When it comes to love, the issue with Saudis isn’t about whether it’s religiously allowed or not. From an Islamic point of view to love is to live. Love is the base of all religions. Love itself isn’t the question. Our ability as Saudis to love and be loved isn’t the thing. There are so many religious figures who married women they loved or had feelings for. Pure kind of feelings. That kind of relationship has always been acceptable. Love itself is acceptable. To fall for someone is okay. It has always been. In fact my parents married each other after they had feelings for one another.
I believe that the whole issue of romantic relationships between the two genders in Saudi isn’t at all about love. It’s about trust. And society started to have trust issues back in 1979. That’s the time when the Iranian revolution started and eventually affected religion in GCC. Just then, an extreme version of religion prevailed. Women in GCC started to cover or were forced to wear hijab even when they travel abroad. Those who didn’t at the time, would very possibly be harassed in local streets. Men suddenly became more religious. Clear segregation between the two genders started. Mentally and physically.
Before 1979 when a man loves a woman, the whole neighborhood knew about it. The whole family knew about it. They were okay with it. Even when he visits her at home just to stand by the door for a few-minutes-talk, which is the closest version to a standup- date, that was not forbidden. People would not make a big deal out of it.
The Iranian revolution added an extreme version of religion which didn’t exist in such an intensity before. People called it “awareness”. I wouldn’t use such a term to describe it though. That version has prevailed ever since, and the look on love has changed eventually, as a part of the whole package.
Ever since 1980’s, any connection between men and women has changed. People then started to portray any relationship between two people before marriage as a sin. Men in books were described as “wolves” and women depicted as sheep, who should be protected by being away from men, their predators.
Trust issues started to arise. Even when a man falls in love for real with a woman, she would typically fear him. She would doubt his intention. She would fear that he plays around. Many people were brainwashed that all relationships between men and women before marriage are meant to solely serve physical pleasure. Such a process which happened in a relatively short time affected many people for real into believing it. As a result, people started to suppress romantic love and marry based on their mothers’ choice. Such suppression has started now to show result with a huge increase in the percentage of divorce in the GCC area.
Many men and women eventually were raised to lose trust in one another. It’s not love which they lost as many would claim, nor the hope of finding it. It’s trust.
If there’s anything which we, Saudis, should be working on, it is our trust in one another’s genuine feelings. Trust shouldn’t be an individual process. Nothing equals real feelings if you want to live, not just exist like everybody else.
*photo belongs to the talented Saudi photographer Hesham alhumaid.
* kindly note that the article reflects my own personal observation on society and culture. I didn’t conduct any kind of scientific or sociological researches to write this article.
My name is Noor and I love writing, eating bagels and dancing.
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