We will be posting a series of articles all pertaining to Marriage in Islam. The “Marriage Series” will focus on how to go about this fun but crazy process in a halal manner and will also include our personal experience. "
The media and society as a whole has unfortunately portrayed Muslim parent as evil individuals who force their kind and naive children into marriages with someone that they do not know and is abusive, hideous and other bad things. In reality though, while some parents might operate in this manner, it is not the norm and forced marriages are actually haram in Islam.
Ok, so if parents aren't supposed to force their children to marry someone, does that mean that Muslim youth should date in order to find their spouse? The answer to that is NO.
It is not permissible for a Muslim to date in the sense of dating in the western world. A man and a woman are not permitted to be alone with one another unless they are mahrams and free-mixing in general is not allowed. So then, how do Muslims find their spouse?
This process manifests in different ways depending on the culture but often, if a man or woman notice someone of the opposite sex that they think might be good for them(based on word of mouth, halal interactions, etc) and they would like to inquire about the person, they should first make istikhara(dua for guidance). If after istikharah, they are still interested, the can either go through their local imam(if both individuals are from the same community) to express interest in the person and the imam can notify the other individual. They can also speak to someone who is close to the other individual and express interest or they can go directly to the family of the individual themselves. So for instance, if a brother is interested in a sister, he can choose to go through the imam or go straight to the girl’s wali(who can be her father, brother, uncle, etc) and if a sister is interested, she should notify her wali and have him make the initial contact. If both parties agree to pursue the interest, a meeting is arranged. While this meeting can be organised in different ways depending on the culture, it is impertinent that there be a chaperone, preferably the wali of the girl. Meeting alone(even in a restaurant or cafe) should be avoided. It is important that both families be completely involved in the whole process.
If after the initial discussion the two individuals decide that they are both interested in one another, subsequent meetings may be arranged to further get to know each other. It is important, because the point of these meetings is to decide if they are your ideal spouse, that fundamental questions be asked and discussed. Such questions should include how often the person prays, their adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah, how marital disagreements in matters of deen should be handled(i.e you believe niqab is Sunnah and want to observe while he would prefer you don’t and because it’s Sunnah, you don’t ‘have’ to do it) and other related questions. Questions regarding rights and duties, marital roles(do you expect him to be the sole breadwinner like Allah has ordained? Does he expect you to be a housewife?), the influence of in-laws, income, career goals, kinship ties and other foundation questions should also be answered. If the responses to these sort of questions pleases both individuals they might decide to begin preparations for a nikkah and also spend more(halal) time together to develop chemistry and feelings for one another. The reason why it is good to make sure the foundations are there before the emotional attachments and chemistry is because often times, once you start developing feelings you begin to make excuses for the important areas they are lacking in.
*Remember though, that while you are developing these feelings, you are not married and still unlawful towards one another and should therefore be modest in your actions*
If ’you've read my short bio in the ‘About’ section, you already know that although I was born Muslim, besides the very basic tenets(salah, Ramadan, Jummah), I was not taught any other actual Islamic practices. Alhamdulilah, I was able to begin learning on my own and adapt this knowledge to my life. Many people who have watched me grow, believe that I have ‘found God’ and therefore going through this immense spiritual journey. There are even some people, family included, who believe that this is all just a phase and are constantly waiting for the day where I trade in my scarf and jilbab for a mini dress. inshaAllah, that never happens. Personally, I don’t think I've ‘found God’, mainly because I've never lost Him. I have always believed in him. It just took me gaining knowledge to fully embrace Him.
From a young age, I've always been excited about Islam. I remember looking forward to the “Middle East” section in Social Studies class because they always spent like a chapter talking about Islam. While I obviously covered my hair when I went to the masjid and when I prayed salah, I didn't really know much about covering, modesty or hijab, I do remember always admiring it. One instant that I can think of is when I forgot to take my scarf off after leaving the masjid one day and went to a store. There was this little girl who was also covered and the instant we made eye contact she smiled. I always remember that day because simply by wearing the scarf, it seemed we shared something. As I got older(early teenage years), I began to look into Islam more and believe it or not, it was also around this time that I received my first English Qur’an. I am not sure why but before then the thought of actually knowing what the Qur’an said never really came to me. As I began reading and learning, I started wanting to adapt more things to my life. Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances, I couldn't practice as much as I wanted but I did make it a point to perform salah and read more Qur’an. By the time I finished high school, I decided that I really wanted to start taking my deen more seriously. I wanted to be a pleasant, respectful, Allah-abiding Muslim. No, I did not start covering right away. I did start with changing my behaviour to align more with proper Islamic adab. Understand though, that I was not this horrible, rude, loose child, I just had the habit of being very short with people and engaging in activities that did not align with the proper mannerisms of a Muslim.. Throughout my first year in university, I probably was not the best example of a Muslim and did many things that I am not necessarily proud of, Alhamdulilah though, none of my ill-actions had lasting effects so I have been able to move forward.
Although I knew that I wanted to be ‘a better’ Muslim, I wasn't sure about how to go about it. I am a person who does not like much attention so my main worry was not so much about people judging me or not liking my changes but more so that I didn't want to have to deal with explaining these changes. This reluctance to explain myself also stems from the fact that I think people expect this deep profound explanation when really, for me, it was very simple- I believed in God, I believed that all the things He said in the Qur’an were right, so therefore why I shouldn't I abide by them. When I started university, I lived a bit far from home so I was able to maneuver without anyone really knowing who I was. By the end of my first year in undergrad, I decided to start wearing the scarf. While I did cover my hair, I was not observing proper hijab at all. I wore short skirts, mini-dresses, etc. I honestly didn't know what I was doing at all but I did know that that was not appropriate, I just wanted to try it. At the end of that year, I went back home for the summer holidays and stopped covering because again, I did not want to deal with the questions. Mid-way through the summer, I accepted a job back at the university and was able to move back on campus and reinstated the wearing of my scarf. I loved it! I loved praying my prayers on time, I loved the sense of slight modesty that I felt. At the end of the summer, I chose to switch schools and therefore moved back home-this of course meant no scarf. It was interesting, you always hear about girls who observe hijab when leaving home then take it off right before they get to school. Well I was the opposite of that. I would leave the house in my spring dresses and then throw on a scarf and sweater when I got on the bus to school. Eventually this became really difficult and I was literally ALWAYS TERRIFIED that someone would see me and tell my family, so eventually I gave up and stopped wearing it. A couple of months later, I realized that I hated not covering more than I disliked having to hide it so I just started covering again. I didn't make an announcement of it I just did it. Overall, things went well. Family wise, the only awkward moments were when I was expected to uncover for parties.
The "Muslimah Worries" section of Striving Clarity is dedicated to discussing the things that Muslimahs often worry about from hijab to marriage to how to remain spiritual when you're unable to pray. Join us!