Action on the Nikah front
For some of us, the first thing that came to mind was a ring. For others, it was an aunty on the phone, listing off the virtues of a potential candidate. Perhaps we thought of the ladoos we ate a few days ago when our best friend got engaged. Or maybe our mind raced to family discussions about the proposal our side is just about to fire off.
How about a proposal without any of the above? A proposal minus the aunties, the discussions, the ladoos, the ring, or any warning for that matter - a point-blank proposal.
Talk about being caught off-guard.
Apparently, that’s what’s been happening as of late – to some sisters in my neck of the woods.
Here’s how it goes, typically: A sister is riding in a subway car or is walking down a street. She stands out with her hijab. A brother spots her. He walks up. “Wanna marry me?” he asks. She rolls her eyes and either looks away or takes off, if she can.
The brother is left standing, ever frustrated that his attempts at avoiding fitnah are leading nowhere.
The sister, perhaps afraid, is left wondering what brothers are being taught at those Halaqas. Too much fiqh of nikah, maybe?
When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure how to react. I was shocked, simply because it’s not something we’re used to hearing about. But should I be angry at the brothers for firing off proposals in subway cars and on the streets? Should I be sympathetic? At least they’re trying to avoid fitnah. Should I be sad that our community has no mechanism of accommodating brothers (and sisters) who want to (and perhaps need to) get married?
According to sources, the brothers are relatively new and thus don’t have the support network to find a spouse in their new town.
One sister with a niqab was reportedly approached outside a masjid. The nikah attempt failed when the sister informed the brother that she was old enough to be his mother. I’m assuming she was already married.
OK, so let’s get this straight. The brothers are single. They want to marry. There are sisters. They are single.
So what’s wrong then?
A few things.
For starters, maybe when discussing the fiqh of nikah, it should be made clear (as it was to me when I was studying, thanks to my teacher) that just because some rules exist, it doesn’t mean they’re the wisest or the preferred method of doing things.
So, when we study that all is required for nikah is eejab (proposal) and qubool (acceptance) in the presence of two adult, Muslim males or one male and two females, it doesn’t mean that we actually start trying to do the thing at street corners and alleyways.
There are etiquettes and not following the etiquettes can lead to problems.
Nikah is not a tool for making ‘Halal flings’. It’s a serious business that’s supposed to be about a serious, long-term relationship.
When a man proposes, he proposes to a potential life-time partner and the potential mother of his children.
What if a sister accepts, without her knowing anything about the brother nor the brother knowing anything about the sister? Would they be actually willing to make a lifelong commitment? If no, then what happens if the sister happens to get pregnant?
It is very natural to want to get married, especially with the fitnah in today’s society. Even back then, the Prophet encouraged young people to get married:
“O Company of young men! Any of you who can afford to should marry. It restrains the eye and protects the private parts. Anyone who is unable to should fast. It restrains the appetite.” (Bukhari)
But proposing in subway cars and on the street is not the way to do it. Whenever possible, one should network through one’s family and friends, or if that’s not possible, through an elder (an Imam, perhaps) or through a close friend.
If it means going back to one’s home city or country to get married, then be it.
Still fruitless and can’t seem to solve the problem? Tough it out and curb the desires in following the Prophet’s advice by fasting and by cutting the food-supply to one’s desires (i.e. stay away from areas of fitnah, try lowering the gaze, and occupy the mind with thoughts about other things).
Secondly, we need to reevaluate our stance on marriage at a societal level. Have we made marriage simple prohibitive for those without the cash to pay for things we have made to be the ‘necessities’ of a marriage ceremony and for those without degrees-in-demand? Do we consider those who are new to our communities to be ‘aliens’ and thus leave them to wander the streets and propose? Have we, who claim to be reviving the Sunnah of the Prophet and who seem to be allergic to our ethnic cultures, suddenly become (gasp!) class-conscious?
Lastly, do we have a mechanism in the community for helping brothers and sisters get married? If one has no one to turn to, how is he or she supposed to find a spouse without proposing randomly? Do we need support groups for single brothers and sisters?
These stories leave me saddened more than anything. I admire the brothers for going out of their way to avoid Haram, yet I feel sorry for them, especially the brother who asked the niqabi sister without even seeing her face. At the same time, I think I’m a bit disappointed that they chose an avenue which leaves the sisters feeling harassed and probably unsafe.
What does this teach us?
It teaches us that there is a real need for education, guidance and support. It can be tough being a single Muslim in today’s society and even more so when you’re away from home and are lonely in a new city. We need to get together, offer support to each other, discuss our issues, share experiences and help each other find spouses, the Halal way.
I believe there should be somewhere to go for help and support when things just don’t work out, as well as for pre-nikah prep, so we all know what to expect when we start phase II of our lives.
I strongly encourage everyone, myself included, to think about this seriously and get something going, online at the very least.
I think each city with a decent Muslim population should have two local chapters of a support group, one for brothers and one for sisters, led by an Imam and an experienced, knowledgeable sister.
The time has come for Muslim Singles Anonymous.
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