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Unsolicited: Online Sexual Harassment Poisons Social Media For Sisters In Faith

The vast majority of Muslim men will be horrified by these stories and recognize how inappropriate and un-Islamic it is to contact any woman in a manner that is offensive or vulgar.

Muslim woman on laptop sexual harassment
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By Laura El Alam

When Grace* started posting inspirational videos and articles on her public Facebook page, her intention was to reach a non-Muslim audience and show them the beauty of Islam.  After all, as a former agnostic who had considered organized religions “distasteful,” she could understand the mindset of many fellow Americans who were suspicious of – or misinformed about- Islam.  In her posts, Grace shared the story of her conversion to Islam, highlighted lessons from the Qur’an, talked about the pillars of faith, and generally tried to make Islam more accessible and comprehensible to non-Muslims.  While potentially thousands of non-Muslims benefited from her educational material, her noble efforts were derailed by an unlikely source: Muslim men. 

In public comments and private messages, Grace found herself receiving a surprising amount of unsolicited flirting, sexual comments and images, and even threats.  “All of this made me realize I couldn’t reach my target audience on social media,” explains Grace. “Nearly all the followers I was getting were Muslim men! I have 3,000 likes, and most are Muslim men. My target audience was non-Muslims, but Muslim men sabotaged my efforts and embarrassed me publicly through comments. It was frustrating and disheartening.” 

Perhaps she might have ignored and blocked the annoying messages and persevered in her mission, but one man took his online assault to another level.  He began stalking Grace (who blocked him), then her husband (who also blocked him), and finally her parents (who were shocked and terrified). Through online messages to all of those people, he called Grace vile names, sent explicit photos, and unleashed words that were both angry and sexual. It caused Grace and her entire family an enormous amount of stress and anger.  “My parents were so shaken up that once they found mysterious cigarette butts behind their house and they truly thought the guy had come to their house and was outside it at night smoking cigarettes.”

After the ordeal, Grace’s husband stopped supporting her online dawah efforts. “My husband didn’t like me being a public presence,” she said. “He asked me to stop making videos because he felt it was soliciting unwanted attention. He clearly put the onus on me. He didn’t shame me or anything overt, but in his mind, my face being in the public was the obvious reason I was receiving unwanted and inappropriate attention and contact.”

Some people might think that Grace’s example is an extreme one. Surely not every Muslimah who has a social media presence experiences such offensive treatment from Muslim men or people pretending to be Muslim men?

Unfortunately, the phenomenon is extremely common. Umm Ibrahim of the United Kingdom is another example of a Muslimah who found online sexual harassment in an unlikely place:  an Islamic website.  “I’ve seen messages of a highly sexual nature sent to an Islamic page which I help admin,” she reports.  “A few times I have encountered men posing as women in order to have chats of a sensitive nature with other women. They will pose as a woman having marital problems and will ask to have a chat via Messenger. Usually, this chat will ask for advice regarding intimacy.”

In addition to being an administrator of a website, Umm Ibrahim is also a writer. “If I have been involved in an online discussion or if I have had an article published, I can anticipate an increase in messages,” she says.   “Discovering the spam folder on Facebook Messenger was somewhat of a revelation. I had dozens of messages from Muslim men asking to chat, asking if I was married, and asking if I was interested in getting married. I also get a lot of friend requests from men. They are always Muslim men, based on name and location.”

Professional writer Ameera* shares a similar story.  “I never used to receive unsolicited messages from Muslim men until I started having articles published on Islamic websites,” she says.  “Suddenly, shortly after my first article was published, my inbox was full of men wanting to ‘discuss Islam with me,’ ‘ask me a few questions,’ or compliment me on my hijab.  Unfortunately, it didn’t stop at flirtation. Once I opened a pending message that I thought was from a local Facebook buy and sell group, but this one particular message turned out to be a pornographic video sent by a man in Egypt, whose FB profile picture had words from the Qur’an! I closed and deleted the message immediately and blocked the man, but the disgusting image is seared in my brain.  I felt — and still, feel — violated.”

“I have received unwanted flirting and a lot of sexual innuendo from men I don’t even know,” confides Salama,* a 20-year-old graduate student in the United States. “I received messages from one person, specifically talking about how he wanted to have sex with me. Granted I didn’t even have any [profile] pics. He was a complete stranger. It was completely unwarranted. I cannot think of a particular reason for why I was targeted,” she adds. “I do know that he asked a simple question on a Muslim forum, and I answered it. I guess that’s when he decided it was okay to privately message me.” 

These anecdotes might seem like an indictment of Muslim men in general; however, I believe that those individuals who harass women online constitute a tiny minority of Muslim men. The vast majority of Muslim men will be horrified by these stories and recognize how inappropriate and un-Islamic it is to contact any woman in a manner that is offensive or vulgar.

Online sexual harassment is certainly not unique to the Muslim community. It is a global problem with women, universally, experiencing sexualized forms of abuse at much higher rates than men. According to a 2017 Online Harassment study by the Pew Research Center, “Some 21% of women ages 18 to 29 report being sexually harassed online, a figure that is more than double the share among men in the same age group (9%). In addition, roughly half (53%) of young women ages 18 to 29 say that someone has sent them explicit images they did not ask for.”

Muslims, whose religion’s main characteristic is modesty, should be completely disassociated with any form of depravity, online or in face-to-face interactions.  Such behavior is antithetical to our core beliefs, so it was with confusion and disappointment that I embarked upon this necessary but unpleasant exposé. 

Unfortunately, there are many brothers who, while condemning online harassment per se, still manage to place the blame anywhere but on their fellow men.  They are quick to assume that the woman in question has provoked the harassment in some way. When Muslim women speak up about being abused online, the primary response they receive is, “If you don’t want comments and messages from men, then don’t show your face online.”

This thinking is unfair for several reasons. First of all, even women who do not show their faces on social media still sometimes experience unsolicited and unwanted contact. As Salama points out, “It has been proven many times, that regardless of what a woman does, some men are just predatory and will use whatever opportunity they have to try to prey on her. Covered women get harassed. Women who haven’t posted profile pics have been harassed. Uncovered women get harassed. Women from all over the world have been harassed.”

Many Muslima women — including some of the world’s most esteemed female Islamic lecturers and scholars — choose to show their face on their website, videos, and promotional brochures. They may have various reasons for doing this — Allah knows best — but it is very likely that they use their image on marketing materials or websites for the same reason that many professional men do: consumers trust a product (lecture, book, article, blog, program) more if there is a human face associated with it. People want to see who is behind the words and ideas, and this is why most flyers for Islamic lectures show pictures of the speakers, and why most articles, blogs, and books show photographs of the authors. For Muslim women, showing one’s face online is hardly ever about seduction, temptation, or loose morals. After all, it is the same face we are revealing when we walk down a public street. 

Finally, there are many women who choose to show their faces online simply because they believe they should have as much of a right to feel safe and respected in the virtual world as they do in the real world. 

Of course, as Muslims, the responsibility is on each of us to obey our Creator’s guidelines.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded women to be modest, but He has commanded the same of men. A man who is tempted by a woman’s photograph — whether or not she is dressed according to Islamic mandates — should lower his gaze. If he purposely keeps looking — and more so if he takes inappropriate action — the sin is upon him. 

In one hadith from Al-Bukhari, we learn that the Prophet was traveling with a Companion named Al-Fadl, who was a handsome youth.  A young woman from the tribe of Khath’am approached, and Al-Fadl started looking at her because her beauty attracted him. The Prophet caught al-Fadl’s chin and turned his face so that he would stop gazing at her.

It is noteworthy that the Prophet did not scold the woman for showing her face in public, nor for being too attractive. With his impeccable manners, he wordlessly and gently instructed Al-Fadl on the correct action to take when tempted by a woman’s beauty. The onus for modesty was on Al-Fadl, not the woman from Khath’am, who had approached to ask the Prophet a question.  

As Grace explains, “Men should be held responsible for their actions and be recognized as creatures capable of self-control and morality. Women have a right to exist online as they do in the real world.  What’s shameful is that Muslim men still don’t follow the advice of the Prophet Muhammad when it comes to how they view and treat women. Women never deserve to be treated [as] objects or be blamed for the actions, feelings, or frailty of men’s character.” 

She concludes, “The idea that a woman speaking about Islam is an invitation for flirting, sexual innuendos, or stalking is so wrong I don’t even know how to describe it.”

This article, I am sure, will not solve the problem of online sexual harassment of Muslim women.  It will likely not be read by the men who engage in such behaviors, and I do realize that if they have the audacity to defy their Creator, they are certainly not going to listen to me.  However, I do hope that readers will take away a few key points:

  1.  If you are tempted to blame a woman for being harassed online, think deeply about who is really at fault.  Is there any justification for sending porn, threats, or inappropriate messages to a woman?  If you truly care about the safety and morality of Muslim women, you will call out the men who are behind the harassment and do whatever you can to educate yourself and others and/or oppose the behavior when you see it.
  2. If you have young Muslim women in your life, do not assume that they will not encounter inappropriate material or receive unsolicited communications just because they primarily visit Islamic websites.  In fact, these sites seem to be a breeding ground for Muslim perverts. Teach youngsters not to open filtered or suspicious messages and not to trust strangers online, even if they appear to be their brothers in faith.
  3. If you are a convert to Islam, be especially wary of any messages you receive from unknown Muslim men. It is best to delete and block without opening them. Know that some men prey on converts in particular. Be aware that a sincere Muslim would never send sexually suggestive images or messages to a stranger, and one who does will not be a suitable husband for you. 
  4. If you are a Muslim woman who is considering having an online presence for the purpose of dawah,  be aware that online sexual harassment is a likely occupational hazard. Set strict privacy filters whenever possible, avoid opening messages from unknown people, and be prepared to block, delete, and unfriend, unapologetically.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Laith Althary

    October 3, 2019 at 8:08 AM

    i think that is inapropriate by some muslim men.

    what sisters have to do in my own view, not to use videos,look upon the kind of dress,voiceless and write no men is allowed. i understand it is hard to escape from these kind of goats in the social media, but most of all keep on asking Allaah to protects you from all evil.

    may Allaah protects all.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 11:57 AM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Based on your comments, it sounds like you believe that Muslim women should not use their voices or videos on social media. As I said in the article, I find it interesting that so many Muslim men put the responsibility squarely on women to limit themselves in ways that Islam does not even command. While there are definitely standards of “haya” or modesty that ALL Muslims, male and female, are required to observe, there is no ruling against a woman speaking in a mixed audience or videotaping herself in an appropriate way. What is wrong with a Muslim woman giving a lecture online, for instance?

  2. Avatar

    Mustafa

    October 3, 2019 at 8:47 AM

    “Many Muslimas — including some of the world’s most esteemed female Islamic lecturers and scholars — choose to show their face on their website, videos, and promotional brochures. They may have various reasons for doing this — Allah knows best — but it is very likely that they use their image on marketing materials or websites for the same reason that many professional men do: consumers trust a product (lecture, book, article, blog, program) more if there is a human face associated with it. People want to see who is behind the words and ideas, and this is why most flyers for Islamic lectures show pictures of the speakers, and why most articles, blogs, and books show photographs of the authors. For Muslim women, showing one’s face online is hardly ever about seduction, temptation, or loose morals. After all, it is the same face we are revealing when we walk down a public street. ”

    This is pretty far fetched. Why is it so often the promotional ads show Muslim women relative to Muslim men? The answer seems pretty obvious.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 11:58 AM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Can you please explain what part of that paragraph you find “far fetched?”

      • Avatar

        Mustafa

        October 3, 2019 at 12:49 PM

        There’s an obvious trend or whatever you want to call it of putting a young women on promotional material. Obviously different if she happens to be the one actually doing the teaching but how often is that the case? It doesn’t help to be delusional about it. A pretty young woman’s face even in hijab sells, and Islamic education in the west is basically a business. Businesses know what they’re doing.

        • Avatar

          Laura El Alam

          October 3, 2019 at 1:43 PM

          Brother, with all due respect, your comment applies to a different topic. My article is not about whether Muslim women are being used to sell or promote merchandise. It’s about Muslim women who use social media to give dawah, publish Islamic articles, give Islamic lectures, or comment on Islamic pages. Many of those women have received unsolicited and inappropriate contact from Muslim men. Some have been threatened, harassed, and sent pornographic images that they certainly did not ask for. I am trying to raise awareness of this particular problem.

          Perhaps you could write an article supporting your opinion. I don’t disagree that women — including Muslim women who wear hijab — are often objectified in order to sell things. But there is a difference between a woman choosing to show a photo of herself in which she is dressed in a way she considers modest and in accordance with Islam, and a woman having her image used without her consent to sell a product she doesn’t even endorse. One of my main points is that Muslim women– including those who choose to use their photo online –do not deserve to be harassed. I wish the emphasis could go back on the men who are doing the harassing, instead of the women who are being harassed.

          • Avatar

            Mustafa

            October 3, 2019 at 2:05 PM

            We live in the most oversexualized culture in the history of human cultures, ever. There is no accountability online, not really. Not only that, marriage for a myriad of reasons (one of them being bad men/husbands) is possibly more difficult then it ever has been in the Ummah history. Every worst combination has combined here.

            Exactly how successful do you think a message like this will be? Seems akin, but obviously a degree different, to telling people not to steal food during a famine.

  3. Avatar

    Laura El Alam

    October 3, 2019 at 4:31 PM

    Brother, to answer your question, “Exactly how successful do you think a message like this will be?” I can only say that all writers and journalists hope that their work will have some impact on the world. No, we absolutely cannot solve all the profound problems in the world, or even in our Ummah, but we must try to do what we can, within our power.

    As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When you see an evil act, you have to stop it with your hand. If you can’t, then at least speak out against it with your tongue. If you can’t, then at least you have to hate it with all your heart. And this is the weakest of faith.”

    I cannot change the over-sexualized culture we live in. I cannot force men to stop harassing women. But I can raise awareness of this problem, and I hope that through this article, I will accomplish a few things:

    1. Remove the stigma of reporting harassment — When a Muslim woman complains about being harassed, she is often blamed. People (often men, but also women) assume she was “asking for it” in some way. The women I interviewed were not flirting online, visiting inappropriate websites, posting seductive photos, or doing anything that compromised their modesty. On the contrary, they were actively involved in spreading the message of Islam, yet they still experienced sexual harassment. Perhaps my article will make some people think twice before blaming a woman who is harassed. Maybe they will listen to the sister’s story first and place the blame where it belongs — on the harasser.

    2. InshaAllah some Islamic teachers, lecturers, or imams will read this article and realize that online sexual harassment is a genuine, widespread problem in our Ummah. They might give a khutba on the importance of modesty and adaab in social media. They might talk to the youth and remind them that Allah SWT sees what they do online just as He sees what they do in everyday life.

    3. I hope parents who read this will have a wake-up call about what happens online, even on Islamic websites (tragically).

    Writers’ words can potentially reach thousands upon thousands of people, and if Allah SWT believes their intentions are pure, then inshaAllah they are rewarded exponentially. I will not let defeatist thinking stop me from using my skills to try to make the world a slightly better place.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 6:36 PM

      And I would also like to add that NO woman deserves to be harassed, no matter how she is dressed.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa

      October 5, 2019 at 5:42 PM

      Woa nice answer

  4. Zeba Khan

    Zeba Khan

    October 3, 2019 at 7:01 PM

    To the people doubting the existence of this, or undermining the content of her piece please know this:

    I maintain a public Facebook page for the purposes of my work as at MuslimMatters.org, my public speaking, and special needs advocacy. My inbox is always INUNDATED – literally – flooded with notifications from people like Haji So-an-So with messages like “So cute flower,” phone numbers, and every possible misspelling of “I love you” imaginable.

    Instead of blaming Muslim women for daring to work publicly for the edification of the Ummah, or their business, or their hobbies, or the right to exist without being harassed, let’s be real. Some Muslim men behave badly. They need to behave better. Other Muslim men can help correct their behavior by:

    1. Holding them accountable for their own actions

    That’s literally it. You can’t fix a problem by refusing its due ownership.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 4, 2019 at 4:13 PM

      Thanks for letting me know. There was some good discussion going on, and then I saw how I was slandered by one brother, and the thrill was gone.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj Muhammad

        October 5, 2019 at 9:05 AM

        Appreciate you stopping by and responding. I think it’s good for everyone to hear those raw differences in real time and respond to one another’s difficult questioning about the others positions.

  5. Avatar

    Danielle

    October 4, 2019 at 8:03 PM

    Great article! Thank you for spreading awareness of this deep problem. I love the action items you have at the end. I feel bad that you had to do some explaining and sort of apologizing in your article. And even with that, the comments reflect the fragility and blindness some men seem to possess regarding this issue. I applaud you for writing this. May Allah ease the way for you and help you to continue to enrich the internet with your insights and important topics ❤️

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 4, 2019 at 8:26 PM

      Thank you so very much, sister! 💕 Your supportive words mean a great deal. May Allah SWT also bless you in your endeavors.

  6. Avatar

    Ussif

    October 4, 2019 at 9:48 PM

    Great article. I admire the courage of women that despite such harassment continue their work fi-sabbil-llah. Please continue to be vocal about this situation, it’s not acceptable in any way in our dine.
    I as a man stopped interacting in social media a long time ago, couldn’t handle all the negativity so I can’t imagine how bad it is for woman.
    Maybe this type of reminder against online or on life harassment would be more impactful in real life, in mosque or big Muslim convention.
    May Allah protect and strengthen your Iman.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 5, 2019 at 4:20 PM

      Ameen and thank you for your supportive words.

  7. Avatar

    Ahmad

    October 5, 2019 at 2:58 AM

    No doubt women suffer from this a lot more than men ever will. Hence why Allah has given us different guidelines. Hence why it is usually more encouraged for women to be home and let the man be the breadwinner. The outside world isn’t as safe for women as for men, and it will never be. Thats just the plain truth. The Internet itself is like the outside world, where you can interact with people from all over the world. I think women should continue to do as much good as they can wherever they are, but try to be realistic aswell. Don’t be over-idealistic. The reality is not always pretty and over-optimism never helps. If you know having a profile picture of your face will drag that many more lude comments to you, then perhaps remove it? Allah will deal with those that harm you, but do something to lessen the attention from them.

    For example, i study Uni from a distance. I will never choose campus over studying from a distance (from home) because i know campus reeks of imodest women that are looking for fitnah. No matter how much i curse the situation at campus, it won’t change, atleast not in a long run. So i will try to avoid those places and stay home and study from there.

    Barak Allah feeki for the article, it gives some insight to us men who don’t go through this as much.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 5, 2019 at 4:40 PM

      Asalaamu alaykum. I appreciate your perspective, brother. It’s nice to hear that you’re taking steps to minimize the temptation you feel at University by studying at home. We should all know our own limitations and weaknesses and act accordingly to protect our adherence to Islam, which it sounds like you’re doing, Alhamdullilah.

      Islam does not prohibit women from working, studying, and doing other necessary (or even enjoyable) things outside of their home. Women want to contribute their talents to the world, andthey should have the right to expect courtesy and respect from their brothers in faith, no matter where they are (in the street or online).

      The emphasis should not be on sisters taking more preventative steps (because we already do, and they don’t always work). The onus is on men to stop harassing. Pure and simple.

      Imagine this: a Muslim woman is giving a speech about Islam in an auditorium. There are men and women in the audience. Then, out of the blue, one man shoves a very innapropriate photo right in her face. Another man tells her he wants to have sex with her. Another man calls her vile names. She did nothing to provoke or invite their behavior.

      Would anyone just ignore or trivialize this scenario? No, it would be shocking and wrong. Everyone would condemn the men, right? Clearly the harassers are in the wrong; all she’s doing is giving a pious lecture. And yet, this happens ALL THE TIME on social media. Men do those exact same horrible things to Muslim women, and yet when the women complain, they are told that somehow they share the blame. That they need to be more careful, or less noticeable. Why?! Why is online harassment tolerated and blamed on women?!

      No, we are not naive to expect to be safe from harassment from our brothers in faith. In fact, Muslim men are required to be our defenders! We should absolutely be able to count on them to treat us as sisters with dignity. It is THEIR job to fix themselves, not ours.

  8. Avatar

    Faraz

    October 6, 2019 at 1:19 AM

    Assalamalaikum

    I pray for all your wellbeing.
    I usually dont comment but somethings i would like to point out. I keep on reading that responsibility/onus is on men. I think, as men, we do not deny that! Yes, men should lower their gaze. I do believe men are mostly to blame in this context. As you pointed out, those who want to be perverse dont need photos. We are not denying that.
    Yet at the same time women should not give opportunity for men to gawk or peek. Sometimes, as you mentioned there is the need to have a face to the author, scholar etc but quite often its not needed. As one commenter mentioned, picture of a young good looking woman on a poster or ad for some Islamic purpose is hardly Islamic. She is neither the author or scholar or anything yet she is the “cover photo” Its quite disheartening to come to an Islamic website or article or video and to be started up with a picture of a beautiful woman in “hijab” whats the point of that? Why? Isn’t it beating the purpose?
    Even if men who dont want to gawk and be perverse the image does have a negative impact, undeniably.
    And this goes for men as well! Posing and trying extra hard to appear attractive. Why? And Allah knows best the intentions!
    Once again, I have to reiterate that Yes quite often in these situations men are wrong. Yet to say that some women dont add fuel to the fire is disregarding the reality.

    Anyways this is my take. I might be wrong. I am open to being disagreed with and am open to alternative or opposing views
    🙂
    May Allah grant you all, all the best and May Allah purify our hearts!

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 6, 2019 at 12:43 PM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Brother, I know that “haya” or modesty is really something that many Muslims (male and female) lack these days. There are probably hundreds of reasons why men and women are interacting with less modesty online and in real life, and surely we are all compromising our own souls when we do this.

      I think it comes down to this. We are all accountable to Allah SWT for our actions. The woman who purposely seduces men will have to answer to her Rabb. The administratiors of Islamic companies or websites that use blatant sex appeal to get more clicks or customers will also have to answer for their actions. The Muslims who purposely watch material that they know will be full of inappropriate images are not fooling Allah SWT. In fact, many Muslims are making the problem exponentially worse by surrounding themselves with sexual material purposely, and then every single woman they look at — even if she’s covered — becomes an object of desire. It’s awful.

      There is no doubt that we are all surrounded by temptation every single time we open our computer, turn on TV, or swipe our phones. Men absolutely can count on being exposed to women they find attractive both online and in the street, and it may or may not be the woman’s actual intention to attract them.

      But men are not animals who must respond to basic instincts. They can choose what to do when they are aroused. And since they might very well feel attracted to women a dozen times a day or more, they should form a game plan.

      It is 100% clear that contacting them inappropriately is NOT a valid option in Islam. Harassing them in any way is even worse. Those women are human beings, not objects, and whatever feelings they inspire do not entitle men to act with impunity. So men need to do their part to purify their hearts, and we women must do our part too.

      • Avatar

        Faraz

        October 6, 2019 at 11:40 PM

        Agreed!

  9. Avatar

    Fritz

    October 10, 2019 at 6:39 AM

    “Holding them accountable” – realistically social media is a free and open platform. Its freedom gives muslim women the opportunity to speak in the first place. Its not palatable but that is the reality.

    There is no rectification to this solution. You don’t think the people doing this know they are wrong? and its mostly – from what you say – through private messaging. I think you need to get real and stop whining. No muslim men are out there condoning or promoting this kind of behaviour.

    The reality is much like I am sure muslim men will have racial/religious abuse directed at them, you will just have to deal with it. Dont like it, then leave. I am afraid thats the nature of the twisted beast that is social media.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 10, 2019 at 5:03 PM

      Fritz, I can’t help but wonder what kind of people have so much time on their hands that they make time to comment “get real and stop whining” on someone’s article?

      Everytime someone speaks up against injustice, oppression, corruption, or wrongdoing, there is someone else (almost always someone in a privileged position who does not feel directly affected by the problem) who tells them to “stop whining.” It accomplishes *nothing” to act so sanctimonious and insensitive . . . unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys kicking others when they’re down.

      Someday you might actually take the time to stand up for something you believe in, or try to right a wrong. If you do, I actually hope no one tells you to stop whining. I don’t believe in kicking people when they’re down.

      Why don’t you save your energy, Fritz, for something that makes a positive impact on the world?

      And by the way, if you’re just here to troll me, I won’t take the bait any longer.

  10. Avatar

    Tami

    October 12, 2019 at 9:47 AM

    I am on matrimonial websites and Muslim dating apps to find a husband. Even though I have a modest picture and a profile, I get unserious men contact me for fun. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel scared to think are there very low quality of decent men out there who see’s everything sexual. I am a non-hijabi but I am more hijabi than most hijabi worn ladies (not sounding arrogant). I see flirtatious and deceitful hijabis able to find a man they wish to get married to easily. Whereas I have always lived a modest life with haya and I can’t find/get a decent guy that’s attracted to me for my personality but is only attracted to my face. I know this is not related to the topic on this forum but had to share my thoughts.

  11. Avatar

    Uzair Zubairi

    October 21, 2019 at 4:17 AM

    Salam 3lyki sister.
    Thanks for the great article. Its definitely a big problem which needed some spotlight.

    I Just wanna point out though that words like “unfortunately” “luckily” or “unlucky” are shirk as explained by the mashaikh.

    Other than that its definitely a great article. I think it ties into the wider debate of the role of internet in our lives and how to harness its potential while curtailing its harms. Its clear that internet is like a knife. You can use it to stab your neighbour or you can use it spread peanut butter on your toast. In other words it makes it easier to achieve your aim wether that aim is good or bad. Bad people can hide behind the mask of internet and do things which theyre scared to do openly.

    And I guess this problem/blessing that internet is will only grow as we become more and more connected to internet and technology. So i think the only solution is for us to educate ourselves on how to keep ourselves safe online because the truth there are bad people out there who wish you harm and they are not few in number. So you have to get better at recognising them, reporting them, or taking other defensive measures.

  12. Avatar

    Jennifer

    November 1, 2019 at 2:16 AM

    I am not a Muslim and I’m not even sure why this page showed up in my Google feed but I am a woman and I know exactly what the author is talking about. I have found in my 53 years that men are men are men are men-some of the most disgusting men I’ve ever met were married churchgoers with kids at home. I’ve known atheist men and Jewish men and mormon men who can’t help but comment on a woman’s looks or size or whatever. I used to attend a meet up with my husband and made several good friends there, but then a college age man started coming and was stalking me. It got so bad that I just had to stop going to the meetups. No matter what I or my husband said to him it made no difference and when it was obvious I was not interested in him as a boyfriend he decided to post horrible things about me on the communities website. I used to have a neighbor who everyone thought was the most upstanding amazing husband and father. Then one evening when my husband was away on work he came over and proposition to me and when I told him to go home he told his wife that I had flashed him and come on to him. She believed him and not me and so I had to live with the neighborhood thinking that I was a Jezebel throwing myself at this woman’s husband while my own husband was out of town. So yeah, it’s men. It doesn’t matter what we wear or how we act, in their minds it’s never their fault for being creeps.

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Podcast: How Intimate Can a Couple be Post-Nikkah, but Pre-Marriage? | Yaser Birjas

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Question:

I just had my nikkah done with my husband and we are having our rukhsati done soon (in the next few months). The reason for [the] delay is just mainly to prepare for the wedding and  [to] accommodate family members’ schedule [for] the wedding. After the nikkah is it permissible to do all the acts that are permissible between a husband and wife even if the rukhsati hasn’t been done?

Sincerely,
Getting married in my 20s

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“It’s much worse than the flu.” An Epidemiologist’s Perspective on COVID-19

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In light of the suspension of Jummah prayers and the mosque closings across the nation, I want to share my expertise as an epidemiologist.

Some people are in denial of the enormity of the crisis and do not agree with the rulings on Jummah prayers being canceled. Others think that this crisis is hyped up. They are asking, isn’t this like the flu or just a little worse than the flu?

It is not.

It is much worse than the flu.

Before I explain why, I would like to iterate that we must not panic. We cannot think clearly if we panic. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us in the Quran:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards East or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.”

Surah Al-Baqara, verse 177

While we should not panic, we should also not be skeptical about the unanimous consensus of all medical experts. Medical experts are authorities on medical issues.

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.”

Surah An-Nisa, Verse 59

This is a true crisis

We need everyone to do their part to prevent infections. The following is concise Epidemiology 101 for the non-epidemiologist regarding why there is so much concern by health authorities on the seriousness of Covid-19.

This is a crisis because of two simple mathematical reasons: the case fatality rate and the reproductive rate.

Case Fatality Rate

First, the case fatality rate – or the death rate – is the number of people who die if they have the disease, which in this context is the infection. In other words, out of the people who have the infection, this number represents how many will die.

For the flu, the case fatality rate is 0.1.For Covid-19, the case fatality rate based on the 133,000 so far infected as of March 13 and the 4,945 who have died is 3.7. This is not the true case fatality rate as some people with the mild infection are not being counted.

Some experts believe the case fatality rate is 2.0, which is 20 times higher than the flu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who for over three decades has been the Director of the National Health Institute (allergy and infectious diseases) gave an estimate of 1.0 when he testified to Congress several days ago, and 1.0 is 10 times more than 0.1

If everything else that is important (such as the reproductive rate) was the same between the flu and Covid-19, then the number of people dying would be 30,000 times 10, which is 300,000.

Reproductive Rate (Basic Reproductive Number)

The other important number is the reproductive rate. The word “reproductive” in this name is not focused on the reproductions of the virus in one body, but the reproduction of cases. Technically this is called the basic reproductive number, but for ease of communicating, I will call it the reproductive rate.

The reproductive rate is related to how infectious the organism is from one person to another and what steps society is taking to limit the infections from spreading.

The exact definition of the reproductive rate (basic reproductive number) is the expected number of cases directly generated by one infected case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection.

Case Fatality plus Reproductive Rate Equals:

For the flu, the reproductive rate is 1.3. For Covid-19, the reproductive rate is between 2 and 3. The reproductive rate for Covid-19 is twice as high as the flu virus. Therefore we have to multiply the estimated number of deaths of 300,000 by 2, which is 600,000.

The case fatality rate could be lower than 1.0, it could be closer to 0.8 In fact, in South Korea, it is 0.9 so far. In Italy however, it is almost 5% because there are so many elderly people in Italy. In both of these cases, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is still many, many times higher than that of the flu, which is 0.1.

To put it simply, at even a 1.0 case fatality, we can expect 600,000 people to die from COVID-19 in the US alone if we don’t follow the CDC guidelines. That’s not counting the huge number of people with other diseases who are at risk of dying from the effect of the healthcare system being overloaded beyond its capacity.

This is bad news. However, this disaster scenario is based on us treating it “just like the flu.” If we decide to take things seriously instead, and treat this as an emergency as it truly is, then InshaAllah 600,000 people don’t necessarily have to die. Following CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of the disease as well as the impact to the healthcare system can save hundreds of thousands of people.

We can lower the case-fatality rate and the reproductive rate, and the number of lives saved will be much, much greater than the number of lives who will die.

This is good news. We can, and will Insha’Allah, save lives by acting to lower the spread of COVID-19.

Malaysia reported an additional 190 confirmed infections on Sunday, an increase of 80% of cases over a day and bringing its total to 428. Most of the cases stemmed from a Muslim religious gathering held from Feb. 27 to March 1, which authorities said was attended by 14,500 Malaysians and about 1,500 foreigners. Malaysia is the worst-infected nation in the Southeast Asia. Bloomburgquint.com

We need to be on the same page

I mean this literally. We need to be on the same page, and that is the webpage of the CDC website:

The CDC, of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the agency responsible for preventing and limiting epidemics. You can keep yourselves, families, and the public at large safer by following their guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the following, and please ensure that all your family and friends have too:

1. How COVID-19 spreads

2. Symptoms

3. Steps to Prevent Illness

4. Older People and People with Chronic Diseases at Higher Risk

5. What to Do if You are Sick

6. Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

The first five sections are the responsibility of every person to learn, since every person can spread the infection and thus contribute to the reproductive number of COVID-19.

“The Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue people are safe. ” – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (An-Nasai)

For the many health professionals in the Muslim community, I encourage all health professionals to see the following resources on preparing your  practice to deal with Covid 19.

Do not go to Mosques until further notice

This is not an issue of a certain school of thought, but is the judgment of scholars from all schools of thought. Medical and religious experts are in agreement with regards to the suspension of Jummah for the protection of the community.

Please read the following joint statement by the Fiqh Council of North America, Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Medical Association of North America, and American Muslim Health Professionals. See also this declaration from the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America regarding the suspension of Friday congregation. 

Mosques are higher risk than churches

In Iran, the first cases started in Qom, a city that often sees more attendance to mosques and more gatherings than other cities. Most cases were in Qom and then spread to other cities. The number of grave plots dug for the dead and dying is large enough to be visible by satellite imagery.

How is this relevant to the disease, and why are mosques more vulnerable than churches or other places of worship?

  • Many attendees do wudu at the mosque. CDC guidelines are to not to touch the eyes, nose, or mouth, as these are mucous membranes. During wudu, the nasal mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times, the eyes mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times during the face rinse, and the mouth mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times.
  • Wudu does not require soap, so coronavirus particles (from an infected person) remain even after completing Wudu.
  • The vast majority of mosques do not have automatic sensors in their water taps, and attendees open and close them by hand shortly after touching their eyes, nose, mouth.
  • Almost all people close the taps with their bare hands versus holding a paper towel.
  •  Even if paper towels are used, there can be cross transference to the paper towel roll. There may be ways to limit transference but the risk cannot be eliminated.
  • People often relieve themselves before doing wudu, and clean their private areas with their left hand. We don’t have data on coronavirus in mucous membranes in the private areas, but we do know that the virus can often be in the GI tract in addition to the respiratory tract and eyes and nose, etc.
  • CDC guidelines say to use Social Distancing, staying 6 to 10 feet apart from others. But in the congregational prayer, we are standing shoulder to shoulder and some are also foot to foot.
  • Some attendees touch their faces after making dua, which is the first step in the virus’s transmission.
  • There are often handshakes and sometimes even hugs among some attendees, further spread person-to-person transmission.
  • A higher percentage of Masjid attendees are elderly, and thus, further susceptible to infection.

Allah tells the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that he has been sent as a mercy to all the worlds, and in following his sunnah, we strive for the same. By attending the mosques in the time of a pandemic, whether for the regular salah, Jumah prayers or ‘Eid prayers, we will not be a mercy to mankind. We will be a danger to it, spreading the coronavirus and increasing the number of people who suffer from it.

The bottom line, according to the epidemiology of this disease, is this:

It is guaranteed that some – likely a large number- will get infected if people go to mosques. And some of those people will die. And it is guaranteed that the infection rate will increase in the wider (non-Muslim) community because of this as well.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

In general, call your doctor or ER if you think you are sick with Coronavirus. Do not automatically go to the ER or the doctor, first call ahead. Before even calling, familiarize yourself with what the symptoms of COVID-19 are.

Separate yourself from other family members and people at home, and call your doctor to get instructions to see if you need to be tested and to receive other very important instructions regarding supportive care to address your infection and to prevent the spread of it to other household members.

The doctor will instruct you as to whether you need to come to his/her office or go to the ER and when you need to go. Also by calling first, if you do need to go to the doctor’s office or the ER, they will make preparations to prevent the spread of infection from you to others as you come.

Social distancing in action: Death rates for the 1918 flu pandemic were heavily reduced by social distancing measures taken by the city of St. Louis, but not Philadelphia.

Do not delay calling your doctor since some people might deteriorate quickly, but try to read the CDC guidelines before calling so you can know whether you even need to call.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately (call 911 to get immediate help).  Emergency warning signs include*:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
*This list is not conclusive.  Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

In summary

  • We must not panic, but we must be prepared.
  • We must recognize that this is a crisis due to the case fatality rate and reproductive rate of COVID-19
  • Read the sections on COVID-19 at www.cdc.gov.
  • Do not attend congregational prayers, Jumah prayer, weekend schools, etc. until further notice
  • Believe, with the help of Allah, that we can change the bad news to good news if we follow all the CDC guidelines in every section

Let us be calm but also serious. Let us also be grateful that we live in a time when governments are much more proactive than the past. Let us be grateful to our medical community. Let us not overwhelm ourselves with unverified articles or forwards on Whatsapp. Let us read and circulate medical information from only authorized sources such as the CDC.

And let us remember that we are so vulnerable and fragile and that we must often remember and supplicate to Allah for forgiveness, protection, and guidance. Thank you and may Allah keep us, our families, and all safe. Ameen.

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Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriage

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Like many people in my mid-20s, I approached my parents about getting married and initially chose to use a more traditional route. That is to say, creating a resume – or biodata – and sending it to matchmaker aunties. I wanted this approach because I wanted to be able to balance my American, Desi, and Muslim identities. I wanted things to be done in a halal way with my parent’s knowledge. However, over the past 2 years, my experience with the process has left me jaded.

Before I continue, I want to preface with two things. The first is that my parents are wonderful. We’ve butted heads, but I recognize that they are doing what they think is best, via a method that they’re used to. Providing critical feedback of the method should not be taken as critical to my parents.

The second is that while I have critical feedback, I am not intending to discredit the entire process. Meeting people through family is hardly a bad thing, and maybe what some people need. It is very possible that I will still end up using this process. That said, there are changes that need to be made, especially in the modern world. I want to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters can get an idea of what the process is, and what they’re in store for.

Superficiality

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. They are, in total, the person’s education/career, info on their parents and extended family, and pictures. There’s nothing written about the person’s personality barring, perhaps, a few sentences about their interests. This doesn’t provide any real depth of information about the other person at all.

Then there is the emphasis that is placed on the pictures. It is important to acknowledge that physical attraction plays a role in all of this. I think one of my early mistakes was that I was trying to pretend it didn’t matter at all, and that’s not reasonable for a marriage. The problem, however, is that given the lack of personal detail in the written part of the bio-data, we are left with the photo being the most personal piece of information presented. Unless you really care about where a person’s grandfather went to University in the 1940’s, that photo ends up being the most important thing you’re making your choice on.

Like “Tinder, but safer,” a friend said to me, as I explained how these situations played out. That’s not far off from how the experience played out for me. We’re not given much time to make a decision on the bio-data, so the result is the superficial, un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

How many times have I heard, “Oh, she’s too fat,” or “Oh, she’s too short,” or “Too tall,” or “She’s pretty dark isn’t she?” Bengali speakers will recognize the word “moyla,” [dirty] used to describe women who are slightly darker, which is terribly problematic.

It’s not just that women are being chosen based on their looks alone, but on top of that, they’re being held to Eurocentric notions of what is deemed attractive. We’re all being held hostage to a standard designed by and for an entirely different race of people, and I have been told that it would be weird for me to be attracted to a darker-skinned woman because in the minds of many, dark skin is undesirable.

The superficiality is worse for women, but even as a guy I felt it. I’m fine with how I look, but you can only hear, “Oh, your face looks weird in that picture,” or, “He’s not tall enough,” so many times before it starts to mess with you. Men face another superficial judgment as well: the problem with men being reduced to their ability as moneymakers. I’m a graduate student and there are people in my class who have a spouse and children and are making it by just fine on the stipend we receive. But, inevitably, it will come up that I’m not making tons of money, so how can I support a family? While recognizing that men do have an Islamic responsibility to financially support their families, it troubles me that the process boils men down to one thing and one thing only – money, and not just having enough of it, but lots of it.

Age

I’m relatively young, 27 in May, and so when I started this process two years ago, I told my parents that I was willing to go +/- 3 years, just because I thought that would be a good range to encompass people I’d have some similarities with. However my prospect of an older wife – even a day older – was rejected with quite some vigor. I’ve been disqualified from matching with some women because they were born just a couple of months before I was.

The majority of the biodatas sent to me are of women still in college, between the ages of 19 and 22. It doesn’t matter when I say that’s too young, or how that I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone who hasn’t fully grown up yet. I get told that I’m wrong.

Do you know how many random aunties and uncles have told me that a 7-8 year age gap is necessary to make a marriage work because otherwise, the women “will demand too much?” It’s shocking that I’m being told specifically that I need a wife young enough to be manipulated and shaped to my desires. When I push back on this, I’m, again, told that I’m weird.

I’m being constantly told to reconsider my age preferences as if wanting to marry a woman in her mid-20’s is a weird thing to do when I myself am in my mid-20’s. The sheer number of times I face this makes me think it’s an inherent flaw in how our cultures think, and not something unique to my situation. This is to say nothing of the fact that people will, to our face, tell me (26) that I’m too young for marriage, but my sister (25) is rapidly passing her expiration date.

Race

As a Bengali man, I have no problem marrying a woman of Bengali descent, but it’s annoying that even in 2020, it’s seen as a taboo to marry outside of your race in Desi culture. I personally have had it conceded to me, that if I choose an Indian or Pakistani woman on my own, that might be ok, but nothing else. Not an Arab. Certainly not someone with (black) African descent. And a white/Hispanic/black convert would cause a genuine scandal.

And even this concession is not universal, as there are many Bengali parents I know who will not let their child marry anyone outside of their own culture. Even when people have pushed through it and married outside of their ethnic backgrounds, there is still gossip and concern as to how the parents could “let this happen.”

Going into this I thought, “Well, all I have to do is show a few videos from Imams talking about how inter-racial marriages shouldn’t be taboo for Muslims,” but it doesn’t matter how many of these clips I show, it falls on deaf ears.

I understand the concern of losing culture and heritage to life in the West, I get it. But if I want to teach my kids about their Bengali roots I can do that with a wife of any background, and if I don’t want to teach them, having a Bengali wife isn’t going to make me any more likely to do so.

Ultimately, the feeling I get is that the older generation wants in-laws who they can go and have chai and gossip with, to do traditional things they saw their parents do with their in-laws. And again, while I empathize with the desire to do something familiar, this seems like an unhealthy reason to dictate why your children can’t marry someone from another race or culture.

Classism

I understand that families need to mesh and that it makes things easier if there are similarities that exist. However, in what world am I reading a biodata and seeing what a woman’s uncle does for a living, and then deciding that she’s marriage material?

It doesn’t work for me that way, but it works on the minds of the older generation, and there are even ways of working the class distinction to your advantage. Uncles in the community have actually told me that marrying into a “lower class” may be good if you want someone to be subservient to you because they’re thankful you brought them to your status. But they’ve also told me that marrying a “higher-class” woman isn’t bad either, because a rich father-in-law could have its perks. Caveat- beware of them being snobby with you, since you may be expected to be thankful, subservient one instead.

I can’t even wrap my head around what people are talking about here, but it’s yet another factor that I end up having to deal with during this process.

Religion

I want a wife who cares about the deen and prays 5 times a day, and I want this not to be a controversial take.

I have been told that’s unrealistic. Literally a couple of weeks ago, an auntie told my sister that ‘modern women’ do not pray regularly and so I should not expect that in a future wife. She said this, of course, to my sister who is both a modern woman and someone who prays five times a day without fail.

It’s crazy to be told that I’m being too picky because I want a wife who already has her religious-ness established. I have been told, by both aunties and uncles, that it’s better for me to marry a wife who isn’t too religious yet so that I can shape her deen. This isn’t about mutual growth in faith as you may hope for in a marriage. This is about controlling women with religion by only teaching her what I want to teach her. When older women tell you this, it raises so many concerns about what they’ve been through and what they want future generations of women to go through.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me. I don’t mean to fetishize anybody, but I want a wife whose religion drives to be bold, to stand up for what’s right, to be outspoken. I want to partner with someone whose religiosity pushes me to be a better version of myself, not to do what she’s told.

Marry Back Home

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me, as someone who has lived their entire life in the US, to think that I’ll mesh much better with someone with a similar background. This isn’t universal, some people will genuinely get along better with people from “back home,” and that’s fine, but this needs to be a personal choice.

Yet, I keep getting told that it would be better for me to marry from “back home.” I have been told, straight up, if you bring a wife over here, she’ll be more “indebted,” to me because I brought her to America. Setting aside that I don’t want to marry someone who just wants to marry me for a Green Card, why would I want to marry someone who feels like they owe me?

I fail to see how marrying from “back home” is an issue of compatibility in this case, it feels way more like an issue of subservience.

You can see here that the concern isn’t about finding a spouse who matches with my personality, it’s about finding someone who’ll come and cook and clean and bear children for me without speaking up about it because they feel like they owe me. Which segues to…

Gender Roles

I want to preface this section by saying that this is one topic where my parents haven’t, at all, been the source of my concerns, but rather, this something that comes up when talking to certain members of the community.

For men, there is an emphasis on making money to provide for a family, and for women, raising children and taking care of the home. There’s no problem with this model, but it is not the only model. It’s a valid option, but I am being told it’s my only choice.

In the eyes of many, the preference is to pick a homemaker. This seems at odds with the desire to select a woman with a good education, making it seem that I’m then not expected to let her utilize that education professionally. After all, it could be embarrassing for me if my wife makes more than me, and I have been told to be careful, because a wife who makes too much money could be “too independent.”

I must also be careful to stay in my exclusive role as a moneymaker too, and not try to go beyond that. I had pictures with my nephews in biodata because they mean the world to me. I was told to take them out because somehow a man taking care of children is deemed…bad?. I also like cooking. I once said this to an auntie and I remember her saying, “Why do you like doing girl’s stuff?”

Quite bluntly, I don’t want a wife who will only cook and clean and raise children for me. I want someone I can share those duties with because they’re my equal partner, an idea that, to me, keeps getting glossed over in this process. Every couple deserves the opportunity to figure their marriage out for themselves.

Quick Marriages

There are limits to what we can(‘t) do as Muslims. I understand that we shouldn’t have 3 year-long courtships or live together before getting married, and I am not advocating that. But we should be allowed some time to make such an important decision. I’ve been shown bio-datas and have been expected to come back with an answer in two days – just two days – about whether the information on this piece of paper is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Please, can we have a few months? Can we talk, and try to make sure that this is the decision we want to make (chaperoned)? When reviewing potential spouses, try to make sure everyone is one the same page about how much time you give to each other in order to avoid heartbreak and confusion.

Nature Of Relationship With Parents

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship. It’s relatively open and comfortable, but it’s still a Desi parent-child dynamic. Expressing a dissenting opinion is disrespectful, which means it can be harder to speak up without fear of disappointing them.

Plus, my parents and I never openly spoke about sex or physical attraction, at least not in-depth. To go from that to suddenly having to talk to your parents about the physical aspects that you’re looking for in a wife is awkward, and it can lead to miscommunication.

It’s a culture clash on top of a generational one. I have a hard time articulating what I want to my parents, and it’s not easy to figure out. If you know this before starting the process, you can make an effort to speak as openly about things as you can. You can even recruit an older cousin or friend, or an Imam you trust to help you. Don’t do what I did and go by yourself, have people to support you to make sure you and your parents are communicating well.

In Conclusion

It’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll get everything you want in a spouse. There will be compromises that are made, whether they be with yourself or with what your parents want. But don’t sacrifice on the points most important to you. Determine those, know what your must-haves are, and negotiate on other things. Make sure your potential spouse is on board. It can be awkward, especially with how many of us were raised, but talk to your potential spouse about these important things.

While this was a reflection of my own experience, I place emphasis on the aspects I feel are more universal. Speaking to other Desi Muslims in my age bracket, it certainly does seem that my concerns are relatively common. Obviously, there are individual factors that are at play, but these were things that came up regularly when speaking to elders in the community.

I also, again, want to stress that this isn’t an attack on my parents. While I have a level of frustration with how this situation has played out, I recognize that this is what they’re used to. And to their credit, they have made some concessions. Furthermore, it’s not just parents who are playing a role in this. The (often unwarranted) voices of certain elders are given undue emphasis, and that, I think has complicated the situation even further.

Ultimately, I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t consider arrangements or biodata, but if you do, then you must openly discuss this with your parents. Make sure they know what you want, and stand firm if it’s something important, even if it complicates things. It may put a strain on your relationship with your parents, but it’s better to open about things now than to have anger and resentment towards them for years later.

I’ll end with a specific piece of advice to the brothers: You have a duty to learn about why these issues are red flags and to push back on them yourselves. Women can be labelled as too rebellious if they push back themselves, and we need to be aware of this. Speak up for your (biological) sisters, family members, and friends when you notice their discomfort. Make sure you establish with your potential spouse that she is actually on board with the process, not just going along with it because she feels that she needs to. It might be awkward, but it’s important to establish a clear line of communication with someone even before you get married.

May Allah bless us all with happy, healthy, and fruitful marriages. Ameen

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