Islamic marriage advice and family advice

How do I live the life of a pious muslim in a secular society? Must I abandon my women friends?

male female friends relationships

Assalamu Alaykum Brothers and Sisters,

I am a recent revert.  Alhumdulillah!

I live in the USA, which is a very secular society.  I have lived here all my life, and I used to fit in well and know how to relate to people.  Since I reverted,  it has affected my relationships with my friends.  I have some lifelong friends, and other friends I have known for years.  Some are men and some are women.  With the men, it is not so hard, but my friendships with women are difficult.

I know that man/woman friendship is haram in Islam.  I understand why.  Over the years there are times I had zina on my mind with some of my women friends, even some that I have know for all my life.  This is frequently how men think. However, there are some women friends of mine that I have known for 40 years or more.  Although growing up I may have thought about dating them or thought of zina, these days that is no longer a concern. Some of my women friends see me as very intransigent about his topic and think I should remain friends with them.  I try to explain that according to Islam, the possible temptation for zina must be avoided.  They reply that there is NO WAY they will ever have sex with me, and since we have known each other for so many years, I agree that this is VERY VERY unlikely, so unlikely that I am confident it will never happen.  But I do not want to displease Allah.  I have to be honest with myself that there is a level of emotional intimacy with these women, even if there is no physical intimacy.

And I also know that I do not want to be alone.  I reverted near the beginning of the year, when I was in the middle of getting a divorce. My divorce was recently completed.  At some point I will be ready to look for a suitable wife.  I have prayed istikhara on this, and the result is that I need to focus on my children and making sure they are emotionally stable following my divorce from their mother, and the effect on them of my revertion to Islam, before I even begin to think about this.

Because of all of this I know I am somewhat vulnerable emotionally and I don't want that to be a target for Shaytan's mischief.  He already whispers in my ear with things like "this really won't hurt", "there's nothing wrong with this, you've know her for years", etc.  This type of thinking is very subtle and seductive to me.  It scares me.  However, on the good side, because of the grace of Allah, and His strength, Allah has been beside me and I have not ventured into haram activities with women.  But maybe that's Shaytan tricking me into thinking falsely, because I have talked with some of my old friends. Is this haram?

I have another friend from work (woman), who has helped me by teaching my ten year old daughter some of the basics of Islam for a woman, and taken her shopping to find appropriate attire, including hijabs.  Mashallah!  She is also a revert.  I find her to be a very nice person, but since I reverted, I have not talked much with her as I am trying to act in a way that pleases Allah, especially with a Muslim sister.  At some point in the future, when the turmoil in my life and the life of my children has reduced, I want to approach her regarding possible marriage.  I posted a question about this a month or so ago (and done istikhara), and I believe the will of Allah is that I do ask her to consider me, but not for a while, I am not ready, and she has personal family issues she is dealing with as well.   So it would be unfortunate if I did something haram now that could negatively effect this possible course.

However, I am growing more and more isolated, and I am trying to develop friendships with Muslims at my Masjid, but this takes time, and I did find comfort and support from my woman friends before I reverted, and did not even think about zina with several of the long term friends.  Maybe Shaytan is playing with my mind and trying to convince me I can remain friends with women.

[by the way, all my brothers and sisters on this site help me so much, alhumdulillah. it helps me feel less alone. ]

Do you have any advice?

-AmericanMuslim


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13 Responses »

  1. Salaam, =)

    The way I have started to feel about most things in the past couple of years is, 'que sera sera'. It has literally become my life motto. What will be will be. And everything happens with the will of Allah subhana wa ta'ala. Even your marriage/ marriage partner. We are all meant for a specific somebody, regardless of how many people we meet before we meet our life partner. So, if a proposal does not work out, it just means that person wasn't meant for you. That doesn't mean, if you're patient, you wont end up with someone truly amazing and truly suited to you. =) Alhamdulilah! Allah knows best. And truly some things are a blessing in disguise. I hope, insha'allah, that all pious and patient Muslims end up with the partners they deserve.

    Ruby

  2. Asalaam alaikum,

    There a few points about your current situation and what has happened that I want to cover.

    Firstly, I want to tell you that your feelings of sadness are not wrong and I'll explain why. It is a part of our fitrah and the depths of our heart that make us feel love in all its' manifestations. Love and affection for the hopes of something noble such as halal marriage is a wonderful gift from Allah (swt), because it means that we want something that He has give us.

    The hope that we feel for love is, in a small way, a reflection of His attributes and the care that He has for all of us. In fact, when people say that Allah (swt) has created us in his image, they get confused and think of our physical limbs and body. This is not the case of course, and instead, what the "image" really is, is the ability to manifest His greatest attributes within ourselves on a smaller human scale such as forgiveness, mercy and love. Though we can never attain what Allah (swt) possess for Himself, we can try to achieve a small part of it in our lives, which is something quite big for us in reality.

    So the essence of who we are is trying to recognize our ability to achieve what Allah (swt) has bestowed within our hearts. Now please take note that while we all have the ability to love, it is only a reality when we gain the capability to love. Imagine if you will the difference between a woman who is physically able to give birth to children that she may love, versus a woman who is capable of loving her children that are already born. We are all the same way: we are all able to do it, but only some of of us are capable of true love.

    What you are thus feeling in your heart is the hurt of not realizing this capability in a marriage to a woman who you wanted to be in love with. You know that you are able to love her, but the situation has rendered you incapable of doing so.

    The pain you are feeling is not a bad thing per se. If anything, it is a honest reflection of the purity of your heart. This is a beautiful realization and in truth, by not having the interest from this woman returned, Allah (swt) is letting you experience this broken heart for a very important reason: He wants you to understand that by breaking it now, you can fill the cracks of it with His Divine Love. This happens through the sadness that you feel. The important part is to take advantage of this time, when you feel hurt, by going to Him and speaking to Him about it.

    I know a brother who has experienced something very similar to you. He prayed for nearly two years for one particular woman, who in the end, married someone else. He went through a gamut of emotions, but he said that what he realized was that every time he prayed to have this woman be his wife in the past, he was actually spending time with Allah (swt) in talking and asking of Him. He realized that his love didn't take him so much to this woman as it did take him closer to Allah (swt).

    He then said that when his heart broke over the circumstances, he again turned to Allah (swt). "There was nothing sweeter than falling down on my knees in complete misery in front of Allah (swt), pleading with Him about my broken heart," he said. I could not imagine a more beautiful way for him to respond with utter humility to Allah (swt) with what had happened. However, he added the following magnificent line, "This is Your Will and I am pleased with it!"

    Pleased with heartbreak? We should all aspire to this state! From where did he find such faith? In the Prophet's grandson, Hussain son of Ali (as). Sunnis and Shias have written about this narration and from where it originates: the moment Hussain's (as) 6 month old baby was murdered by an opposing army, as Hussain (as) held the child in his arms. It is the type of faith that moves mountains: the mountains of our hearts.

    Love is a many splendid thing, as the poet wrote. It is not wrong to be sad over losing the chance at it. Take your heartbreak to Allah (swt) and thank Him for the invitation He has given you through this time.

    I'm going to ask you to do something, if you have not done so already: tell this woman that you gave her the charity before you felt affection for her. Even if this is not true, say it. Why? To give her a bit of her dignity back and not regretting she took charity. This may hurt you a bit, but it's a way to reach something spiritually higher. Only do this however, if you believe she will trust that it's the truth and with very delicate discretion. Do not make her feel as if you are pandering to her. In fact, perhaps a written note would be better.

    If you think this would insult her intelligence (be very careful about this), then tell her that she should not feel the way she does about it, because charity comes from Allah (swt) since it is a part of His attributes. To be hurt by it is not the right thing to feel. Just apologize to her and ask her to think better of it.

    In the Holy Quran, Chapter 19, Verse 31, Allah (swt) reveals the testimony of Prophet Isa (as),

    And hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive,

    If this is the role of one of the highest prophets, then we should not feel ashamed to receive charity when we need it.

    Also, in the future when you want to help people, always try to do it anonymously, unless it's so urgent that you can't manage it. One brother I know recommended that when you hear a person is suffering, take some charity (money in this example) and place it an envelope. Give it to the person who needs it by saying the following, "Someone heard about your situation and asked me to give this to you. They only asked that it be kept anonymous."

    Doing this ensures that the person never feels indebted to you or embarrassed about it. It also has the benefit of being a secret good deed between you and Allah (swt). These are the best of deeds since they are hidden from mankind. I'm not saying that what you did was wrong before, but this will prevent complications in the future. The fact is that many women, Muslim and non-Muslim need assistance and since men can provide it, it's better to be anonymous to avoid these situations. It's also a good way to ensure your sincerity.

    It may have been for the very reason that Allah (swt) revealed the verse in Surat Al-'Aĥzāb, Chapter 33, Verse 53. It concerned those who were asking from from the wives of the Holy Prophet and Allah (swt) advised them to ask from behind the curtain.

    On another issue, which is more delicate, this is my opinion.

    This is a reality that I wish would not happen, when you said this:

    In this case I was trying very hard to keep things halal. It seems she was more my friend before I reverted than after. This is very confusing to me. I guess before I reverted I was not a candidate for marriage so she was not worried about talking to me, but after I reverted such lively talks and discussions became haram.

    I am a strong believer that Muslim women must be guarded about these things. As you have experienced, the after effects can render much confusion and emotional pain. However, I want you to learn something very important from it. The lesson is to always be clear with yourself in the future, so that you don't find yourself in this situation or perhaps, find a woman wanting you when you do not think of her in the same way. It is for this reason in particular that once a man feels the start of affection or interest in a woman, he should make an inquiry about her willingness to marry discretely, but quickly. It makes it easier than dwelling on a person who may never return similar interest. Just remember to learn from it and not to be bitter over it.

    Of course, you need to be modest when making an inquiry, but this also requires that you know yourself, too. So take this time to evaluate your emotions and look for those signals that make you feel a certain way about the qualities of a woman you wish to marry in spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical aspects. Use this experience to hone your 'wants' and 'needs' in a spouse. This is a useful way to take something positive from what has happened.

    In closing, I leave you with this piece of advice.

    A lot of times, people like to say, "don't worry, there's plenty of fish in the sea." Yet, my own mother shared something more profound and beautiful some years ago. She said, "Somewhere right now, a girl is crying and praying to God. She is begging Him to send her a husband to love. At this time, God looks down at you and says, "I choose him."

    When you meet finally meet her, all I ask it that you make dua for my mom, Insha'allah.

    • Professor X,

      Thanks for your very enlightening and detailed response. Alhamdulillah. It is very helpful and gives me comfort (or rather it helps me see how Allah's mercy and grace offers me comfort in this situation). It also will help me in my future actions and on my path to Jannah, inshallah.

      Also, I did already tell her that the zakat was was from Allah, not from me. I did that when I gave it to her, and I repeated that again when she expressed concern later. In retrospect, I think she felt sad for me, that she did not feel the same, and her reaction was partially due to that. I think it best not to bring it up again or apologize further, it would only risk causing her more grief.

      In any event, it is the will of Allah, and I am pleased. And I will offer dua for your mother should Allah ever grant me the blessing of a wife.

      - American Muslim

  3. Thanks for your responses. Alhumdullilah.

    My real question was about my friends before my revertion to Islam. However, I think I already knew the answer to my griendship issue. I agree that marriage will help me be stonger in my deen. I will proceed to look at marriage and pray istikhara again on this to be sure I am pleasing Allah.

    • Asalaam alaikum Brother,

      I think you need to see this issue in another perspective and why it involves you getting married.

      You see, the boundaries between men and woman are more than just of a sexual nature. The physical aspect is just the initial problem and as you see, the women friends you have are bringing reasons to you to justify continuing the relationships because they believe that sex is not a possibility. As you stated however, you also have the emotional aspect to it. So this will lead to fantasies as you have acknowledged, but there is one perspective that you have not seen, which is that continuing a personal relationship will divert your energies from pursuing a potential spouse and keeping that spouse as the focus of your love in all manners.

      Allah (swt) wants you to save your energies, emotional, physical and sexual for your proper wife and these feelings, wants and needs should only be expressed with her. You will no doubt know of many men who have problems in their relationships and also have numerous female friends or vice versa with wives who have numerous male friends. Somewhere down the line, jealousy and envy will crop up in the marriage stemming from these outside relationships. By keeping you away from unnecessary female relationships, Allah (swt) is saving you from this problems while at the same time honing your focus to be on the female who should be your wife.

      This is not to say that you cannot have business relationships, but going out for dinners, lunches, etc., should be avoided so that your future wife has confidence in you and that those times are reserved for her. The jokes, the giggles, the sweet banter and playing should be saved for her. These will then allow you two to go on into physical touching and playing and should stoke the fires of anticipation for the impending love making once you are married. All of these steps create bonding between two people and it is also this point that Allah (swt) wants you to keep in mind and saved only for your wife.

      Many people who start affairs often admit that is just wasn't the physical sex that they wanted, but the small mannerisms of care and gentleness which we are often dangerously practiced with the opposite sex, if we are not careful. This is not only recognized on a conscious level, but on the subconscious level, too. So in essence, what you are trying to learn is discipline and appropriate outlet of your affections to the proper wife.

      Think of it as a boxer training for a fight. Any deviation in his workout, diet or focus will make him susceptible to defeat. It's the same way in controlling your libido, emotional longing and eventual sexual expression. So in a way you have it backwards, as sex is the last step to the possible ultimate consequence of various relationships. Instead, you need to learn to limit and control the aforementioned path to that destination.

      This is also about attaining spiritual enlightenment, as well. Ask yourself, "why is it that Allah (swt) did not create 100 women for Adam (as) right away?" Reflect on this and then think about the many prophets who wanted a child, but Allah (swt) saw them bear patiently with their wives first and create in them piety and the realizations within them of their place abased before Allah (swt). Couple this with the way you should view women in the Qur'anic sense and how they are more than just the goal of sexual gratification.

      Once you go past the sexual aspect (though keep it in mind), I think you'll discover a greater answer awaiting you.

      • My Brother Professor X,

        Alhamdulillah. Allah is with me through you. Your comment and message on this could not have come at a better time.

        This is exactly what I am struggling with the last two days, and I did not realize it or understand it fully on a conscious level. This is such wise advice, and fits in exactly with why I do need to stop friendships that are haram. I must be true to whomever my wife will be, I cannot have emotional intimacy with many women, it will take away from the wonderful gift of a loving wife from Allah.

        I pray that Allah will always be at the center of my thoughts and actions.

        May Allah grant you his best.

        ~ American Muslim

        • Walaikum salaam Br.American Muslim,

          Thank you for your kind regards. Keep in mind that everything happens in steps for us. We cannot complete our journey in one footstep, but it's a series of corrections on our journey. Your struggle in this matter is the same: you won't show up tomorrow at work, put a hand up to women and say, "Begone!"

          Instead, one method that I find useful is to say to people of other faiths, "Modesty is a part of your respective religion and so, let us both be the best we can be and be observant of these things." They may argue with your religious perspective, but they will seldom bring theirs' into question.

          I think you may relate to this clip, as well.

          • My Brother Professor X,

            This advice is so wise, and I have experienced something related to this. It shows how easy things can get out of control in such situations.

            I developed affection from afar for this sister at work, and I did recently approach her to see if she had any interest at all.

            Her answer was no, so of course I am not going to pursue it further.

            However, in my mind I have already formed an emotional attachment to her. Now I am sad (actually quite sad) that she does not have that kind of affection for me. She told me has respect and affection for me as much as any sister can have for a brother in Islam, but nothing more. On a couple occasions a few months back, I offered her some money as a zakat to buy food because she was in a tough spot and having trouble feeding her son. Then, recently when I asked her about considering me as a potential husband, she said that she now felt disgusted by taking money from me, and if she knew I had any interest in her she would not have accepted it. I feel badly that I have handled this so clumsily. I feel that I have offended her, and that she feels accepting zakat from me was haram.

            But the worst part is, I think because of my reversion, and because of lots of turmoil in my life surrounding a divorce, I imagined something there that was not. Of course I know that my feelings and emotions are a gift from Allah, but this has hit me hard and I am more sad than is healthy. I am worried that I have kind of fouled up my emotions for whomever may be my wife in the future. I know that time will heal this, but do you have any further advice on how to handle my sadness about this? She still has a place in my heart, and I know this is inappropriate.

            In this case I was trying very hard to keep things halal. It seems she was more my friend before I reverted than after. This is very confusing to me. I guess before I reverted I was not a candidate for marriage so she was not worried about talking to me, but after I reverted such lively talks and discussions became haram.

            Please, any thoughts would be sincerely appreciated. I need to get though this, and it weighs heavy on my heart.

            Thank you, my brother. May Allah grant you His best.

            - American Muslim

      • Professor X, thank you for that. You explained it so well maasha'Allah. Even the smallest of regular banter with someone creates a bond. You've opened my eyes to something really important. JazaakhAllahkhayr.

        SisterZ
        IslamicAnswers.com Editor

  4. Dear brother american muslim,, you sound like a good and respectable man... A man that secures his integrity and dignity... You know, though you just recently converted, you sound better than many people (perhaps including me) that are born muslims.... Its very had to make such a heavy u- turn, but for the sake of Almighty Allah, you did it... Your reward is only with Allah , and he alone would reward you for your sacrifice...
    However, i would advice you to try and get married as early as you can... You could propose to this muslim woman and see if she is ready or willing to accept the offer.... If in a case she is not willing or ready, you have the option of searching for other pious muslim women around you.. There are some islamic matrimonial site you can visit and inshaAllah, you could find a good and suitable match for your self. You could visit http://www.singlemuslim.com
    http://www.zawaj.com .. Amongs others. These sites are absolutely islamic, particulary the first one and dont have any doubt that you gonna fall on the wrong hands.. There are good and pious women their ..
    May Allah guide you brother..

    Bro Mohd

    • Brother Mohd

      Thanks for your suggestion, but I did go to the matrimonial sites, and it is not for me. The web search seems like shopping for meat to me. I will work through an Imam at my Masjid when I am ready.

      May Allah bless you and your family

      American Muslim

  5. Slm brother,

    It seems that now is as good a time as any to ask for this sister's hand. Provided she is not married or under Iddah, I think the only halaal option is to get married. You mention that u feel u may not be ready, but if you're already thinking about ur future, logic wud argue that u are. Since this sister has already got a relationship with your daughter, she may find it easier to adjust. May Allah guide you to make the right decision.

    Wrt ur female friends, I know it is hard to have to 'let them go'. Maybe encourage their husbands to be around when u visit so u r never alone.

    All the best my brother. May Allah continue to guide to on the siratal mustaqueem.

    • I agree with Aniqah,

      I do not see the sense or benefit in delaying proposing marriage when you know that you do definitely want to marry a particular person. Do your istikhara and proceed with your proposal in the right manner. If the sister agrees but cannot live with you yet for whatever reason, atleast have your nikah done. That way you can meet freely, date, have a relationship, find comfort in one another etc and you will begin to feel less need and desire to talk to other female friends. You know the answer to erase your vulnerability.

      SisterZ
      IslamicAnswers.com Editor

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