What actually IS dating and what does it mean to the single Muslim looking for a spouse?
In the western world dating generally means an extended period of getting to know someone through frequent meetings, seeing where it goes, possibly living together and, if both parties are like-minded, knowing that it will probably result in marriage. One day. For the single Muslim looking for a spouse however, it doesn’t mean these things at all!
Like it or not, unchaperoned meetings between independent, like-minded Muslim men and women have become the way forward in choosing a spouse. But where do we set the boundaries that distinguish it from the western method of choosing a boyfriend and define it as a serious means of choosing a spouse?
Unfortunately it is this grey area in which much misunderstanding and hurt can occur.
A lot of Muslims belong to the strictly-no-meeting school of thought and prefer that interaction should not take place before marriage other than one preliminary chaperoned meeting to make a decision.
Then there are, what I believe, to be the most prominent group. Those ensconced somewhere in the middle between struggling to unite Islamic practice and living in the modern world. And yes I probably mean you.
Tell me if this sounds familiar..
You are deadly serious about marriage because as a Muslim that is what you want, that is your right and you are ready for the responsibilities.
However, as a single Muslim living in a modern world where you pretty much make most of your own decisions, you realise that in order to fulfill your dream there has to be a bit of give and take. And as much as you want to get married you cannot fathom the idea of making a decision based on one meeting alone.
So the plan is this: that you meet someone (whether online or otherwise), spend some time getting to know him/her (maybe a few weeks or months) and hopefully both of you will declare your intention and willingness to move forward and agree that you are right for each other and get married.
Essentially it is not dating in the western sense but a shorter period of getting to know someone through meeting and interacting with them, often unchaperoned, but generally in public, to decide whether or not you want to marry each other.
Whether you want to call it dating, purposeful meeting or just plain getting-to-know-him-her opportunities, it exists and, done correctly, it works! However, it is relatively new to our world and must be treated and defined as such.
We cannot turn to dating guides written by authors whose goals and timelines are different to ours or to the chick flicks and Bollywood movies that only create a fantasy instead of guiding you to the reality of life as a single Muslim in search of commitment.
We, as single Muslims, must empower ourselves to define what it means to “date” and ensure that the people we meet are on board with this new concept to our community and respect its boundaries. We need to learn the skills to help us navigate this new arena and ensure that we are in a place to be making informed decisions. And most of all we need support and guidance when actually “dating” to lead us towards our goal of getting married!