“I was born and raised Muslim. My family is Muslim. They immigrated to the US in the ‘80s. I think probably the biggest point for any Muslim was post-9/11. I was 11 years old at the time, and very naive in my understanding about the faith. I didn’t understand the politics of what 9/11 meant, and it was just a very tough time for Muslims in general.
“I started wearing the scarf when I was nine. I had to go through a process of that, too, because you’re immediately recognised as a Muslim if you’ve got your hijab on. It’s not the same for men, now that beards are in style. They’re not immediately recognised. You can be a hipster or you can be a Muslim. [Laughs]
“Yes it is. Damn, that’s such a heavy question. [Laughs.] But the thing is, dating isn’t something that’s talked about in Islam.
"One of my biggest questions of this year is, 'How come there’s no, like, seven simple rules for how to have a successful marriage?'”
“It’s, like, humans have been alive for so long. We know we need to eat. We know we need to sleep. I don’t understand — people have been married for centuries. It blows my mind to know that you can try this conservative approach, or this non-conservative approach…”
“Yeah! [Laughs] It’s hit-or-miss in both situations. So that’s all to say that those conversations come up a lot.”
“My parents know that I talk to men with the purpose of dating for marriage. But they don’t encourage ‘dating.’ They have encouraged me getting married. Often. Forever. [Laughs]”
“I live in Chicago, and I live in this great neighbourhood, so I meet people all the time. And you’re going to meet men — men who are not Muslim. And you know it’s difficult because I do see that men do want to start flirting with me. So, you think, Wow I also find this man interesting and intriguing. Yeah, dinner doesn’t sound like a bad idea. And then, eventually, you’ve got to say, Oh shit, is this my boyfriend? Are we dating? How did this happen?! I wanted a Muslim!
“Exactly. So now it’s like, where the fuck do you find a handsome, attractive, intelligent, emotionally sensitive, family-oriented Muslim? The dating pool is SO SMALL. As a woman, it’s already hard to find someone who is not a scum bag. It can’t be true, but it feels like there are way less men then there are women.”
“It comes up quickly, because I do wear a scarf. So I’m easily identifiable as a Muslim. But if a guy is Muslim, he’s very quick to bring it up. He might just say ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’ [Ed note: this translates to “Peace be unto you” in Arabic, and is the standard salutation between Muslims.] And I’m just like ‘Oh ‘Wa-Alaikum-Salaam’ [Ed note: This translate to “And unto you peace” in Arabic]. He might ask what mosque I belong to.
“[Laughs] I just have to tell them! I am at this point in my life where I would love to build a family and settle down. If nothing else, I just want something that has substance and is meaningful. So I do tell the guy, ‘Hey I’m looking for something a little more serious, and I only want to date a Muslim man.’ And some guys are like, ‘I can convert!’ And I’m just like, ‘Stop it. You’re just saying that because you have rose-colored glasses on right now.’”
[Suraya laughs hysterically.]
“I mean, they’ve said these things. But you know how men are. They’re just talking shit. They just don’t know the depths and the gravity of what that means and what they’d really commit to. And men who are like that, you’re just like, Come on. And then, some Jewish girl is going to come along and they’re just going to run off for her…”
“Yeah, exactly! But yes, they’ve said it. And yes, I’m just, like, rolling my eyes.”
“It’s taken some years.”
The prophet himself — there are stories of him being super romantic and sweet to his wife. But you never hear those stories.
“Well they advocate dating to lead to marriage. I do want to reiterate that ‘American dating’ is totally against Islamic standards. You’re not even supposed to be touching somebody of the opposite sex. Those intimate forms of touch are just meant for your husband or your family members or whatever, and not just for strangers.”
“And he’s a Muslim?”
“I know! I have to remind myself. [Laughs] So this guy, whatever, dream boat, finally comes and takes that next step. I would assume he’s already spoken to his parents about it. Actually, he’s had to already have spoken to his parents. He can’t make these decisions without them. So his parents have given him the okay to move forward. Then he would have to approach my dad and mom and introduce himself to them and kind of ask for permission that way. And then both families would meet and feel each other out. See if there were any mutual friends just to get more insight about that person’s character and that family’s character and the reputation that they have. And then, if both families have approved it, then we would get married.”
“[Laughs] I actually have a lot of appreciation for it. It shows that my support system fucks with your support system, and we’re all going to build this future together.”
“I was, but then I got off, because I met somebody in real life and then I just really — I missed the excitement that comes with meeting somebody face-to-face. I wanted whatever relationship I was in to have that excitement that comes from an organic meeting, because swiping is hopeless, and it just felt very, fuck, like automated and robotic.
“[Pauses.] Yes. Muslims are having premarital sex. But you have to include the disclaimer that Islam forbids premarital sex. Like, it’s the worst thing that you can do. It’s like the second or third biggest. But Muslims do do it.”
“Absolutely. Like, all the way down. Like put the lid on it.”
“I will say that Muslim women, if they’re having sex, married or unmarried, tend to be really reserved about the conversations they have, compared to my non-Muslim friends, who tend to be very open and descriptive about the things that go on in their sex lives.”
“I think what Islam does say is that if somebody has a sexual history, it’s not anybody’s business to talk about it. That’s between them and God. Anything that they’ve done is between them and God. You don’t have to repent to your future spouse all the things you’ve done beforehand, because it’s not about that.”
“Shit, I’m not married so I don’t know. [Laughs.] I think that’s a very conservative thing that hasn’t happened around me or anyone I know. So I’d say no.”
“One thing that is important is that you never really hear about Muslims and romance. Even in the most traditional Islamic way, there’s so much romance. The prophet himself — there are stories of him being super romantic and sweet to his wife. But you never hear those stories. You hear more of the negative sides. Whatever the media portrays about us. Does that make sense?”
“Oh no. Not at all. A lot of my girlfriends that are married, you know, they’re super well-educated. A lot of the Muslim relationships that I know, even my own parents who are conservatives, are two-income households. The women are not sitting at home waiting for their husbands to come back.”
“That’s not the case at all. The reason I even reached out was because, for a while, I didn’t know what my future would look like in terms of how you’re supposed to find the Muslim man who also has a good sense of humour, is intelligent, is family-oriented. And I didn’t realise the steps that people took to get to that and if they even have found it. Even in my friend’s relationships — did they find it, or what are the things they compromised on? I’m now realising that there is no set path for that — for how to find that person.”
“And I’m also 27! We’re the same age!”