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?
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:
- Possesses the dress sense of a movie star: wears expensive, branded colognes, shoes, clothes and hair products.
- Has innumerable friends of both genders.
- Has an affinity for talking to his friends (including hordes of young lovelies) on his pricey smartphone.
- 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.
- 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:
- Slops around all day in his pajamas when at home, watching films, television or playing video games.
- 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.
- Calls his minor children and often, his wife, fancy English cuss words when he gets angry.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Encourages her to wear stylish, expensive clothes, especially in front of his friends.
- Deals in riba – especially for acquiring loans to get the fancy big house and the snazzy car.
- 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:
- A shy, demure and timid young man earnest in the pursuit of knowledge of Islam and its practice in his life.
- Very active at the masjid. Avoids partying with the opposite gender, listening to music, and watching television or films (except perhaps sports).
- Inhibited to the extent of being awkward around his fiance before their nikah, but extra respectful towards elders.
- Wears simple but clean clothes. Might reek of oudh on Fridays.
- Highly likely to be called a loser – in addition to other, more demeaning and not-so-nice words – by the more secular-minded crowd.
- Never shouts at his mother or sister(s).
- 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:
- Prefers playing with his children (numbering anywhere between 2 and 5) over hanging out with his friends.
- Helps his wife out with the housework without being asked.
- Does not expect her to serve him like a valet.
- Maintains a balance between work, family and masjid.
- Lives in a 2- or 3- bedroom apartment and drives a small car because of the emphasis on avoiding loans, luxuries and extravagance.
- Earns money only through means free of riba. Avoids working where there is too much free mixing with women.
- Never shouts at, abuses or criticizes his wife. Rather, he sometimes gets shouted at more often than the children. 😉
- 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.
- Did I mention that at times, he also tries to apologize just to restore normalcy, even if he is not at fault?
- He calls up his parents and wife to ask how they are. Not vice versa.
- 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.
- 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.