“What the hell do you mean by ‘a few dates’?” my wife asked me through a cold, tight smile. We’ve been married for ten-ish years, but when I recently accepted a Facebook friend request from an old acquaintance who I’d dated in high-school, I felt obligated to disclose this tiny detail. Small mistake. My wife’s voice was tinged with jealousy.
Jealousy is the number one cause of spousal murder in America.1 Dozens of Shakespearean plays show us how destructive and hungry jealousy can be. It must be fed with information; Curiosity then is the road to jealousy. That’s why Instagram-stalking is exhausting (I’m told).
We live in a world filled with history. We make a little every day. Most of it is lame, like watching the first 4 seasons of Gossip Girl (or all 6). Some of it is spicy, like the time… well, let’s just say my state revoked my license until I was 18. Dating what’s-her-face was lame. But history scars deep. I still walk around with my head down from years of acne, and I’ve been cruelly reminded of why we shouldn’t pull power cords with our toes. My unmarried 30-something friend calls his history ‘character development.’ His survival rule: ‘Don’t ask. Don’t tell.’ Coincidentally, that’s also the Islamic position.
“Don’t ask about things that if revealed will upset you” (Qur’an 5:101). KaPow! The big picture here is a concept called ‘satr’ wherein you cover your sins, as well as those of others, just as you cover your body with clothes. A man approached the Prophet after prayer and said he wanted to unburden himself by revealing some of his sins to the Messenger. The Prophet said “Didn’t you just pray with us?” to which the man answered in the affirmative. The Prophet then said “Then God has forgiven your sin.”2 The man left. There’s no reason to spill the beans on everything you do at all times. It’s better to conceal rather than blab your sins, and quietly and steadily work towards changing the sinful behavior. This is satr.
It’s a survival rule that helps us stay sane in a world full of sordid secrets. The Prophet said: “Whoever covers a believer’s sins in this life, God will cover his in the next.”3 The gist of this is simple: leave things alone that you don’t need to know about others, and keep things from others that they don’t need to know about you. Remember that dude who is now a modest guy, but was a player back in the day? Go to his wedding and keep your trap shut anyway. That is satr.
Slather this handy little rule on everything. How intimately did your cousin know her husband before she married him? Don’t ask. What do you make compared to your co-workers who’ve been at the company twice as long? Don’t tell. Who was your first kiss, if not your spouse? Don’t tell–even if it was a sad little kiss between two awkward puberty stricken teens at an Islamic school (yes, an Islamic school). Don’t pry into the lives and possible mistakes of others. Don’t share your own transgressions with others. No good comes from either.
The Qur’anic verse above ends with a reminder that Allah forgives. He is the One who restores your honor. Ultimately, this is the story of acceptance. We must accept people as they are. Her history has forged her into the woman you fell in love with. She is who she is not in spite of, but because she did what she did. You don’t need to know every single detail about her past in order to love and live with her.
Curiosity is over-rated, but I’ll answer your question anyway: Nothing happened on those dates. Walhamdulillah, nothing at all.
1 Buss, D. M. The dangerous passion: Why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex. Free Press, 2000.
2 Sahih al-Bukhari, from Anas, Kitab al-Hudud, #6823
3 Sahih Muslim, from Abu Hurayra, Kitab al-Birr wal-Sila #2590