gender, religion, Uncategorized, USA

Single, Muslim, and female: a gendered forecast of the American Muslim community

The following is the complete article on which “It’s not raining eligible Muslim men” is based. It is rather long, which is probably why Religion Dispatches blog cut it to a more reasonable length. But if you’re a sucker for punishment, enjoy. For further discussion on the subject, please see my friend Javed’s post on the subject.
In traditional faith communities, single women are usually looked upon with fear and desire. They are objects of desire because they hold out the promise of a traditional religious home complete with traditional wife and progeny to perpetuate the lineage and community. The unfulfilled promise they seem to hold out is ripe for the plucking. But they are also feared, and as objects of fear, they inspire often intense monitoring behaviors. In traditional communities, single women are watched and judged far more intensely than are single men. Single women’s main marketable commodity – virginity – is guarded and desired – and feared because it is capable of being spent – and with this spending, the honor of the collective may also be metaphorically dissipated. Men’s honor does not have far-reaching implications for the community; men are the community and the arbiters of its honor. Women’s honor is guarded and watched as well as cherished and honored.
When single women become numerous in a faith community, leaders and gatekeepers worry. Or should worry. First, because single women, unlike men, may not seek sexual fulfillment (legitimately) outside of wedlock. Second, because they, in fact, can.

Muslims in the diaspora often claim, as does this article that Islam does not allow dating or even that “Muslims don’t date.” This is an interesting claim, and one that merits extensive scholarly examination. Briefly and simplistically, from the perspective of the hadith that discourages one-on-one encounters between men and women because the third of the two is satan, this indeed seems to be the case. In many ways, intimate social engagement between men and women is pregnant, if I may put it thus, with sexual potential. As even popular culture puts it, they’re never really “just friends.”

Many liberal Muslims would argue that the case is not so simple, and they may cite cases from the Prophet’s life and his Companions. Or they may argue that times have changed; that marriage, divorce and indeed gender are no longer what they were, and that it is the spirit of the law rather than the letter in its entirety that must be fervently preserved. Well then, return the conservatives, what is that spirit if it is not include the practice of chastity? And how may chastity be preserved if the floodgates are opened to the Muslim masses by putting single men and women in continuous, risky contact with each other?

And then there are the Muslims who are in-between, neither absolutely conservative nor very liberal. The writer occurs somewhere in that mid-way space. I am committed to the ideal of religious chastity. I am also very aware of the human condition, and the Muslim diasporic condition.

Many traditional, conservative Muslims (I use both so you can take your pick, really) seek arranged and semi-arranged marriages. Community leaders, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances set them up with potential mates after the desired characteristics have been explained in full. The couple then meets: this may be anything from a glance at a social event (my brother married an amazing woman in this way, and hit gold), to a meeting between the two while Mom watches over them. At times, the couple may even meet at a restaurant and chat at length, as long as they’re not in a private booth. The purpose in all these arrangements is to prevent the nature of courtship from becoming unduly sexualized. All that  comes after marriage.

But not all Muslims marry in this way. Many acidly argue that they don’t have access to the networks that would help set them up with the right person. (And that’s not just converts, by the way, though converts suffer this situation the most). Many would sneer at the past attempts at being set up, and steer away from them. Many, really, do date-date. All the way.

What dating means for individual couples varies a great deal. For some, they may socialize one-on-one extensively, hang out for long periods, and watch movies. Some may even engage in some physical contact without going too far. And of course, some will have sex. And yes, some sleep around. But because the meaning of the term can vary contextually, many Muslims say, to keep it safe and simple, as does the article cited above, “Muslims don’t date.”

The Quran forbids fornication and adultery and describes it as lewdness and a bad path to take. This does not mean that Muslims do not commit fornication, whether in the diaspora or in the Muslim homelands. But from observation, I would argue that, whether because of their recent immigrant origins, their cultural characteristics, global religio-political trends or, as some would claim, something about Islam itself, Muslim women in the US are *relatively* less likely, *overall,” than indigenous faith groups, to have premarital or extramarital sex.

As I have watched the community over the past decade, I feel that while religiosity is on the rise, so is something else.

When, in New York, Daisy Khan arranged a Valentine’s Day event for Muslim singles, 15 men and 63 women showed up. The “surplus” of single women in the community is being identified as an issue. Many Muslim women would say, sarcastically, that the surplus is more specific – of smart, mature, beautiful, professional women and no one to match them up with.

For years now, I have agonized, along with my friends, about the disproportionately large numbers of such women and the much lower numbers of truly eligible Muslim men. Many friends have questioned if “he” is out there at all. Many friends have asked me if I can introduce them to someone, and friends have asked me if I can introduce their  friends to someone. I pull out my pockets helplessly. Few that I’d introduce to them with confidence, I say. The “good ones” are married, engaged, or, mysteriously, perpetually single. In a community that is dispersed heavily over a geographically extensive area, there are so many single American Muslim women that the mind boggles at the future that awaits the community.

When I was single in my 30s, my parents and community were horrified at the future that awaited me. What would I do? Would I lose my mind? Would I lose my virginity? Would I fall into penury? What does a single woman do when she lives on her own? There were few precedents to guide their wonderment about my future.

Marriage is important to Muslims. Chastity is important. Celibacy is frowned upon. Marriage is the Prophet’s way. It is “half of your religion.” It’s not mandatory, but it’s pretty close.

But a strongly recommended religious practice – one that requires a whole other individual for the practice to be performed – can change, under the pressure of circumstance, from “strongly recommended” to “challenging,” and even optional. Sociologically, religious practice is contained within and shaped by the vessel of culture and cultural change. That which today appears to be of momentous consequence to one’s faith may not always have been so.

So what is a woman to do if she can’t find someone to marry? In the ‘80s and ‘90s – that’s how long I was single! – I could be bullied to hurry up and “marry someone” (read “anyone”). Precedence could be cited: all of my peers were married and most of them had teenage children by the time I got married. Many of those peers had married not Mr Right but Anyone, and had thereby made good time.

Today, a 30-year old woman, if harassed by community elders, can turn around and ask exactly whom she is supposed to marry. She can wait longer for the right person. She can also argue that a large number of her peers are still single. Numbers cannot be used against her. And numbers – “everyone’s doing it” – is a nest of immense security.

Traditional Muslims hold that Muslim women may not marry outside the faith and that Muslim men may marry Muslims, Christians or Jews, but there the choices end. So is there a smaller pool of Muslim men available for Muslim women because some of them are marrying non-Muslims? There is little by way of lifestyle-related statistics for American Muslims, so it is hard to tell whether there are just more Muslim women than men, whether Muslim men’s marriages outside the faith impacts numbers significantly, or because some men do marry abroad, traveling abroad to their parents’ birthplaces to enter arranged marriages. The last-mentioned is neither here nor there because some Muslim women also marry abroad. However, since cultural patterns of gender norms affect women intimately, Muslim women are often heard loudly protesting against the idea of marrying a man from the motherland. For many Muslim men, on the other hand, marrying a woman from the motherland means marrying a momma-replica who looks pretty and is “sweet.” (The reality may or may not be so).

What we do know is that there are large numbers of single American Muslim women today – in their 40s, 30s, and 20s, and that the community will have to deal with the consequences of this phenomenon. These women aren’t your spinster Aunties who spent their autumn years tending to their brothers’ families. Many of them are bright, independent, extremely articulate, professionally successful, and quite unlikely to take the single status lying down, so to speak. They will not suffer in silence, as the community pities their single plight. They will see that certain norms and practices render their lives difficult, and they will speak out.

In the Muslim homelands, Muslim women were usually “protected” (in good ways and bad) within the homes of fathers, brothers, husbands, in-laws, and sons. Single women who remained independent were not unknown, but were not large in number and remained an anomaly. The protection of a man was essential to a woman’s fulfillment. Wealthy and middle class or educated single women could hold their own, but most single women had to rely on the largesse of relatives. Economic dependence was part of the ugliness of spinsterhood. In the diaspora, a single American woman still has much to fear when by herself in an apartment or on the street, but independent single women, living and flourishing outside of a traditional Muslim context, will inevitably change the face of the community. Traditional, conservative Muslims may have much to fear from these changes.

For instance, growing numbers of Muslim women are marrying outside the faith. Until now, they could be disowned by their families, unless the families came to terms with the situation. Or their husbands could fake conversions and no one would ask him too many questions. Now, as Muslim women marry Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists and beyond, it will be interesting to see how their children are raised, and how this will affect their children’s identities. It will be interesting to see how this changes the face of the American Muslim community.

For the record, I do not feel that marriage outside the faith is an ideal solution for most religious individuals. In my humble belief and limited experience, faith is a discipline and tradition that requires total living and immersion and not a cafeteria that allows one to wander in and out as one pleases. Marriage is also a discipline and a process that requires the totality of one’s engagement. In other words, neither is a picnic. At least in my observation, I have not encountered many cases of successful service to the two masters of God and marriage. Then there is the issue of raising children. Intensely ecumenical couples have raised children in two or more faiths, but I do not feel that this does justice to any one faith – or even to faith, period.

At the same time, I have also observed that there is a genuine lack of eligible men, and I am no believer in subjection to prolonged suffering. The single life is difficult and lonely, especially for religious people who practice chastity.

The dearth of eligible men is not the only reason for marriage outside the faith. Part of the problem is what I discussed earlier in this article, modes of courtship or the lack thereof. Traditional Muslim organizations and contexts have often insisted on forms of gender segregation that sometimes make it extremely difficult to meet and identify spouses. Under the motto “God will provide,” conservative Muslims have frowned upon single men and women talking to each other. Much “talking,” I found in my research on college campuses, therefore takes place on the internet and the phone, because it is less visible and, in fact, not really happening.

“Courting” is rejected by the more traditional circles, though many have come to realize that they have to give way. But this grudging “look-away” acceptance will have to develop into something more concrete and theorized if Muslim men and women are to find mates within the community.

Svend once spoke of an Islamic Society of North America convention matrimonial event that took place about a decade ago. Single men and women were chatting with each other, under the eye of organizers. Suddenly an elderly gentleman entered, observed, and reprimanded them, “Brothers, this is not permissible. You should not be doing this.” Svend says, “I wanted to tell him, ‘Uncle, you should be grateful they’re here, and not at the bar across the street from the convention center.’” Because the bar is indeed there, and if Uncle doesn’t go there, many of the kids do.

Many uncles, who had no clue that young people had such choices, have helped young people to silently and without protest drift away from the mosque and the community center. Feeling detached from community contexts, these young people will often behave with perfect reserve from the opposite sex when in Muslim settings (ironically, the safest contexts for courtship to take place), and moved on to dominant majority spaces where they meet and date non-Muslim women.

Inevitably, single status will also change some Muslim women’s approaches toward chastity and sexuality. Boys have always been boys, but American Muslim women have been relatively sexually chaste, if anecdotal evidence and observation is to count. (I am not claiming that “Muslim women don’t sleep around.” I’m making a claim, on the strength of qualitative and not quantitative research, about relative levels of sexual promiscuity.) Recently I have heard of a Muslim group I will not name that has permitted single women to sleep with men (under the category of dire sexual need). My friends have been shocked by the phenomenon.
Like the organization I mentioned, I predict that others will smell the coffee brewing under their noses (responding in perhaps less dramatic ways). Notions of religiosity, chastity, gender, and identity in the Muslim community will change under pressure of these circumstances. Notions of difference, notions of self and notions of the other will also change. Muslims, when they socialize with Muslims in mosques and Islamic centers, watched over by aunties and uncles from the homeland, may advance claims about what Muslims are and what Muslims do. When more and more Muslims in mixed marriages socialize with mixed-faith/culture groups and raise mixed-faith children, it becomes harder to claim that “Muslims don’t date/drink” or “Muslims eat biryani” or “Muslims don’t sleep around like White folks do.”

I predict that American Muslim identity under such pressures will probably become a much more fluid notion. I do not say this with eagerness. The coziness of a discrete and – well, even slightly insular, contained cultural-religious identity is a comforting thing to come home to. These are the ways in which minoritized and marginalized groups preserve identities that are precious to them, in the midst of pressures to assimilate. Homogamy is one of the main means of maintaining communities and identities. Exogamy is one of the main means that minority faith and cultural groups in the US have dissolved a little (or a lot). And while it’s not all going away, I think it will be a little less possible to bank on it in the future. For this, if nothing else, we will all have to think hard about our futures and our options.


49 thoughts on “Single, Muslim, and female: a gendered forecast of the American Muslim community”

  1. “marrying a woman from the motherland means marrying a momma-replica who looks pretty and is “sweet.””

    This is so true. I did read somewhere that we tend to marry women who resemble the women we knew at the age of six – people who are like our sisters and mothers – but not them exactly. There is a biological bent to that disposition.

  2. i enjoyed this.

    and not that i’ve studied this extensively, but from first-hand observation & experience, and reading about things in general, this just seems indicative of the general stagnation of muslims. i’m not convinced most muslims are trying to take real responsibility for their faith/beliefs/actions. it’s all motions, regurgitation of lessons learned as children.

    i’m in a no-man’s land that extends beyond the single muslim woman (i’m a man, btw, and married). i still consider myself a muslim, but i stay away from the communities.

    personally, i will be happy to see the spectrum of islam. if the muslim identity is a checklist of do’s and don’ts, that’s a grave injustice to god, let alone creative beings like humans. there are lights in the sky whose sources may no longer exist: that’s god and people don’t take the time to think about it.

  3. Assalamu Alaikum,

    Thank you again. I read the abbreviated version of the article over at Religious Dispatches, and I appreciate the full version.

    While a full outline of the nature of the issue is necessary, you know me- I want action, I want solutions! I’m not one of those who think that homogamy should be optional within this community. I’m also a single woman and therefore ‘stuck’ between my beliefs and my options. As an American, I know that I ‘can’ date any time I want to. As a Muslim, I’ll never want to (inshaAllah). Beyond the physical and sexual needs, and even though I know that culturally the US places a low value on living a religion as your life, I believe that God has asked me to marry a Muslim, and ultimately I want to live as He wants, first and always.

    You spoke briefly about the ability of Muslim men to marry outside of the religion. It would be interesting to see research on whether or not young (okay, marriageable) men know or see the impact of their choices on their community and their sisters. Also, what of the children of such marriages? Do they identify and practice in accordance with Islam? It’d be interesting to know how many adult sons of Christian mothers and Muslim fathers, for example, marry Muslim women. Maybe the numbers will show they do. Maybe. It’s another facet that bears consideration.

    Thanks for the writing, sorry about the novel.

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  5. Salaam alaikum,

    Posted an excerpt and link to your excellent article over at my blog

    From the broader culture standpoint, follow the link above to a article about virginity among mature American non-Muslim women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. I’m providing this link to challenge your assumption that Muslim women in the US have increasing risk of out-of-wedlock, out-of-the-community opportunities as they get older.
    Older non-Muslim men largely consider virginity and inexperience undesirable. The sexual risk to older Muslim women (at least from educated, financially successful, secular, sexually experienced men–the secular analogue to the women you describe) may be less than imagined.

    This is an excerpt from the Salon article:

    University of Texas psychology professor David Buss, author of “Evolution of Desire,” says that one reason an older virgin becomes essentially untouchable is because “people infer that there is something psychologically wrong with the person who substantially exceeds the cultural norm in age and is still a virgin. Perhaps she has deeply rooted sexual hang-ups or some other deep psychological problem.” Or perhaps they just think she’s asexual or frigid.

  6. Thanks, kufigirl.

    salam100, I have a feeling this study is not sufficient to establish that older Muslim women won’t become sexually active. I think you recognize this too, as you describe the salon article as being from the “broader culture standpoint.” The cultural-religious context of the article is probably “mainstream America” and there are problems applying it across groups.

    Twennytwo, not being a decision-maker for the community, or authorized to dictate solutions, I can only suggest solutions as I have here, related to gendered practice in the community and the theology that is constructed around it.

    Hopefully not for you, vinod 😉

    k, that’s the struggle – to live the religion in this life here and now, contextually and relevantly (?)

  7. Okay, I didn’t read all of this because I have to get the kids to bed, but I was interested to know if you saw the movie “Arranged”? I was intrigued by the way the Orthodox Jews “date” by going to an approved (Kosher, I presume) restaurant where they don’t have their parents there but the eyes of all other community members are of course on them. It reminded me of what Wendy Shalit talks about in A Return to Modesty when she mentions how the community values have to support sexual modesty. These “dates” aren’t just throwing the two people alone together without guidance, because they are surrounded by other Orthodox people who are basically monitoring their behavior and providing a safe environment for them to get to know each other. The Muslim character tells her Orthodox friend at one point something to the effect that she might like to do that, rather than have to make a judgement about somebody with her parents “breathing down her neck”. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

  8. As salaam wa laikum,

    I’m wondering if this problem of single Muslimahs is something that is largely affecting older Muslim women, because I’m not seeing this problem with the younger ones as they have a whole range of males to choose from. Whether this wil change over time, I don’t know. But maybe this issue is affecting older Muslim women because in their generation, there weren’t that many Muslim men to choose from.

    Also, what are the criteria for calling someone Muslim? Is it the entire Muslim community , or the ones that actively practice and participate in ISLAMIC events (going to ISNA, ICNA, , etc) ?

    Because I would argue that most Muslims don’t participate in those events nor are they consistently practicing. Their children really have no qualms with having sex or dating outside of the faith because the faith doesn’t hold that much appeal to them outside of it being something that they associate with their parents’ cultural package.

    At the same time, I think the generation of kids coming up , my generation, are essentially anti-marriage or treat marriage as if its death: an inevitable thing which means the end of your youth and happiness. People are trying to prolong it as much as possible. This goes for Muslims and especially non-Muslim people even more so.

  9. interesting piece. As a muslim woman in her late 20s the thought of being in my 30s and SINGLE is terrifying. I dont think it ever gets easier for single women. Society still looks down on us and complains we are too fussy! It really makes me mad when even close friends ask, ‘are you just being too fussy?’. I then have to list all the weirdos i have met and that even my parents (who lets face it, want me married) have turned down.

    On the flip side, I also have an older brother who isnt married and can see the situation from the other angle. Although there are lots of sisters out there the ones that would suit him the most (because they are mature and all-rounded) are in their late 20s, but he does not want to consider them! Do guys realise that when they look for wives they should scout the girls potential as a mother? A lot of the younger girls I see these days make such a mess of things because of their inexperience….

    its a difficult situation. Also, why on earth are ‘our’ scholars telling the brothers to marry younger girls?? Its shocking. Do people understand what they are doing to us? One brother that was suggested to me seemed ideal, but in the end nothing came of it because he had been told by his ‘sheikh’ to marry a young girl who had NOT been to university………how on earth are we going to deal with this?

  10. This is rather surprising. I am (according to many) am an eligible single muslim male. I am well educated, well-traveled, articulate, funny, kind, and not bad looking and I am having a horrendous time trying to find a suitable muslim woman. I am in the midwest so my options are somewhat limited based on geography and demographics, but if there are so many wonderful muslim women out there – where in the world are they hiding? I have looked at the mosque (too much segregation of the sexes), had relatives try to “set me up” and have even (I’m ashamed to admit) tried muslim matrimonial websites. I am not overly picky or looking for some perfect chaste supermodel. Just someone who is kind (and yes “sweet”), educated, attractive (to me), who wants to have a family and likes to travel. In her mid to late 20’s or 30. Is that such a tall order?

  11. In South Africa, the situation is no different. Except that women in their late twenties and thirties from extremely traditional backgrounds now get to see their younger sisters sleeping around – partly because they follow the western ideal and partly because if they dont do it, the muslim brothers will find non-muslim girls who do, and well…. they will end up being us in a few years. it is extremely distressing to see muslim guys encouraging sisters to dress and act immodestly for their own pleasure.
    if a chaste muslim woman who needs to increase her pool of men to choose from then decides to look for non-muslim men, the fear of rejection based on sexual inexperience is daunting – ‘westerners’ to a large extent do not grasp the concept of chastity.
    women do tend to outnumber men – a trend that is growing and that is not being helped by the gay community.
    really, what is a girl (or guy) to do? human beings are not made to be lonely.

  12. Loved your latest post on ‘Islam Advance’ about this whole issue of ‘Muslim Dating’. I agree that it’s long overdue that we have the courage & intelligence to analyze the implications of simplistically believing ‘Islam forbids dating’! No religion endorses pre-marital sex – that’s a great starting point in this whole debate, in my opinion. But we can’t treat the topic as taboo if we expect to come up w/ realistic solutions for the current situation.

    In our recent book ‘The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook’ – just the fact that we touch upon this topic (no – we don’t say it’s allowed – but try to examine what the Quran says (depends upon interpretation – but clearly intimacy outside of marriage is not permitted) )- has led to vigorous debate. Debate is good! What does ‘dating’ mean anyway? Getting to know someone w/ the intention of marriage or simply being friends or something entirely physical?

    Great topic…please continue to blog about it – it’s of huge interest to the 35 & under crowd!!

  13. Maybe religions IS a picnic. And therein lies our answer.

    Maybe marriage is a picnic too. Maybe, just maybe, Islam is a picnic for those who are good at it. Think of how running or skiing are a picnic for those who are good at them, and a miserable slog for those who are not so good.

    And if Islam is not a picnic, then what is it? Is it a slog through the Mojave desert with an 80 pound backpack? And maybe that too is a picnic for those who love the desert. And some people can turn even a picnic in the park into an ordeal.

    I think Quran is pretty clear on not making religion any harder that it is. A lot of what passes for Islam today is a hodgepodge old and new pop culture cliches masquerading is Allah’s will, all intended to make religious life more difficult. The uncles have taken the notion of chastity and expanded it to where it sucks the life out of most normal human interactions. How many of these cliches are you perpetuating in this essay? (homework exercise).

    We are arbitrarily reducing our options, and then complaining about the lack of options. We are putting on some arbitrary chastity belt, and then complaining that it is not very comfortable. Chastity belts are meant to be uncomfortable.

  14. AOA,

    A pain to read. Devoid of any solution or hope.

    That’s not a critique of your essay. Just plain despair on my part regarding the whole topic.

  15. Great post! I see myself in this situation. Being almost 30 and single, and working on a PhD, without any great prospects, I too worry about being alone for the rest of my life. And I’m in Canada where, it seems, the situation is even worse.

    Your point about strict sex-segregation in mosques and other religious places is an excellent one. When I first moved to the city in which I attend uni an aunti asked me if I had met anyone yet. I asked how could I? At the prayer hall on campus, run by the MSA, men and women are not even allowed to look at each other let alone find someone from among each other to marry. I truly believe this strict sex-segregation is going to destroy our community as we know it. But then again, I am absolutely opposed to it for many reasons.

    As far as Muslim women not marrying outside the faith, that is not so clear cut. From my understanding, the verse in the Qur’an which speaks of Muslims being allowed to take a Jewish or Christian (people of the book) spouse, although has been traditionally understood to be referring to men only, is in fact not gender specific. I recently heard Imam Shabbir Ally say that this verse does not specify that Muslims men can take Jewish or Christian wives, but rather that Muslims (in general) can take Jewish or Christian spouses.

    I do take some contention with the point you make about chastity versus promiscuity. Although I believe in sex after marriage, it seems like you’re creating this rigid dichotomy. It seems as if you’re saying that one either is a virgin until they get married, or they sleep around with many partners. You can be in between.

    However, overall a piece that I can relate to.

  16. Being jewish I was fascinated by this article and intend to read it again at length as well as the comments.

    I would say that it seems every other group – religious, race, geoproximity, etc – has many of the same underlying issues you mention. Of course the differences vary widly and I would not compare the complex details that you state are comparable to someone in Ohio being biased against someone in Kentucky. But the modern world and its challenges bear an uncanny relationship 🙂

  17. I am a American Muslim Woman, who is communicating with a African Muslim in Liberia. We have been talking for 5 months. His mind was on a Christian level, and he proposed marriage to me in less than one month.

    I introduced him to Courting, and explained why we should court.
    More so, because he is not here in America yet.

    Another reason is that he is younger than I, and he has a 7 year old daughter.

    I introduced him to Muslim American ways and a particular sect of Islam, he is willing to convert, and yet being a Muslim in his nature.

  18. This was an interesting read and the comments also interesting. If Muslim women are having trouble finding mates then they should look outside their cultural and religious boundaries. By living in the U.S. or Canada one is exposed to so many cultures. Plus I always thought that South Asian Muslim women preferred Caucasian males anyway. They have white skin and are more attractive thus leading to higher social status. I am talking from observation not a scientific study. White is the way to go.

  19. It’s nice to know that there are Muslim Single women out there who contribute to an image of mature, undepraved and realistic individual. Long have single women been classified as oddballs who don’t realise the ‘straight path’ because they haven’t completed themselves by scoring a man-that is any man, whether or not he treats her like dirt, as long as she’s married, she’s a complete Muslimah. How society treats us like cheap bargains! And then we complain about cheap Kufr sl*ts selling their flesh! However to countract that, women in Islam are allowed to see Marriage as a comitted contract like a sort of business or insurance rather than living her entire life up in the clouds of love, therefore a good Muslim man (whomever that may be) would not be the prioritised criteria as long as he is Muslim.

    On my side, I admit that my main sin would be men. My kind of Muslimah (yes we still dare to consider ourselves Muslims, be they ‘good’ or ‘bad’) sleep around with men because, well, it’s in our nature to be sexual. No we don’t believe that marriage is applicable to modern living. Yes we do believe in the Prophet, and no, not as Santa Claus. We respect what he did in terms of marriage, helping out with divorcees. Try getting a man these days to stick with the same wife for 25 years till death do them part who is also more than a decade older than him. We are disillusioned when we see relatives, friends of friends and other Muslim sisters have their hearts broken and families torn apart by Muslim brothers who go around marrying here, there everywhere and keeping mistresses aside and beating up their wives just because ‘it is their right’. We do not see why that should be the life of a Muslim woman as we are human beings too and one thing that has set us apart from Angels is CHOICE(yeh, you choose to go to Hell, say the hardliners). We’re not interested in other religious comparisons-abusing polygamy & discipline is happening in OUR religion amongst people we are supposed to TRUST and when they do such things we think, hang on a sec-I’m supposed to get married to THAT? When we explain such things to other more fortunate Muslimahs who are not so picky or have the luck to have got themselves decent hubsters they brush aside and say ‘yes I can see your point but…’ BUT NOTHING. We all have a different viewpoint of things, even though we are under the same faith (though a majority will think on the contrary) I know that if I were to stay stuck waking up to the same face every single day for the next couple of years I will get bored. I know I will try to move on. I’ll most probably cheat. If my husband were to marry another while still with me, or even raise a hand to me, so God help him, and the devil too. And God help the kids if there were any because their damned mother sure wouldn’t. So should I marry someone as bas**rd like as me? Of course others would say yes but I wouldn’t marry full stop. Main reason is that I am selfish and I like coming home to my own mess for me to organise and pay for and not anyone elses. I am not afraid to admit my faults, unlike the rest of the community, therefore thank goodness as it looks like it will keep many a suitor at bay :o)

    I’m not advocating my lifestyle nor saying ‘hey look at me, I’m a progressive Muslim, yayayay’ I’m telling you that this is the way it is. I have no idea if someone will try and track me down to bring a lynch mob down to my house blasting me as an infidel who needs to be wiped off the face of this earth. I feel it very very very unfair that our boys can play around with their mistresses as much as they like even before marriage openly ala Akon and Imran Khan but us Muslimahs have to keep it all discreet as if we’re saving it for someone whom sadly the Muslim community will not give a jot about how they treat us. This is how we feel about the Muslim community-we love Islam but sadly we don’t love Muslims. Espcially when they put guns to our heads saying it’s all for our own good or worst of all call us Kafir or Non Muslim. Yes, we get hurt by that slur too, much that you would care.

    So…there’s my two cents as a single Muslimah.

    Salaam sisters.

    1. Hi there
      interesting how you dare to be yourself! you will find the solution for you ultimately what is best
      ultimately. Atleast you trying to find what makes you happy for now and your awareness of what is going on is apt. Time point the way as we turn day after day to awakening of our true needs, so we find out what is that we here for and what is the way to life of fulfillment Marriage problem single problem. so what is the answer? nobody knows. I am proud to know that you true to yourself.

  20. hello there
    I momo from syria
    I m looking for godly girl live in usa
    to married her
    and gine her my eyes
    I want immigreation
    I longing to girl between 20-30
    save me and know what mean of married
    with my love to all people around the world

  21. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this issue. Actually, I’ve shed a few tears over the phenomena within the last five years when I’d started looking for a suitable marriage spouse. I guess the problem goes beyond one nation, it’s a world phenomena.

    I am Gambian and live in Gambia…and I had already given up in searching for a husband. I will be 30 in 5 months…the dreaded number several years ago…
    I thought the problem was me…that maybe there was something wrong with me…but a closer look, even I have to push humility aside and appreciate that I have a masters degree, beautiful and a sincere practising muslimah and all of my friends think I’m a good example of one with a good character.

    I studied in the UK for seven years and I thought it was difficult there, but worse did I know awaited me upon return to my homeland…not only did it seem impossible to find a suitable brother…but it seemed like there were no brothers matching my very simple criteria…educated (not necessariy with a masters), religious…

    I got to a point where (when I was 29), I began to view a single life as one not so bad at all…I began to convince myself that I could actually be happy living independently in my own home with a pet rabbit…infact, the whole idea of marriage began to repulse me…don’t ask how…maybe I was just genuinely, sincerely frustrated and couldn’t care anyless anymore…

    After I completely gave up, I had an offer of marriage from a brother who according to him, wanted to marry me for a long time…


    He was married with two children…the 3rd brother to offer me marriage who was already in a marriage…

    Now, I’m not against the idea of polygamous marriages, how could I? it is made permissible by Allah, but I think I have a chioce to be in one or not…dont I?

    Up to date, 2 more other proposals by men with high school education and no deen have come; in total 5.

    I feel bad counting, and perhaps I seem picky, but surely, my criteria of a single, unmarried, educated man with deen is not too much to ask is it?

    Still, I feel no need to settle!

    I’ve tried, really, I have. Allah has seen my struggles…I’ve even registered on matrimonial sites most of which requires you to register with a visa card or similar if you want to join…such advance technology is yet to reach us here… 

    So if I continue to remain single, I just have to accept it as kadr of Allah. I’m sure He wouldn’t punish me for it.

    Meanwhile, I’m only in debate as to my choice of pets for a life of singleton!

  22. Salaam,

    This is a really good article that sheds light on one of the sad conditions of our Umma. Reading your article, I feel a lot like you and the sisters who have since responded. I am a single never been married virgin Muslim woman who is 27. I have an MBA and try to practice Islam fully. For me, part of the problem in finding a mate has been culture. There are and have been many single young Muslim men in my community. Unfortuantely, none of them are interested in marrying an African American (eventhough I am born and raised Muslim). Forced to look outside my community, I have posted ads on several Muslim matrimonial sites. This has brought the same frustration. Many of the brother’s ads say that they prefer someone who is Pakistani, Indian, or Arab. African American is never a preference. Parents who post ads for thier children requests the same thing. “Punjab or Arab speaking girl for doctor son”. This is really frustrating. Muslims do not see that you can have a beautiful marriage and wonderful children with someone who is not from your same culture. My older sister married a Pakistani man and they have been married for 7 years and have a beautiful 2 year old son. Both families get along great with each other and my sister completely respects her husbands culture. Anyway, I am rambling because I am so sad about my situation. What makes it worse is that feeling that I cant do anything about it. I have never felt like this in my life. I just keep praying and hoping. But it is hard to keep hope as the days keep going by. May Allah give all of us ease in this manner.

    P.S. I have not given up yet. So, if anyone knows of a good Muslim brother, send me an email 🙂

  23. Well this article just beats all.

    I am sick and tired of the idiots who run our communities. I am a 21 year old MBA graduate and I continually become depressed because I can’t even find women from my community to date (in a halal way) and form a meaningful relationship.

    I am not half bad looking, during college some Western Women asked me out, but I come from a traditional background and being a Virgin I expect the same from my partner. I don’t drink or do drugs either. Life sucks here in the West, it is screwed up in the Ummah, and no one is doing anything to fix it.

    I hate seeing the men in my community acting so damn immaturely and having more than I have managed to get. I am not some super angry person, it is just well the Ummah is so screwed up in every way a person just wants to have fun (in a halal way) and a young man can’t have fun if he is single.

    To those of you who are married think of the fun you have with your spouses, think of the fun you have going hiking, going camping, going skiing, or traveling.

    Their is nothing fun to do in America that is HALAL.

    Why can’t the idiots from Islamic Relief who make $420,000 a year such as Diana Sufian take a damn pay cut and hire people to build community centers for American Muslims to handle these issues and maximize the effects of sending money back home.

    It is all madness, and being single just makes everything worse.

  24. Taqwa Aquil,

    You being 27 with an MBA probably has more to do it than you being African American. The truth it seems is more shocking than perception. But you are right parents add a culture to the Mix which complicates things. Most men don’t care if you’re a Martian so long as you’re attractive to them but parents and relatives mess things up.

    Unfortunately there is a wisdom in brothers marrying younger sisters. Unfortunately those same sisters are raised in the West where the individualistic culture prepares them to be single and independent and then they realize, oh wait I forgot to get married? And then find it shocking that most brothers don’t want them, especially if they’re religious.

    There are serious psychological principles at stake here, that unfortunately younger sisters don’t under-stand. Can a brother imagine, his wife being more educated, more advanced in her career possibly makes more money, and is older than him? Who is the wife and who is the husband? A lot of it is politics and those who wished to use khadija as example will find no avail there, how can the Prophet (PBUH) compared to other men? Adding insult to injury, modern society is structured so that brothers most often than not do not become more successful/ or at par than their female counterparts, there are just too many distractions for the male mind.

    There is some hope though, although younger brothers will not initiate to older women, because they’re just too intimidated, at the same time many of them would not simply turn them down, especially those serious about marriage. So for those mature single Muslim women, don’t hesitate to initiate through your wali/wakil, insha-Allah, you’ll have some success.

  25. In Northern Nigeria where I am from as rule a form of courtship is allowed but marriages are still left to chance, in the sense that a man should notice you the few times you are out with your friends, or at work, and by chance figure out how to contact you to show his interest which you are not to acknowledge at first (this the reason why many foreigners complain that Nigerian men can’t take no for an answer) and then this should lead to both of you getting married. The problem is that this doesn’t work anymore, there are now many women from mid twenties to earlier forties who have never been married and this is causing a lot of worries to parents.
    I believe the solution is for people especially parents to stop telling men that they can get married whenever they want and then telling them to only marry teenagers. Everyone says that this is because women’s eggs get old but studies have shown that men’s sperm get old too.
    A proper forum should also be set up where people of both sexes who are interested in getting married can meet each other. We don’t even have matrimonial sites on the internet( specific to my country) and if we did they would be frowned upon.

  26. Our muslim society belief in the sacred of marriage. But most of the time, it was unfair for women coz it seems that they are not allow to choose. While as for men, they were given more freedom to look over the women that they are desire.

    Find your soulmate :

  27. Excellent article.

    I was just talking to a friend about this bizarre phenomenon and have had discussions with others before. It’s so wide spread and frustrating on many levels. Loving Allah and finding disobedience to him abhorent, while also having to deal with the fact that you are very human with very human sexual and emotional needs is a BIG trial.

    Yes, chastitiy and sexual inexperience is straight out WEIRD and undesirable to the average non-Muslim. But I have to say these days in London England I’ve found that a lot of non-Muslim men couldn’t care less about the hijab if they are interested in what they see. When you are faced with highly desirable men blatantly hitting on you (without a strange list of some fantasy female) and good Muslim men are few and far between- I actually cannot blame some sisters for falling into zina. I find it astonishing that I have actually come to believe in the above statement but it’s just simple truth.
    I don’t agree with it because haram is haram and the consequences for this life and the hereafter are great, but you can be pushed into actions by the nature of situation.

    I think a lot of people do view marriage as the end of something good (which is opposition to the Islamic perspective) as if it natually holds the weight of responsibility, boredom, kids, etc.
    But a committed relationship is (or should be) just that, a committed relationship. We as Muslims just have to go through certain formalities so we become halal for each other.
    Of course non-Muslims and Non-religious people have no qualms about this, and in truth i’ve never seen why athiests,agnostics etc would choose to get marriage. I’ve never really got that.
    In the end it’s the nature of humanity to want be with someone else, that’s just how Allah made us.

    So what is one to do? what is the solution to this awful and growing problem? Allah knows.

    Thanks for adding to this timely and essential discussion.

  28. Amatullah,

    What on earth are you talking about!

    I know literally dozens and dozens of good Muslim men with degrees and good jobs, but Muslim women in the West do not want good they want bad.

    It is madness, if you even go on marriage sites you will see girls saying looking for “friendship” with cute and nice person. The belief that men are sex fiends is all wrong.

    A portion of men are sex fiends, they go around debauching women, however I tell you that women are much worse.

    I can’t tell you how many women I have spoken to about marriage who tell me they already have had a sexual experience and at ages as young as 14 (Me speaking to only 18 year olds, that is the age of the first sexual experience), and they wear Hijab, have gone to Islamic school their whole life, and say they don’t shake men’s hands!

    Only a few regretted it, most have seen nothing wrong with it.

    I must admit that I have become so disillusioned with the revolving door of piety and debit credit system of empty spirituality that pervades the modern world.

    Amatullah reading your comments have made me die a little more inside. Just 30 years ago all Indo Pak women were virgins on their wedding nights, and I would say nearly all men too, and they got married at ages 23 and 30 respectively.

    What is wrong with you people!?!?!

  29. I would like to talk to the owner of this form to interview you for a piece I am working on. I dont see your contact info. Can you please contact me. Thank you.

  30. How do people feel about converts who are single and wanting to marry? What if they have already raised a family and are divorced? How do Muslims view this type of a situation? Obviously it should be ok for the convert person to marry anyone who does not mind they have converted or would be interested in converting as well?

    1. To Elaine, the ummah forum has a recent thread about what you are asking. I believe it was a brother that was a convert that had the same question. go to and go to the marriage category and serch for converts or marrying converts. Hope this helps.

  31. Ok. I really think its unfair to blame this on the men. I think the independence of women has a lot to do with this as women in America have this sense of entitlement that i guess has just spread to our Muslim community. A lot of muslim sisters have told me this personally..where they have turned down lawyers or doctors who were very good suiter’s but “doctors and lawyers work long unpredictable hours” or for other silly reasons. Arab American women have become very demanding, with high expectations and very unrealistic goals. I am pretty sure men have something to do with this, but I am simply telling my side of the story as a man. I am a good,young, good looking(Thats what my mama tells me :p) muslim man with two degrees and a good job and have been looking to get married since I was like 21 and am now 26…with no luck:(. I am very close to giving up on arab women.

    1. Wow man you are like the Arab version of me, although I am 4 years younger, started looking two years earlier (I had finished both my degrees by then), but don’t have a steady job, and have had horrible experiences with the ladies, if you want to call them that, over here.

      Everything from stuck up women, to pre marital Zina, to bisexual tendencies, are among the maliase that impacts this community.

      At times I sincerely regret trying to be a decent Muslim, this community has made me sick, sick to the point that it is hard to understand what decency is.

      If you ever want someone to rant to just hit me up at

      May Allah make clear to us why things are imposed they way they are.

  32. I tend to agree with many of the points brought out by the author as well as many of the readers comments. However one important point that should not be forgotten is
    the element of racism and how it effectually reduces the choice of mates for many muslims .

  33. I loved your article. It’s funny that the more muslim women are educated and independent, the less mariage material they seem to be to many. As I’m about to help out in the preparation of the very little gay parade in Mauritius for the 5th year before a month vacation on my own, I realised that I don’t want to marry. A few weeks ago, my mum greeted me with a marriage proposal after a long day of interviews (my job). I tried but I gave up on the whole thing. I had a long conversation with myself and have accepted that I’ll die single with loads of cats or whatever pet.

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