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Saturday, July 14, 2012

10 Ways to Avoid Marrying the Wrong Person

There is a right way and a wrong way to get to know someone for marriage.  The wrong way is to get caught up in the excitement and nuance of a budding relationship and in the process completely forget to ask the critical questions that help determine compatibility.  One of the biggest mistakes that many young Muslims make is rushing into marriage without properly and thoroughly getting to know someone.  A common myth is that the duration of a courtship is an accurate enough measure of how compatible two people are.  The logic follows that the longer you speak with someone, the better you will know them.  The problem with that premise is that no consideration is given to how that time is spent. Increasingly, young Muslim couples are engaging in “halal dating,” which is basically socializing with each other in the company of friends and/or family. This includes going out to dinner, watching a movie, playing some sport or other leisure activity, etc.  Depending on the family or culture, conversations are either minimal & chaperoned or worse, unrestricted and unsupervised. When you consider these  limitations it makes one wonder when exactly, if ever at all, would the critical conversations take place?  Unfortunately, for many, the answer is never and they live to suffer the consequences.  If you or someone you know is in the “getting to know someone” phase,  the following guide offers advice on exactly what to look for and avoid:
1) Do Not Marry Potential:  Oftentimes men consider marrying a woman hoping she never changes while a woman considers marrying a man she hopes she can change.  This is the wrong approach on both accounts.  Don’t assume that you can change a person after you’re married to them or that they will reach their potential.  There is no guarantee, after all, that those changes will be for the better. In fact, it’s often for the worse. If you can’t accept someone or imagine living with them as they are then don’t marry them.  These differences can include a number of things such as ideological or practical differences in religion, habits, hygiene, communication skills, etc.
2) Choose Character over Chemistry:  While chemistry and attraction are no doubt important, character precedes them both. A famous quote follows, “Chemistry ignites the fire, but character keeps it burning.” The idea of falling “in love” should never be the sole reason for marrying someone; it is very easy to confuse infatuation and lust for love.  The most important character traits to look for include humility, kindness, responsibility, & happiness. Here’s a breakdown of each trait:
  • Humility: The humble person never makes demands of people but rather always does right by them. They put their values and principles above convenience and comfort.  They are slow to anger, are modest, and avoid materialism.
  • Kindness: The kind person is the quintessential giver. They seek to please and minimize the pain of others. To know if a person is a giver, observe how they treat their family, siblings, and parents. Do they have gratitude towards their parents for all that they’ve done for them? If not, then know that they will never appreciate what you do for them. How do they treat people they don’t have to be kind towards (i.e. waiters, sales associates, employees, etc)? How do they spend their money?  How do they deal with anger; their own anger and their reaction to someone else’s anger?
  • Responsibility: A responsible person has stability in their finances, relationships, job, and character.  You can you rely on this person and trust what they say.
  • Happiness: A happy person is content with their portion in life. They feel good about themselves and good about their life. They focus on what they have rather than on what they don’t have.  They very rarely complain.
3) Do Not Neglect The  Emotional Needs of Your Partner:  Both men and women have emotional needs and in order for a partnership to be successful those needs must be mutually met. The fundamental emotional need of a woman is to be loved.  The fundamental emotional need of a man is to be respected and appreciated.  To make a woman feel loved give her the three AAAs:  Attention, Affection, & Appreciation.  To make a man feel loved give him the three RRRs:  Respect, Reassurance, & Relief.  It is the obligation of each partner to make sure the other is happy and this extends to intimacy as well. As long as each partner is fulfilled by the emotional needs of the other, the intimate relationship will thrive.  When a man takes seriously the emotional needs of his wife she will feel more encouraged to fulfill his sexual desires. Likewise, when a woman takes seriously the emotional needs of her husband he will feel more encouraged to give her the affection, love and appreciation she wants from him. Working together in this way encourages both giving and receiving.
4) Avoid Opposing Life Plans:  In marriage you can either grow together or grow apart. Sharing a common purpose in life will increase the chance that you will grow together.
  • You must know what the person is into. In other words, what are they ultimately passionate about?  Then ask yourself, “Do I respect this passion?” “Do I respect what they are into?”
  • The more specifically you define yourself, i.e., your values, your beliefs, your lifestyle, the better chance you have of finding your life partner, your soul mate, the one you are most compatible with.
  • Remember, before you decide who to take along on a trip, you should first figure out your destination.
5) Avoid Pre-Marital Sexual/Physical Activity:
  • Recognize that there is incredible wisdom in why God has ordered us to refrain from intimacy before marriage; they are to prevent great harms as well as to keep sacred what is the most blessed part of a relationship between a man and a woman.
  • Aside from the obvious spiritual consequences, when a relationship gets physical before its time, important issues like character, life philosophy, and compatibility go to the wayside. Consequently, everything is romanticized and it becomes difficult to even remember the important issues let alone talk about them.
  • Intellectual commitment must be established before emotional or sexual commitment.
6) Avoid Lack of Emotional Connection:  There are four questions that you must answer YES to:
  • Do I respect and admire this person?  What specifically do I respect and admire about this person?
  • Do I trust this person?  Can I rely on them?  Do I trust their judgment?  Do I trust their word? Can I believe what they say?
  • Do I feel Safe?  Do I feel emotionally safe with this person?  Can I be vulnerable?  Can I be myself?  Can I be open?  Can I express myself?
  • Do I feel calm and at peace with this person?
If the answer is “I don’t know, I’m not sure, etc.” keep evaluating until you know for sure and truly understand how you feel. If you don’t feel safe now, you won’t feel safe when you are married.  If you don’t trust now, this won’t change when you are married!
7) Pay Attention to Your Own Emotional Anxiety: Choosing someone you don’t feel safe with emotionally is not a good recipe for a long-lasting and loving marriage.  Feeling emotionally safe is the foundation of a strong and healthy marriage.  When you don’t feel safe, you can’t express your feelings and opinions.  Learn how to identify whether you are in an abusive relationship.  If you feel you always have to monitor what you say, if you are with someone and you feel you can’t really express yourself and are always walking on eggshells, then it’s very likely you are in an abusive relationship.  Look for the following things:
  • Controlling behavior: This includes controlling the way you act, the way you think, the way you dress, the way you wear your hair/hijab and the way you spend your time.  Know the difference between suggestions and demands.  Demands are an expression of control and if the demands are implied, than you must do it or there will be consequences. All of these are clear indications of abusive personalities.
  • Anger issues: This is someone who raises their voice on a regular basis, who is angry, gets angry at you, uses anger against you, uses put downs, and curses at you, etc.  You don’t have to put up with this type of treatment.  Many people who tolerate this behavior usually come from abusive backgrounds.  If this is the case with you or someone you know, get help right away.  Deal with those issues before getting married or before even thinking about getting married.
Beware of Lack of Openness In Your Partner:  Many couples make the mistake of not putting everything on the table for discussion from the onset.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to know to be absolutely certain I want to marry this person?” “What bothers me about this person or the relationship?”  It’s very important to identify what’s bothering you, things that concern you, and things you are afraid to bring up for discussion. Then you must have an honest discussion about them. This is a great way to test the strength of your relationship. Bringing up issues when there’s conflict is a great opportunity to really evaluate how well you communicate, negotiate, and work together as a team.  When people get into power struggles and blame each other, it’s an indication they don’t work well as a team.  Also important is being vulnerable around each other. Ask deep questions of each other and see how your partner responds.  How do they handle it?  Are they defensive?  Do they attack?  Do they withdraw?  Do they get annoyed?  Do they blame you?  Do they ignore it?  Do they hide or rationalize it?  Don’t just listen to what they say but watch for how they say it!
9) Beware of Avoiding Personal Responsibility: It’s very important to remember no one else is responsible for your happiness. Many people make the mistake of thinking someone else will fulfill them and make their life better and that’s their reason for getting married.  People fail to realize that if they are unhappy as a single person, they will continue to be miserable when they are married.  If you are currently not happy with yourself, don’t like yourself, don’t like the direction your life is going now, it’s important to take responsibility for that now and work on improving those areas of your life before considering marriage.  Don’t bring these issues into your marriage and hope your partner will fix them.
10) Watch Out For Lack of Emotional Health and Availability In Your Potential Partner:  Many people choose partners that are not emotionally healthy or available. One huge problem is when a partner is unable to balance the emotional ties to family members, the marriage ends up having 3 (or more) people in it rather than two. An example of this would be if a man is overly dependent on his mother and brings that relationship into the marriage; this is no doubt a recipe for disaster.  Also important to consider are the following:
  • Avoid people who are emotionally empty inside.  These include people who don’t like themselves because they lack the ability to be emotionally available. They are always preoccupied with their deficiencies, insecurities, and negative thoughts.  They are in a perpetual fight with depression, never feel good, are isolated, are critical and judgmental; tend to not have any close friends, and often distrust people or are afraid of them.  Another clear indication about them is they always feel their needs are not getting met; they have a sense of entitlement and feel angry when they feel people should take care of them and they don’t.  They feel burdened by other people’s needs and feel resentment towards them.  These people can not be emotionally available to build healthy relationships.
  • Addictions can also limit the level of availability of the partner to build a strong emotional relationship.  Never marry an addict.  Addictions are not limited to drugs and alcohol.  They can be about addictions and dependency on work, internet, hobbies, sports, shopping, money, power, status, materialism, etc.  When someone has an addiction, they will not and can not be emotionally available to develop an intimate relationship with you!
Additional Points to Consider:
  1. The fact is no one looks 25 forever.  Ultimately, we love the person we marry for more than their appearance.  When we get to know someone we love and admire, we’ll love them for their inner beauty and overall essence.
  2. Once we find someone, we consciously or subconsciously want so badly for it all to work that we decide not to question or see what is clearly in front of our eyes: they were rude to the waiter, speaks ill of others, is rude to you, etc.  We don’t stop to ask, “What does all of this mean about their character?”
  3. Never separate someone from their family, background, education, belief system, etc.  Asking clear questions can clarify this.  Ask questions like, “What does it mean to have a simple lifestyle?” “What are your expectations of marriage?”  “How would you help around the house?” Compare your definition with theirs.
  4. Be flexible.  Be open-minded!
  5. Giving in a happy marriage should not be confused with martyrdom.  It should be about taking pleasure and seeing the other person as happy because of your connection with them.
  6. Morality and spirituality are the qualities that truly define someone in addition to beauty, money, and health.  The morally upright and spiritual person will stand by your side during adversity and hardship.  If someone isn’t God-conscience and doesn’t take themselves into account with God then why should you expect them to fulfill their rights owed to you? The ideal partner is someone who considers giving a gain and not causing a loss.  Having a mutual and shared spiritual relationship will foster a successful marriage.  Furthermore, a successful marriage is one that keeps the laws of family purity which require a certain degree of self-control and self-discipline, as well as the belief that the physical side of the relationship includes the spiritual and emotional side as well.  Finding commonality and balance between the spiritual and emotional aspects of a relationship is a strong key to a healthy and thriving marriage.
————
by Dr. Nafisa Sekandari & Hosai Mojaddidi

Muslims are well-integrated in Britain – but no one seems to believe it

British Muslims often express a stronger sense of belonging than other citizens, so why are they still seen as outsiders?



Shah Jahan mosque, Woking, surrey
  • 'More than half (55%) of Britons would be concerned if a mosque was built in their area.' Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
    In Britain today there is a mismatch between how non-Muslims often perceive Muslims and how Muslims typically perceive themselves. This disconnect is down to a tendency by non-Muslims to assume that Muslims struggle with their British identity and divided loyalties. These concerns were challenged a few days ago,in a report by the University of Essex that found Muslims actually identify with Britishness more than any other Britons.
    This study is just one of several recent studies that have consistently found that Muslims in Britain express a stronger sense of belonging in Britain than their compatriots. Consider the following examples:
    • 83% of Muslims are proud to be a British citizen, compared to 79% of the general public.
    • 77% of Muslims strongly identify with Britain while only 50% of the wider population do.
    • 86.4% of Muslims feel they belong in Britain, slightly more than the 85.9% of Christians.
    • 82% of Muslims want to live in diverse and mixed neighbourhoodscompared to 63% of non-Muslim Britons.
    • 90% of Pakistanis feel a strong sense of belonging in Britain compared to 84% of white people.
    Those who work closely with Muslim communities will attest to the integrated position of British Muslims and that despite frequent exoticisation, British Muslim lives are much the same as any other citizen's. British Muslims also appreciate their ability to practise their religion in Britain without the type of subjugation that fellow Muslims are subjected to under despotic regimes in several Muslim-majority countries. Even though negative depictions may encourage people to imagine Muslims as similar to the 7/7 bombers who struck seven years ago this week, your average British Muslim is much more likely to be similar to a confident Amir Khan, a bubbly Konnie Huq or a hardworking James Caan.
    There is, quite frankly, no major issue of Muslims not wanting to be a part of British society. But there is an issue with the common but unspoken xenophobia pervasive in British society that casts Muslims as outsiders. That is why despite Muslims repeatedly pledging their dedication to Britain, a consistent spattering of polls show that many non-Muslim Britons still view Muslims as a potential enemy within. Consider the following examples:
    • 47% of Britons see Muslims as a threat.
    • Only 28% of Britons believe Muslims want to integrate into British society.
    • 52% of Britons believe that Muslims create problems.
    • 45% of Britons admit that they think there are too many Muslims in Britain.
    • 55% of Britons would be concerned if a mosque was built in their area.
    • 58% of Britons associate Islam with extremism.
    The minority of Muslims in Britain who do view Britain with contempt – as indeed, we must recognise there are some – frequently explain their disaffection as a result of being labelled as outsiders and told they do not belong. Thus, the inability to appreciate British Muslims as typical citizens can actually create the very atypical citizens that are feared in the first place. Muslims want to be part of British society but their marginalisation may lead to some retreating to the margins.
    If the myth that Muslims in Britain will not integrate is allowed to be propagated, it will only lead to the continuation of a harmful cycle whereby greater distrust and animosity is sown. The results of this can be devastating. Last Sunday marked the three-year anniversary of the Islamophobic murder of Marwa El-Sherbini by a far-right attacker, a crude example of an inability to accept that Muslims are at home in Europe. This intense rejection of Muslims is increasing across Europe, which is especially disturbing considering that a significant number of the far right would consider armed conflict against Muslims, as the case of Anders Breivik revealed. In Britain, we have seen several far-right plots that seek to undermine the presence of Muslims in British society, such as a recent arson attack on a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. Clearly, there are weighty consequences to the dismissal of Muslims as fellow British citizens.
    While politicians may claim that multiculturalism has failed, there is a strong case to be made that it operates successfully every day when Britons of different faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds convivially co-operate alongside each other to make the nation what it is today. Muslims are integrated, feel at home in Britain and are quite simply as British as the next person, even though this does not quite match the sensationalised cynicism that some enjoy indulging in. This rather unexciting conclusion is actually rather exciting as it lays to bed many of the unwarranted concerns that are held about British Muslims.

Owen Jones: Islamophobia - for Muslims, read Jews. And be shocked


Imagine our alarm if nearly half the UK population said they believed that 'there are too many Jews'

To be a prominent Muslim means suffering a daily diet of bigotry and even outright hatred. This week, Mehdi Hasan – who, other than my colleague Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, is Britain's only prominent Muslim journalist – wrote of how, every day, he is attacked as a "jihadist" and a "terrorist". He has been described as a "dangerous Muslim shithead", a "moderate cockroach", and worse. The message from his critics is clear: Muslims have no legitimate place in public life.
Mehdi Hasan was right to speak out, but it must not be left to Muslims alone to take on this bigotry. A tide of Islamophobia has swept Europe for many years, and – shamefully – all too few have taken a stand. Even many who regard themselves as "progressives" have either remained silent or even indulged anti-Muslim prejudice. It's time for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to join forces against the most widespread – and most acceptable – form of bigotry of our times.
Think I'm exaggerating? Consider that the far-right's main target of choice is no longer Jews or black people: it's Muslims. The BNP portrays itself as a crusade against the "Islamification" of Britain; in the 2010 election, it launched a "Campaign Against Islam". Its leader, Nick Griffin, describes Islam as "wicked" and a "cancer", and has blamed Muslims for problems such as drugs and rape. The English Defence League stages frequent – and often intimidating – street rallies protesting against Muslims.
But anti-Muslim prejudice isn't simply confined to the far-right fringes. I attended a Stockport sixth form with a large Muslim student population. The reality of their lives is all but airbrushed out of existence. When they appear at all, it's generally as fanatics, extremists or a community somehow "harbouring" dangerous extremists. (When do Britain's whites face the absurdity of being called on to crack down on far-right fanatics supposedly in their ranks?) One study took a selection of newspapers in a single week: 91 per cent of reports featuring Muslims were negative.
One of my Muslim fellow students was Dr Leon Moosavi, fast becoming a national authority on Islamophobia. He battles against the widespread denial that anti-Muslim prejudice is a problem. But consider that, in one poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 45 per cent of Britons agreed that "there are too many Muslims" in Britain. Imagine if nearly half the population admitted to believing that "there are too many Jews" in Britain: how loud would our alarm be?
Of course, it is not just a British problem: the poison of Islamophobia has infected Europe's political mainstream. According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly six out of 10 Europeans believe that Muslims were "fanatical", and half believed they were "violent". As here, the European far-right aims fire at Muslims above all other groups. In the Netherlands, an anti-Muslim party led by Geert Wilders is the third largest in parliament. Wilders compares the Koran to Mein Kampf, calls Islam a "Trojan Horse" in Europe and demands that the country's 850,000 Muslims be paid to leave the country. Wilders doesn't languish on the fringes: the current Dutch cabinet depended for two years on his party's support.
Or take sleepy Switzerland, where the Swiss People's Party (SVP) is the biggest party in the country's Federal Assembly. The SVP won a referendum on the banning of minarets, which the party's general secretary described as "symbols of Islamic power". During the vote, Geneva's mosque was repeatedly vandalised. Farhad Afshar, the president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations, had no doubt what signal was sent by this vote: "that Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community". But it gets even darker than that. In June, the Zurich-based SVP politician Alexander Müller was forced to stand down after tweeting: "Maybe we need another Kristallnacht… this time for mosques." The parallels with anti-Semitism could not be more overt.
In France – where recently 42 per cent polled for Le Monde believed that the presence of Muslims was a "threat" to their national identity – a record number voted for the anti-Muslim National Front in April's presidential elections. Denmark's third largest party is the People's Party, which rails against "Islamisation" and demands the end of all non-Western immigration. The anti-Muslim Vlaams Belang flourishes in Flemish Belgium. But those who take a stand against Islamophobia are often demanded to qualify it with a condemnation of extremism. When is this ever asked of other stands against prejudice? When we condemn anti-Semitic hate, must we criticise repressive Israeli policies in the same breath? It would be absurd – they are completely separate issues, and indeed millions of Jews across the world oppose the actions of Israel's government.
Anti-Muslim hate is a European pandemic. I'm proud to stand with Mehdi Hasan and other Muslims facing Islamophobia. But – I implore, I beg fellow non-Muslims – stand with them too, before this hatred spirals further out of control.

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