Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dating - Islamic Style

Candice just wrote an interesting post about early marriage and how it helps in terms of preventing young Muslims from having pre-marital relationships and sex. This got me thinking: is a system where people get married without really knowing each other feasible?

Of course not every Muslim couple doesn't get to know each other before marriage - many do, especially when their families are more open and liberal. However there are still many instances where the young couple meet only a few times before tying the knot, and thus barely know each other or the family they are marrying into. To me, this seems so strange. I've never been in that situation and don't know anyone who has, so I can't really speak about whether it works or what the outcomes of these types of marriages are. I guess having grown up in Western countries it seems weird to me - but that doesn't make it bad or wrong.

At the time of the Prophet (pbuh) usually parents would arrange marriages. That makes sense since girls and boys usually married very young and so maybe couldn't make the decision for themselves. However, that isn't usually the case today, particularly since in most countries the legal age of marriage is above 16 (in Iran it's 9!). If a person wants to get married, and they are say 24, should their parents still arrange a marriage? What if they themselves meet someone they are interested in (as is bound to happen in mixed settings such as work, university etc), should they refrain from interacting until they are married? But then how do they know they are interested in each other?

What kind of dating is haram, or is dating as a whole haram, in your opinion? Would two people chatting and going out for coffee be okay as long as they don't do anything intimate? Or should they do nothing at all? (But again - how do you become interested enough in someone to want to marry them, unless you at least talk to them?)

Would love to hear your opinions!

28 comments: said...

Have you read one of my posts a while back?

I think that if you're looking forward to seeing the person out for coffee, its best that you try to not do anything that might cause fitnah.


The best way I'd say is to bring along the young lady's awliya so that both of you are discussing and questioning each other about marriage and not going above the limit that might lead to emotions, resulting in a lesser rational judgement.

I read that its fine for the awliya to sit anywhere close enough to watch over them.

Allah knows best.

Nourah said...

From what I've experienced, its good to know the person that you are going to marry through halal ways...visiting each other's homes, going out perhaps with third parties present (and I don't mean the general public) I can agree to also. But the dating I see nowadays among Muslim couples before marriage e.g. catching a movie together, or going out coffee etc by themselves to get to know one another is generally just inviting temptation and trouble.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I think this depends on which culture is being looked at. There are so many different ways that Muslims choose to adhere to certain rules.

For example: Iran. In Iran back in the day (not sure what is going on now), conservative Muslims sent their daughters to schools that were segregated, separated by a curtain down the middle of the class room, and where headscarf was mandatory. Dating meant the family found the guy, and they met a couple times while with a relative who could watch over it..

But let's move to Southeast Asia for another example. In Malaysia, boys and girls go to mixed gender boarding schools, and take classes together, etc.. Of course the boys and girls, through their upbringing that encourages modesty, naturally separate themselves in the lunch rooms, etc.. but they date. It is shy, passing letters to each other, etc.. dating, but they date.

Anyways, being a Muslim convert raised in Western society and supporting many western values, I think about my future children and dating quite a bit, actually! lol, my husband and I discuss quite often how we think we want to handle when our children become teenagers.. I think we have agreed that the innocent, note passing, "crush" dating is acceptable, because we want our children to feel like they can come to us and talk to us, and the truth is that kids do have sexual feelings and crushes, and questions. We want to be the ones who control all of that, through leniency, guidance, and also discipline. I abhor where American culture has taken itself, with so much emphasis based on sex and looks. It makes me afraid to raise a daughter in this country, yet I know being an open and guiding mother is the best that I can do for my children. Instilling values in our children and being an active, tuned in parent does a lot as far as how our children will view dating.

I think the Islamic view of dating is a healthy view. Children do not need to be focused on the opposite sex and serious relationships. Yet I also know that I do not believe in segregation of the sexes. I also think the best marriages are those based on love along with many other things. I want my children to be able to make their own decisions when that time comes, and I also do not want my daughters to feel pressure to marry right away. I think marriage hurts women in many ways more than it hurts men. Once my children are adults I will leave their decisions, and their embrace or disregard for religion, up to them.

These are my opinions, although some may disagree as far as my thoughts on dating, I think I have to be realistic in order to raise the most healthy children.

Aynur said...

I think that as long as the meeting/date is in public, and you're behaving appropriately, that would be a good way to get to know the other person.

I actually didn't know my husband extremely well, but I think well enough. We got engaged after 3 months of meeting, and then officially married 3 months later. Technically I guess we were married at the point we were engaged though... :p

Sarah the Seeker said...

I think involving family in the decision is such a good idea. It's not common where I live, but I do think that very often, "mum knows best" about whether someone is right for you or not. Also, family on both sides can sort of act as "character referees" so that there is less chance of you being fooled into marrying someone who turns out to be different than what they presented themselves as. This would be a big concern of mine if I had to marry someone I barely knew... with some people you don't see their true colours until you've known them for several months!

I realise there is a downside of family getting involved - they can be too controlling, they can become too concerned with family reputation and honour... but I like the idea of choosing a partner on a very rational basis of them being a good match, and I think family would help make that realistic.

If family could not be involved, e.g. a sole immigrant marrying a western person, then I think getting to know them quite well is crucial. How about phone conversations and emails? Would these be "halal" ways of getting to know a person?

nadia said...

My marriage had been arranged by my father's sister. I actually asked her to, lol, since I have always liked the idea of arranged marriages since I was a little girl (influence of culture, perhaps). Masood and I spoke on the phone a lot, and chatted online. We also met twice, in my aunt's home, prior to getting married. And alhumdulillah, he has proven to be the perfect husband :)

Muni said...

I'll try to be brief.

1- If a person doesn't have the channels to meet a variety of people (limited interaction with the opposites sex) then perhaps family and friends can interfere and introduce people to each other according to initial compatability observations. This could be the case for both women and men in ALL cultures.

2- I think when kids are ready to "date" the parents' time to instill values and virtues would have already RUN OUT!
I think its soooooo important to have already taught them (the parents or the school) what's acceptable and what's not (by God and the society too in the case of specific communities). After that parents should observe and harvest their upbringing and wish that they have instilled a sense of responsibility.

3- The idea of a third party is absolutely ridiculous from my point of view.
People are responsibile for their actions.
If the couple is destined to get married, there are pressing issues that deal with the nature of each person which can be detrimental to the health of their relationship, which can't be discussed or revealed in the presence of a third party (unless the third party will be an ACTIVE part of the marriage!). I think it's already a very fake kind of "getting to know you" as it is probably orchesterated by the family, so this third party factor just makes it useless as people won't see the "true colors" of each other through such meetings.

I honestly don't think it matters if it was in public or not as long as enough situations are being brought up all the time to make sure more angles to the person are exposed than just that when sitting
in a restuarant! This could be massively helped if families invite each other to occassions where the bride and groom to be can interact in several situations with each other and with other people.

In conclusion, I think dating is about verifying the compatability factor between two people. The intrusion by family/friends can distort this massively and at the end who gets to eat dirt? Not the family!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sir Adib: I read the post you mentioned and it's great! I love the questions you posted. It got me thinking which questions I would ask if I really wanted to get to know someone.

Thanks for posting =)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nourah: I guess it depends on the people involved. I have Muslim friends who would go to movies and have coffee just to get to know each other, and they don't do anything wrong before marriage.
Then there are Muslims who are irresponsible/weak, and they might find it difficult to avoid temptation.

Thanks for posting!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: I think my own opinion is very close to yours: I wouldn't want to be strict to the point of my kids not having a normal upbringing, but at the same time I wouldn't have no rules at all.

I also want my kids to feel they can come and talk to me about anything. I was too terrified of my (Egyptian) dad to do that and that affected my childhood a lot. I also think it's important to acknowledge that kids have sexual and romantic feelings, like you said. Being in denial about this will only make things complicated.

I also don't believe in the segregation of the sexes. In the end it should be up to my kids to make the decision, which is why I think getting married before 18 is complicated.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur: I agree, I think meeting in public is fine, even without someone there watching you. If the couple is responsible, they won't do anything bad, and if they aren't responsible, then it's their mistake and their sin.

Thanks for posting!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah: I think phone/email is okay, in my opinion. I also think meeting in public is okay, but I'm sure a lot of Muslims would say it isn't.

About the whole family getting involved thing, it really depends on the family. Sometimes they care about nothing more than their own benefit and honour and so they make a bad choice, and they're not the ones who have to live with it. At other times they may make a better decision than their child (especially if the child is young). But it all depends on the family, and in Egypt I saw way too many messed up families to feel comfortable with the idea of leaving it mostly to the family.

Thanks for posting =)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nadia: I'm so glad to hear that. From your blog I can see that you guys have a nice marriage, mashallah =)

Like I said above, I think phone calls and email are a great way to get to know someone if you don't agree with meeting for coffee etc.

Thanks for posting =)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Muni: 1- I think parents introducing their kids to potential spouses is a good idea, especially if the society is segregated.

2- that's so true: by the time kids are ready to date they should already know what's good and what is allowed.

3- I also think the idea of a 3rd party is dangerous, as it highly depends on who the 3rd party is. They might now always have the kids' best interests at heart.

In the end, like you said, the bride and groom have to live with each other, and their families don't, so it should be more up to them in my opinion.

Thanks for posting!

struggling said...

I've seen some people go our for coffee or dinner alone and get to know eachother. It's funny that you hear Muslims say dating is Haram, but to me this is a date! Afterall, this was the kind of thing I did when I went on a date way back in the day, but I was young and not permiscuous, this is what a lot of non-Muslims do for dates, it's not always about sex. I think the better more Islamic way of doing this is to have a chaperone (anyone see 18 kids and counting when Josh was engaged to Anna, they always had a chaperone with them)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Struggling - I also think going out for coffee/dinner alone is okay - like you said, it doesn't necessarily lead to sex.
I don't even feel a chaperone is necessary to be honest. Especially if you've been raised in a Westenr country I think the idea of a chaperone is strange.

Thanks for posting =) And sorry to hear about Cali :(

Sarah the Seeker said...

That's interesting that you don't see the family being very helpful a lot of the time. That's sad. My impression in Algeria was that it works pretty well; my two brothers-in-law got married that way. But then their family is pretty great. They actually warned the prospective bride about all his flaws in one case, so she knows what she's getting into. I thought that was quite amazing. But it may not be the norm.

I wonder what kind of person my parents would have picked for me. Probably not someone as different from me as I picked out. But there was one "suitor" in the past that they really didn't like, and they turned out to be spot on, so I definitely think there are things that a person close to you can see that you sometimes can't. Especially if you already have feelings for the person. I guess it doesn't have to be family though, even a close friend could play that role.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah - I'm sure if the family is great then their help would definitely be a good thing.

Personally I think if my mum had to choose a groom for me she'd make a great choice, but if my dad had to God knows what would happen. My dad and I are extremely different and not very close. A lot of Egyptian girls aren't very close to their fathers so I find it strange that their fathers should be the ones choosing their future husbands, since they don't know their daughters that well.

Anyway like you said, it depends on the family. Some are great and some aren't. And I agree that a close friend can also fulfill that role.

Sarah the Seeker said...

"if my dad had to God knows what would happen"
LOL! I'm sure you will be able to make a good choice for yourself when the time comes, inshallah. ;-)

I meant to say as well that I personally don't think spending time out together in public without a chaperone is going to lead to anything bad! You should see how some Christians date... being alone in private, kissing etc... and somehow manage to avoid premarital sex... but I think that's silly, I mean why put yourself in temptation's way; even if you can resist, it's stressful. But on the other hand, I don't see why people shouldn't be able to trust themselves to go out for coffee with a prospective spouse. That is another extreme isn't it?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah - I totally agree, I think it is a bit extreme. I feel like Muslims really don't trust each other or themseleves and that's why they interpret the Qur'an so strictly. What happened to putting some trust in human beings? Almost all the Muslims I know (myself included) are responsible and mature enough to know boundaries and to avoid temptation. Personally I feel like I can go out with someone I'm interested in without "feeling tempted" to do something "sinful". So why is that wrong?

WhiteOrchid said...

Being Asian, almost everyone around me has had an arranged marriage and almost all of these couples are very happy mashallah, but I can't imagine marrying a man I hardly know.

Like a few of the others mentioned , I think you should be allowed to meet the guy a couple of times in the presence of a relative, and even have phone conversations.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

White Orchid - it's great to hear that all those marriages have worked =)
I agree, I also can't imagine marrying someone I hardly know.

Thanks for posting!

Candice said...

Thanks for linking to me! :D After your comment on my blog, I wrote that I thought it would be enough to meet the person Islamically, without hanging out, with a chaperone, and ask the questions a person needs to know to get married. And I'm gonna write a post about what I think are important questions. And what I would feel the need to ask if I were in that situation (trying to find a husband).
I'm married but it's so interesting for me to think about still. How I would have done it or how I wish my daugther to.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice - I'm looking forward to that post =) I don't think there's even a need for chaperones to be honest, I think we should emphasize personal responsibility a little more amongst Muslims. If two adults are mature and responsible surely they can meet for coffee without someone watching over them? I know some people don't see it as a negative but I can't help but feel that I wouldn't want someone chaperoning me whenever I meet someone I might be marrying.

Thanks for posting =)

Jasmine said...

No, honey - responsible adults cannot control themselves AT ALL, I promise you this ;0) I have seen it a thousand times over!

If there is attraction the secret is: do not be alone together. Everything else - talking, meeting up, going for etc is ok. Just do not ever be alone in a place where no one can see you together, because it doesn't matter how strong or faithful you are: stuff happens. ;0)

Arranged marriages definitely work if the couples want an arranged marriage. Non-arranged marriages also work out very well. I think the success-factor is "if they want it" - anything forced will not work as you live your life wondering what you could have achieved had you made your own decisions

Jasmine x

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine - that's what I think too, that people should be allowed to meet in public, something a lot of Muslims don't even agree with.

I totally agree about the arranged marriages - if they don't want it, they might live their whole lives wishing they had been able to choose their own spouse.

Thanks for posting =)

G said...

I really don't think arranged marriages should be the default way to go. Coming from a background with divorced parents I think it is of utmost importance to know what you are getting into. The only way to do this is to know the person before you get married.

I really think people should date, call me liberal but it works. I don't necessarily think people will suddenly jump to sex if they are alone. I do understand that humans have instincts, but if your faith is strong enough and you believe in withholding intimacy until after marriage then you can fight the temptations.

Marriage is NOT easy OR a piece of cake. It is sometimes a bigger struggle than you can imagine. Throw in kids, with unhappy parents with conflicting personalities who cannot agree of ways to raise your children and you have a disaster that will span generations. Therefore I don't see anything wrong with going out alone. If you don't trust yourself make it in public. It's true that in a private setting, like in an apartment alone, you are more prone to give in to temptations. But who heard of Muslims suddenly letting go of their faith, values and beliefs and having sudden sex in Starbucks?

This big hype about avoiding temptation just causes more temptation, in my opinion.

Date. Or else you MIGHT regret it for the rest of your life. The Arab culture is not easy on divorced people. Even worse psychological damage of an unhappy relationship takes a devastating toll on you.

If a cup of coffee alone or taking walks, going to the cinema or eating out together could make sure you are choosing the right person, I say just do it.

marzuki said...

Hey there. Just happened to stumble across this blog of yours. Each post feels light and lovely yet very insightful at the same time. Love it!

Dating - Islamic Style. Interesting topic. Interesting comments. Some of the things raised and said mustve been one of the reason why ive not dated.

And with regards to "how do you become interested enough in someone to want to marry them"... hmm....

Perhaps it could be through Love at First (blog)Site?