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).
Dating is out of the question because Islamic law forbids a man and woman from being alone together. This is based on the premise that the shaytan is considered to be a third party if it is just the two of them and Iblis may cause them to commit acts of zina(fornication). Because of this it is nearly impossible to really get to know a potential spouse. Women have Wali’s and Wakeel’s who can sit in as a mediator to make sure nothing happens but it is really not the same as being on a date. The couple is bound by the time of the Wali. It is hard enough trying to schedule a time when two people can get together but to throw a third person into the mix makes it incredibly difficult. In this situation most times couples will meet at the Wali’s house or the masjid or somewhere neutral because to drag so many people to dinner and a movie just isn’t feasible. The conversations are often marked and curt with a polite exchange of questions and examination of Islamic knowledge. There is less conversation and more survey. These types of meetings often form the basis of an institution that is intended to last ‘until death do you part’.
Thus many of the foundations for Muslim marriages are very weak and the Muslim community is reeling from record numbers of high divorce rates. While this can be said of marriage period, it is the Muslims that find themselves in a bind because they don’t have much leeway to fix things. Because Islam is so rigid there isn’t much wiggle room to be able to come to workable solutions for finding a spouse and building a healthy marriage. There are/were some groups that were trying to come up with new ways to facilitate a smoother path to marriage but I don’t know if they survived. Even though I believe Islam to be false, I commend them on their efforts. Anything that comes across as changing the face of Islam is met with disdain, especially from older generations. For legions of young people to not only be stuck living the lie of Islam but also no choice but to marry the first Ahmad or Aishah they come across, is a travesty.
And because of that, my fringe benefit of apostasy is being able to date and take my time getting to know the person until I am ready to enter a new relationship. Or perhaps I won’t enter a relationship at all and just enjoy going out. No more stale question-and-answer sessions. We can go out dancing and I can see if I like how he moves. We can go to dinner and I can see if he chews with his mouth open or closed. We can go to strolls in the botanical gardens, a hike in the mountains, roller skating, a comedy show or a play, maybe the museum or perhaps the open-air concert. So many choices, so few men.
Best of all, I can test-drive the goods if I want. I am not forced to wait until after we’re married to see if I like my purchase. If a muslimah marries and she doesn’t like the package then she is SOL because many times getting a refund(divorce) is hell and high water. Not that many women would divorce over something like that but the fact of the matter is it is not something you are even given the opportunity to consider. I can go on a date and be a prude or I can be a harlot. I can make him wait for two, three, or four dates or I can give it up after 5 minutes. It’s my choice, how fabulous is that.
So with June right around the corner, I have to get to work. I need to have this body back in pristine shape before heading back out on the dating scene. Muhammad says one of the best things in this dunya(present-life) is a righteous wife. Muhammad also routinely left women out of being recipients of anything other than crumbs from her husband’s plate. So I say the best thing in this dunya is to be a free woman in control of her own mind, her own sexuality, who is sexy as hell, horny as all get-out, and more confident than Donald Trump, Michael Jordan, and Shaq put together. Muslims call a woman like that the devil. I call her Eve.