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Romance, Boyfriends, Fiction and Reality – Ask Arshi

Question: A sister asks on how to deal with the romantic ideas that arise by watching movies or reading books and how to restrain oneself from talking to boys when it is so easy to do so?

Note: Question edited as per the request of the asker.

Who does not love a good romance novel, or binging on romantic comedies on a dull and drab day? Indeed, most of us enjoy these type of past times, and even I am guilty of gorging on some rom-coms, especially after a grueling exam. But, it is very important to distinguish reality from the fantasy we see on screen.

I know and completely understand that the pretty painted picture can be very alluring and distracting, making us forget that the people on the screen are acting, or the text in the book is completely fictional. Of course, I can advise you to read some realistic books or watch some documentaries, but I understand the need to escape from reality once in a while – so, I am not going to force you to stop watching these movies or reading romance books. That, my dear sister, is completely up to you. However, I do have some advice for you on how to differentiate reality from fiction.

Removing the Rose-Tinted Glasses

First of all, the pretty rose-tinted fiction is not real. It is kind of obvious, and even you are aware of this, but I have to remind you about this here because I have seen many young girls – young Muslim practising girls – enter marriage with an expectation of finally getting our happily-ever-after. And, it is completely understandable, as young Muslimahs, we have been pious and  guarding our modesty and haya so when we finally get married, we want the roses and chocolates and everything to be glowing, somewhat pink.

However, we must remember that while infatuation is instantaneous, a long-lasting love and companionship takes time. Yes, you might quote the example of your parents, who seem to be so in love that they understand what the other needs without even words being spoken – a simple tilt of the head, or lifting the brow is enough for them to understand each other. But that sort of understanding came with years and years of companionship and struggles. Never forget the struggles, for even though, successful couples do not talk about it, they face many struggles, and ups and downs – and perhaps, not discussing the struggles with a third party are a secret to their felicity? What I am trying to say here, dear sister, is that firmly remember that grand gestures of romance and love are not real – in reality, love does not come in the form of a chartered aeroplane ride across the country, but with helping out with the dishes, or sharing of the chores. Sometimes, unrealistic expectations from our very real, flawed, unsuspecting husbands lead to problems in our life. I do not intend to discourage you from marriage, but I want you to realize the adventure of everyday, simple, mundane life, and the tranquillity that marriage provides. Don’t go for grand gestures of the novels and movies because they come with grand problems. Look around and appreciate the simplicity of every day. Like I heard in a show, The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

Reality as an Adventure

The key is to realize that your real life is an adventure in and of itself, you really don’t need the grandiose of fiction. As an escapade, it is okay, but imagine living really in that sort of life, beyond that two hours of a movie? Between the camera pans and time skips…Is it really the life you want?

Take the analogy of having a superpower, any superpower of your choice – now, you have it. You have had it for a day. Wonderful! A week? Amazing! A month? Now, it’s starting to drag you. A year? It’s getting boring. Life is like that; the real life starts after the end credits roll down. How many of your favorite “couples” do you think will make it after the external conflicts are done with? How many do you think will be truly compatible without the difficulties they had been facing?

You said that you like to act out a movie you watched in real life. Don’t act it out – be the character for a week or so, and I think you will realize the plot holes much better than what I am trying to explain. Be the protagonist between the time skips – live that life.

Examples in Islam

What does Islam say about marriage? How does Islam advise you to treat your husband or a man to treat his wife? Try to look deeper into the marital life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, what sort of marriage did he have? How did he treat his wives? What sort of romance was there? I need not elaborate here. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was our role model and treated his wives with love and respect – we only need to turn to his biography for that.

Now, you might say, that there are many obligations and duties in Islam and this is not a true romance. I understand, with the picture most of the movies portray a whirlwind romance, Islamic perspective of marriage may seem more like a business contract than romance. But Allah Subhana wa ta’ala knows us best. He knows his creation and He has prescribed for us what we will need for a happy and peaceful marriage – like we have been promised in the Qur’an:

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (Qur’an, 30:21)

So, what do you want? To be swept off in a whirlwind? Or with feet firmly planted on the ground and growing with it?

I do not intend to sound harsh – no, I just want you to remember what is at stake over here. Another question for you to consider. Look at your favourite romantic leading man – picture him, okay? Now, consider honestly, is this the man you would trust your children with? Is this the man you would want to guide your son? Is this the man you can rely on to protect your daughters? Is this the man you can count on to be with you through sickness? Will he care for you as you’re lying with burning fever unable to fend for yourself? Is he someone you can be vulnerable to and trust your secrets with? If your answer to any of these questions is no, then this is not the man you want to be with and that movie is not your place to be.

Flesh and Bones

Thirdly, you are real! Seems odd to point it out, doesn’t it? But that’s what it is! You are real, you are deep, you are complex and a real, breathing, feeling human being. The characters on screen or in books are, more or less, one-dimensional – they are the result of a perfect storm. You, on the other hand, are very real and thousand times more complex and better than any character you read about or see. I know, I know, with the social media pressure and this idealist wanderlust life, you might be feeling like, well, Arshi, I am kind of boring and if you think I am more interesting than this character, you are delusional. But I am not delusional – I got myself checked – and you, dear sister, are much more interesting than any character on the screen simply because you are real. Now, I understand why you idealize these movies and books; the picture painted in these places and on social media is one of adventure, leaving everything behind and taking leaps beyond your capacity and trusting everything will fall into place once you just chase your passion, no matter what the consequences. But is this really feasible? No, you are more interesting and better than the characters because you don’t need great “miracles” to make things work – you are doing what you can with the situation you are in. And the best part? You are grateful for it, because as a Muslim, we are always grateful to Allah for our tests and rewards – Alhamdulillah Alaa Kulli Haal, right?

I understand though, why you have this drama in your head – it just seems more exciting than mundane university life, no? But honestly, do you want the drama in real life?

So, in conclusion, think deeply about the consequences if the drama you crave came about to be reality, weigh in what  you will be gaining and losing. Do you really want to lose the essence of Islam for a thing that might not last even a month? Consider your family – the love you have there. Is it all worth risking over?

Dealing with Boyfriends and Past Relationships

Now, coming to your second problem: boyfriends. Now, I know that you know that this is wrong, and you regret it every single time you end up talking to a non-mahram. So, I would spare you the legalities of Islam and how much of a danger you are positioning yourself in by engaging in this behaviour because you already know this, and any shaykh of Islam will remind you about this. I will come to the matter at hand: How to stop this behaviour for good?

Start with the resources that aid this sort of behaviour:

You are in touch with him on social media? Delete your account. Block him and delete his number. You think you cannot survive without Facebook and Instagram in this day and age? Let me assure you that it is perfectly plausible and these reasons are from Shaytaan trying to lure you into sinning.

Remember there is a reason why Allah says in Surah Al-Isra, Ayah 32, “Do not approach adultery…”

Because Shaytaan is not instantaneous. It does not happen like a woman is a practising Muslimah and the next day, she removes her hijaab and has boyfriends. No, it is a progression. It is small steps at a time until you are in a position that you cannot go back.

It starts with looking him up on Facebook – can’t really hurt, could it? And then, sending him a message? No one will know, right? I mean, just a message, it is not like I am sending him a friend request or anything, right? Just getting to know him, I mean, he has sent this proposal to me, right?

No, it is wrong – wrong because this is what it will progress to: Just one meeting, right? And we will be in a public place, right? And we will not be alone, there will be people present…

No, do not approach this. Do not play with your life like that.

Now, I know, I just came off very harsh, but sometimes, you need to rip off the band-aid, right? One shot of pain is better than the slow, torturous and degrading pain that could claim your sanity.

Secondly, strengthen your Imaan – and I know, it is easier said than done, so, I am going to give you some tips over here:

  1. Read the Qur’an with Meaning and Tafsir: I cannot stress enough on this point, honestly, one cannot truly understand the depth of giving oneself to Islam, until and unless, he or she understands the religion, and one cannot understand the religion if he/she doesn’t understand the Book of Allah, the Qur’an.
  2. Bring the Qur’an and Sunnah into Practice: It was the way of the Sahabah, to learn the ayahs and not learn any further ayah until they have brought what they have learned into practice. So, don’t just read and understand the Qur’an, but apply what you read and learn into practice.
  3. Keep Good Company: Now, we are only human, and we will make mistakes, we will experience the lows in our Imaan, so, you need friends who will pull you through this, who will hold onto you tightly and, instead of judging you, will bring you out of the flunk you have fallen into. Find these group of friends you can trust with your vulnerability and discuss the silliest of things and when you are down to your worst, they will pull you up – drag you, if necessary – to the right path. And it goes without saying that, while you keep good company – drop the bad ones like a hot potato. You do not need any toxic people in your life who would lead you to a bad aakhirah.
  4. Pray Voluntary Prayers and Practice Sunnah: Indulge in voluntary acts of worship when you think your mind is hindering towards negative things. Remember, Shaytaan is trying to bring you down – fight back with praying more than usual. Make him leave you alone because he will soon realize that every time he tries to bring you down, you are fighting back with being more pious and zealous with Islam.
  5. Volunteer in Islamic Activities and Gain Islamic Knowledge: Keeping yourself busy doing good work will leave you no time to even think about boyfriends or even romance. Singlehood is a wonderful time to work on yourself, so cherish it and hold onto it, and do things that will help your aakhirah.

Also, now some tips on keeping you away from zina:

  1. Talk to Your Parents: Talk to your parents about seriously getting married. If you are close to your mother, explain things to her; make her understand the difficulties you are facing right now and then consider seriously getting married (considering the realities of marriage, obviously).
  2. Fast and Pray Voluntary Prayers: Of course, if you cannot get married and your parents are not ready for you to get married, then you should fast and increase your taqwa, as well as indulge in constant remembrance of Allah.
  3. Seek Refuge in Allah: Ask for Allah’s help, pray a lot, make lots of Dua’a, because nothing in this world happens without the permission of Allah. So, ask Him, ask Him for guidance, beg Him for forgiveness, and ask Him to save you from the Shaytaan. Do loads of dhikr.
  4. Keep Yourself Busy: An idle mind is a devil’s workshop – something our school principal ingrained in my head. I realized that when you are busy doing good, you do not have time for the bad, so take up a hobby, learn a new skill, increase in creative endeavors, or take up a new course at university – just keep yourself busy so that you do not even have time to think about a boyfriend. As I said before, being single is a very valuable time to work on yourself and develop yourself as a person. So, make full and complete use of this time. Be the kind of person who would be a blessing to her husband.

Here, we come to an end of another case. Hope this helped you. If there are any questions or concerns – related or unrelated to this case – feel free to email the Admin of Islamic Reflectionsand I will respond as soon as possible, In sha Allah.

With all my love and prayers

May Allah help us all and keep us safe from the entrapments of Shaytaan. Aameen!

Written by- Arshi Dokadia

Edited By- The Editorial Team

Team IR

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