Muslims can't really date in the common sense of the word. There's plenty of mystery surrounding the weird nature of what really happens in the Muslim dating sphere - a strange, unknown place, possibly full of odd ritualistic practices. What does it really involve? While it's not quite sitting behind a screen, asking questions as if on an episode of Blind Date, with a soft drink in hand, it can get pretty close. Yes, sometimes we do use a chaperone to ensure proper conduct. In fact, it's all very Austenian with the declaration of intention and lack of physical interaction. That's right: no sex before marriage. No anything before marriage. And we don't have any of this long-term relationship/courtship business, thank you very much.
Muslim dating works in dog years because faffing is not a socially acceptable norm. I'd say that post-30s (age is not but a number) a six month turnaround is quite common. I won't lie; this can lead to a certain type of intensity in which entire (one-sided) relationships can be forged via the medium of technology. One phone conversation and five text messages later and the person with whom you're speaking might say something dramatic like: May God forgive me for what might become of me. That's usually when you know you made the right decision to cut contact.
If you're of brown hue/South Asian descent the term 'arranged marriage' has probably cropped up. Gone are the days, my friend. Gone are the days. We do not, like our parents, meet the person we're about to marry for the first time on the day, or the week before, our wedding. Personally, when I'm asked whether I'd have an arranged marriage I generally look at the person, slightly confounded. Of course forced marriages are an issue, but erm, guess what? They're not the norm. The modern (I'm not using the term ironically) version of this is 'Introductions,' which do happen all the time. Sometimes more often than is reasonable. There's no shortage of family members pushing some auntie's friend's cousin's son in your face, or handing out your phone number/email address to any single man that might take it. (Thanks to overenthusiastic parenting, also be prepared for random phone calls from strange men.)
Unfortunately the Muslim dating pool is rather small - in fact, it's miniscule. There's a fair bit of recycling that goes on: 'Darling! Went on a date, wasn't for me, you might like him' type thing. Apart from this there's the constant networking in which you will meet the same people. It's not inconceivable to end up at a charity event, on a boat, sat opposite three men who you've been on a date with. It might seem like bad luck but at least you're on a boat because then you have the choice to either throw them, or yourself, off it. So, despite what others might say, we do have options.
Muslim dating seems like a rather contrived, practical sort of thing, doesn't it? Where's the passion, you might ask. Though it might seem like a shocking concept you can actually find a person you're passionate about within what might feel like a restrictive dating framework. Because the truth is - wait for it - we are still human. We're not robots looking to fulfil a social and cultural norm, and despite the mounting parental pressure we'd rather not just settle for anyone that comes along. Who doesn't want the odd firework? Nothing too dramatic, mind. So, we'll do what everyone else does, wait until the sparks fly...
My novel Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is published by Twenty7 as an ebook on September 3rd (£4.99) and paperback in January 2016 (£7.99)