Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why not?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Di tengah-tengah minggu akademik terakhirku di Auckland insyaAllah, di kala kesibukan menyiapkan saki baki assignment yang perlu dihantar minggu ni, ingin saya berkongsi sebuah artikel dari sebuah blog. Source- http://kakiblog.com/2007/06/09/why-not-dating-dulu-baru-kahwin/

There is a glossary at the end of this article on certain scientific terms and Malay terms which may help the reader to understand the article better.

When you hear about “kahwin dulu, baru dating“, probably in your mind you will be thinking about a guy with a kopiah 24 hours on his head marrying a girl who wear the tudung labuh or even a niqaab, better known as purdah at Malaysia. Your first instinct will also probably be, “I pray, I fast, I wear tudung, but I am not these extreme ‘alim people. I need to get to know my partner for life inside out. So, I need to date him, to know whether we are serasi or not.” I perfectly understand your concern. I understand that you are not ‘crazy’ enough to just jump into a marriage without knowing who your partner really is. So in the end, this kahwin dulu baru dating trend becomes an exclusive thing among people who are active in dakwah and jemaah, while the muslim masses are walking together holding hands or ‘hanging out’ at restaurants at KLCC, Mid Valley, etc. Some of these people are perhaps incurable, but I believe some just don’t get how kahwin dulu baru dating can actually work. I will try my best to show you that kahwin dulu baru dating actually works, and romantic love is hogwash in supposedly spotting the ideal partner for a long-lasting marriage.

Firstly, I have heard about people mocking about those who had successful marriage through matchmake as just being ‘lucky’. To set the record straight, according to National Geographic, the divorce rate of the Western world which embraces total romantic love is around 50 to 60% - a healthy percentage indeed! So, even if you start your marriage with romantic love, the probability for it to last untill death-do-you-apart is less than half. I would like to call upon those ardent defender of romantic love to pause for awhile and enjoy this statistics before proceeding to conjure some pseudo theories about the advantages of having romantic love - you can’t fool the figures. I would say that the western society has 1001 flaws in keeping a safe household and those ‘other factors’ surely contribute to the statistics, but the fact still remain that romantic love fails to spot these people’s partner for life. According to a study done by Utusan Malaysia, our country also has a divorce rate of 54% and our society is practically westernised with majority embracing romantic love - although maybe not the type that ends up on the bed. So it’s the same old story, statistics wise.

Some people say we need to know whether we have ‘chemistry’ through countless dates, hang outs, and spending a lot of time together. Going through a person’s ‘CV’, peer opinion or recommendation, observing her/him in public, and a brief get-to-know session are just not enough. We know that during this courting period, everyone pijak semut pon tak mati, and you will always forgive your partner’s shortcoming no matter how big they are, simply because you are madly in love. How many times have we heard about glitch-free Pakwe 1.0 who eventually turned into Husband 1.0 with lots of viruses and trojan horses? Also note that I am not saying go into a marriage with someone you know you don’t like, but I am saying you don’t need these romantic craps to know a person through and through. The fact is you won’t really know a person unless you live, eat, and sleep with him or her.

I wonder how Amazon.com can make big bucks, if everyone really insist in browsing through a book before buying it. Worst still, this book has a lot of pages written in magic invisible ink that will only show up after you buy it! So you never really know what you are buying. What if good reviews, high-praise critics, and best sellers are not enough for one to make a decision to buy a book? I admit that drawing an analogy between life partner with a book just doesn’t make sense at all. Let’s get scientific. So what really is this thing called love? Anthropologist Helen Fisher, a professor at Rutgers University, has conducted an extensive research on the biochemical pathways of love in all its manifestations: lust, romance, attachment, the way they start and wane, etc. Here is part of what her research is about:-

“After doing MRI on the brain of two lovers - they had been ‘madly in love’ for seven months during that time - she found out that parts of brain linked up to reward and pleasure - the ventral tegnmental area and the caudate nucleus- lit up. What excited Fisher most was not so much finding a location, an address, for love as tracing its specific chemical pathways. Love lights up the caudate nucleus because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which Fisher came to think of as part of our own endogenous love potion. In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. It is why, when you are newly in love, you can stay up all night, watch the sun rise, run a race, ski fast down a slope ordinarily too steep for your skill. Love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and sometimes you don’t.” [The Chemistry of Love, National Geographic]

Sounds familiar? Mind you that mentally-ill people also shows high amount of dopamine in their brain, and scientists cannot tell apart one who is mentally-ill and one who is ‘madly in love’ by just MRIing their brains. Cool, right? The meaning of ‘madly in love’ is more real than what we think of, as the brain chemistry of infatuation is indeed akin to mental illness. Tak heran la, pijak semut pon tak mati, lautan api pon akan ku redah, dan gunung tinggi mana pon akan ku daki. Do you think an orang gila can make a sound judgement? The fact is, when you are in deep romantic obsession, you just want to win rewards from your partner due to the excessive dopamines, not objectively finding faults in him or her as you claim. Of course nobody is perfect, there is no point in finding every faults in your partner, and supposedly marriage is about reconciling differences and accepting the fact that your partner is another human being, inescapable from making mistakes. What I am stressing here is that dating and hanging out are for mere pleasures, not finding the right partner. How can something that is similar to mental-illness becomes a reliable way to make your decision of a lifetime? So am I still not convincing? Let’s hear further what Dr. Helen Fischer has to say about the chemistry of love:-

“Most scientist who studied love, divide it into three segments: lust, romantic obsession, and attachment. The first stage of it which is lust which is actually the sex drive. One of the things that men like about women is their waist to hip ratio, which according to scientists, the desirable waist to hip ratio is point seven. woman are attracted to man with broad shoulders and rugged features, all showing a great deal of testosterone. The second stage of love is romantic passion, and the same chemcals are involved when a person is in love is when they are high on Amphetamine [dopamine stimulus] , and the scientists are speculating that it ends after about four years, and that’s because that is the amount of time that it takes for a human baby to become ‘viable’. And two things happen, either the couple separate or they stay together in long term relationship. That third stage is called attachment and there is a different chemical in brain that is involved in a long-term relationship, which is called oxytocin, and that causes one to feel very calm and soothe. Emily and Brian of Ohio had been married for 60 years and have twenty children. They were to me sort of perfect example of this long-term relationship attachment.” [The Chemistry of Love, National Geographic]

So, according to scientists, this romantic passion can only last at maximum for four years, but they don’t quite know why yet - biology is always vague. Some say that the human body just can’t stand the state of high in dopamine for so long because it deteriorates the body, while some gave the theory that four years is the maximum time span for a couple to have their first baby, so they need to get ’serious’. Whatever it is, no wonder a lot of people complain that their once glitch-free Pakwe 1.0 turned into Husband 1.0 with lots of viruses and trojan horses. Another thing to point out is that couples who are in long-term relationship show high amount of oxytocin in their brains, which is a totally different chemical from dopamine. Oxytocin is also present when you have good relationships with your parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. So what makes a relationship last long is this feeling of attachment to your partner like you have for your parents, friends, and family, not the romantic passion during courtship. It is interesting to note that oxytocin causes one to feel very calm and soothe, while dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. There is no similarity at all between these two chemicals; in fact, their purposes are actually the opposite to each other. So only a fool would think that romantic passion is the mechanism that should be used to find a suitable partner. It is like trying to use a hammer to cut your finger nail.

“And those who say: “Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders of those who have Taqwa.” [Qur'an 25:74]

Is qurrota a’yun (comfort of our eyes) mentioned in the Qur’an, the feeling of calm and soothe (triggered by oxytocin) that is presence when a relationship is based on attachment? Finally, let’s listen to what Jody Cobb, the photographer of National Geographic magazine who wrote the article The Chemistry of Love, has to say about her impossible task: Photographing love:-

“I didn’t want to just photograph weddings, that I think is what is expected. I didn’t want to do a valentine, I didn’t want to do a hallmark card. The notion of love because anyone who has ever really been in love knows that, that’s not the reality. So I was very much interested to show real life and cultures all over the world. And women are becoming educated and wanting to make their own choices in mate selection, things are changing really fast. And just like in the West, where we trully believe in love and romance and happily ever after, we still have a 50-60% divorce rate.” [The Chemistry of Love, National Geographic]

It is pretty clear now that dating dulu baru kahwin doesn’t come even close to ensure a happily-ever-after relationship. Ironically, those ‘extreme ‘alim people’ are the ones who understand real love and real life, not those Casanovas. Do note that I am not saying if you kahwin baru baru dating then your marriage will last forever, but if you dating dulu baru kahwin then you are doom to failure. I am simply pointing out that romantic passion has nothing to do about spoting the ‘right person’ in your life. It is also true that incompatibility may happen between two persons, like there is just no chemistry between the two of you. The point is, you don’t need to go on countless hang outs to spot that. You don’t need to overload your neuropathways with excessive dopamine to find the supposedly elusive chemistry. It is common sense: You sit down and talk with a person for 15 minutes and you’ll know whether you can get along with that person or not. I am talking in general, meaning even with a stranger who you want to make him as your friend, not just your life partner. As for the opposite gender, more than that, it is the evil desire from your nafs. Of course, if you are still in doubt, go through the person’s ‘CV’, find peer opinion or recommendation about that person, observe her/him in public, and so on and so forth, as long as it is according to the syariah. Whatever you do, don’t get mentally-ill. In the end, you still have to ride all the gelora after the romantic passion dies out and you dah kahwin - Husband 1.0 and Wife 1.0. Last piece of advice: Ride them with oxytocin, not dopamine, ok? Above all, bring along taqwa, inshaAllah it will be pretty smooth sailing.

“I love you because of your religion. If you let go of your religion, then I have to let go of my love for you” Imam Nawawi.


Scientific terms:

Neurotransmitters - are chemicals that are used to relay, amplify and modulate electrical signals between a neuron (brain/nervous system cells) and another cell.

Dopamine - Dopamine is a neurotrasmitter and it has many functions in the brain. Most importantly, dopamine is central to the reward system. Dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities. Dopamine is released by naturally rewarding experiences such as food and sex. Disruption to the dopamine system has also been strongly linked to psychosis and schizoprenia, with abnormally high dopamine action apparently leading to these conditions. Now you can see the link between sex/romantic passion and psychosis.

Oxytocin - Oxytocin is a mamalian hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In the brain, oxytocin is involved in social recognition and bonding, and might be involved in the formation of trust between people. Oxytocin is also an important hormone for women for various reasons, but in this article I am focusing on the function of oxytocin in the brain.

MRI - MRI stands for Magnetic resonance imaging, which is a non-invasive method used to render images of the inside of an object. In this particular case, it is used to render images inside of the brain.

Malay terms:

kahwin dulu baru dating - A loose translation would be: Marriage first, only then comes dating.

dating dulu baru kawhin - A loose translation would be: Dating first, only then comes marriage

tudung - hijab

serasi - compatible

pijak semut pon tak mati - Literally it means: Even if you step on an ant, the ant won’t die. What it actually means is someone who control his behavior to give a false, good impression during dating.

pakwe - boyfriend

Tak heran la, pijak semut pon tak mati, lautan api pon akan ku redah, dan gunung tingga mana pon akan ku daki - Literally it means: No wonder he steps on an ant, the ant won’t die, and he will say, “I will cross a fiery ocean for your sake, I will climb the tallest mountain for your sake.” I guess you get the meaning already


1. Slater, Lauren. The Chemistry of Love. National Geographic Magazine, February 2006

2. Fisher, Helen. Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Henry Holt and Company, 2004.

والله علم
والسلام عليكم


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the eye-opening post (again)! God bless ;)

Imran Razali said...

No worries ^_^ may it be beneficial to everyone biizhnillah... and all praise is due to Allah

afnan said...

uhuk uhuk

musafir said...

detailed explanation,wif scientific justification
thumbs up!

Imran Razali said...

Afnan: Apsal batuk tu Afnan? :p

musafir: Wa'alaikumsalam.. wa iyyakum.. ^_^