Debunking the “Pretty Woman” Myth: How Romance Novels and Films Delude Youth

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Someone needs to tell it like it is. When that someone has experienced ups and downs of marriage and also heard the hidden details about the lows in a few others’ marriages, one needs to really be brutally honest about it!

First, Pretty Woman. I remember hearing about this absolutely “breath-takingly romantic blockbuster” back at school, when I was a mere twelve-year-old. Girls were swooning over how supposedly “wonderful” the story was.

They were gushing about the beautiful protagonist and the wonderfully romantic storyline in which she was “rescued” from a life of poverty by a dashing, handsome, and filthy-rich “Prince Charming”, who rode into her life ‘on a white horse’, so to speak, and saved her from the clutches of a wretched existence of female objectification.

He ‘rescued her’ when he inadvertently “bought her” off the street for $100 dollars for the night. It was the expensive car he was driving that caught her attention – a Lotus Esprit. Basically, half an hour into the film, the more level-headed, nonchalant viewer gets to see the power of materialism and the behavior of people in response to status symbols and amount of money that they see others possess. Deep, eh?

But then, few 12-year-old girls have the maturity to be able to discern. They’re too busy swooning over the red designer dress and of course, the red ruby necklace.

The male lead buys her for a night, but later propositions her with more money to stay for longer – in a plush hotel penthouse. She becomes his on-display “trophy” for a week – being paraded around as his arm-candy escort in the hotel and at several corporate and social events, which he reportedly always attends with one his “girls”. He lavishes her with designer clothes, which she – of course – buys off Rodeo Drive – one of the most expensive strips of boutiques in America.

The perfect “romance” that naive twelve-year-old girls should fantasize about…eh?

You can perhaps not completely blame them when they consequently daydream about a handsome rich man who will later drive into their own life in a Lotus Esprit, house them in a luxury penthouse, and buy them as many expensive designer clothes as they wish.

However, when you see adult girls who have studied the Quran and who are trying to practice the obligations of Islam in their lives totally flip out and go nuts over such fantastical, degrading-towards-women hogwash, you really need not bite your tongue too hard – in my opinion – in order to dish out some sincerity to knock sense into them.

I feel like screaming, “Wake up! This is not what real life is like at all!” whenever I see an otherwise perfectly wise, mature and sane young woman turn into a teary-eyed mass of mush after watching any such fantasy-based, desire-provoking romance film.

Its not just this film that has wrought havoc in the minds of youngsters who were mushrooming into young adulthood in the nineties. It could also be any one of the passionate “lovers’ characters” that a certain Mr Khan likes to portray on another, geographically closer big-screen; a money-minting film industry, in which he gazes intensely into the eyes of the object of his affection, fights back fake tears in his blood-shot eyes, and professes to her in a husky, lustful voice how he will always pursue her until she becomes his.

Scenes and dialogues such as these make most young women who tend to carry their hearts on their sleeves, “melt inside” and gush loud “Aww’s” as they watch these films on screen whilst huddled together under blankets in darkened rooms with bowls of popcorn or slices of pizza, in order to temporarily escape from the real, “harsh”, practical-problems-filled world into a realm of believably concocted, sappy, cheesy and cliched “BS” [excuse the language, please].

When these on-screen “Prince Charming’s” are paid millions as “actors”, given verbal accolades, and granted annual awards for their top-notch acting (read: lying) skills, these immature girls still refuse to wake up and snap out of their daydreams into reality.

Oh, when will someone like this come into my life and say such things to me?”

The problem starts when the said young ladies enter their twenties and actually expect such a handsome hunk to walk into their homes with a diamond ring, a bouquet of red roses, and a proposal to suavely ask for their hand in marriage. Not just that, they want him to also have the picture-perfect family, educational background, job with a fat paycheck, flashy car (remember the Lotus Esprit? In Pakistan, a BMW, Mercedes, or Prado would suffice in its stead) and an intelligent, charming personality to boot. He should dress like a movie star and say the right things (sentimental dialogues real men are not very good at) to them in the right tone, at the right time. And he should fall in love with them at first sight.

Who can be blamed then, when years pass and no such man appears at their door? Should we blame the money-minting film producers and screenplay writers for making films and writing story lines that spin fantastical but utterly gratifying yarns of lies in the form of loophole-filled, cliched romantic plots that fuel the youths’ already raging desires, especially with their idiotic and predictable “and-they-lived-happily-ever-after” endings? – youngsters who are willing to pay whatever price the media demands to see or read these realistic-sounding fabrications of romance in print and on screen?

Or should we blame these youngsters themselves, for having little control over their fantasies, much less their carnal desires, and for wanting to desperately believe the nonsense dished out by eager-to-please media? Really, who is to blame for being brainwashed?

Smack.

Yes, that is how it feels for a youngster nowadays – guy or girl – when they find out that in Islam, talking to, being friends with, and even looking admiringly at a member of the opposite sex, is absolutely impermissible (haram). It feels like someone smacked them hard on their face when they discover this “harsh” truth.

They are aghast to know that the religion they were born into has no concept of dating, friendship or serious, long-term, romantic inter-gender relationships, even those that are started with the so-called “pious” intention of ultimately getting married. They find this absolutely impossible to digest, and hard to believe. They therefore choose to ignore these injunctions and hence, practice little restraint when dealing with young people of the opposite gender at their school, college, workplace or in extended family gatherings. Result?

They get hurt. Repeatedly.

Relentless, however, they continue to employ escapism (over slices of pizza or bowls of popcorn) from harsh realities of life by periodically retreating into darkened theaters or rooms with surround-sound-systems to make the fantasy being played out on screen as realistic and believable to their minds as possible.

Sadly, the mental picture most girls have of the real, “ideal husband” today, is not that of an average-joe with a beard who is shy and inhibited around them before their nikah; who stands in devout congregational prayers at the masjid, recites and acts upon the Quran, and lowers his gaze around – keeping a respectful distance from – hot, attractive “Pretty Women” on the street.

The ideal husband for them, instead, has the dashing charisma and conversational skills of the hunk they see (read: swoon over) on screen; the gaze of a lustful lover who has just spotted his next young and physically desirable object of pursuit, and the vocal finesse that renders him always ready with the right answer to the indomitable question of “What do women want?”

Readers, I give you Exhibit A:

Characteristics:

  1. Possesses the dress sense of a movie star: wears expensive, branded colognes, shoes, clothes and hair products.
  2. Has innumerable friends of both genders.
  3. Has an affinity for talking to his friends (including hordes of young lovelies) on his pricey smartphone.
  4. Has girls and women swoon over his looks and persona where ever he goes; like bees to honey, they swarm around him as he replies suavely to each of their flirtatious greetings and jibes.
  5. Drives an expensive car – his father’s, employer’s or the bank’s.

Ten years after marrying the girl whom he dated for years, with their official betrothal followed by a “magical”engagement phase that played out in their lives “just like the movies”, here is the same Exhibit A:

  1. Slops around all day in his pajamas when at home, watching films, television or playing video games.
  2. Doesn’t lift a finger to help his wife around the house, until she screams at him and throws a fit. He then gets up, throws a bigger fit, dresses up and storms out of the house to hit the gym or to ‘chillax’ with his friends. Comes back home very late after his wife and children have fallen asleep, possibly reeking of smoke and/or alcohol.
  3. Calls his minor children and often, his wife, fancy English cuss words when he gets angry.
  4. Prays Eid prayers and jum’uah in the masjid only……the latter only when he’s not having lunch at an expensive restaurant with his colleagues.
  5. Discusses his wife mockingly with his friends behind her back – avoids answering the phone when she calls repeatedly. Sometimes he gives her special “nicknames” when hanging with friends e.g. psycho, pain, etc.
  6. Criticizes her figure as he openly compares her to the diva dancing to the latest hit song in his favorite Bollywood blockbuster, which he watches every day on screen or on his phone.
  7. Gets very dismayed when she starts praying regularly and/or starts hijab. Warns her never to “go all weird” on him by even thinking of starting niqab.
  8. Forbids her to go out with her friends too often – male friends are a big no-no. Keeps an eye on her whereabouts and who she is hanging out with.
  9. Encourages her to wear stylish, expensive clothes, especially in front of his friends.
  10. Deals in riba – especially for acquiring loans to get the fancy big house and the snazzy car.
  11. Turns into a syrupy, sweet-talking epitome of politeness when interacting with non-mahrum women – did I mention he still has those innumerable close friends of the opposite gender?

And now, readers, I present to you Exhibit B:

Characteristics:

  1. A shy, demure and timid young man earnest in the pursuit of knowledge of Islam and its practice in his life.
  2. Very active at the masjid. Avoids partying with the opposite gender, listening to music, and watching television or films (except perhaps sports).
  3. Inhibited to the extent of being awkward around his fiance before their nikah, but extra respectful towards elders.
  4. Wears simple but clean clothes. Might reek of oudh on Fridays.
  5. Highly likely to be called a loser – in addition to other, more demeaning and not-so-nice words – by the more secular-minded crowd.
  6. Never shouts at his mother or sister(s).
  7. Has no close female friends, because women don’t know he exists. Even if they did, he wouldn’t welcome their friendship.

Ten years after marrying the girl he found through his parents or other “halal” means, here is Exhibit B as a husband:

  1. Prefers playing with his children (numbering anywhere between 2 and 5) over hanging out with his friends.
  2. Helps his wife out with the housework without being asked.
  3. Does not expect her to serve him like a valet.
  4. Maintains a balance between work, family and masjid.
  5. Lives in a 2- or 3- bedroom apartment and drives a small car because of the emphasis on avoiding loans, luxuries and extravagance.
  6. Earns money only through means free of riba. Avoids working where there is too much free mixing with women.
  7. Never shouts at, abuses or criticizes his wife. Rather, he sometimes gets shouted at more often than the children. 😉
  8. Remains calm and silent when his wife blows her lid. Immediately tries to appease her by bringing her flowers, a dessert she loves, or offers to take her out somewhere so that she can de-stress.
  9. Did I mention that at times, he also tries to apologize just to restore normalcy, even if he is not at fault?
  10. He calls up his parents and wife to ask how they are. Not vice versa.
  11. Babysits the children often so that she can have her “me time” viz. go have coffee with a friend, take a long bath, attend a ladies’ party, or catch up on sleep.
  12. Gets tight-lipped, aloof and angry only when Allah’s limits or laws are violated.

So which one is it going to be, ladies?

Do you want the delusive, fair-seeming mirage, or the sweet-tasting but down-played reality?

Do you want the euphoric but temporary pleasure of lust and amore, or the more subtle but permanent love and companionship that is independent of youth and physical attributes, yet spans decades?

Do you want the kind of guy who will give you the giddy but short-lived haram relationship, or the one who will give you the most phenomenally rewarding and long-term, halal one?

Wake up, girl! Do you really want to be the hottie that catches the eye of guys driving by in Lotus Esprits, or do you want to be the preserved gem – whose earnest prayers can change the decree of your Benevolent Creator – to find you the man who will treat you with the romantic love, kindness and respect that you deserve?

O wannabe “Vivienne”, you deserve much more than $100 dollars a night in a fancy hotel penthouse! اَعُوذُ بِاللّه

Strive to become the jewel that will make you deserve a palace of pearls in the middle of Al-Firdaus – the best place to dwell in, with the man who loves you unconditionally, under the shade of the throne of the One Who loves you both, for eternity.

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76 thoughts on “Debunking the “Pretty Woman” Myth: How Romance Novels and Films Delude Youth

  1. As salaamu alaykum, sister.

    Mashaa’Allah, Allahumma baariki.

    Beautiful writing, well presented and desperately needed by our young women today. May Allah continue to bless you and your family, and may many benefit from your naseeha. Every time I read your writing, there is no question in my mind that we could be twins, LOL!

  2. As Salamu Alaikum wa Rehmatulahi wa Barakatuhu

    JazakAllah for the nice post with a true picture portrayed in it.
    May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala make us and bless us with a religious and righteous spouse. Ameen Sum Ameen

  3. Asalmualaikum
    Good post , But I think you are being a bit too idealistic about the characters. The reality is somewhere in between.

    A person can easily be watcher of all kinds of films , but always lovely to his wife and parents . Or a person can be practising in many respects(like no films, freemixing ) but might not tolerate his wife shouting at him or have anger issues.

    1. Wa Alaikumus Salam,
      Yes. I agree there is a degree of generalization/stereotyping with the two “Exhibits” I have portrayed. I would like to point out that they are based on my personal experiences of counseling married sisters and observing couples who have been married for ten years or more.
      From your nick, I presume you are single? Are most of your friends married? I think insha’Allah, some years after you get married, you might understand better where this post is coming from.
      Jazak Allahu khair for your input.
      Allah knows best.

    2. I agree. A brother can be both dashing and handsome, and not listen to music or chat it up with girls and still have a nice car and clothes, and still be a good practicing muslim and loving husband and father, without being shy and meek and a ‘loser’.

      I get the point, I just don’t think the two should be mutually exclusive.

      Allah has revealed to us a duaa to ask for what is best in THIS life AND the NEXT.

      (And I’m not single, been married 8 years now, if that makes any difference)

      And I hear ya on the whole movie-fantasy world. Amazing how many women ‘fall for it’, even though the context is usually a relationship that’s not halal.

  4. Aaaaah, what a post Sadaf baji! I love it (but I love all of your posts anyway!). 😉

    The funny thing is that I came across Pretty Woman on TV the other day and it made me wonder about a lot of things. When I first saw it way back in around 2001, I found it cute and romantic etc. but that was when I had little sense and guidance (Alhumdulillah for the guidance!). Even then, though, the dirty parts did turn me off and I didn’t fawn over it or watch it again.

    Fast forward many years and the other day, I was shaking my head and trying to explain to myself what could I, or any other girl, possibly like about the movie? The objectification of women, the focus on money (the red did look stunning, though!) and then somehow twisting it all into a “happy” ending… it was all so fake and superficial. How could that be love at all?

    So then I read this blog post by you and it made a lot of sense. 🙂 I am totally for the second kind of person you mentioned, he he, and glad to admit it. Anyone who even comes close to that ideal, even if not having all those noble characteristics, will be way better and preferable above any of the other kind. Good looks are desirable and money can make life comfortable, sometimes, but without a decent character and adherence to Deen, these are all worthless. And if Allah Wills, those good qualities may all come together in a person anyway. 🙂

    May Allah bless you in your family and marriage – the little things you mention here count for a lot, Masha’Allah… praying it only increases with time! 🙂 Ameen.

  5. wonderful post mashaAllaah, though i found it a bit exaggerated in the sense that women can be so materialistic. i think girls have more sense nowadays and higher priorities.

    i found Exhibit A kinda exaggerated too, though its 10-years-later counterpart seemed very realistic. but Exhibit B was beautiful mashaAllaah.

    i admit i’m a sucker for fairy-tales and happily-ever-after type stuff, though after coming to Deen i realized they are useless and they just higher our expectations, which can later be disappointing and detrimental to our satisfaction levels.

    i say it is best to avoid romantic novels and movies, in order to avoid getting hurt! in this case ignorance is bliss, and one can enjoy being pleasantly surprised by the sweet things one’s partner can do, without having to compare him to the ‘heartthrobs’ on screen!

  6. Exhibit b. Seems like ur talking abt my husband almost! Except the baby sitting part! But ourkids r quite young…he’l learn! Such men do really exist n I am lucky to be married to one!
    Really good article jazakallah

  7. Asslam u alaikum,
    MashaALLAH, you won an award- alhamdulillah- keep the good work going. hmmm.. to be honest it is a good article but like you said too much stereotyping-There are loads of people who are outwardly like Exhibit B but their manners are a far cry from it. Yet some might look like Exhibit A yet practise many of the traits that you have mentioned as praiseworthy. I think that girls away from deen are idealistic yet i believe those in deen are equally so. When choosing a spouse we look at ‘character” and deen. And remember character is not defined by outward rituals – and ALLAH Knows best. May ALLAH Guide us to whats right.

  8. Salaams,

    You started well, especially with the criticism of Pretty Woman. But the two exhibits are stereotypical examples.

    Just as many women have a fantasy about Prince Charming, the Exhibit B also has some fantasies for women who are religiously minded. Perhaps, after 10 years, Exhibit B

    1. thinks women should stay at the house, at all time, because that’s what “pious” women do.
    2. gets angry when the wife expresses her own opinion – reminds the wife that the Prophet said if any human deserved to be prostrated, the wives should prostrate to the husband (regardless of the weakness of this hadith).
    3. Does not let the wife come out and talk to his friends when they visit, even when she observes hijab.
    4. Beats the kids because they don’t want to pray.
    5. Controls all the bank accounts because the man is responsible for providing the money.
    6. Starts musing about a second wife (or third, or fourth).

    1. Interesting points.
      I have yet to come across the person you have described in real life, though, despite the fact that I have many “religious” friends married to Exhibit B’s. And several – religious or not – married to Exhibit A’s. Especially the beating of children for not praying – all I can say “alhamdulillah” that I do not know of even a single man who could do such a thing.
      Once again, the two Exhibits I have portrayed in the post are based on several real-life examples whom I know in person, not fantasies. If any reader considers them a product of my imagination, that is truly not the case.

  9. Salamz,
    I came across your blog on facebook. One of my friends had posted it as a great read. I was drawn to it because of the title because I had just finished watching “Pretty Woman” on tv and was feeling deeply empathetic towards young girls and women, who are sexually, physically and mentally abused, abandoned by parents at birth or young age. Those who grow up on streets and have to find scraps of food from garbage can. Believe me, they don’t want any of it. They are put in a situation which neither they know how to escape nor are psychologically
    capable of. “Vivianne” was one of those women. I would encourage all brothers and sisters who read this post to sincerely pray to Allah that no young girl and woman is ever put in the vicious cycle that starts with abandonment and ends in sex slavery. And Allah is the best judge.
    I am proud of you for opening up an avenue of conversation about idealism in finding a spouse. However, I would like to point out that the notion of “prince charming” is almost as old as written history. Women tend to graviate towards men who seem capable of taking care of them. One of man’s vital roles in Our beloved religion is to take care of his family. Personally, I think anybody who is capable of fulfilling this role can be considered “Prince Charming”. And I believe that value is what should be instilled in our girls mind, as a requirement of a good spouse. If he is tech- savy

    1. I would encourage all brothers and sisters who read this post to sincerely pray to Allah that no young girl and woman is ever put in the vicious cycle that starts with abandonment and ends in sex slavery.

      Very valid point!
      Ameen to the prayer.
      Jazakillahu khair, Mariah.

  10. Looks presentable, dresses well, has a good job these are all pluses, not necessarily bad things.
    I grew up in Pakistan in a middle- class, modest family. Moved to the US 10 years ago. I have been married ten years alhamdulillah. My husband is a Pakistani American too. My husband is all that you had suggested in “exhibit A”, minus the drinking, partying and dealing-in-riba issues. Yet, alhamdulillah he has been the husband suggested in exhibits B. Loves to spend time with his kid, prays, fasts, give charity, keeps modesty in his eyes, never shouts, supports us financially and emotionally. He will never do the points 8-9 suggested for the exhibit B husband. Husbands and wives should not “blow” their steam “at” each other.
    And men should not run to get flowers and desserts when women are being rude or yelling.
    That goes against the compassion and understanding taught to us by our own religion.
    Let us all be realistic in the already difficult and complicated avenue of marriage. Muslim men and women compose an enormous population of the world. They belong to not only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia but every continent of the world. Islam takes pride in it’s diversity. Let us not generalize based on our own cultural beliefs but empower your unmarried sisters with the values that concentrate on the inner person of their potential spouse, regardless of his physical appearance and possessions.
    Jazak Allah khair.

    1. Husbands and wives should not “blow” their steam “at” each other.

      I feel this above statement of yours is in slight discord with the one below:

      Let us all be realistic in the already difficult and complicated avenue of marriage.

      In real marriages, spouses do end up blowing their lid or losing their patience with the other, even if they try to avoid it as much as possible. This happens even more so if they are very emotionally close to each other – more than with anyone else, even a parent or friend. Our Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] would smile and overlook his wives’ emotional reactions. This indirect “approval” is proof of how Muslim men should try to also ignore/overlook their wives’ rude behavior. Nevertheless, this also should not become an excuse for wives to take advantage of their husbands’ patience and to go about doing it all the more.

      I think it is pretty obvious to an objective reader of this post that I am not advocating at all that wives blow up at their husbands or be rude to them, or that this is alright. I think readers will understand that I am only detailing the virtues and excessive patience of men who follow the sunnah of our Prophet; who are consequently kind and easygoing with their wives, even when the latter behave irrationally or rudely.

      I agree that all men fall into a whole spectrum between Exhibits A and B, with lots of overlapping. However, you cannot deny that Exhibits B are a bit more ‘looked down upon’, or rather, considered a bit less suitable as potential suitors/husbands than the more “dashing” Exhibit A’s, by many Muslim parents as well as young girls, when considering marriage proposals. Am I wrong? Allah knows best.

      Lastly, no matter how many Muslims consider it alright to undermine the value of “outward appearances”, I exhort and applaud the excellence of looking like our Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم]. I think it is extremely virtuous and worthy of reward for any Muslim guy/man to have such an outward appearance that, when anyone in the world might look at him standing even in a crowd of thousands of others, s/he’d immediately be able to think or say, “Hey, that’s a Muslim guy!”

      Finally, I commend you for your respectful tone in sharing your insights and experience here on this blog. It shows the maturity of your mind. Thank you very much, Mariah.

  11. what a load of crap.. Seriously.. I have no idea where you are coming from.. but making such generalizations can only confirm that you too were one of those women/girls who has been hurt.. Repeatedly..

    I know several men who fall into Exhibit A of yours, and after marriage have settled down and become exactly what Exhibit B of yours portrays. Have you not heard of the age old saying “Men will be Men”. That doesn’t mean that we put them into two extreme categories. We as Muslims have no right to judge other people. Let alone form such strong opinions about them. I love how women like you mould things according to your will. Islam is not that difficult.. it is us, the Muslims, who complicate it..

    So girls drool over people on tv. But one can hope can’t they? Or has Islam forbidden us from doing that too? Every single person out there wants their happily ever after.. and they have a right to it.. You dont get to take that away from them.. to stop them from dreaming.. from hoping.. that’s just ridiculous.. We’ve all wanted the perfect guy.. somebody who can take care of us.. and protect us.. and make us happy.. When did that become so wrong?

    At the end of the day, it’s between YOU and your ALLAH..

    1. Lol at the comment! Girls drooling over men on TV is okay? Ahem, ahem. This is why the Qur’an needs to be read with translation/understanding. Enough said.

    2. Between YOU and your ALLAH is the QURAN which clearly explains what Allah likes and dislikes and what He expects from His Slaves.

      Women have been instructed to lower their gaze just like men have been instructed..(Surah Nur) so it is equally wrong for women to drool over men (real life, movies or TV) just like it is a wrong for men to admire/ oogle at women.

  12. hey 🙂 enjoyed, nice piece. the 2 exhibits were stereo typed but seriously from my experience as well, men who befriend women dont loose that habit easily, unless ofcourse get spiritually guided, as when one’s not guided, there is nothing wrong in befriending them, its just being friends and yeah one does like hanging around in a group with hotties. but my experience too that one thing leads to another and extra marital affairs do start, no one does it on purpose (well some actually do, but for majority its just s sequence of events)
    and one more thing that happens with living in this fairy tale world is that when one does not get married… which happens a lot, life ends, infact its supposed to start for women when they get married 😛 . its the cure to all the problems in the world, as the person with whom they will tie a knot is not a regular guy but a prince charming, who is going to make all their dreams come true. its ridiculous the way girls act in their final years of professional education (if not earlier), desperate to get married… and sure that they will, the possibility that they might not just doesnt exist for them. most of them wait in their educational decision making moments, to ask the person who is going to marry them (even if he doesnt exist at that time ) to guide them in making the decision. khair its many other things apart from the fantasy world that make them do so, but still, i was once comparing story books for boys and girls, each and every one of girls stories has a prince charming ……. except may be ‘heidi’ but then she s too young, while the boy stories have animals, cars etc no lovey dovy nonsense, atleast in most of them. may Allah guide us all to raise our kids, specially girls in a crap free environment

    1. Jazakillahu khair for giving us a dose of reality. Much needed. Reality is the bitter pill we all need to swallow from time to time, and very few romance films and novels portray, or are based on, real life.
      For those who do not know, Tabassum is a professional dentist in Karachi who personally knows of a few women whose husbands are having – or have had – extramarital affairs.
      May Allah guide us all to do what pleases Him, including observing His limits. Ameen.

  13. I have never watched Pretty Woman because of Julia Roberts and the prostitution part.But watching Pakistani dramas and Indian movies did teach me a thing or two about the type of questions to ask before marrying someone. The most important being to always always ask them if they are in love with someone else.

    Pakistani dramas can be quite enlightening sometimes and as long as I get my happily ever afters with a big dose of real life I will continue to watch them.Thankfully Exhibit A’s in Pakistani dramas always come with their shirt buttons closed and Alhumdulilah there is no kissing involved.

    1. Sadaf its me again. Can you please write an article on the topic of haya as pertaining to women.I don’t mean writing about Islamic clothing but instead something along these lines:

      http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/character/half-the-deen-check-half-the-hayaa%E2%80%99-check/

      Alhumdulilah I have amazing Muslim friends but I have seen a lot of Muslim girls talking about guys in a manner that makes me really uncomfortable and I would like to know how much is too much.

      Jazakallah

      1. I have written an article on MuslimMatters.org that might be what you are looking for. It is called “Haya: Showcasing the Shyness of a Shepherdess”. Please click here to read it.
        It is about how single Muslims should behave with members of the opposite gender in the light of an incident that occurs in the Quran.
        Let me know if it is what you were looking for. 🙂
        May Allah reward you for your concern for your sisters.

  14. Some really good points, though I found it to be overall somewhat idealistic. There are many pious Muslimahs out there who may not want a materialistic exhibit A type of man, but they may want an exhibit B type of man who is romantic, dressed well, and isn’t awkward.

    Again, I agree with a lot of points, and see a lot of truth In your article, but find it much too idealistic. Just because an exhibit B guy seems to fit into the category of a good Muslim, it doesnt always translate into being a good husband at all.

    Leaving aside all the materialism, take a look at the personality factors of exhibit A(well dressed, nice, humorous) and exhibit B (practicing Muslim, God-conscious, modest) and you get what mature Muslim women are looking for. Props to the brothers who understand this.

    JazakAllah Khayr Sr. Sadaf 🙂

  15. Plus, by making exhibit B sound like a picture perfect husband, aren’t you presenting the same kind of idealism that you’re asking these girls to get away from?

    1. Exhibit B is based on my own husband. 🙂 No kidding.
      Exhibit A was based on a few of my friends’ husbands. Again, no kidding.

      The reason I went ahead and made these 2 into stereotypes with those listed traits is because young unmarried girls more often than not do not realize how some dashing, charismatic boyfriends usually morph into lazy, indifferent husbands, and how so-called “loser mullah’s” usually become the most compassionate and sensitive ‘best friends’ their wives can ask for.

      I know many women married to religious men, and they’d concur with the traits that I have listed for Exhibit B, myself included. The problem is that they do not speak up and tell the world how wonderful their husbands are. I still respect them for that choice, which they make based on their personal reasons.

      However, I know that even if they did speak up, few people would actually be able to tolerate a veil-clad woman singing the praises of her bearded, maulvi husband. This is because this blatant praise shatters cultural and traditional stereotypes, which are a product of our Hindu-influenced culture, in which the more a husband/father, as the head of the household, univocally enforces his verdicts upon his family in a loud voice and establishes strict, autocratic, and often misogynistic control, casting terror and awe in the hearts of his wife and children, and rules his household with an iron fist, the more “manly” he is supposed to be.

      aren’t you presenting the same kind of idealism that you’re asking these girls to get away from?

      If that were the case, our Prophet’s [صلى الله عليه وسلم] example as a husband should not be cited at all, as he was way too perfect for any man in this day and age to possibly be able to emulate? But I think that hope still prevails; if only men today were to imitate his behavior with his wives, they’d be better able to nurture a loving marital relationship and a more tranquil home environment.
      Allah knows best.

      Jazakillahu khair for your comments, Mehreen. 🙂

  16. I think you should have mentioned that since Exhibit B type husband keeps his eyes lowered … forget oogling/admiring..he does not even look at other women in real life or bollywood hollywood actresses … he only has eyes for his wife..is madly in love with her.. never compares her to other women and appreciates her how she is.

  17. This article is an insult to my intelligence.
    I think we’re missing the whole point of the movie here?. Pretty women was a movie that was supposed to highlight the objectification, enslavement and facade of materialism as social ills. It was about a wealthy man who couldn’t find any satisfaction in any of his relationships despite having everything. Plus the movie relates to a completely different cultural setup, North American realities and discourse is completely different from that of Pakistan!. The movie was a social satire!, dealing with some really difficult issues like sexual assault, prostitution…it was aimed at highlight hypocrisy in society…etc.

    P.S.:
    The largest consumers of romance novels and movies are actually married women!. Check the readership demographics before making assumptions. Maybe you should give some thought as to why that is.

    Plus lets not stigmatize men who don’t fit the exhibit B category. The human soul is too diverse to fit into polarized dichotomies. If you don’t believe me, try reading the Quran without the ideological lense of your own life experience/marriage/narrative…. you’ll realize the importance of diversity in Allah (swt’s) creation.

    1. try reading the Quran without the ideological lense of your own life experience/marriage/narrative…. you’ll realize the importance of diversity in Allah (swt’s) creation.

      It was from the Quran that I learnt this:

      لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا

      “You all have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah”. [Quran 33:21]

      If I reiterate the content of this verse with added lessons from my own and others’ marital experiences (my own has not always been only good, mind you, since it was real life), is it wrong?

      Also, it was the Quran that taught me about negative behavior such as Pharaoh’s, and how it can lead to eternal destruction for the person who chooses to follow his example viz. arrogant rejection of the Truth. But maybe by saying that, I am looking at the Quran with “my ideological lens” – especially if I dare to call Pharaoh’s or Haman’s behavior “negative”, right? They were just two people with “diverse” views, who should “be respected” as being different, eh?

      Most of the married women I know do not have time to read romance novels, although yes, they do still watch romance films and sappy chick flicks – usually with many pinches of salt. I know of just one lady who devoured MB books after marriage, but she was open about the fact that her marriage was going through bad times. She and her husband hardly spent time together and couldn’t communicate without arguing. The happy ending? Now, years later, they both have come towards Deen and are much more close, alhamdulillah. Allahu Akbar!

      I think the film Pretty Woman can be whatever each viewer perceives it to be. However, in film history, it has gone down in the “rom-com” genre – not a satire…although, I admit that when the project reportedly started, it was intended to be a darker drama about the realities of prostitution. For young girls, though, it lives on as a fairy-tale “romantic fantasy”; but of course you can disagree with that and consider it just my personal opinion.

      One of the only good messages this film conveyed was how the calculating corporate raider was transformed by the golden heart of Vivienne in just a week, so that, instead of buying off and breaking apart a struggling shipping company, he decided to financially help it to survive and get back up.

      Thank you for your feedback.

      1. Salaam Sister, I noticed that you used ‘JazakAllah’ & ‘Barakallah fee kum’ for many other ladies who commented here, yet used ‘Thank you’ here. I was wondering why… just curious.

        1. وعليكم السلام
          Hmm, interesting. Now that you’ve brought it to my notice, I think it was a coincidence; no special reason. 🙂
          I do however appreciate polite and respectful comments more than the upfront ones peppered with accusations. I suppose it is human to give a dua to someone who is being respectful, even if they disagree with you or point out your weaknesses/mistakes.
          Allah knows best.

  18. Great article! Just have a thought…we have always heard that love marriage is allowed in Islam… If you don’t know someone, how will you love them/or marry them.

  19. Alhamdulillah I think my husband is definitely exhibit B as well mA. And again, I absolutely agree with your reasoning and I’m not at all questioning the fact that the Prophet’s example should be cited. I guess that I have seen quite a few marriages where a girl goes into the marriage very hopeful that her Exhibit B type of husband (pre-marriage) is going to be absolutely amazing, but often these same husbands characterize the very traits that were listed under Exhibit A (being lazy, not helping out, anger issues, hanging out with the brothers more than spending time with wife…and these are all real cases). So, I just think it’s important to make note alhamdulillah you and I may have great marriages, but a lot of sisters still are very unhappy- I just feel that there needs to be a balance- a call to reality over idealism to me seems more appropriate 🙂

    Not sure if my post made much sense, I feel like my mind is running faster than my hands 😛 JazakAllah Khayr, may Allah reward you for your work.

    1. Very true, very true.
      Idealism on either side can be hurtful.
      May Allah guide all of us, men and women, to follow the example of our Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] in practical life, and to focus on being the change that we want to see in others. Ameen.

  20. Alhumdolillah that you have not encountered specimen B who after a few years of marriage become tyrants in their own homes. But there is also the specimen B who might be ideal in all respects as you have described (rare, but has been sighted) but who might suddenly start looking for a second wife. I am not questioning, astaghfirullah, the permission that Allah has granted men but I wonder how a believing wife is supposed to handle the emotional strain of it. Most of the other “happily-ever-after fairytale” nonsense we get rid off when we come to Islam but in the romantic scenario entrenched in our minds there is only one hero and one heroine even if he has a beard and she is in hijab.
    Alhumdolillah, for a contented, wholesome marriage. It is truly one of the greatest blessings of Allah (swt).

  21. Reading all the various comments here and judging from some of my own encounters with apparent exhibits A and B, I’ve come to realize there’s often considerable overlap in the qualities. Someone who initially seems the B-type, if you talk to him for a bit, all of the undesirable characteristics of A will become obvious! It is hard to imagine but not impossible, as I came to realize.

    Similarly, someone who initially has some features of the A-type (perhaps struggling with prayers or knowing female friends from University years on Facebook) will also be found to have some amazing qualities from the B-type! Ever since I’ve begun to understand this, I’ve realized that, while there will always be “ideals” to look up to, to aspire to be (and to marry! :)), the human beings around us may not always fit those models. But by mentioning these ideals or at least, having a basic understanding of such differences, we have a fairly good idea of what we want, and that’s why Sadaf baji’s portrayal is, after all, a useful thing.

    The take-home message here, I believe, is that when we consider a person as a prospective spouse, we try to get as close to the ideal as we possibly can, while retaining that degree of flexibility whereby a decent, well mannered person who espouses most B qualities is chosen… and chosen well, Insha’Allah.

  22. I think some of the readers who took offense to the article or disagreed in a rude or blatant way may not be from Pakistan. Let me explain.

    In the ‘educated upper class’ in Pakistan, the catch of the husband is simply exhibit A. Charming, partier, smooth talker, fat pay check etc. It’s ok if he drinks or hugs all his cousins and girl-acquaintances.

    In the same class, exhibit B is in fact considered a loser. He’s not someone they’re going to be wanting to marry their daughter off to.

    In the US and other western countries, theres a new wave of religiousness where basicaly its like..its become ‘cool’ to be religious. So you’ll have alot of exhibit A LOOKING AND ACTING like exhibit B’s but its only outwardly and thats why its so common in the US for sisters to marry(and vice verca too) a brother whom they thought was exhibit B only to realize it was in fact exhibit A!

    Really practical topic Sister Sadaf.

    I think another approach to the same topic might have brought out a more nuanced article though – like instead of putting out exhibit A and exhibit B, perhaps focus on the types of qualities that we should look for in a good husband, and citing as evidence the actual cases you know but ofcourse keeping their identities private by not revealing any details that may give them away.

  23. Hi,
    I stumbled onto your blog post and, as an Orthodox Jew, I feel that you have really brought out two different points of view well.
    IMHO, though, since I’m married to someone outside my faith, I have a slightly different perspective on this matter, viz. that one’s religion/religious practices offer little indication of their character.
    I myself know of several pious men who, to put it mildly, are tyrants in their homes. I am sure you do too. On the other hand, I know several men – atheists, ‘bad’ Christians, etc. – who take great care in following the ethical principles you lay out above. Therefore, I would tentatively suggest that religion and moral behaviour are only correlated in your experience because you’re choosing your examples very carefully. Really, doesn’t choosing extremes and arguing from them reduce the impact of your argument? If you rely on extremes, what do you do when they are shown to be false? If people (I like how you focus on men’s behaviour throughout) are good, why drag this or that set of religious values into it? They’re just good people.
    Just curious.

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      Yes, good people who bring the golden principles of companionship into a marriage, irrespective of their faith, do succeed at pleasing their spouses. Basically, religion (especially Islam) endorses a certain kind of attitude and behavior with a spouse, and people who follow that character/conduct/set of behavioral traits do end up having happy marriages. That is my whole point. Anyone who follows the example of Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم] knowingly or unknowingly, will please his wife.
      If you think I have ‘chosen’ ‘extremes’, perhaps, that was done unknowingly on my part because my interaction happens to be mostly with friends or sisters in Deen who have such husbands, viz. who practically emulate the looks and actions of Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم].
      I agree with you and with other commentators about the fact that there are good husbands out there who do not follow Islam nor do they look or dress like Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم]. I am sure, though, that their character and conduct with their wives matches his, because the universal, golden principles of successful human interaction remain the same, no matter who endorses them. With Muslims, the innate intention to please Allah by emulating His Messenger makes the practical application of these golden principles an act of worship in and of itself.
      Allah knows best.

  24. the last comment really made me think…even the Prophet saw advised us to look into the ‘character’ and ‘piousness’ of the prospective suitor (not necessarily in those order) which does indicate that one automatically does not indicate the other.

    subhanallah..from real life experience… i just recently met a sister. She’s a convert and she’s married to a pakistani brother who is very practicing insh’allah and who grew up in the UK. Some of the things that this sister has shared with me have left me feeling baffled and so sad for her and ive literaly been making dua for her for a few days now.

    One example: This brother, although very religious, does not buy clothes for his wife. period. whatever clothes she gets is from her mother in law. according to her, he believes he has to stamp out the love of dunya from her :-/ She wears pants that are shredded from the bottom. I doubt she owns any makeup to beautify herself.

    For a respectable sister who grew up not being poor and being provided for reasonably, that feels very degrading to her, that whatever she gets is like from her mother in law who gets her stuff , she feels out of pity.

    This brother i believe is able to provide in a reasonable manner but this is what he chooses to do with his family based on his intersting understanding of things.

  25. ROFL!! What a fantastic write-up MashaAllah! The second or third article I’ve read so far on your IMMENSE blog. Now the informavore in me is hooked. Your blog is going into my RSS reader. MashaAllah, keep it up. I especially like your writing style.

  26. Masha Allah, this is an amazing post! It’s only your third post I’ve read, but I have to say that I’m now officially hooked and following! 🙂

    Lol!! The “Smack” is so totally true!! I was one of those who was all dazzled by “a certain Mr. Khan” and anything fluffy and cotton candy that the two woods spouted! 😛

    But al-hamdulillahi have woken up since, but still traces of the brainwashing still remains to my everlasting sadness! Have to work on them! Jazakiallah Khair for this wonderful and eye-opening article! 🙂

    Now where do I find myself an Exhibit B?

  27. Assalam o alikum, i have read ur blog above & most of the queries above plus their replies… that is so sweet of u to guide the youth about materialism…i wanted to ask u that in this culture & era in which we r living in, i have observed many( in fact most of them) mualvis who pretend to be practicing Islamic values but are not truly following them & even the mualvis are (am really sorry to mention) less professionally educated, they even doesn’t respect their wives in fact they think that Allah Almighty has chosen them to be above women & tend to rule their spouses & children, they are very less friendly to their families & does not support freely communication among their family… why is that so?? If they can not observe the true spirit of Islam then why do they pose to be the best Muslims ( that Allah knows the best)

    1. Wa alaikumus salam,
      I agree with you that such people are out there..
      I wish I knew why they are like that i.e. outwardly adopting the look of the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] but not embodying the Prophet’s conduct and attitude with their families.
      May Allah guide us all to act upon our Deen as a whole. Ameen.

  28. Salamao alaikum sister saddaf. I received your blog link via the Farhat Hashmi emails that I have subscribed to. The above article is so beautiful,so my opinions, Its so good to read them since I think exactly the same, its true though that there is overlap in these two types of exhibits. I wish I could find more sister like you who are inclined towards religion, I just have no friends who think so religiously, Its a huge blessing having friends who can lift up your eeman. jazakAllah. And i want the exhibit B too 😀 InshAllah, may all sisters who wish for these types find them soon without any hurdles. Ameen. Will keep on reading your articles IA.

    1. Wa alaikumus salam,
      Ameen.
      I, too, sincerely pray that Allah grants all sisters who seek religious husbands, Exhibit B’s, and may we women too become the kind of wives whose actions Allah is pleased with.

  29. can you give me some advice? i wld really appreciate it. what happens when ur a student of knowledge and u ‘fall in love’ with an Exhibit B? wht do u do?

    1. Salaam Sis,
      Its probably an infatuation you have because you have idealized that brother, and he has become to you the western equivalent of a Prince Charming (its not love at this point) However, you asked for a solution and not a commentary, so:

      Make dua to Allah (swt) that if this brother is good for your duniyah & aakhirah, May Allah join you both together in marriage. Don’t underestimate the power of dua! And also don’t deviate from the sunnah & haya in trying to ‘pursue’ the brother. Have full faith that if you both are meant to be, Allah shall join you both in Nikah – no matter what! I found my Exhibit B husband through dua alone. I didn’t even know he existed, all it took was one random phonecall from a random relative we didn’t even know existed. And the society I live in, and my social circle – Exhibit B’s are extinct [only Exhibit As are to be found].Yet Allah had His ways and he united us! So make dua Sis… Istikhara, Salaat-e-Haajat, and have FAITH in FATE. May Allah help you.

  30. Masha’Allah, this is an AMAZING POST. For some reason I started to cry once I read the “Exhibit B”‘s characteristic. :’) Can’t wait for my “Exhibit B” halal prince charming. Haha 😀

  31. i married the exhibit B sort Alhamdolillah and even though he doesnt do more then half of the things u mentioned he d do after 10 yrs ((maybe cuz we r still in the first year of our marriage)) but mashaAllah even without this i cant express how lucky i am to have married someone who loves me for Allah’s sake, who gets pleased with me when he sees i try to please ALLAH, who guides and motivates me to become a better muslim and even if i dont get the baby sitting or flowery perks and sorrys i still think marrying a god fearing husband is by far the greatest worldly blessing ALLAH has given me… and btw i love love love ur blogs. u are such a great inspiration mashaALLAh!

  32. i was just thinking that there are some extremeties too right? like these really rigid mullahs who are really really mean to their wives and exploit them by using religion. those fragments also exist in society right.. and then sometimes even marriages conducted purely for religious reasons turn out to be drastic more so cuz shaitan really really tries to mess things up initially. like i remember my time before rukhsati and after nikkah was horrific cuz i thought if i give up haram stuff for ALLAh my halal prince charming will be super romantic and will go gaga over me but my husband was just indifferent in the beggining, but later Alhamdolillah things changed. i just think expecting that marriage based on islam will always be ‘hunky dory’ is kind of wrong too cuz i went into a major depression cuz mine wasnt initially. although things change cuz ALLAH is just great but i dont know… random thoughts that were bugging me.i dont know if i make sense. ALLAH Knows best!

    1. I liked reading about your real experience in this comment. I get annoyed when I read “I have a great husband, you might get lucky too” stuff.

  33. MashaAllah! Very well written. I think every young girl should really ponder over her priorities before taking marriage decisions.

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