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Courtship Stories From The MSA: You Found “The One” In Your MSA [Part 5]



You’ve been hanging onto the edge of your seats for this final installment in the “You Found ‘The One’ In Your MSA” series! This is when I share real-life MSA courtship stories and romances that I know of. These examples help me convince you to be very careful about how you move forward and consider the advice I’ve shared in this series with you!

Previously in this series: Part 1 | Part 2| Part 3 |Part 4


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College is a great opportunity to stay on the lookout for a spouse–no matter how much of a joke and stereotype that sounds like! You have some baseline compatibility: your level of education, your age, your religiosity, your volunteer efforts with the MSA, your alma mater, and geographical location. That’s a pretty good start, honestly. So, of course, there are so many stories of courtships and romances, on various points of the spectrums of happy and sad and halal and haram. All of these stories can act as valuable case studies to help you navigate your own courtships on the path to marriage.

MSA Courtship Gone Wrong

 – Moving Forward Without Having The Marriage Talk With Your Parents First

One of my good friends in the MSA was approached by a brother for marriage. He had sent a proposal through a local shaykh that the sister’s family had a very good relationship with. Her parents met with the shaykh and this brother, and her parents were really happy with the suitor. The brother and sister started talking to get to know each other with the sister’s parent’s approval and she realized that they’d work out as a great couple. 

What happens next? Her parents want to meet with his family and get things official now that they hear their daughter is certain of her decision to marry this brother. When they’ve reached this stage in their courtship, the brother now approaches his parents telling them that he wants to get married and he’s found the perfect girl from his MSA. The brother and sister I speak of are from completely different ethnic backgrounds. The brother’s family had a strong preference that he marry someone from within his own ethnic background, and this became a huge problem. In the meantime, the sister’s family is waiting to hear from the brother’s family…but the brother is trying to convince his family to change their mind about this issue. Now he’s getting the shaykh involved, hoping he’ll have a successful intervention with his family. 

Finally, the brother’s parents agree to meet the sister and her family. While meeting with his family, this sister noticed that she and her family weren’t being respected and treated nicely. She made istikhaarah and she had a very bad feeling about moving forward. She told me it broke her heart to walk away from that courtship because she really believed that the two of them fit so well together. He was a great brother in so many ways and their lifestyles and family life expectations were in line…but she couldn’t overlook the disapproval from the brother’s family about her racial background. She told me, “When I thought of how they would treat my kids, seeing them so dark-skinned and looking so different from everyone else in their family, I couldn’t go forward with it.” She told me that it took her a long time to heal from that and move forward. 

By the way, she confided this all to me when I visited her at her home the day before she was getting married to someone else she was introduced to through family. She mentioned how she was so relieved to move out of state after getting married because the brother from the MSA had told his fiancé, another girl from the MSA, about their courtship and she was hostile towards my friend. Go figure! This brother’s poor judgment also extended insofar as telling his fiancé about the other women he pursued in the MSA…

Who is to blame for all of this heartbreak? You would be rash to accuse the brother’s parents, although it is tempting. I blame the brother. Had he just approached his parents like an adult and told them about his desire to get married, they could have had the conversations they needed then. He could have heard how vehemently they needed him to marry a girl “from our village.” If he disagreed, he could have worked on his parents on his own, trying to convince them otherwise. He could have called in support from the shaykh or friends or family who would be on his side and think the way he does–that ethnic heritage and racial background are tertiary matters when considering a potential spouse. 

But he wasn’t mature enough to face his parents and do the necessary work. How dare he drag a sister and her family into a courtship that he didn’t even know his parents would consider valid? 

Luckily for this brother and sister, they didn’t end up resorting to a haram relationship to wait out the storm his parents caused because her family was involved. They had a chaperone, the local imam, from the beginning and this kept them on course. But imagine if you don’t have the families or a chaperone involved at all? You might start making compromises you would have never expected yourself to make. 

 – Asking About Someone When You Know Your Parents Don’t Want You To Get Married

Hey, this story is about me! I mentioned briefly in Part 2 about a brother who asked a shaykh to inquire about me. This happened at an Ilm Summit I attended years ago (Ilm Summit marriages, college MSA marriages–same boat). I was still in undergrad but this guy was in professional school. I had made it a rule to never reject someone without talking to them at least once, taking the advice of my marriage-mentor friend. I had no clue who this brother was, so I asked one of my friends back home to stalk this guy online. That’s what good friends do for you! There were some strange things that came up about him, mostly shirtless pictures of him with scantily clad women on beaches all over his social media, and so I had a handful of reservations about him. 

I put those hesitations aside and called my mom to tell her about this. At this point in my life, my mom had already ambushed me six months before with a surprise rishta meet-up so “I was out” on the marriage market, to put it in Jane Austen terminology. She said the first step would be for the brother’s mom to get in touch with her directly. It turns out that our families grew up only 30 minutes away from each other and my mom knew of his family. So, I gave the shaykh my mom’s phone number, which he passed to the brother. In the meantime, my mom made inquiries about their family from mutual friends. My mom is waiting for a phone call, but no phone call comes. I check back in with the shaykh at my mom’s insistence, and also at my annoyance that I’m being stood up by some random bro. After a little back-and-forth, the shaykh lets me know that this brother’s family is not willing for him to get married until he finishes up his graduate studies. Imagine how annoyed my mom and I were.

To make things worse, being ghosted by him haunted me as I had unwittingly interacted with his female family members.  I met his mother shortly after this twice the next Ramadan. On one of these occasions, I spent over five minutes chatting with this brother’s mom. After the first instance, my mother told me who I was talking to and then pointed out that the brother was standing near us while I talked to his mom. I was simultaneously mortified and upset–what impression may I have given to the brother or his family? I swore to myself I would memorize her face and avoid her at all costs for the rest of Ramadan. A few years later, I went for Hajj with his sister without realizing who she was until later. It just put a sour taste in my mouth, do you know what I mean? It also made me wonder if something about me or my family wasn’t good enough in their family’s eyes. Being in the marriage market put me in a delicate, self-conscious state and it was too much to handle. It reminded me of a difficult and frustrating experience that I’d rather forget.  

 – Going Rogue With No Families Involved At All

MSA courtship

PC: Asterfolio (unsplash)

Here’s one of many stories I’ve heard of a brother and sister in the MSA contacting each other for marriage and then they end up dating for years because they’re not ready to involve their parents. 

When I was a freshman in college, a junior had befriended me and was my MSA mentor. I loved talking to her and hanging out with her and I felt so cool having an upperclassman as a friend. Then one day, she sends me an IM (instant message) telling me she has a secret she wants to tell me about. Her secret? That she is “best friends” with one of the brothers from the MSA. I’m thinking to myself –what the flip does that mean?- and so I ask her. She tells me that they’re best friends waiting to get married. Still, I’m confused, so I probe further. Neither of them are ready to ask their parents if they can get married–he’s a sophomore and she’s a junior. So in the meantime, they’re just “best friends” waiting it out together.

BS! You’d call that boyfriend and girlfriend, not best friends! Even if they’re just in an emotionally intimate and committed relationship, it is still haram. For some reason, however, many dismiss these situationships very easily as not that bad because nothing gets physical–without acknowledging that emotional damage can be very devastating. 

So I told my friend that I didn’t approve of her secret best friend and thought they should end their mutual understanding. She told me she had tried to cut him off in the past, but it hadn’t worked. I asked her to try again and she said she wouldn’t. I ended my friendship with this sister. Why? I didn’t want to be dragged down into the secret MSA dating scene and I knew that being close to her would put me at the risk of falling into that sin myself. I was much more concerned about self-preservation than having friends who were bad company.

Thankfully I ended up making other friends and was spared from having to interact with her that much for the rest of the time I was in undergrad. I also knew what she was doing was something I was so staunchly against that I wouldn’t be able to be chill or friendly like before with her anymore, no matter how hard I tried. It would be better for me and better for us, no matter how I looked at it. 

But what happened to these best friends determined to get married? They broke up while they were in undergrad, I’m not sure why. Both brother and sister BFFs got together with other people in the MSA. One of these new spin-off couples dated openly, even around the MSA and at MSA events (I have a lot of feelings about that, but at least they weren’t totally hypocritical like the rest of the secret MSA couples). Interestingly both these new couples got married in the end. Looking at some wedding pictures, I was thinking to myself…isn’t it weird for the groom to be hugging his wife’s ex-boyfriend at his own wedding? Their problem, not mine.

 – Giving It Up And Getting Ghosted

Apparently, this is a story that played on repeat while I was in the MSA. A brother and sister become involved. It starts out as an emotional attachment. The brother reassures the sister they will get married as soon as he graduates from undergrad or gets into medical school. In the meantime, the relationship starts getting physical. The brother gradually begins to pressure the sister to have intercourse with him as they move further and further along. She’s caught feelings for this brother and believes they will get married soon enough. They finally have sex and continue to for some period of time and then he dumps her. Although both parties consent to some degree, the sister would not have gotten there without proper encouragement from the brother. 

This situation was common enough that the sophomore sisters in the MSA had an infamous meeting with the freshman girls and warned them against letting a brother talk them into giving it up on the pretense of getting married. There was a divorced sister in our MSA who also mentioned to me that multiple girls confided in her that they were in sexually active relationships with brothers in the MSA without having a clue how to prevent pregnancies or safeguard against STDs. She was the one who advised them to start taking birth control pills and insisted on using condoms every time. She also told me that these brothers and sisters ranged from the ones who came around the MSA occasionally to the ones who led prayers and were memorizing the Quran. She also told me of masjid parking lot hook-ups in cars. Needless to say, I was in tears when she told me all of these stories. 

The only advice I can give someone about a situation like this is to avoid getting into a relationship until you and your family are ready for you to be married. Some Muslim couples can box their covert relationships into an emotional plane and remain there until marriage. However, others cannot–at no fault to them. It is only natural for emotional feelings to be expressed in physical ways. Shaytan is always the third party when a man and woman, or any mutually attracted parties, are alone together. It is difficult to control and stifle strong feelings, so don’t put yourself in a testing position. If someone is promising you they will marry you, then save yourself until marriage. If you truly care about the other person, you should also care about their hereafter.

Courtship Stories From The MSA: When It Went Right!

 – Going Directly To Her Dad

After I got married, I moved to a small college town with a tight-knit, very active Muslim community. There, one of my husband’s friends had approached him one night to ask him about a sister he had noticed at the masjid. My husband and this sister had worked together for the masjid’s Sunday school. Knowing that, this brother wanted my husband’s opinion of her. Within the next week, he had decided to move forward with a proposal of interest and he asked to meet the sister’s father. Bam! Engaged in a week! Look at that, mashaAllah. She was in undergrad at the time and he was in graduate school. They had a nikkah period and then had a bigger wedding later when they moved in together. Later on, this friend told me what a sensation it caused in her family for this young man to be so direct and ask for her hand. Mad props to that brother for diving in headfirst! 

 – A Missed Opportunity…Or A Match Destined in Heaven?

MSA courtship

PC: Photos by Lanty (unsplash)

One of my good friends in undergrad was determined to be a matchmaker. Poor soul. She had shipped one of our friends and a brother in the MSA and was determined to get them married. She approached a local imam and asked him to inquire about the brother on our friend’s behalf without telling our friend first. This brother was not ready to get married–he knew he wanted to go to graduate school and that his finances wouldn’t allow him to take on the responsibility of having a wife in the picture. So he politely declined, telling the imam he wouldn’t be ready for a few years due to his finances while he was pursuing his career after graduating. 

When my friend found out about the Shakespearean plot they undertook behind her back, she was mad. It created an uncomfortable dynamic between the brother and my friend–the brother thinking that my friend was interested in him and then believing he had rejected her. 

Years later, my friend is at a family party and she meets a woman she totally loves. It turns out the feeling is mutual. This woman calls my friend’s aunt telling her that she’s looking for her nephew to get married and she thinks my friend and him would be a great match. Guess who it turned out to be? You’re sitting at your computer screen yelling, NO WAY! Yes. Yes way. It turned out to be this brother from the MSA that our friends had tried to set my friend up with years ago. It took a lot for my friend to come around after resenting the scheme that caused her so much embarrassment, but they got married in the end! They are such a good match for each other! I hadn’t heard about this whole drama in undergrad, but my friend spilled the tea when she called me to tell me she was engaged to this brother. 

So many times we think that if we don’t act now while we’re both in college, that person will slip through our fingers. But that’s not necessarily true. When Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has written for two people to be together, they will find each other in the end. Look at the years of a haram relationship they were saved from because the brother was simply mature enough to say, “This isn’t a responsibility I can manage for the next few years.” Masha’Allah. I love their whole story.

 – Getting Matched By A Community Member

Another good story coming out of my MSA was when a community member involved with the MSA matched two graduating seniors. The story goes that she thought they would be a great match, so she facilitated connecting them and their families to each other. I was so happy to hear that their story was such an innocent and beautiful one, because back then finding out people I respected were in haram MSA relationships really messed with my head.

 – Going Through A Shaykh

Remember that brother with a racist family who got a shaykh involved and then the sister was left heartbroken? Well, this same shaykh was approached by another brother in the MSA. He wanted to send a proposal to a sister in the MSA and so the shaykh facilitated it. Their families were connected and the brother and sister ended up getting married, alhamdulillah. The brother at the time was in graduate school and the sister was still in undergrad. This sister told me that her family was not even considering marriage for her and getting married would complicate how her college tuition would get paid for. There were some logistical hurdles they had to clear, but they figured them out. Even when a family may be hesitant for a child to get married due to how young they are or the fact that they still have to finish up college, coming honorably with a respected community leader can make a huge difference. Also, this brother is a very good guy and her father knew he would be foolish to stand in the way of a very good future for his daughter. Such a good ending!

Courtship Stories From The MSA: Somewhere In The Middle

 – They Ended Up Married In The End…What’s The Big Deal?

Another woman I know wriggled her way into a relationship with a brother very early on in college. One of the individuals was in a very difficult position with their family, and so the move towards marriage took at least a few years. In the meantime, this couple had their haram relationship going–hanging on to the idea they’d get married one day. Things eventually worked out between the two of them and they got married! How exciting and what a relief, right? 

Well, their transition from an emotional relationship (mostly online) into a real-world relationship sharing the same space was not easy. This person mentioned being physically intimate was very difficult for them and after months of being married they still hadn’t managed to consummate the marriage. I’m not sure what compounding factors were making this aspect of their marriage so difficult, but maybe they were dealing with a lot of baggage from their years of enforcing the “halal gap” and had trouble bridging that gap after marriage. 

I know of another situation similar to that. This marriage ended due to a disconnect once the individuals finally got married. This couple had been secretly dating since high school, mostly contacting each other over the phone and messaging online. They finally got married after graduating from college. Having been together for almost a decade in a haram, mostly online relationship, these individuals had incredible difficulty with physical intimacy in addition to other defects in character they didn’t have a chance to uncover until after marriage. This one, sadly, ended in divorce.

There is a reason Islam has an “all-or-nothing” approach to romantic relationships. It’s unnatural to separate emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. Many times Muslims will be like celibate best friends when they’re in relationships they know they shouldn’t be in. Maybe there’s something that makes it incredibly difficult to turn off the guilt and reconnect all the layers of intimacy together once they finally get married.

 – Long Engagement And A Baby Soon After Marriage

Another couple from an academic program I was in has a story somewhere in the middle of a success and horror story because they were in an extended courtship that lasted for years before they married. Right after the program, a brother approaches a sister’s aunt to confide in her that he is interested in her niece for marriage and would like to speak to her to see if they are compatible. The aunt knows that the sister’s mother does not want her daughter to get married. Nevertheless, the aunt tells the brother to approach the sister and begin talking for marriage. The aunt gives them a period of time to get to know each other and decide to get married. The brother wasn’t on the sister’s radar at all, and so the sister wants to take her time. They end up talking to determine whether or not they want to get married for three years! Both had finished undergrad before they started speaking.

No doubt during these three years of determining their mutual compatibility, they’ve grown to become celibate boyfriend and girlfriend. In the meantime, the aunt has been slowly trying to get the mother to warm up to the idea that her daughter is ready for marriage. Sadly, the brother had not approached his family, either, and they did not consent to him getting married until after he finished graduate school. Eventually, both families agreed to let the two get engaged. A local imam had tried multiple times to reason with the families and allow the couple to have their nikkah at the engagement party so that they could operate their long-distance emotional relationship within halal boundaries. But no. Their engagement was also excruciatingly long and lasted for a few years. They finally got married after seven years, alhamdulillah. On the eve of their wedding, I was texting back and forth with the bride and she told me, “It’s been so long. I just want to finally give him a hug.” Shortly after their wedding, they had unexpectedly conceived their first child and were not thrilled about the timing. After being forced to wait so long to get married, they wanted some time to themselves before starting a family. This was the most heartbreaking moment for me to experience in their relationship. 

The mistakes here are many. The first is that the brother did not consult with his family before approaching the sister. The second is that the person he entrusted, the sister’s aunt, was not a worthy mediator who could take up the role of third-party messenger responsibly. The positives here are many. The brother approached a family member of the sister he was interested in. The couple began to talk about marriage as the intention out in the open, although there wasn’t enough oversight from a chaperone to help keep this period reasonably short. The couple got a local imam that both families knew and liked involved to help advocate on their behalf for a speedy marriage. The couple resisted physical temptations until they were married and didn’t have an issue moving to the physical after marriage. This situation is a mixed bag of good and bad and a great example to learn from. 

Final Thoughts

Navigating the marriage and courtship process can be overwhelming and confusing, so make sure you have a couple of trusted mentors to rely on to help guide you. Whatever the outcome may be with this particular MSA prospective, I pray you find your destined life partner sooner, rather than later. Most importantly, I wish you happiness with your spouse in this life and the next!



3 Steps To Safely Prepare For Your Halal Marriage – As Simple As ABC

Podcast: Sex, Marriage, and Mutual Obligations in Islam | Ustadh Mukhtar Ba

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Meena is a writer, podcaster, high school English teacher, wife, and new mom. She loves working with Muslim youth and is interested in literature, arts, and culture. She studied Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Irvine and has a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She briefly dabbled in Classical Arabic studies in the US and is also studying the Asharah Qira'aat/10 Recitations. Check out her podcast and website Brown Teacher Reads: the brown literature circle you always wanted to be in. (



  1. S.

    February 16, 2024 at 9:54 AM

    That’s beautiful mashallah.

  2. Bint Khalil

    February 26, 2024 at 7:37 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Jazakillah khair for the beautiful stories!

    Do you have any advice for someone who’s terrified of marriage because of her parents’ ideal marriage and her siblings’ far less than ideal marriage?

    I know it really boils down to building my iman and knowing that no harm can come to me without His will.

    Is there anything specifically you suggest?

    Jazakillah khair again!

  3. Batman

    March 6, 2024 at 5:45 AM

    @Bint Khalil: You don’t have to be terrified of marriage. Make sure to talk to your prospective husband a few times before marriage and do istikhara.

  4. Meena Malik

    March 6, 2024 at 9:57 PM

    The only thing I can suggest is going to therapy to talk to someone about your fear of marriage! Many times our ideas about marriage (and subsequent emotions) can be the biggest roadblocks to allowing ourselves to reach our full potentials as spouses.

    And the realization that you’ve mentioned–that some people are destined to face the trials of a difficult marriage in this world. Obviously do your due diligence (and maybe read parts 1-4 of this series for ideas on how to do that?), but at the end of the day Allah has written for all of us our rizq in this life.

    Many good wishes your way <3

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