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Keeping It HalalThe Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys$
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John O'Brien

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691197111

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691197111.001.0001

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“Keeping It Halal” and Dating While Muslim

“Keeping It Halal” and Dating While Muslim

Two Kinds of Muslim Romantic Relationships

(p.78) 4 “Keeping It Halal” and Dating While Muslim
Keeping It Halal

John O'Brien

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines two distinct models through which members of the Legendz attempted to reconcile the contradictions between Islamic expectations of premarital gender relations and their participation in American-style teenage romantic relationships. Yusuf and Salman sought to manage this dilemma by articulating and pursuing an overtly Islamic approach to dating which they called “keeping it halal.” “Keeping it halal” entailed an explicit labeling of their romantic activity as Islamically appropriate (halal) as well as a stated commitment to setting specific limits on physical intimacy. This approach was initially attractive to these young men because it promised a level of cultural clarity and emphasized an attractive similarity between states of romantic love and Islamic piety. While “keeping it halal” worked well as an articulated aspiration and an initial guide for young Muslim Americans' behavior while dating in America, its effectiveness as a lasting strategy for reconciling teenage dating and Islamic morality eventually fell short for those who attempted it. Exemplifying an alternative approach to managing the dilemma of dating as a young Muslim, Abdul, Muhammad, and Fuad avoided articulating their dating relationships within an explicitly Islamic moral framework or by setting clear boundaries on physical intimacy. Instead, they emphasized the aspects of their relationships that aligned with a culture of romantic love while trying to keep Islamic understandings present but marginal and the possibility of physical intimacy alive but obscure by discussing such subjects in strategically ambiguous ways.

Keywords:   teenage dating, romantic relationships, physical intimacy, Islamic piety, Muslim Americans, Islamic morality, romantic love

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