Modern Romance

IMG_7543I gave up a lot of things I enjoyed when I became Muslim, including alcohol, drugs and pork. I gave those things up because they’re haram, but also because I personally believed giving them up would lead to beneficial changes in my life. I also gave them up because I think it’s good to give up something you enjoy each year, in order to not become too dependent on any one thing. I was convinced that leaving them behind was the right thing to do, and I haven’t been disappointed.

Dating, however, has still been a feature of my Muslim life. This is true not because I’m powerless to give it up, but because I think it’s beneficial for me in the long run. The more halal paths to marriage, in my eyes, won’t work for me.

The fact that I’ve basically given in to pursuing a haram (at least to some degree) path to marriage has been a constant source of reflection and concern. It’s also been a useful dilemma to have, however, as it has allowed me to realize just how drastically my conception of dating and relationships has changed in the last few years.

In the past, before I became Muslim, halal paths to marriage seemed unappealing to me because they stripped romance out of the whole encounter. They seemed more like business deals than organic encounters that could blossom into lifelong partnerships. Basically, they took away the “fall” from falling in the love, the period where you were sucked into a series of events that you couldn’t control, where you had no choice but to be vulnerable and pray the other person wouldn’t make you regret it.

In the past couple years I’ve used dating apps like Tinder (and now Minder) pretty extensively. These apps, unlike anything else I’ve encountered, have shifted my conception of dating to the business-like encounter I once derided, and away from the fall I once romanticized.

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek has described this shift, noting that, “Many intelligent cultural critics have noticed how we are almost returning to pre-romantic, pre-modern times, when marriage or love connections were a matter of relatives, counsellors, and your uncle and aunt selecting who you would marry, and so on. Today it’s similar, only instead of all those old wise uncles it’s dating agencies and so on. What they offer us is love without the fall.”

I found his description to be a perfect summary of the shift in my dating life. With dating apps, there is no chance in encountering the people you meet up with. You match with them, you talk to them, and then you arrange a date to meet up. It’s not like more natural forms of dating, where the encounter is spontaneous and seems all the more powerful because of it. For example, my last two girlfriends (who I dated prior to the Tinder era) I met spontaneously at a party and through a friend respectively. I can almost guarantee the next one will be through an app.

Moreover, dating apps make it obvious just how many other choices there are out there, in a way that wasn’t exactly fathomable before them (no matter how many people told you there are other fish in the sea.) The result is that romantic partners seem almost expendable, because I know that in most cases, they can be easily replaced, and I can do so while laying on the couch, swiping on my phone, while in track pants.

Dating apps, in a sense, may just be a modern version of bio-data, where you can cycle through a series of carefully crafted profiles, looking for the “perfect” one.

The major difference between the two methods though, is that casual online dating can be a never-ending cycle, whereas the halal path to marriage eventually requires a jump. The leap of faith. The moment where you decide that despite all the other alternatives, you’re good with this person, and you’re going to take a chance on them.

This is ultimately what puts me off this path to marriage. I am terrified of that sort of leap, and I’d rather be extremely well versed in a person before deciding to share the rest of my life with them. I’m not sure if it’s possible to reach this point through a halal method of dating, and so, on I go, doing the wrong things for the right reasons.

Read more by Luca on love, sex & dating after converting to Islam, here.

Luca [pen name] is a journalist living in Canada.

One Comment on “Modern Romance”

  1. Madi says:

    Great article. Although I’m muslim by birth and have had a reasonably conservative upbringing, taking that giant leap of faith has been just as scary for me as it is for you. I think the fact that no matter what you do, whether you only know a person for a short time, or you choose to spend no time at all in your decision, or “date” them for years, it still comes down to the simple fact that you can never know a person fully and that partnership in general is a gamble. We can never guarantee success in relationships, only put in our best efforts. And that is damn scary. For the most part, I’m in the same boat as you although the “dating” bit isn’t as much of a struggle for me as it is for you. I wish you the best of luck in finding your other half, inshallah 🙂 I’ve enjoyed reading all of your articles.