Mariam Adam explores how Modern Muslim Women approach finding a partner while living in the West.
In recent decades, Muslim marriage practices in the West have evolved and changed considerably, especially when it comes to arranged marriage. Today, most second- and third-generation British Muslims, particularly women, pursue higher education, resulting in increased independence of thought and action. The days are long gone when matchmakers and gossipy aunts were adamant that a Muslim man should wed a less educated women, yet recent research has shown that many educated British Muslim women are experiencing difficulties in attracting suitable partners.
Although the end goal for marriage has remained the same—everyone wants to be happy and experience a loving, caring relationship—the order of events has shifted a bit. Whereas previous generations expected love to come after a successful arranged marriage, today’s women are seeking to fall in love before they marry or at the very least meet their prospective partner beforehand. Today’s relationships establish a connection, then get into the important life details—how much does he earn? Does he want to live with his parents or in his own place? How many children does he want?
One example of how modern women often approach marriage today can be found in Massoma, a professional lawyer and a practicing Muslim in her mid-30s. She’s been searching for a marriage partner since her early 20s and has rejected many suitors who were educated and held professional jobs. Many of them she refused after meeting them in a halal environment or after a few meetings, all because she didn’t feel that she connected with them. This elusive connection, which her friends interpreted as “butterflies in her stomach,” has not yet happened, and so Massoma is still searching.
Today, most women of all backgrounds want not only a marriage partner, but also someone who is a friend and companion. Many Muslim women have a difficult task achieving this—many do not want a groom from their parents’ country but rather desire a partner who has been brought up in the West and is therefore culturally compatible.
But it’s not just living in the West that has liberated these women and led them to demand equal partnership in marriage versus the traditional male-dominant relationship. Most of them also are well versed in the quran and hadith and can point out many examples of how the Prophet (s) not only carried out his duties outside the home but also helped his wives with household chores and was always supportive and fair.
As the task to find a suitable life partner becomes more of a struggle, matrimonial websites have blossomed and are particularly popular with younger men and women. Although these sites have brought about some successful unions, there also have been reported complaints about disastrous or awkward encounters.
With all the struggles, there are also many success stories which give a hope to those who seek a potential partner.
Saverah Women Team meets some young married women in U.K. and explores how they met their partners.
Whereas previous generations expected love to come after a successful arranged marriage, today’s women are seeking to fall in love before they marry or at the very least meet their prospective partner beforehand.
Saima Bhatt, married to Nadeem Khan
“My first marriage was to a distant relative back home who had been introduced to me by my parents. It started as a happy marriage and he was kind and considerate, but it later emerged that he had been having an affair. This devastated me, and I decided to end my 15-year-old marriage. I left my job and started a new career and kept myself socially active. While I was in the process of piecing my life together, I went on a charity trek in Scotland, and I met Nadeem, who also had been recently divorced. We got on really well, became good friends, and then Nadeem popped the question. I was so happy to have found someone I had a lot in common with. Now we are happily married and have a son.”
Come out of your comfort
zone & keep socially active
Saleha Imam, married to Imran Shareef
“I met Imran at university, where I got to know him a bit more as a friend. Even though I liked him, I never thought I would end up marrying him. They do say that destiny plays a part, and in our case it did. We ended up working in the same place, and it was at work where we resumed our friendship and I realised I had feelings for him. I approached him with a marriage proposal. Imran was always the shy type, and it took him some time to decide. We are happily married now, and have three kids.”
Sometimes you may have
zone & to take the first step
Farina Sardar, married to Kareem Altaf
“After university, my parents put on the pressure to get married. It was at my new job where I met Kareem—he was in another department. He would make excuses to come to my department so he could see me, and soon we became friends. However, he had already made it clear he was looking to marry. He proposed to me, and I told him I had to first consult my parents. Today, we are happily married and still working in the same company.”
Workplace – keep your
Ayesha Dani, married to Kamran Ahmed
“After a first marriage that didn’t go well, I was left as a single woman with a 1-year-old daughter. I went back to live with my parents and moved on bringing up my daughter. It was through my family that I met Kamran. He was from Pakistan and we instantly liked each other. Our families were very happy, and encouraged us to get married. Kamran moved to the U.K., and we got married in a small ceremony surrounded by our family and friends. We are happily married and have a son who is greatly loved, especially by his older sister.”
Parents & family friends can
introduce potential partners.
Layla Hassan, married to Hayder Ali
“I saw him at college when I was 17 years old. I liked him, so I asked my friend to find out more about him, but he was not responsive and was rather shy, although he liked to act tough. Soon he left to move to another college, and I thought I would never meet him again. When I was in my last year at university, I was having a religious discussion on Facebook with some friends, and I started chatting to Hayder, not knowing he was the same boy I met a few years ago. When he posted his picture, I suddenly realised who he was. We eventually became friends, as he was very knowledgeable about Islam and I was always asking questions. He told me he was interested in getting married and didn’t believe in having girlfriends. We met each other’s parents and then got married in a small family ceremony. We are both very happy and plan to have many kids.”
Social media (using it in a
right and safe way)
“I met Imran at university, where I got to know him a bit more as a friend. Even though I liked him, I never thought I would end up marrying him.”
Saira Hakim, married to Kahn Bahadur
“At the age of 20 my father had introduced me to a man he found in a marriage advert. Initially I had no interest in this proposal as I had feelings for my classmate, but had no courage to face my parent’s anger. In a few days, my marriage was arranged, and I was forced to marry the man he had chosen.
Initially I was not happy in the marriage as I did find it difficult to accept my husband and vice versa. However, as time passed I grew to love him and my husband showed the same warmth. Hearts changed and things got better. It is said Allah works in mysterious ways, which is true, because today I have a blissful life, a doting husband and lovely kids. We have a successful business, and get to travel frequently.”
Have trust in the higher
authority and give people a chance.