Come June 1, 2011 I will be celebrating one year of celibacy. Perhaps many people don’t think that is something worth celebrating. After two Islamic marriages, one for 10+ years and one for barely a year, a year of celibacy is a welcome relief from the relationship cycle of Muslims. I decided to take a break after the end of the last one even though I was still Muslim. Deliberately taking a hiatus from marriage as a Muslim is relatively unheard of and definitely frowned on. Marriage is considered to be half a person’s deen and to not be married is considered to not be whole. However just the task of finding a spouse is draining enough without the added strain of building and maintaining a long-term relationship.
Looking for a suitable mate can branch out several different ways. Typically young Muslims from Arab, Pakistani, and Indian families have alot of help when searching for a spouse and they are matched up by their parents. Many of them will spend a few months to a year in an undercover marriage that allows them to get to know one another. It’s often termed an engagement although the community usually doesn’t know about it until the two parties officially decide they want to be married. If they feel they are incompatible then they quietly go their separate ways with the family’s honor and the girl’s virginity intact.
Then there are the rest of the Muslims left to fend for themselves in the murky waters of Islamic marriage. A good chunk of converts already knew their spouses before they married because they were dating before accepting Islam. While dating for Muslims in general, and a woman in particuliar, is a no-no, it happens. Alot. I have been stopped a number of times because someone has a question about Islam and they start off with “my boyfriend is Muslim and…”. Needless to say these converts will often start to face pressure from the Muslim family to get married and thus their journey into marriage isn’t as complicted either. What happens afterwards is a different ball of wax. The remaining few must subject themselves to referrals from friends, community newsletter wife/husband wanted ads, matrimonial sites, Facebook, specially-organized matrimony conventions, and the last I heard, speed-marriages(Islamic version of speed-dating).