Earlier this year, Hulu dropped the second season of the comedy-drama Ramy. In Season One, we’re introduced to Ramy Hassan, a first-generation American-Egyptian Millennial in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. Throughout the show, we watch Ramy struggle to figure out if he’s just “culturally Muslim” or if he actually wants to be a prays-five-times-a-day type of Muslim. We follow him as he navigates religiosity, praying at the mosque during Ramadan and entertaining marriage talks with an observant hijabi Muslim woman. Yet, a few episodes later we find him at a house party, getting high, and having sex with the hostess. The preview for Season Two reveals a Ramy who wants to “change.” He attempts to re-learn the faith under the guidance of a Sheikh played by Mahershala Ali. It’s unclear from the promo whether his efforts pay off. Does he successfully learn to control his lower nafs (desires), which includes abstaining from sex, weed, and alcohol? Does Season Two deliver a more religious Ramy?
While I’m actually intrigued to know how he makes out, you won’t catch me binging, and I’m proud to say I haven’t.
Why? Because I’ve had enough of Ramy. I’ve swiped right on the Ramy Muslim Man one too many times on Minder (yes, that’s Muslim Tinder). There’s always a version of Ramy on there paying lip service to his Muslim identity and seeking to marry a practicing Muslim woman. The Ramy Man is the one with the good profile pic: either he’s clean-cut and polished, or he’s a mipster (Muslim Hipster). He stands out because he’s not over the top like the guys who take photos at the gym or with their Mercedes. He looks normal. He does a decent job articulating his personality, appearing to have achieved balance with his religious obligations and his American identity. He’ll usually rate his level of religiosity as “practicing” or if he’s feeling more honest “somewhat practicing,” and always selects never smokes and never drinks. Thus, the Ramy Man appears to be a suitable potential for an American Muslim woman seeking love and marriage.
But after talking or texting for a few days, another (or perhaps just the real) side of the Ramy Man appears: He sends lewd pictures, asks me what shoe size I am (yep, that was the foot fetish guy), hits me with a “Salaams beautiful, I need to hear your voice,” or more simply just turns out to be a ghost.
Mind you, this is Minder that I meet him on; an app that labels itself as a matrimonial platform, not a mere dating app. It may have all the bells and whistles of a traditional dating app like Tinder or Bumble, but it’s clear with its intentions to help Muslims meet for the purposes of marriage, which is what I try to demonstrate I’m looking for too. In addition to my modest profile pics taken from the waist up, where I’m wearing a loose-fitting jumpsuit and a hijab, I’ve got a cute (warning) description that says: 27-year-old lawyer seeking someone serious. I’ve got no time for ghosts!
The Ramy Man is the one with the good profile pic: either he’s clean-cut and polished, or he’s a mipster (Muslim Hipster). He stands out because he’s not over the top like the guys who take photos at the gym or with their Mercedes. He looks normal. He does a decent job articulating his personality, appearing to have achieved balance with his religious obligations and his American identity.
My most recent run-in with the Ramy archetype was with this American Somali guy, let’s call him R. He was thirty, had a great job in the medical field, savings, and he meal prepped! For introductions, we did a phone call where I explained what I was looking for: I told him I don’t date, I date-to-marry, which meant I expected him to clear his intentions with a call to my dad at some point in the first month or so (to show him I meant business). Although he admitted apprehension, he said he found me intriguing and wanted to keep talking. He agreed to my stipulations, and said he was serious about marriage too. On our second call, we talked for five hours, followed by a third call when we talked for another six hours. This never happens. So, naturally I was ecstatic.
Because our conversations weren’t just chatter and were targeted at assessing compatibility, we recognized right away that we had different levels of religiosity. He was honest and said he did the bare minimum — praying, fasting in Ramadan, abstaining from alcohol and (allegedly) women. I, on the other hand, try to keep a more rigorous practice by not only doing the five pillars, but also by being active in the Muslim community, volunteering at the mosque, and taking classes to further learn the intricacies of the faith. When I pointed out these differences and potential clashes, he brushed it off. He said he was raised in a conservative Muslim family, and that he was capable of doing better — that I inspired him to do better.
I had my doubts. I was wary of someoneone who seeks to “change” for another person. Relationships, and more importantly, marriages are based on the coming together of two whole individuals. The whole cliché “my better half” stuff isn’t true. You need two fully formed human beings to make a functioning union. But with religiosity, it’s tricky. Some people actually do deepen their faith as they get older, sometimes changing under the auspices of love. However, expecting this change is a gamble. But since I have a father who converted to Islam in the eighties who always says without my mother he would never have found God, I thought maybe I should loosen up. Maybe I should give R a chance.
Then, just as I was getting ready to introduce R to my family, I began to see how his lack of religiosity impacted his behavior. At the end of each phone call or Facetime (this was a long-distance relationship), he started making kissy noises, asking me to show him affection (FYI, yes, phone sex is haram before marriage). Even after I asked him to stop, telling him he was doing the most, being too fresh, crossing lines, I realized he lacked two important Islamic traits: akhlaq (character) and taqwa (God-consciousness). I kept waiting to hear his reflections on the purpose of life or musings on how temporary this overly-materialistic world is. These were things I often pondered about, but thoughts he never uttered.
I was torn.
So, one night as I sat in bed, right before I turned out the lights, I prayed. I swear, the last words that came out of my mouth were “God, please send me a sign. Tell me if I should be with R.”
The next morning, I woke up to a text from him:
8:00 AM: Good morning beautiful. Good luck with your exam today! You got this ;).
8:05 AM: I meant– good morning.
(Just so it’s clear, I’m NOT IN SCHOOL.)
Turns out R was talking to multiple women. One minute he’s telling me I can see you being the mother of my children and the next he’s chatting up some poor girl still in college. Needless to say, I ended it.
And this is why I’m done with Ramy. Just like the Ramy on television, the Ramy Man doesn’t know what he wants. The Ramy Man approaches love in the same way I approach buying shoes at Neiman Marcus — picking through the racks, trying on pairs for hours, until I find ones that are relatively comfortable. Then, when I realize I can’t afford them and should never have been in such an expensive store to begin with, I drop everything and run away.
The Ramy Man treats Muslim women the same way. They find us on Minder, make themselves out to be practicing Muslims seeking marriage, and then when they realize they don’t really want to be the type of Muslim we expect them to be, they run away. They are confused little boys, who crave the comfort and familiarity of being with a practicing Muslim woman, but don’t actually want to practice Islam. Maybe they do pray five times a day, but the words they recite roll off their tongues and evaporate into thin air. The principles of the faith never filter into their hearts.
Islam is strict when it comes to love and marriage. Myself, and a lot of other observant Muslim women have decided to marry within the faith, and abide by its principles. If we wanted to just date, hook up, or play the field, we could have signed up for Tinder. But we choose the marriage-based Muslim platforms because we choose to remain steadfast in our faith.
The Ramy Man never wants to choose. He wants to have his cake and eat it too.
My point? The Ramy Muslim Man should be real with himself and with us. Before he starts spewing words about commitment and marriage, he should ask: “Who am I and what do I want?” And more importantly “Should I just stick to Tinder?” Does he only say he wants a marriage to a Muslim woman because it’s expected? Or does he just think by marrying an observant Muslim woman he’ll get to wear the label of a practicing Muslim without doing any of the hard work?
Maybe Season Two of Ramy will provide answers to these questions. But, like I said, I’m tired of Ramy, so I guess I’ll never know.
Nailah Dean lives in San Francisco. She’s a member of the SF Writers Workshop and recipient of a 2019 Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellowship. Nailah serves as a contributor to various columns on Medium. Her current project is a memoir about the Muslim dating world. Read more from Nailah here: 3 Types of Men You Meet on Minder