Believers are urged to be cognisant of their own mortality. It sounds morbid, but in fact can be the exact opposite: recognising that life is transient can be the most freeing realisation we can ever come to. This is especially the case when it comes to relationships. In my last post, I spoke about competition for spouses. It’s an icky topic and not one I particularly enjoy speaking about, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less important than other, ‘fluffier’ concerns. In fact, the topics that make our skin crawl are often the most pressing and immediate.
Yes, competition does exist. It’s downright silly to be a climate change sceptic when its by-products are felt on the skin and in the air i.e. they affect us in tangible ways, regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Conditions are certainly not conducive to meeting a partner when:
a.) the overwhelming majority of the population are off-limits
For those of us who live in countries with overwhelmingly non-Muslim populations, 99% of the people we meet are not potential partners, as cool as they are to discuss stuff over the water cooler with.
b.) the opportunities to meet eligible people of the opposite sex are scarce
I don’t want to weigh into the segregation debate because it’s a topic far too heavy (yes, I did go there-lame) for the likes of me, but in practical terms there are few opportunities for Muslim men and women to even converse. The flip-side of this issue is when Muslim men and women begin to mix so closely and on such friendly terms that marriage doesn’t even enter the equation, as is the case amongst in some circles. Neither set of conditions provides fertile soil for the seeds of romantic interest to grow and blossom into fruition.
c.) let’s not even speak about opportunities, do Muslims of the opposite sex even exist? (as the popular catch-cry goes)
For some, it’s not a question of opportunity: they’ve begun to doubt that people of the opposite sex even exist in equal number or quality. They haven’t seen evidence of it, and have stopped waiting to be proven wrong. They’re more hopeful of encountering a dodo (and a flying one, at that) than a ‘decent’ man/woman.
If this was where the narrative ended, we’d all be tearing our hijabs and kufis off in despair. We certainly shouldn’t, given the hopeful state a believer is meant to uphold, but it’s all too understandable, this fear of being forever alone. The strange truth of modern life is that for all our means of staying ‘connected’, true connections feel more tenuous and elusive than ever. The worst type of loneliness is that which we feel when standing in the middle of a crowd, and there’s no escaping the crowd in today’s world, whether on Facebook, Twitter or the multitude of annoying Whatsapp groups.
So where do we go from here? Do we all clamber over each other like wild beasts whenever someone half-decent pops up? Do we simply give up and wait for ‘fate’ to take its course? There must be a space in-between, surely. A space between fear and hope, between action and passivity. A space which allows us to be open to giving our heart to someone, but closed enough to maintain our sense of self-worth. A space in which we recognise the Divine as sufficient, but human company as the greatest comfort of this world. A space where we can laugh at the absurdity of it all, (c’mon, as if the phrase ‘getting to know someone’ doesn’t make you laugh too) but still maintain the sanctity of our feelings and the feelings of others.
All this may sound wishy-washy and idealistic in the face of the tedious, painful slog many people face on the path to marriage, but let’s put things into perspective. I’m not advocating we all adopt a meek, resigned form of fatalism; I truly believe that we’re meant to get right in there and tie that smelly old camel. But we should do so with regard to that middle ground. In real-world terms, this means giving someone a go where no obvious incompatibilities exist. It means not waiting for that state of mythical ‘readiness’, but saving our pennies for the fridge and dryer we might need one day.
When we’ve tried and tried and it still hasn’t worked out, it’s not unexpected that we bang our heads against the hardest object we can stand. (For most of us, this is our long-suffering pillow.) Once we’ve exhausted this option, we can tell ourselves that life is transient and that whatever was meant for us would never have missed us. All these platitudes are no less true for all that they’re clichéd. And if they help us get to that space between InshaAllah i.e, I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure this one works out and Alhamdulillah i.e. you know what, I’m cool either way as long as I have my faith, family and those Nutella jars, then I think we might just be doing okay.