Have you ever heard of the phrase “Muslims don’t date, they marry”? It’s a peculiar sentiment that is often used to vaguely grasp the understandings of a culture not quite in your reach and an outline on how your love life sounds like it should play out. Yet it sounds sudden. It implies no initial honeymoon phrase, no endless messages, no late night phone calls, and no essay-length good morning or good evening texts.
What if I were to tell you that those happen in secret? We are a new generation attempting to unravel the mess we call love and find the one we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We want that rom com love, to remember those sweet gestures that make us smile on the train to work, leading to happy squeals, ending in passionate fights where we shout “love doesn’t exist”, only to find ourselves wondering if we were being overdramatic.
I am aware most relationships aren’t the plot of a rom com. Yet there’s hardly any stories focusing on Muslim childhoods sweethearts embedded is an innocent love, one that blossoms slowly and carefully, hidden from familial eyes. It has the same sweet, slightly rough around the edges beginning of love that so many people around the world know. But it’s there, and it’s more common than one would assume. Many other Muslims find love tucked away in corners, through mutual friends, at university, and online. Each new love is formed in a manner anyone could recognize from films, books, and myths.
We are the new generation. We have love lives more complicated and more intense than people initially believe. We are looking for a love that ignites a spark; we want a choice to dictate the path we take and the love we form.
Many people think of arranged marriages when they think about South Asian love—a practice that is not obsolete. A practice that has been the topic of strong debate. Yet this is a declining phenomenon. Alterations have been made so that the couple have more dates before making a decision, and although people are still having arranged marriages, the process is now prolonged. Dating has taken the front seat and parties are being more relaxed. The dynamics have shifted, and the people getting married have gained more freedom, more choice.
That’s the thing our generation wants the most: choice. Slowly, we are gaining traction and getting a more open version of the traditional values we hold. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Marriage and love are complicated, subjective, and messy. How we go about them is complicated and ever-changing. It is time to update the perceptions of South Asian love. But the change is there, and it’s heading our way. The saying should be: Muslims can do whatever they want.