Extremely British Muslims – My Perspective on Marriage

I finished watching the first episode of ‘Extremely British Muslims’ – the documentary on channel 4. After watching ‘Muslims Like Us’ recently on BBC and now this, I am beginning to see a trend. Documentaries which are supposedly made and broadcasted with the aim of reducing stigma and segregation within British society but do very little to actually address anything.

I finished watching the episode feeling that it did not represent me at all. The programme was partially focussed on Pakistani culture within the Muslim community in Birmingham but didn’t explain this – it was simply conveyed as Islam.

The topic of the episode was about marriage within Islam and specifically how the young generation of Muslims are finding it difficult to find spouses in this day and age. Apparently, young Muslims want to find a partner in more western ways but are merely trying to please their parents and the older generations in their methods of spouse searching.

The main issue, according to the programme, is the fact that dating is forbidden in Islam therefore, young Muslims are finding it impossible to find an appropriate spouse as they can’t get to know them before marriage.

Throughout the episode, the non-Muslim man making the documentary was addressing questions to the Muslim subjects. On numerous occasions he would credulously question the way they were doing things and proceeded to state the way he did things and how that must be the better way of doing things. This irritated me in itself. Not only that but at no point was any real understanding conveyed nor explanation given regarding the issue of dating in Islam.

If a non-Muslim watched that documentary they would not learn anything about Islam except that apparently all young Muslims are unhappy with the rules and their lack of freedom compared to their non-Muslim counterparts. That is not ‘breaking down barriers’ and it won’t lead to any understanding. If anything, it will lead to more non-Muslims telling Muslims that their religion is oppressive and backwards.

Having watched this episode I just wanted to share my own experience and perspective regarding marriage in Islam. When my husband and I met for the first time there was no physical contact whatsoever. We talked about the things we looked for in a husband/wife and what we each wanted to get from and put into a marriage. We talked about the characteristics we were looking for and the characteristics we each had. We talked about our backgrounds and families to give each other context and understanding of our upbringing. On my part, I discussed with him the difficulties I face as a revert and the way this affects my relationships with my family. We discussed the subjects which were important to us;  one of which being our religion. We discussed our goals and aspirations and our hopes in life. We also discussed the extremely important topic of what animals we each wanted as pets (cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, fish… basically a zoo). After talking through topics such as these we could tell whether we were interested in each other; whether we were compatible and whether there was any potential.

Obviously, we both decided that indeed we were interested in one another. We both prayed istikhara several times and shared our feelings from the outcome of these prayers with one another. The second time we met, we did our nikkah. That was a year and a half ago and alhamdulillah we are happy. As we have gotten to know each other more and more every day we discover new reasons why we are perfect for each other. That is the blessing of marriage and the way Allah guided us both. The fundamental things for us, which we have built our marriage on, we ascertained when we first met. The importance of our religion for both of us told us many things about one another.

This is something any young Muslims can do. Meet potential spouses and discuss all of the fundamental topics and issues which are important to each individual. If you agree on all of the points which matter to you, then everything else you can build on and learn from each other.

On a side note: dating is haram (forbidden) in Islam because it leads to, not only sins, but also heartbreak. When people are dating they inevitably get attached to one another and because they are only dating they are also much more likely to leave if things get hard. I’m not saying all marriages are perfect and never lead to any hurt or heartbreak however, people who are dating are often unsure of the other persons intentions or feelings and it can get very complicated. Dating is forbidden to not only protect us from sin but also from hurt and heartbreak. That is my perspective.

 

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25 thoughts on “Extremely British Muslims – My Perspective on Marriage

  1. Christal Joan says:

    I didn’t watch the show, I’m kind of sick of these kind of shows Lol, but I really enjoyed your summary.

    I feel that even in the Muslim world, the way that we approach finding spouses is flawed because the mindset has already been infiltrated by so called better Western ways.

    It’s not haraam to meet with your Mahram and discuss the important topics you mention BUT you need the Mahram to be of a certain calibre to address the right questions. Not just if they can afford to support a woman after marriage. I’m not belittling the fact that money is an issue but most of the time people aren’t even interested in if the brother or sister prays, learns Arabic or reads Qur’an regularly.

    I totally agree with you when it comes to these shows in general though. They’re not about pulling down the veil and showing that Muslims aren’t what people think they are. They’re just a means of showing that young Muslims are disillusioned with the culture that surrounds their Islam and not Islam itself. In a way, I feel like this is the problem with having a culture that has been soo intricately intertwined with Islam. Fortunately I don’t have that problem and I thank Allah swt for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Safiyah says:

      That’s so true that the mindset had been infiltrated by western ways and because of that many Muslims who try and do things the halal way are views as ‘extreme’ and told that they need to adapt with the times…
      I also completely agree with your point that these programmes tend to show the Muslim youth as disillusioned. It also conveys Muslims as extremely divided in many ways which just makes it seem more problematic to non-Muslims. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts, loved hearing your perspective!

      Like

  2. Zoya Kubra says:

    I couldn’t watch the show in my country but I saw some of the clips online & have heard about some of the scenes. It seems to be more of a joke than a true reality TV style programme; it’s as if those Muslims were deliberately chosen for the sole purpose of entertainment. I can only imagine had the same show been produced by younger Muslims themselves if would have been very different, and it would’ve shed light on some very real issues.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Safiyah says:

      The clips they used to advertise it were definitely very comical but the content was generally much more reality TV/documentary.
      Yeah it would definitely be great to see issues tackled more fairly by Muslims of different ages and backgrounds!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. namelesspublications says:

    My perspective is very similar to yours. I watched the trailer for this show and honestly it really annoyed me, because it was made from the same old tired fabric of all these muslim shows. Muslims dying to have as much freedom and meld themselves into their non muslim counterparts. I feel like it does not represent muslims, but caters to pleasing the western notions of islam in order to break barriers – and as you say, it does the opposite. My husband of three years and I had four meetings before we got married. During those meetings we discussed a myriad of things and through our discussions we came to the conclusion that we wanted to marry! It is not always smooth sailing for a lot of muslims, however, and a lot of parents, especially from a cultural background, associate ‘arranged marriage’ with ‘I have to choose a spouse for my kid’ and this is not islamic, nor is it fair. A lot of muslims in the west are disillusioned with this perspective and I have to say it is prevalent in the asian communities. Parents will not allow their children to marry anybody who is not Asian, which presents a huge problem in a multicultural society. My parents are Moroccan and Pakistani, so I am a product of a mixed marriage, and in our family we don’t have any particular culture to pertain to rather we follow the guidelines in our religion. Too many of my friends have been affected by culture, however, in their marriage choices and are facing difficulties getting married, and some have resorted to ‘dating’ out of this difficulty. It is a sad truth, and one that will inherently affect muslims living in the UK.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Safiyah says:

      Exactly! Ultimately this type of portrayal conforms to the western notions of Islam… it might make people sympathise to young Muslims who they deem as wanting to be more apart of western culture than Islam; it only leads to more hostility towards Islam itself and conveys Muslims who are not compromising their religion as extremists.
      Masha’Allah that is great to hear that your family places more importance on the principles of Islam itself… may Allah bless you and your family and grant you good in this life and the next!
      I completely agree with you, one of the main problems for young Muslims trying to get married is the way that culture can come in the way and make it harder! This is an issue which would be beneficial for the Muslim community to confront.
      Thanks for sharing your views and experience, I love to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Safiyah says:

      Exactly! That is so true the Muslims they give a voice are either terrorist sympathisers or Muslims who compromise their religion and imitate westerners.

      Like

  4. ELLIE SUTHERLAND says:

    As someone with no knowledge of Islamic culture (or the culture of many religions, for that matter), I do tend to almost rely on these kinds of documentaries for insight and understanding. Thank you for pointing out any flaws that would otherwise go over my head, and providing such a frank and honest personal perception of these issues that I’d other wise be almost completely ignorant of!x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Safiyah says:

      Thank you for reading and I’m glad if it did highlight some issues because you have no reason to know whether it is a fair representation or not! That’s what frustrates me: these documentaries could really shed light and educate people on a subject they know nothing about but they give such a warped and unfair perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. oldpoet56 says:

    Very good article ma’am, it was a very good read. I had not heard of the movie but it sounds like a waste of time to watch. Such movies should be directed by someone who at least grew up in the faith even if they have fallen away as an adult. This way the movie could be much more accurate and informative of reality. I am going to go ahead and reblog this article for you ma’am. I do not believe in Islam at all yet I am very pleased that you and your husband have found peace with each other, I wish you both well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Safiyah says:

      Thank you for reading and I’m glad you thought so! Yes exactly they should have included Muslims in the producing and editing process as well for it to be fairer and more beneficial for people to learn from as well!
      Thank you so much, that is so sweet of you! If only there were more people like you 🙂 wishing you all the best too!

      Like

  6. Yacoob says:

    I would guess that in many cases, the youth’s unhappiness in the prohibitions / limitations is down to the fact that many born Muslims nowadays are Muslim by culture – not by conscious decision, nor deep knowledge of the religion. In the absence of both, along with the overwhelming sensory and intellectual assault of modern, Western culture (both in non-Muslim societies and possibly even Muslim-majority contexts), it’s easy for young Muslims today to see the religion as an outdated, authoritarian system of the past that shouldn’t have much say in their lives, other than in ritualistic worship.

    I think this is where some of the outstanding younger Muslim scholars / personalities (e.g. Nouman Ali Khan) are so critical, because they show Islam’s practicality and wisdom in light of the reality of life today – rather than rigidly presenting it in an old school way that makes it seem irrelevant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Safiyah says:

      Thank you for your comment! Yes that’s a very good point and I definitely agree with you. Some people are born Muslims and grow up learning certain cultural customs which actually aren’t part of Islam but they don’t even know that because they don’t learn or get taught about Islam.
      Also very true, young Muslims scholars can try and discuss Islam in a way that would appeal to younger Muslims.

      Like

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