Muslim Dating 101: If you’re a Muslim woman, don’t even think about falling in love with a non-Muslim. Despite the fact that Muslim men are, according to the Qu’ran, are permitted to marry women of the Abrahamic faiths (i.e. Jewish or Christian) and there is nothing that explicitly states that the same is forbidden for women, interfaith love is a total taboo for Muslim women, which makes dating in western countries like America a nightmare. Since we at MissMuslim believe in being a voice for the voiceless, this summer we’ll be featuring a series of stories highlighting the experiences of Muslim American women who are in or have been in interfaith relationships.
Written by Esraa Holloway
With editing by Hedya Chibane
Growing up, I was taught to believe that true love exists—after all my parents, were the definition of true love. They supported each other and were always each other’s backbone through thick and thin. They were life partners, best friends, but most importantly amazing parents. I lost my mother at the age of 15 and watched my father crumble after losing the love of his life. Tears filled his eyes when people would talk about how amazing my mom was, or even if he simply heard her name. I wanted that in my life, a man who would be so dedicated and love me more than life itself. In my eyes, they were a fairy tale that I yearned to one day have.
Like every Muslim girl, I was raised knowing that one day I would find my prince and live happily ever after. In my mind, he would be an Arab, of course, like my dad—I pictured us being the real life Jasmine and Aladdin all those years. Like most Muslims, I grew up learning about my religion at home and in Islamic Sunday School (yes, we went to school on Sunday). At some point or another, I was taught how important it is for a Muslim woman to marry a Muslim man since the children carry their father’s name and religion. I wanted Muslim children and that lead me to believe that every relationship I had with a non-Muslim or non-Arab would end because there wouldn’t be a future (not the one I pictured, anyways). My mentality was constructed to think that if you were not Muslim, you were forbidden.
At the age of 23, I had just gotten out of a 4-year engagement to my “Arab Prince Charming” and believed that true love no longer existed. I used to say, “Love is just a word- a feeling, like saying I’m hungry. You eat, then you are no longer hungry. Same with love.” I was broken, hurt, and felt like I would never love like that again. Of course, that didn’t stop me from going out and dating. After a few bad apples, my cousin kept nagging me to add her (white, non-Muslim) manager on Facebook because he wanted to get to know me. Naturally, having grown up with a specific idea of my prince Charming (or rather, Aladdin), I was never really into white guys so I said no. Weeks went by and he added and eventually messaged me. He was so sweet, but I just didn’t want to start anything that “didn’t have a future”—my thoughts were bound.
Nevertheless, he persisted, and reached out to me to ask if we could meet. Since he was my cousin’s manager, I did not want to put her in a weird position at work so I agreed to meet only if she was present. We set a date and went to Applebee’s (I love half off apps). Awkward as can be with butterflies rapidly filling my stomach, I sat there grinning with nothing to say. What are these butterflies, why do I feel like this? Questions flooded my brain, to the point where I could no longer focus on the beautiful man in front of me. Blue eyes, dirty blonde hair, six pack abs (from what i could see under his shirt)—he was just sexy as hell. Something about him really drew me in.
As we got to know each other, I constantly reiterated that we could never be more than friends because I can’t be with a person who is not Muslim. I did not want to go against my beliefs and what I stood for. He had also just gotten out of a long-term relationship (8 years) with an Arab Muslim girl. He told me how he almost converted more than once but for one reason or another he never did. He was honest and even shared how she told him to convert so they COULD get married. I explained to him how people should not convert for others, they should only do it for themselves. “Your relationship with God should not have anything to do with any other person.”
A few months later, my family naturally started talking—by talking I mean gossiping and questioning—which lead to my father finding out about him and questioning me himself. I have always been very close to my father; he is not just my father he is my friend. He was upset that he heard about the two of us through the grapevine. I explained that we were just friends because I knew that there would never be a future.
“Do you like him?” Dad asked. “Yes, but don’t worry I already told him we can’t be more than friends.” I replied. We were hanging out a lot; I genuinely enjoyed his company. We would talk on the phone for hours every day, discussing everything: likes, dislikes, kind of music we are into, family, past relationships, and religion. He started asking me about Islam and how he could go about learning more about it. I know my religion but I did not have enough information to help him gain the knowledge he needed. He asked me if he could meet my father one day so he could learn more about deen.
“Your relationship with God should not have anything to do with any other person.”
I reached out to Baba and asked him if he would be willing to meet him. We were going to Paterson (for some Arabic food, of course) that weekend so he said to invite David to meet at the house and come out with us. I got nervous about the thought of my dad meeting this man that I was secretly falling in love with but I did it. When he got to my dad’s, I introduced them then went upstairs to finish getting ready. I wanted to give them an opportunity to get to know each other and for Dave to be comfortable enough to ask any question about the religion. 10 minutes later, I heard my father praying before we left and I ran downstairs so I could sit with our guest so that he wouldn’t feel awkward as they prayed. I walked into the living room to find him standing to the right of my father, praying. Joy filled my heart and tears filled my eyes at such a beautiful sight; it was in that moment that I knew I loved him.
Driving to Paterson I rode with him as we followed my father and his wife. I asked him, “How did that happen back at home?” He explained that my father announced he was getting up to pray before leaving, so he asked if he could join him. I swiftly asked if he made wudu (washing ritual for prayer) and he told me that my dad guided him on how to do it before praying. I asked him about how he felt while praying and he said, “It felt like all my stress and worries were melting away.” My heart was so happy.
As time went by, he would reach out to my father and try to learn about the religion all on his own. My father provided him with translated Quran, English books about the religion, and more. The more he learned, the closer we got and the more in love I became. Still, in my mind I knew that there would be no future because even if he were to convert, I feared I would always question his integrity.
My father sat me down one day and said, “I know you are falling for him; I can see it in your eyes. In the way you get excited when he calls you, and the smile on your face when you glance at him.”
I owned it. “I do love him dad,” I said as I started sobbing in his warm, safe hug. He asked me why I was crying and I explained my biggest fear.
“What if he converts and we end up together and it’s all a lie? What if he says he converted for himself and God but all along he did it just to be able to be with me?” I had a million questions running through my head every second.
My father then told me a religious story (Hadith) about a war between religions back in the Prophet’s day. As the Muslims fought the Kuffar (infidels-who were attacking the Prophet and his Believers), one Kaffer said the shahada (Musli profession of faith) right before being killed. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W) asked the man who killed him why he killed his now Muslim brother. The man responded that he only said the shahada out of fear of dying but the Prophet explained that he was not God to decide who is or isn’t Muslim, and that he couldn’t see what was in the man’s heart—he could only believe something to be true. That story really resonated with me. It opened my eyes and changed my views on many levels. Only God knows what is in someone’s heart; only He can judge.
My family started reaching out to me when they heard he was learning about deen, and invited us over to get to know him. They welcomed him in with open arms as their soon to be Muslim brother. In February 2012, David had made a decision to officially convert and had even picked the Muslim name Malek for himself. My father reached out to the Sheikh and set a date for us to go to the mosque and welcome Dave into our Muslim community. On March 9th of that year, he officially converted and became, as he described it, “a born again Muslim.” My family loved him—he fit right in. A week later, David asked my father for my hand in marriage. And on my 24th birthday, (March 19th) we went to the court and filled out the paper work for our Katb Ketab (marriage ceremony), which took place at the mosque on the 31st.
Only God knows what is in someone’s heart; only He can judge.
Every Friday, he would leave work to attend prayers at the mosque. He was trying his best to learn, and now we are learning together. We are not perfect Muslims, but we strive to be good Muslims. We will continue to teach our children that God always has a plan and that fairy tales don’t just happen; instead you create your own fairy tale and it’s not always picture perfect. We have been married for over 5 years Alhamdullilah, have two sons (one also named Malek and the other who was born just a few days ago) and through it all, my family remains very supportive and always has my back, no matter my choices. Special shout out to my family, the real MVPs—without them, my fairy tale would have never been possible.