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 by Alveena Salim

You’ve been through uni, you’ve got your education out the way, you don’t fancy anyone and the chances of meeting someone have become increasingly slim so you’ve agreed to go through the meat market and meet a number of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes personally hand-picked by your parents. And in this incredibly socially awkward get together, in presence of your nearest and dearest over a cup of PG tips, you have to decide whether or not you can spend the rest of your life with the one introduced to you by your parents. No pressure eh?

It’s not the most ideal way of finding your life partner. But it’s as Halaal as you can get. You’ll meet all sorts in such meetings. The aunties who only come to pig out on free food. The boys who’ll do nothing but perv at you or those who are too gay to even look you in the eye.

You’ll come across the aunties who’ll try to cop a feel so that they can guess your dress size or you’ll meet those who are shameless enough to ask you at the dinner table. Some guys will make their caveman/Taliban views clear. Whilst others will tell you that they are looking forward to clubbing with you in a miniskirt.

It’s also a small world, so if you’re lucky you might even find yourself serving tea to someone who’s currently dating a friend of yours.

You can’t date and you definitely can’t ‘try before you buy’ so how exactly can you decide whether or not the guy/girl sitting in front of you can possibly become the love of your life?

Never fear. The Revival is here, to talk you through some of the key points that will hopefully make this decision much easier.

  1. Firstly DON’T judge merely on appearances. First meetings are usually very awkward and cringy. You have fathers breathing down your neck and the entire room usually eavesdropping on your conversations. So don’t assume that the girl/guy sitting in front of you is very shy or extremely modest. If you want to know how modest they are, just ask. Ask her what she wears to work/at home on an every day basis. Ask her if she usually wears the Hijaab/Jilbaab or Niqab. Find out if she intends to cover up more/less after marriage. Ask him if he usually wears the Thobe/Kufi or if he’s just donning it to impress your dad. Ask him if he intends to grow/trim his beard after marriage. Feel free to ask each other about their friends. Find out if they have close friendship with members of the opposite sex.
  2. Ask them to sum up their personality in three words. It’s an icebreaker but also reveals a lot about the other person. Are they hot tempered or calm and collected? Are they an extrovert or an introvert? How would their close friends/siblings describe them?
  3. Ask them about their hobbies. Are they into sports? Helping out in their local community? Do they help out in their local Mosque? Do they like eating out? If so, what kind of food are they into? Someone’s diet speaks volumes. You can separate the fitness fanatics from the junk food addicts. Do they like to travel? What countries have they visited? What kinds of books do they like reading? What kind of programmes do they like to watch? What kind of music do they like to listen to? What was the last Islamic programme they attended? Everyone’s character is made up of their interests.
  4. Talk about your future plans and ask them about theirs. Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years? Do you wish to travel? Start a family straight away? Study further? Do you want to further your career? Don’t just ask them about their short-term goals, find out where they see their marriage in 10 years time.
  5. Kids. Do you want kids? How would you like to bring them up? How many would you prefer? However, bear in mind that it’s not always a good idea to bring up family planning in front of your elders. Only bring up this private yet important issue away from prying ears. Or save it for another time.
  6. What are their expectations of marriage as a whole? Guys, if being domesticated is important to you, find out if she knows how to cook and clean. If you believe that a woman belongs in the kitchen, make sure she’s aware of that. Girls, if being domesticated is not important to you, make sure he knows that. Find out what they expect from you. Guys, are you looking for someone homely or career minded? Should she be active in Islam or would you rather she stuck to the basics? Girls, what do you want from your partner? Do you want him to be the main breadwinner? Do you want him to be active/inactive in Islam? Make sure your potential is aware of your preferences.
  7. Just observe. Watch how they speak to your parents. Observe how they deal with children. Are they patient? Are they considerate? Are they respectful? How do they speak to you? Are they polite? Do they listen to your opinions? How do they disagree with you? Watch how they eat. Do they stuff their face or slurp their tea? Do they look comfortable or bored? Do they seem embarrassed or at ease?
  8. Living arrangements. Very important. Guys, if you want your future wife to live with your parents make sure she knows that. Girls, if living with the in-laws is not an option for you, make sure he’s aware of that. Plus, it’s also important to find out if you’ll be able to visit your own parents regularly.
  9. Be honest! Don’t meet them if you’re not interested. If you don’t wish to get married, if you already have someone on the side which you haven’t told your parents about or if you just don’t want to marry them, then DON’T waste their time and your own time. Trust me, people have better things to do then serve tea to a bunch of time wasters. If you’re not someone who attends the mosque five times a day, or who fasts in Ramadan but likes to enjoy the odd spliff now and again, DON’T make out that you’re a religious guy. And girls, if you really dress in short skirts, like to smoke and go clubbing and raving, don’t make out that you’re a Niqab-lovin virgin Mary. Do not allow your parents/close relative to exaggerate your good points. If you’re not really a doctor but instead drive a cab, than don’t allow your mum to say that you are. If don’t really spend all your income on the orphans and the homeless don’t allow your dad to say that you do. If you can’t really cook 14 different exotic dishes and hoover the whole house in 30 minutes then don’t allow your aunty to say that you can. The truth always comes out.
  10. It’s not wise to ask questions about their past or to reveal too much about your own past (should it be shameful). However, if you’ve been married before, have kids or any naughty diseases that your potential partner needs to be aware of make sure they know about it. Also, you need to find out if they’re a smoker and ask about their general fitness level.

Overall, what’s most important about these meetings is your gut reaction. Even scientific studies about human decision-making have demonstrated that our split-second gut-level reactions tend to be very accurate in this sort of situation.

Of course, it’s incredibly important to ask questions in these meetings, but what’s most important is how you spontaneously respond to a potential.

If there are a lot of awkward silences or you find yourself getting bored and looking at the clock, chances are that they are not the one for you.

Don’t ever rush this decision and always make sure you choose your life partner for the right reasons, guys don’t just agree to marry someone coz she looked fit when she served you tea, and girls don’t agree to marry someone coz he’s loaded. But at the same time, don’t be so quick to reject someone based on superficial reasons, such as looks or money.

After all, does it really matter if she’s a pharmacist and not a doctor? Is it really the end of the world that he earns 24k instead of 26k? Does it really bother you that he’s 5’7 instead of 5’8? Is it really the end of the world if he doesn’t share your interest in sci-fi or stamp collecting?

Make sure you look at them. It’s not enough to marry someone merely based on the opinion of others. The Prophet Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him encouraged suitors to see one another

“When one of you asks a woman for marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so….” (Abu Dawud)

Also, if you’ve gone to see someone or vice versa, don’t hide upstairs or refuse to look up from your plate of food. It’ll make you seem as if you’re not interested… or gay. But at the same time, don’t bog the person out. No one likes a perv.

Do ask the opinion of your family. Whilst you may have fallen for the fit guy who you served tea to, maybe his unemployed status could be a problem, or maybe the large age difference will matter in the future. And even if she’s the ‘fittest gal you’ve ever seen’, would you really be OK with her dressing in such tight and short clothes in public? Remember to take ALL factors into consideration and do consult those who have your best interest at heart.

Make sure you have a realistic view of marriage. Marriage is not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s all about compromise. You can paint a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather. You may face financial problems or you may have some issues with your in-laws.

Ask yourself, are you really mature and patient enough to work through such problems should they arise?

Make sure you don’t lead people on. If you’re not interested in a potential suitor make sure you let them know ASAP. People deserve an answer; no one should be led on or messed around just for the sake of your ego. And if you do get rejected, maintain your self-respect and walk away.

There’s plenty of fish in the sea. No one likes a ranting, blubbering individual. Throwing a hissy fit just coz you got rejected just confirms to the other family that they made the right decision.

And finally, be sure you do Istikhara before you make a final decision. Ask Allah (swt) to help you make a decision that will benefit you in this world and in the hereafter. Remember that human knowledge is limited. Trust and depend on the One who knows you better than you know yourself.