you very much. If someone ticks your boxes, then I wouldn’t mind this interest building up a bit, provided you have the intention to throw in the “what’s going on here” early enough before someone else gets in! Otherwise, sad times all round.

    • That’s a really interesting exercise! Often we fool ourselves into thinking interactions are ‘innocent’ as you said but when you really question yourself, you find that often there is a possibility of something eventuating in the back of your mind. It’s good to not let things get too far so as to avoid hurting people’s feelings, and also from an Islamic perspective, staying within the boundaries of what is appropriate.

  4. I am also in my early 20s Z, and I am desperate for love and romance. I’ve dated seriously twice before, and because it’s wrong, in both cases the results were disastrous. I’ve also been in the sort of situation you’ve described… I chatted with a girl for three years and eventually before I stated any interest someone else had come in and I was unaware! It was horrible man. I completely thought she felt the same way! We seemed a very good fit! By the time I bided and her dating with the particular person (who himself is now a good friend of mine) had ended, I hastily moved again but she just didn’t like me. I then said terrible things about myself out of despair and seemingly abandoned the chase.

    Months later I picked up again, and her response was the same. I tried to get her friend to intervene and the friend advised me to stop. Eventually I went FULL FORCE! Sending “romantic” gestures, cute notes, drawings, and chocolate… and eventually, out of guilt, she admitted that she was dating another AGAIN! I pleaded and pleaded for that to end, promising to try my hardest to marry her. And to be honest I would have. I had always wanted to marry her. Of course she did not believe me and told me that the other fella promised the same thing too. Eventually I gave up and ended our friendship, to her great dismay. It was after these events that I dated twice, both of which had disastrous results.

    Now currently I am emotionally and spiritually healthier. I have promised to never date again, as I suffered the fate myself. I truly believe I am one of those people that Allah loves and Himself protects from sin, so I hope I shall make it until marriage. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a possibility of marriage anytime soon, for I am quite poor and the parents are not much well off either. I also have four unmarried older male siblings.

    So I am in a situation where I have a ‘crush’ on almost every pretty girl I see and I have to suppress it all of the time. Meeting a nice girl is always bitter sweet for me, for I like to be around nice and beautiful people but I also know I shall only be hurt because I would inevitably develop a feeling or a desire but would not be able to do much about it. With morally loose girls (several where I am from) there is also a frustration because there is always a window of possibility of doing wrong.

    I have devoted myself to my Qur’anic and personal education and self-growth. I only hope that there shall be a solution soon.

    • That’s really sad, it’s hard when you think your feelings are returned but the other person’s intentions are purely platonic. It can be very confusing because as I mentioned, Muslims tend not to have close friendships with members of the opposite sex and so when someone seems super friendly you start to think ‘wait a second, what’s going on here?’ when in fact they really have no feelings for you whatsoever!
      It’s hard being in a position where you want that companionship but you’re unable to get it because of your circumstances. Are there any ways to negotiate around it? Here in Australia it’s quite common for young people who aren’t financially ready yet to do the nikah and not live together until they’re in a position to.
      InshaAllah you keep up with your personal development and focus on improving yourself, but no harm done in keeping an eye open either for a potential spouse! It’s difficult though as you mentioned to not cross the line when you’re faced with temptation, and may Allah swt make it easier for you and everyone else in this situation. It’s certainly a struggle! But you’re not alone bro, it’s the same across the world for young Muslims 🙂

    • And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and being so honest about your struggles 🙂

  5. Assalamulaikum Z,

    I wanted to comment to mention how much I enjoy this blog; very well written mA. I think articles such as this hit the spot. Not because they are entirely accurate but in the sense it provide lots of food for thought. I really like how, while there is a strong attempt to be as balanced as possible, issues such as conservative Muslims being madly in love and (in)sincerity of social media posts/interactions are frankly stated.

    There are a few articles where there are definitely points don’t exactly work in the way you expressed but I think if the reader regardless has a lot to benefit.

    It is even a little scary how much thought you’ve given some of these things….
    Do sisters talks about this all day long?
    (brothers from my experience don’t really discuss it much but almost never fail to mention/hint at marriage)

    • Wa alaykum salam, thank you so much! I’m sure there are many things I have omitted or overstated but as you said, I hope to give people a starting point to reflect on their own circumstances.
      As for your question, a lot of girls do discuss these things on a frequent basis. But since this is my special interest I do it a lot more than others I daresay! I’ve heard that brothers don’t tend to openly discuss it as much but it’s always lurking in the background as you said.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and glad you enjoy reading 🙂

  6. OK so this is one of the most creepily accurate love&marriage-related things I’ve read online. Notably, description of the conservative approach (hilarious, but spot on), and the 2nd from last paragraph re readiness – except it’s that she (as a girl) is “ready”, I am (financially) not, as still studying (despite being slightly older than her -,-)!

    On the note of readiness, I’d request you to do your Love Haqtually research and throw out something on marriages at university. You must know one or two who took that plunge? Something on their experiences would be valuable.

    • ‘Creepily accurate’-that’s a cool compliment!
      Yes, I do actually! From what I’ve observed, it’s challenging and requires a great deal of maturity on both parts, but there’s also a great deal of Barakah in it when intentions are correct.

  7. I married when both my wife and I are at university. It was done rather hastily and inappropriate on both our parts. He were are, a decade later with a number of children, divorced and went our separate ways. In hindsight, it was probably punishment by Allah for our actions when we initiated the marriage. I think both of us did not have the right intention. She wanted out of a precarious family situation and I just wanted to do the right thing after dating her. It is important to have the right intentions and to have Taqwa which we sadly lacked at the time.

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