Young Muslims find a middle ground for fostering romantic relationships between what is permissible and what is forbidden.
When 18-year-old Nermeen Ileiwat first began college, she could not wait to get into a relationship — maybe even get engaged before graduation. But after one year, the rising sophomore realized she had no idea what she wanted out of life and was in no position to get into a relationship.
That decision didn’t last long. Only a few months after, Ileiwat met someone at a party, and their friendship quickly turned into something more.
However, dating was not that simple for the now 21-year-olds who are Muslim. They have religious restrictions that limit physical contact in premarital relationships. They chose to focus more on developing their emotional intimacy, with the occasional hug or kiss. Out of respect for their religious beliefs, Ileiwat and her boyfriend decided not to engage in any advanced sexual activity until they’re married.
For young couples like them, the idea of dating is common, and it means balancing their religious views with their desire for emotional intimacy. But the term “dating” still invites an offensive suggestion for many Muslims, especially older ones, irrespective of how innocent the relationship may be. Dating is still linked to its Western origins, which implies underlying expectations of sexual interactions — if not an outright premarital sexual relationship — which Islamic texts prohibit.