L.A.’s Volunteer Muslim Matchmaker
His matches have sparks of tradition
Mohammad Mertaban is a volunteer matchmaker who helps observant young Muslims searching for a modern path to marriage that stays true to Islam.
By Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times
September 23, 2011
The one-line email that greeted Mohammad Mertaban came straight to the point.
“Mertaban, find me a husband, k? I await your list of potential suitors,” wrote a woman who lives on the East Coast.
Mertaban was not surprised, although he knew the woman only slightly. “If it comes from a brother or sister whom I don’t know very well, I know that she would do it out of frustration, desperation or a strong desire to get married,” he explained later.
An information technology project manager who lives in Fullerton, Mertaban, 30, has grown accustomed to urgent requests — by phone, email and in person — since he began dabbling in matchmaking for friends and acquaintances about eight years ago. Those he helps are observant young Muslims searching for a modern path to marriage that stays true to Islam.
American Muslims regularly speak of a “marriage crisis” in their communities, as growing numbers of Muslims reach their late 20s and early 30s still single. Young religious Muslims tend to avoid Western-style dating, but many also reject the ways of earlier generations, in which potential spouses were introduced to one another by family.
Traditionally, in South Asia and the Middle East, older women — often called the “aunties” — and parents recommended matches by drawing upon their extensive networks of family, friends and acquaintances. Marriage criteria were typically limited to religion, ethnicity, jobs and looks. But in the U.S., their little black books of contacts are significantly thinner and many second-generation American Muslims see such methods as decidedly old-world.
So, many turn to young volunteer matchmakers like Mertaban, who have connections in their hometowns, college circles and vast online networks.
“The aunties don’t really know people very well and I think they’re just shooting in the dark,” said Mertaban, whose parents emigrated from Lebanon. “I think people have veered away from that.”
Amir Mertaban, Mohammad’s younger brother and a matchmaker as well, said the goal was “to keep this as close to Islam as possible. I’m trying to get people hooked up, but we’re trying to do this in a halal (permissible) manner.”
What is and isn’t allowed is debated within the Muslim community. But those who seek a matchmaker’s help tend to steer clear of anything resembling dating and to avoid meeting one another without a chaperone. And even though they may see their parents’ methods as too traditional, they are still more comfortable seeking help from a go-between than online matrimonial sites or singles’ events held at mosques under the guise of “networking.”
Mertaban, who is lively with a quick laugh and a wide, almost Joker-like smile, says he didn’t choose to be a matchmaker but fell into the role after he helped a number of friends.
He grew up in Diamond Bar and has lived in Los Angeles, Irvine and Fullerton — where he is now a youth mentor at the area mosque — which helped him establish a wide Southern California Muslim network.
In his senior year at UCLA, Mertaban was president of the campus’ Muslim Student Assn. and the following year he was president of MSA-West, an umbrella group covering much of the West Coast. With chapters at universities nationwide, it has jokingly been called the Muslim Singles Assn.
He was well-liked and known for making other students, especially freshmen, feel welcome. Many turned to him for advice about their problems.
“He’s a leader… everybody trusts Mohammad,” said Lena Khan, 26, an independent filmmaker who attended UCLA with Mertaban. “If you need something at 2 a.m., you know Mohammad is happy to help you.”
In a community that observes a certain level of gender segregation, Mertaban, because of his leadership roles, interacted regularly with both men and women. Soon, students began asking him for help finding potential mates.
His first attempt involved one of his best friends, of Palestinian descent, and an Indian woman the man was interested in. It didn’t work, partly because of their different ethnicities — a cultural lesson Mertaban now keeps in mind when suggesting pairings. He organizes his lists of single men and women by nationality.
The “Single Sisters” directory on his laptop begins with a 28-year-old Afghan woman and ends with a 25-year-old Syrian. In between are almost three dozen women, ranging from their early 20s to early 30s with details such as “Algerian only” or “wants to marry an Egyptian dr, mba or engineer.” Other notations include “not hijabi,” referring to women who don’t wear a head scarf.
His “Single Brothers” list, which is kept separate, is longer.
Mertaban, who has been married since 2005 and has two young daughters, said he has become well known as a source of reliable information about single Muslims — perhaps too well known. “I’ll get random emails from people that I’ve met once,” he said. “And sometimes it’s just really overwhelming and I don’t want to take these cases on.”
At a recent Muslim conference, Mertaban volunteered at the information booth of a relief agency with projects in the Middle East and Africa. But some at the conference still wanted to talk matrimony.
A man from Northern California stood awkwardly beside Mertaban, saying, “Maybe you can mention potentials” as young women walked by. The man, whom Mertaban had previously tried to set up but without success, stayed at his elbow as conference-goers browsed through religious books and other materials. Too polite to mention his discomfort with the request, Mertaban escaped only when the call to prayer was made.
He had greater success with Khan, the filmmaker. On Valentine’s Day 2008, he called to say that a friend, Ahmad, was interested in her. For a few weeks, Khan peppered Mertaban with questions about her suitor.
Mertaban told her that Ahmad was devoted to his prayers and very involved in volunteer activities, both of which were important to her. He helped fill the gaps in a courtship that took place mostly over the phone, Khan said.
“Mohammad told me he was funny and it would have taken me forever … to find out because he’s not going to start busting out jokes on the phone with a girl he wants to marry,” she said. “If you want to know about a guy, you need someone like Mohammad.”
She and Ahmad were married 10 months later.
Twice previously, Khan’s parents had entertained suitors for her — young men and their parents — and both efforts ended the day they began. “It’s just not as fruitful,” she said.
Even though Mertaban is a new-style matchmaker, his methods are relatively conservative. He is wary of suggesting matches for couples of different ethnicities and he declines to help any man who doesn’t plan to approach the woman’s father first for permission.
“I mean guys and girls shouldn’t be talking freely,” he said. “If you have the intention of getting married, the parents need to be involved.”
Sounding not unlike an “auntie” himself, he says those interested in marriage need to decide if they are compatible as a couple before emotions get in the way. He was introduced to his wife, Ferdaus Serhal, by his older sister who had worked with Serhal at a mosque. The couple emailed and spoke on the phone for two months before their families met.
Now he often consults with Serhal to get her opinion on a young woman or a possible pairing. He has matched eight couples who married and has about half a dozen more in progress. Still, he says he spends too much time counseling men with unrealistic expectations.
Two days after he ran into a college friend, Mertaban got a call from the man. They spent time catching up, and then the man volunteered that he was struggling to find a wife. Mertaban asked what he was looking for.
“He said he wants a girl with beautiful hair, tall, slender body and he wants her to have really pretty eyes and on top of that, get this, he wanted a girl who would not talk back to him,” the matchmaker recalled. “I thought this is not worth my time, this guy needs a lot more maturing.”
But he felt obliged to say something. He told the man, a doctor, that his criteria were unrealistic and noted that the prophet Muhammad encouraged men to marry women for their faith and character. He tried to be sensitive, knowing that asking for his help can be a humbling experience.
The man seemed to understand, but at the end of the conversation he just reiterated his requirements.
Mertaban hung up feeling frustrated.
Muslim Dating: The Reality of our Ummah and Some Solutions – Part 2
ORGANICA is the personal blog of an Egyptian-American Muslim sister who calls herself, “A crazy Egyptian Muslim American girl with too many labels to count” The post below is one of her most popular and most commented-on.
Muslim Dating: The Reality of our Ummah and Some Solutions – Part 2
When parents eventually learn about their child’s alternate reality their reaction is of one of two: 1) Overreact the situation, curse and damn child to hell, take away worldly possessions such as a phone while spitting out every Quranic verse to guilt the child to stop; 2) Deny the situation entirely and never address it. Astonishingly, the latter occurs at a much higher frequency.
I’ve seen parents bow in prayer begging God to help and guide their child. Unfortunately, that is usually the extent of their effort. Waking up an hour early to pray in the wee hours of the morning isn’t the solution. God doesn’t help people who don’t help themselves first.
Acceptance of Gender Mixing:
Humans need to socialize and interact with one another. It’s part of life. Contrary to most Islamic Scholar’s interpretation of Islamic teachings, I believe that healthy interactions among the genders is needed to build self-esteem and healthy choices in life. I sometimes wonder why scholars emphasize the importance of community values among Muslims (Jummah, Eid, visiting the sick, keeping relations with kin), yet spend most of their time speaking of the evilness of mixing with the opposite gender and the horrors that come about.
I believe that God has commanded us to be social beings. There are no exclusions. The forms of these contacts are different in nature. Some are more intimate than others but with every relation one could discern the proper form of interaction.
Many Muslim children are raised on the notion that mixing with the opposite gender is haraam. Recently I visited friends during a dinner party. The children were separated by gender and were asked to not interact. I heard a mother tell her daughter “Good little girls don’t play with boys.” Of course, Muslim parents aren’t concerned about today’s innocent playdate but the future is what’s on their mind. They believe if they allow their six-year old daughter to play with a little boy now, ten years later she will still want to play, but maybe more of a mature type play?
The mistake occurs the first time parents restrict interaction. Boys and girls grow up curious about the opposite gender thanks to the limited interaction they were allowed as children. However, the same standards aren’t into play when it comes to school, especially when they are in a public school setting. The child learns to discriminate: when he/she is at school, they are free to interact as they please, but once in the presence of a parent or a Muslim member of their community, they learn to avoid contact with the opposite gender. From here the dual-lifestyle is commenced.
When the child approaches their parent to discuss their social life at school or ask to invite a male classmate to their birthday party, they are quickly reprimanded and reminded that ‘this is not our way’ (i.e. the Muslim/Arab/Asian, etc way). Soon after the child learns that certain topics aren’t safe to discuss with one’s parent, so they turn to friends to seek advice or confide their secrets. The friends cheer on the alternate life the child creates, and as a result the parent and other community members remain in the dark.
- Allow children to freely interact with the opposite gender in academic and social settings.
- Teach children of both genders to work together on community service projects (brainstorm, plan, lead, etc).
- Equip children with the interpersonal skills (how to socialize with one another, etc)
- Teach children proper etiquette across settings
- Encourage and reward honest and thoughtful dialogue
- Set fair rules, be consistent, open to criticism, and follow-through when rules are broken
- Model Godly behavior
- Provide a safe environment free of hostility and disrespect.
Preparing Children to be Responsible Adults with Mature Goals in Life:
When I asked a Muslim teenage friend of mine why she wanted a boyfriend, her response was honest, “I want a boyfriend to buy me expensive things and take me places.” Growing up as a teen in the Middle East, many of my friends sought boyfriends for the same reasons, although most wanted the relationship to end in marriage (and 99% of them never did). If I ever fancied to take on a boyfriend at the tender age of 15, my reasons would have probably been to fill the empty void in my life and the loneliness I felt.
When you ask Muslim teens today what their goals in life are, their thoughts of the world or what commitment means, they will be at loss for words. Of course this is not a Muslim phenomenon but a universal one. As Muslims though we believe that God has sent us guidance that would solve all our worldly problems and yet we aren’t even close to solving the Muslim youth crises. One must wonder why?
Our youth complain that religious folk don’t get them. They are there to throw rules and judge them at every given moment. The rules state clearly: gender mixing of any kind is haraam; liking, loving or dating someone is haraam; any emotions towards the opposite gender is haraam; being curious is haraam; speaking about your emotions and desires to your parents is haraam and disappointing to your parents; talking OPENLY about sex is haraam; talking about what happens at school is haraam; being honest about your needs is haraam and shameful; if you are alone with the opposite gender–even in pubic–thats haraam; if you want to have a friend of the opposite gender, it’s haraam.
The massive language and generational barrier has resulted in the mess we call today “dual-identity of the Muslim youth.”
Parents remind their children that all the above rules can be broken when married. So one must wait and be patient until then. Ironically, the parents do NOTHING to prepare these children for marriage, and at the same time when the child is ready to be married off they make it so difficult that marriage is almost a struggle (that’s for another topic). And the cycle continues…
- Parents must accept that their children at whatever age will naturally seek a partner. This is nature at play.
- Parents should be approachable so child can consult with them when needed (without fear).
- Parents must work hard to raise mature children. The dilemma in today’s ummah is that our children are babied forever. Let’s face it, in Western communities Muslims are among the wealthiest and most educated. They seek the same for their children so they baby them. The child learns no type of responsibility growing up. I’ve met countless young Muslims who’ve never held a real job. My question is why? Everyone has bills, even at 15!
- Involving the child in community service, work, house chores and in decision making will expose the child to more experience, thus maturity. This should be part of the family’s culture.
- Teaching children to relieve their natural feelings through acceptable means: marriage.
- Parents should teach their child that marriage is the only way to have a wholesome relationship with someone.
- Liking someone is acceptable; however, the ultimate form of the relationship should be marriage (or what leads to it), nothing else. Our problem today, children are scared of marriage. We should prepare our boys and girls to be the husbands and wives of the future. Marriage isn’t scary, it could be a beautiful thing when two healthy individuals are involved.
So Do Muslims Date?
My answer is yes and no.
When my non-Muslim friends ask me this question, I am often stumped. In mainstream American culture dating doesn’t always lead to marriage or start off with that intent. Of course, ultimately, any couple wishes their relationship evolves to that stage, but it’s not necessary for the relationship to continue.
In my opinion, the ‘getting to know someone’ part could be given the term dating or courtship. A person gets to know another person with the initial intent made clear: marriage.
I am often surprised at my Muslim friends who date with no intent of marriage. Why would they invest so much energy, time and emotion on someone they don’t have any intention to remain with?
When we equip our Muslim youth with balanced childhood where friends are of both genders, awkwardness is absent because gender relations can take many forms like friendship (not only sex as many Islamic scholars like to emphasize). Finally: honesty, respect and Godliness are integral parts of the value system of a healthy Muslim child. I believe with all in place our youth will see the beauty in Islamic values that past generations have unintentionally destroyed in the Name of God. Amen!
Dating in Islam Begins With Marriage
By Jennifer (Sumayah) Fayed of Intuitive Muslimah
I listened to a great lecture last night that was entitled “Islam & Dating” now before you jump the gun…It wasn’t about Muslims dating out of wedlock, but the contrary how once we are married how imperative it is to continue dating your husband or wife.
Although it was about a thirty minute lecture it had a strong message. I thought to myself, Abdul Malik (the lecturer) is really on to something and is touching on an important issue that most of us who are married seem to forget so easily.
Of course, there are those newlywed moments of, “I love you so much honey that I would live anywhere with you…even under a bridge”.
Or the husband saying, “Sweetheart buy whatever you like in the store price isn’t an object” or him bringing flowers everytime he comes home.
But something happens: reality sets in! The kids come, the bills pile up, everyone is tired, and soon enough you realize that the couple that showed so much attention and considertation to one another in the beginning now don’t even face each other while they sleep.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Ok, so whats the solution?
The solution is easy. We have to remember to rekindle the flames that started the marriage in the first place. How, you ask? Ok, let’s face it most of us don’t have that money tree growing in the yard anymore. If anything, it has dried up like a prune and hasn’t bloomed a leaf of money since you last recall. There are however other ways. How about that quality time that both of you spent together just talking about things other than the kids, bills, work, and family. Focus on each other.
Being a wife doesn’t only consist of feeding the husband, cleaning the house, and attending to the children. It’s more than that… let’s remember Khadijah the Prophet’s (pbuh) first wife, she was his companion. She gave him reassurance when he most needed it, showed him compassion, shared her opinions, and supported him. Some of us have been taught that a wife is one who makes lavish dishes for her husband, who dresses up to appeal to him, and has her home organized. I’m not saying these things arent’ important. What I am saying is that a marriage and being a companion is more than superficial beauty and enticing of the flesh. Now, I’m sure the husbands who read this are probably like “Oh yea she’s right on!!!” LOL….guys you aren’t off the hook.
As husbands, you have to remember that marriage isn’t just being the maintainer and provider of the the woman and the family. It also goes deeper than that. Women are complex creatures just like men are and we also need attention, affection, and this doesn’t just mean what happens inside the bed sheets. Let’s get real here, wives need you to be more involved in the home, and that one-on-one conversation. Instead of watching the playoffs, turn off the tube and sit with your wife and talk about how she is feeling and indulge in some beneficial convos… Read some qur’an together, discuss hadiths, rekindle what sparked that flame when you first met her. You didn’t just marry her because of her beauty (at least I hope not). You married because you wanted a life partner. As women, we are auditory creatures mostly who need to hear things to know we are appreciated and loved. So dear brother, remember that when spending time with your wife.
Dating in Islam begins with marriage. We have to show one another value, love, and respect. And we do this with one-on-one communication, becoming best friends, and remembering how to keep those ardent flames from extinguishing.
In Abdul Malik’s lecture he said something that stood out for me and that was ” Men are creatures of sight, and women are creatures of sound”.
When both men and woman form the bond of marriage they have major responsibilities to each other and to Allah. Marriage is full of hardships but is also very beautiful. We were created to be companions in this life and inshallah the hereafter.
To the husbands, realize that your wife is a delicate being that needs physical, and emotional interaction. We need to hear that you love us and if possible follow those words with a kind gesture. And to the wives (me included) let us remember that yes, the way to a man’s heart is to his stomach (at times), however we also need to learn patience, contentment, and encourage the husband in all the good he does for us and the family.
Marriage brings a mountain of responsiblities but with hardwork, dedication, optimism, communication, and mercy for one another; this rope that will develop strong knots along the way will bring endless bounties of blessings to us and to the ummah God willing.
Dating in Islam – Q&A
Dating in Islam -
Q & A
by Yasmin Mogahed
Reprinted from SuhaibWebb.com
Question: Is dating allowed in Islam so that I can get to know someone for marriage? It’s hard to get married and dating is normal in our society. Arranged marriages aren’t realistic for us nowadays.
As-salamu `alaykum brother,
Thank you for the honest question you asked regarding dating. There are a number of issues that you brought up. First, you have pointed out that you live in a society where dating is the norm. While I understand and sympathize with that struggle, it is important to make clear that just because something is the norm in one’s society, does not justify participating in it. In the society that the Prophet (sal-Allahu alayhi wa-sallam) lived, burying little girls alive was the norm. Of course, the principles of Islam prohibited such barbarism – regardless of what was widespread at the time.
In fact, the Prophet (sws) has told us that those who follow the right path will always be ‘different’ or ‘strange’ to the mainstream. In one beautiful hadith, the Prophet (sws) says: “Islam began as something strange, and will revert to being strange as it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers.” Then the people asked, “Who are they (the strangers), O Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Those who are pious and righteous when the people have become evil.” (Ahmad)
Secondly, you state the concern of getting to know someone for marriage. You explain that dating is needed since arranged marriages are not feasible. However, by saying this you imply that these are the only two routes to getting married. What you are forgetting is that there is a third option: the option taught to us by our beloved Prophet (sws). Let us examine each of the three options for meeting a marriage partner:
One option is dating. This option is prohibited for a number of reasons. First, the Prophet (sws) has taught us that it is haram for a non-mahram (unrelated) man and a woman to be alone together. This is called khilwa. He warns that if this happens, Shaytan (satan) will be present with them. The Prophet (sws) said: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Devil makes a third.” (Sahih Bukhari) Now it is important to note that Allah never prohibits something unless it is harmful to us. Let us examine for a moment the harm in this.
First, most reports of sexual abuse are not committed by strangers. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 68% of young girls raped knew their rapist either as a boyfriend, friend or casual acquaintance, and 60% of rapes of young women occur in their own home or a friend or relative’s home – not in a dark alley. So, overwhelmingly, it is those people who you are out on a ‘date’ with that commit these crimes. Also, as dating has become more widespread in a society, so has unwanted pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. By prohibiting khilwa, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, is protecting us.
Also, as you know even consensual extra-marital intercourse (zina) is a grave sin in Islam. But Allah did not just tell us not to commit zina. He says in the Qur’an: “Do not come close to zina for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).” (Qur’an, 17:32). One does not leave their infant to play on a highway, but hope they will not get hit by a car. One important Islamic principle is: prevention before cure. You do not come close to fire, and then wonder why you got burned. Therefore, Allah has prohibited anything that may lead to zina, namely khilwa (being in seclusion). Now if just being in seclusion is prohibited, what can be said about physical contact and the whole institution of dating?
In support of dating, some argue that it is needed in order to find a spouse. The irony in this is that dating does not increase marital success. In fact, the United States is a culture where dating is the norm. However, 50% of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. And according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, couples who lived together before marrying have nearly an 80 percent higher divorce rate than those who did not. So if dating is putting you at a higher risk of sexual abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancy, and it makes you no more likely to find a successful marriage partner – but in fact less likely – what logical person would chose this option, even if it were not prohibited by Islam?
2) Arranged Marriage
There is also the option of completely arranged marriages. While it is fine for parents or mutual friends to introduce two prospective partners, the Prophet (sws) has told us not to go into a marriage blindly. Once a man came to the Prophet (sws) and told him that he was going to get married. The Prophet (sws) asked if he had seen the woman. When the man said no, he said: “Go and look at her for it is more likely to engender love between the two of you.” (Ahmad)
3) Islamic Courting
Islam provides the balanced solution to courting, which protects the individual and the society, but does not have people enter marriage blindly. If there is a woman you are considering for marriage, you should approach her mahram (male relative). From there, many avenues exist to get to know her better, without having to be in seclusion or engaging in physical contact. Talking to someone over the phone, through email or the internet, or in the company of a mahram, gives you a chance to find out more about them, without crossing the boundaries set by Allah in His infinite wisdom. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not have a private audience with a woman without her mahram.” (Ahmad)
This is the way designed by our Creator, who made everything in the universe, who knows what is hidden and what is open, who knows the future and the past, who knows us, better than we could ever know about ourselves. How could we ever think that a better system could exist than the one prescribed by our Maker and the master of the universe?
I pray that what I’ve said has been beneficial to you. Anything I said that was right, it is from Allah. Anything wrong, is from myself.
That’s the end of Yasmin’s piece. I’d like to add a few comments of my own. Sister Yasmin’s article is informative and of course correct in all it’s statements of fact, but doesn’t really offer practical alternatives for men and women getting to know each other. Yasmin says, “If there is a woman you are considering for marriage, you should approach her mahram. From there, many avenues exist to get to know her better, without having to be in seclusion or engaging in physical contact.” Of course this is true, but how do you get to that point of choosing someone that you might be interested in for marriage? Just by seeing someone at work, school or a conference? That feels like taking an important step based on insufficient information.
I have three suggestions that would allow singles to meet in an Islamic manner, to get to know each other for marriage:
1. Internet matrimonial services. Of course we have online matrimonial services now – like Zawaj.com! That’s a good place to start, and does not require breaking any Islamic rules. Young people can read one another’s profiles, exchange a few anonymous messages through the matrimonial service’s messaging system, then if they find each other interesting they can take it offline and contact each other’s families.
2. Marriage events. I’m talking about organized marriage events where men and women can meet in a structured and supervised environment. This should be a more widely considered option. There are some organizations doing this already, but they tend to be held only occasionally in larger cities. Smaller cities rarely see such marriage events. I think local mosques should take the lead in organizing marriage events for the singles in their communities.
And every major Islamic conference should include such an event.
3. Imams as matchmakers. Maybe the Imam of each community (and his wife) should take it as one of the office’s functions to maintain a database of single brothers and sisters, and make suggestions and introductions. I’ve read about an Imam in New York who does that quite successfully.
We seem to have these two extremes – either an arranged marriage between cousins, which is generally unhealthy and seems to end in misery more often than not, or a free-for-all where young people must fend and seek for themselves, and often fall into sin.
As a community we must develop modern alternatives that satisfy Islamic requirements and allow single Muslim men and women to meet.
Muslim Dating? – Part 1
Organica is the personal blog of an Egyptian-American Muslim sister who calls herself, “A crazy Egyptian Muslim American girl with too many labels to count” The post below is one of her most popular and most commented-on.
Muslim Dating: The Reality of our Ummah – Part 1
When people ask “do Muslims date?” A big chunk of Muslims will quickly respond with a “Hell No!” Because remember that Hadeeth about Shaytaan being the third? Ya, so of course Muslims don’t date, commit adultery or drink alcohol or have gay sex or break any other Quranic tenet. Muslims are perfect angels with no faults.
But if you’ve lived among a large Muslim population, befriended Muslims or visited a Muslim majority country, you will learn that things are not very different than what we see here (in America) among the mainstream culture. Muslims indulge in all of these acts, but the only difference is all is done in secrecy, in a hush-hush secret alternative reality where it’s better to sweep your shame under the carpet than dreadfully advertise your sins.
One doesn’t need to travel to the Middle East to witness the phenomenon. Take a short trip to the beautiful city of Toronto and its neighboring suburbs where a Muslim majority is present in the high school scene. You will find the percentages of Muslim individuals involved in dating, sex, drinking, drugs, etc is high, which is no different than a school with a Judeo-Christian majority.
If you’ve ever visited fatwa sites like Islam QA or Islamonline cyber counseling/fatwa section you will learn that our Muslim youth aren’t living a sin-free life. I remember a young man once wrote the site asking for advice about his ‘problem.’ You see this young man, an aspiring Sheikh, was attracted to men and he didn’t know how to keep his faith and battle his desires. Another girl wrote asking what to do with a man she loves and is on the verge of committing adultery with him because her practicing beautiful Muslim family won’t allow her to marry him.
Young men and women write daily to these outlets asking for a solution. They grew up hearing that it’s haraam to do this and that, yet an alternative was never presented. And when their sins are revealed they are shunned from the community, especially if female.
I know a number of pious and well regarded youth in my community who live double lives. A simple facebook or myspace check will tell you all. It’s very sad that everyone around them, including their young fellow Muslim friends, are aware of this double life but the parents are in the dark. I don’t pity the parents because they CHOOSE not to understand their children. Parents assume their child would never be like so and so’s bad child. But I got news for them, THEY DO and sometimes they are worse!
Some religious scholars will advise youth to fast or play sports. But in the day and age we live in , is that really enough? Has it been effective thus far? I don’t think so.
I think it’s time for the Muslim Ummah collectively to stop turning a blind eye and face REALITY. Obviously their previous ‘plan’ hasn’t worked. Our Ummah collectively aren’t becoming more Godly but they are turning away from their religion all together. The way we deal with our children needs to change NOW.
First action item on the list: Change parental attitudes and priorities.