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*
We have all probably experienced situations in which we’d like to handle things the way Allah has ordained but due to circumstances, we are unable to. While some might completely throw aside Allah’s guidelines, I like to take the approach of being as halal as I can be. So although I might be limited, I should still adhere to Islam for Allah is merciful and will understand my situation. The way that Islam dictates courtship is something that I have always loved. While growing up in America, I never understood why people felt the need to have boyfriends/girlfriends simply for the sake of having one. With courtship, there is always an end goal-Marriage. In some religious communities, this courtship can take place for years whereas in Islam, it is expected that once the two individuals decide that they prefer one another, the nikkah should commence. On the contrary though, the instant one or both individuals decide the person is not for the them, the courtship and all communication must cease.
With this in mind, I decided that if anyone was interested in me, then he would have to go about it properly. Before approaching me, he would need to either approach my brother or father who would then tell me. Though I had the idea that this was how I wanted to operate, I knew, through conversations with my mother, that my family would find it weird and preferred that I pseudo-dated(dating without sexual interactions), so I opted to first get to know any suitors first then send them off to my family. At least that way, I could say though I didn’t date the person, I have met them. My hope was that operating in this manner would please Allah and make the process smoother for my family(this was before I decided that ultimately, my duty is to Allah and all things should be done His way). While I did receive inquiries from individuals, some who inquired about me through a community member, none of them passed my initial vetting. Not because I was being difficult but simply because they did not fit my idea of the kind of Muslim husband that I wanted. One had way too much culture mixed in with his Islam, something I consider to be dangerous territory and another showed tendencies of “picking and choosing” what he adhered to. Others simply seemed to be looking for a hijabi to marry while they engaged in haram activities with various women. I REFUSE to be anyone’s method of redemption or attempt at saving face. Because these inquiries ended as soon as they started, I actually didn’t engage in any inadvisable actions Alhamdulilah.
My actual engagement with courtship was a bit more difficult. Though he was Muslim, he was not from a Muslim family and my family was not into the whole courting thing so we kind of made our own rules, with the expectation that things should be as halal as possible and that as soon as we decided that we were interested in doing nikkah with one another, parents needed to be involved. For the most part, we made sure all of our interactions were public and involved others in our outings. We ensured that phone conversations and texts were also halal. I always asked myself “would you feel comfortable if someone read these messages?” because if the answer to that was “no” then it meant I was not being halal. Due to the fact that we had slightly different ideas of courtship, we chose to instead of simply discussing foundations first and then discovering the emotional attachments, to do them at the same time. Despite all of this, there was the knowledge that regardless of “how much he makes me smile, if his deen is off by a little, he needs to go”. I definitely made sure to ask him of all the necessary questions. Word of Advice: Don’t make it feel like an interview like I did. I can clearly remember pulling out my phone at dinner and reading my list of 50 or so questions to ask a Muslim spouse. Alhamdulilah, as awkward as my ‘interview’ was his answers met my desires. After performing istikharah(multiple times just to make sure), we felt that nikkah was in our qadr(decree) from Allah..
* Part 2 of the "Marriage Series" focusing on Parents/Family in Courtship(along with my experience) will be posted next week inshAllah.
What is your opinion on dating in Islam? Have you engaged in courtship? How was your experience?
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