Friday, May 22, 2009

"Mom, when can I have a girlfriend?"

"Eh, Ridhuan, how come you are still single aah? Ah Chong is even getting married already. When are you planning to get a girlfriend?" a Chinese schoolmate and friend asked me one day while we were catching up over coffee.

"I'm not planning to get a girlfriend ah.. I hope to get married without an intimate pre-marital relationship. That's what Islam teaches."

"What?! Muslims cannot have relationships before marraige?! Really meh? Then, how come ah I see so many Muslims having relationships?"

"Yea, really..". And I proceeded to explain to my Chinese friends in simple terms, that Islam is not only about prayers and rituals. Islam is a way of life and this means that whatever that we do in our life (relationship/work/food/interaction etc.) that abides by the rules and regulations of Allah, provided by Him in the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad's Sunnah, that is the concept of worship in Islam.

"Oh I see.. like that uhh?!" my Chinese friend somewhat tried to come to an understanding, though still looking puzzled.

Boy-Girl relationships (BGR) are so common nowadays and it is even widespread among Muslims. It's understandable if those who were brought up in a Secular school setting since young with little or no knowledge in Islam are influenced, but the reality is that even those who were brought up in a more religious setting such as Madrasahs practice it. Where did it go wrong? Do we blame the school? Do we blame the society and its bad influences? Or even the parents?

For some cases the parents can be partly at fault. Parents play a very influential role in the upbringing of their child. Once I overheard a primary schoolboy asking his mother,

"Mom, when can I get a girlfriend?".

The reply was, "Oh not now, do well in school, get a good job and then you can find one!" she answered being amused at the same time at how fast her son is growing.

Instead of trying to explain according to the Islamic guidelines, the parent had actually encouraged the child saying that he is free to find a girlfriend when he's older and more stable in life. Still, it's understandable why the mother gave an advice in that manner as she herself has little knowledge in Islam.

However, there still exist children brought up with the discipline and knowledge of Islam but chose to go against what they already know is wrong. When this happens, nothing can stop them even if the parents nag or advise countless number of times. Sometimes all the parents can do is keep advising, hoping and praying that their child will be rightly guided, realise their mistake and revert to a healthier Islamic lifestyle.

Passing through such a phase as a youth growing up in Secular settings, I can understand the pulling factors and influences among peers about BGR relationships. You can't really blame a Muslim who's ignorant about his own religion indulging in it.

But for a Muslim, who already knows that it is not permissible and still indulges in it, that is the real problem here. Some may be even known to the society as religious people, go to mosques often, help out at communities and charity works, but involve themselves in BGR relationships. It's a contradiction of how Islam actually is. The problem is that they are looked upon as role models in the Muslim society and their influences are even greater. Thus, they are sending out the wrong signals about Islam by having relationships and dating around.

I have nothing against them, it's their life, I agree. A friend quoted, "Kubur sendiri, jawab sendiri ah". (literally meaning: It's my life and I'll answer myself to God!). Seriously, I shudder at the lax attitude and the seriousness of this quote. I hope that Allah forgives my friend for his error and guide him.

The actions from these religious figures will influence others who look to them as role models and when this happens, it's not just about their own private lives. It has become a public matter!

And there's a certain trend of thinking among some youths with backgrounds of Secular schools today. This took place in an 'usrah' (group discussion session) at a mosque when discussing about a certain "It's Sexier to Say NO to Sex" campaign, I voiced out my opinion..

"The campaign is positive that it reminds youths and educates them the dangers and realities of indulging in casual sex before marriage but I think they should do more. We should keep going after that to try educating youths about the Islamic way of relationships and the successes and benefits of marriages maybe even encouraging and aiding for those who are ready for marriage earlier, as recommended in Islam. Then a youth activist rebutted me,

"I think the campaign is good that it reminds youths to take precaution. But I feel, there is no problem with BGR with Muslims as we are currently living in the modern society and everyone does it! We can't prevent the trend and have to adjust Islam according to the current trends." Then, another more influential youth activist gave similar views.

I reiterated my views on it and then waited for some in the group to back me up knowing that they had understood where I was coming from but it never came.

This is a dangerous form of thinking as it contradicts the basic teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah itself! They are saying things that they don't know about and tried to justify their opinions with their own understanding of Islam. Na'udhubillaahi min dhaalik.(We seek protection from Allah from this form of thinking.) And May Allah guide them away from this form of thinking.

For relationships and love in Islam, there is no such thing as strict or less-strict practice of Islam when a Muslim chooses not to indulge in BGR before marriage. It's just permissible or non-permissible. How can we permit BGR when it is clearly stated that it's impermissible and proven throughout the generations that there are more negatives than positives from it?

Islam recognises feelings and needs that exists in humans, between a guy and girl but disciplines and regulates it by allowing it to be expressed only after marriage. We can't help it having feelings for the opposite sex, this is only natural.
I remembered a talk by Dr. Asri, goes something like this..

" Kalo seseorang itu nyatakan dia cinta kepada kita, kita katalah, terima kasih..Nak buat macam mana kan, cinta itu fitrah. Takkan nak marah dia pula, eh apa ni cinta, cinta?!!.. Orang lain susah-susah nak cari cinta, dah bagus tu ada orang cinta kat kita(laughter from audience).. Tapi kita salah bila kita bertindak atas cinta itu"

[If someone confesses to us that he/she is in love with us, we just tell them, "Thank You..". There's nothing we can do. Love is something that naturally exists within us. How can we rebuke that person, "What's the meaning of this?! What Love Love!?" Many others already find it so hard to find love and here we have someone loving us. Isn't that a good thing? (Laughter from the audience). But as Muslims, we're in the wrong if we start indulging in it and transgress the boundaries.]

When we act upon our feelings by going out on dates and doing BGR related stuff, that act is not permissible in Islam. If relationships are allowed before marriage, it would have been clearly stated and explained. Think about it.

So what's the solution for all this? How about those who are already indulging in it and find it hard to change? Or how about those who want to change? Do they remain in the relationship or should they just break it off?

I understand that not all relationships before marriage have spiralled into disasters. I do know of relationships that lasted for years and went on towards marriage that have lasted. However, the truth is that, these cases are very few. It has been proven that the larger majority have suffered much from pre-marital relationships in all its bad forms.

The first and foremost is to try our best to abide by what Islam teaches. And this is to strive towards what Islam has recommended which is marriage, to prevent ourselves from falling into fitnah and sins.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding one's chastity. And whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him." ) (al-Bukhaari and Muslim)

The only time we'd be in some sort of a closer relationship with more communication, but still within the boundaries and not transgressing limits, would be after the taa'ruf (Islamic courting) session, when both have been engaged and families have agreed and they have clear ideas and goals to get married within a short term period.

(excerpt from article) Though love is something nice, and it is recommended for a man to marry a woman whom he loves, because the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: "There is nothing better for two who love each other than marriage." (Sahih Al-Jami`, 5200)

However, this love should not be overwhelming and cause a person to forget other characteristics which he should look for in the person he wants to marry. The most important characteristic is religious commitment. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, says: "A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her commitment to religion. Choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust [i.e., may you prosper]!" (Agreed-upon Hadith).

Secondly, for those already in relationships, though this is not something that's recommended in Islam, but I'd suggest that they'd start being serious and take the relationship towards marriage as soon as possible. We'd only know how serious the other person is when marriage is suggested.

(Excerpt from article) The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says: "Three qualities, if found in a person, will help him have perfect faith: Having Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, as the most beloved ones, loving a person only for the sake of Allah and hating getting back to Kufr (disbelief) the way one hates to be thrown into fire."

Truly, love is a fruit of piety and love without piety is mischief!

Lastly, for those who are still single and can't really foresee themselves being married in the near future, try to prevent from thinking too much about love for now. Though it is something that can be unpredictable and uncontrollable; being fond/in love of someone, try to keep away from it by forgetting about it.

How? Keep ourselves busy in beneficial and meaningful activities. Channel the drive and youthful energy towards positive things that will benefit ourselves, our family, friends and the society for this world and the hereafter. Once we get into marriage life, our priorities and responsibilities would have changed, so make full use of the time that we currently have.

May Allah guide us always and forgive us whenever we forget or fall into error. I remind myself of this before others and Allah Almighty knows best.

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