If I am not working, spending time with friends and family, or sleeping, I am either reading books or watching movies/shows. I have been a proud “bookworm” since elementary school and an avid movie-watcher since high school. Whether it be through television, my laptop, or mobile device for films or actual books or e-readers for books, these two things are forever accessible.
One of the important things that drew me to Islam is that its a complete way of life. The guidance of Allah Subhana Wa’Tala(The glorified and exalted) covers everything, and as Muslims, we should strive to bring the practice of Islam and the remembrance of Allah into all aspects of our lives. I have known for a while that the content prevalent in the books that I read and the films that I watch are not in accordance with the Islamic ideals of modesty as well the values guiding the way we live. A good 60% of the movies I watch are action/adventure/thriller while the other 40% are romance/comedy. This means that “bold gender interactions” aka ‘hypersexualized characters’ are the norm and it is rare to find a film that does not have intimate images/scenes.
JMuslimah and I were were recently discussing the fact that we often forget that the Islamic practice of ‘lowering your gaze’ (not intentionally looking upon or lusting after the opposite gender) does not only apply to people surrounding you, but also actors/actresses featured in films. I have repeatedly watched a film (despite mediocre ratings and atrocious acting) purely because “OMG the actor in this movie is so unbelievably hot! He’s got great abs!” Astaghfirullah! I am admitting that I am enticed to watch a film for the main purpose of “gazing.” The truth is that I am not alone in my thoughts and actions; many Muslim sisters watch movies only to talk about “how hot or sexy” a particular actor is.
The practice of lowering one’s gaze does not exclude films. It includes films! Films, TV shows, magazines, posters, paintings—anywhere the body is exposed for the purpose of enticing physical appreciation—these venues should be avoided or approached cautiously with a ‘lowered gaze.’ In the past, I have rationalized that “It’s not a big deal. It’s not like I am busy having haram interactions.” Recently, I had to face the truth. I am at the point in my life now where I am seriously preparing for the next step: marriage. And as a sister who is usually quite conservative when it comes to religious opinions, I know that I would not want a prospective spouse who actively watched films/shows with the intent to gaze, drool, and fawn over female actresses. Furthermore, I know that when I have children, inshaAllah, I would not even want my teenagers to watch such films. So I questioned myself: “If you know that what you are doing is not in alignment with Islamic ideals and you know that you do not want your future spouse and kid (inshaAllah/By the will of God) watching/reading such content. . .then WHY do you continue to do so NOW?
This seems to be the predicament many Muslims, both born and convert, land themselves in. Perhaps our reluctance in actively doing what we know in our hearts to be right stems from the misguided mentality of “I can rationalize what I want to do now, and I can do what is right later.” How do we know we have a later? We do not know! On the Day of Judgment, when Allah Subhana Wa’Tala is taking account of our sins, what excuse will be accepted by our Creator for why we continued doing wrong when we had clear knowledge of what was right? There will be no excuse. No amount of enjoyment or laughter from entertaining or captivating films/shows will help us evade the eternal fire.
A tiny voice in my head is like “Halimah, aren’t you being a bit dramatic about this?” My responding thought is “No. If the Day of Judgment and risking an eternity in hell fire instead of Jannah(heaven) is trivial to you, then surely you are among the foolish. When you sideline the importance of reflecting on the Day of Judgment, then you sideline the importance of Allah Subhana Wa’Tala and our purpose as creations which is to to worship and please our Creator.”
Now that I have identified my problem and I have reflected on it, what I need is a clear strategy for improvement!
We will be posting a series of articles all pertaining to Marriage in Islam. The “Marriage Series” will focus on how to go about this fun but crazy process in a halal manner and will also include our personal experience. "
The media and society as a whole has unfortunately portrayed Muslim parent as evil individuals who force their kind and naive children into marriages with someone that they do not know and is abusive, hideous and other bad things. In reality though, while some parents might operate in this manner, it is not the norm and forced marriages are actually haram in Islam.
Ok, so if parents aren't supposed to force their children to marry someone, does that mean that Muslim youth should date in order to find their spouse? The answer to that is NO.
It is not permissible for a Muslim to date in the sense of dating in the western world. A man and a woman are not permitted to be alone with one another unless they are mahrams and free-mixing in general is not allowed. So then, how do Muslims find their spouse?
This process manifests in different ways depending on the culture but often, if a man or woman notice someone of the opposite sex that they think might be good for them(based on word of mouth, halal interactions, etc) and they would like to inquire about the person, they should first make istikhara(dua for guidance). If after istikharah, they are still interested, the can either go through their local imam(if both individuals are from the same community) to express interest in the person and the imam can notify the other individual. They can also speak to someone who is close to the other individual and express interest or they can go directly to the family of the individual themselves. So for instance, if a brother is interested in a sister, he can choose to go through the imam or go straight to the girl’s wali(who can be her father, brother, uncle, etc) and if a sister is interested, she should notify her wali and have him make the initial contact. If both parties agree to pursue the interest, a meeting is arranged. While this meeting can be organised in different ways depending on the culture, it is impertinent that there be a chaperone, preferably the wali of the girl. Meeting alone(even in a restaurant or cafe) should be avoided. It is important that both families be completely involved in the whole process.
If after the initial discussion the two individuals decide that they are both interested in one another, subsequent meetings may be arranged to further get to know each other. It is important, because the point of these meetings is to decide if they are your ideal spouse, that fundamental questions be asked and discussed. Such questions should include how often the person prays, their adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah, how marital disagreements in matters of deen should be handled(i.e you believe niqab is Sunnah and want to observe while he would prefer you don’t and because it’s Sunnah, you don’t ‘have’ to do it) and other related questions. Questions regarding rights and duties, marital roles(do you expect him to be the sole breadwinner like Allah has ordained? Does he expect you to be a housewife?), the influence of in-laws, income, career goals, kinship ties and other foundation questions should also be answered. If the responses to these sort of questions pleases both individuals they might decide to begin preparations for a nikkah and also spend more(halal) time together to develop chemistry and feelings for one another. The reason why it is good to make sure the foundations are there before the emotional attachments and chemistry is because often times, once you start developing feelings you begin to make excuses for the important areas they are lacking in.
*Remember though, that while you are developing these feelings, you are not married and still unlawful towards one another and should therefore be modest in your actions*
The "Muslimah Worries" section of Striving Clarity is dedicated to discussing the things that Muslimahs often worry about from hijab to marriage to how to remain spiritual when you're unable to pray. Join us!