Dating is the process whereby two people meet socially for companionship beyond the level of friendship, or with the aim of appraising each other’s suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. It can be a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by the couple. Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.
“Dating” as it is currently practiced in much of the world does not exist among Muslims. The process whereby a young man and woman are in a one-on-one intimate relationship, spending time together alone, “getting to know each other” in a very deep way before deciding whether that’s the person they want to marry. Rather, in Islam pre-marital relationships of any kind between members of the opposite sex are forbidden.
The Holy Quran Chapter 24 verse 30-31 says; “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and protect their private parts….And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts…”
Dating encourages people to deliberately stares and seeks out the one that is attractive among the men and women whereas these verses say that believing men and women should lower their gaze.
The question we should ask ourselves as young men and women is that if dating is not allowed in Islam, how does one decide on whom to marry?
The choice of a marriage partner is one of the most important decisions a person will make in his or her lifetime. It should not be taken lightly, nor left to chance or influences. It should be taken as seriously as any other major decision in life; with prayer, careful investigation, and family involvement.
First of all, Muslim youth develop very close friendships with their same-sex peers. This “sisterhood” or “brotherhood” that develops when they are young continues throughout their lives, and serves as a network to become familiar with other families. When a young person decides to get married, the following steps should be taking into consideration.
1. The young person should make ‘dua’ pray for Allah to help him or her find the right person.
2. The family enquires, discusses, and suggests candidates from among the network of people that they know. They consult with each other to narrow down potential prospects. Usually the father or mother approaches the other family to suggest a meeting.
3. If the young couple and their families agree, the couple meets in an open place and should not be alone. Umar related that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative (mahram).” The Prophet (SAW) also reportedly said, “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them.” When young people are getting to know each other, being alone together is a temptation toward wrongdoing. At all times, Muslims should follow the commands of the above Qur’an verse. Islam recognizes that we are human and are given to human weakness, so this rule provides safeguards for our own sake.
If the couple seems compatible, the families may investigate further – talking with friends, family, Islamic leaders, co-workers, etc. to learn about the character of the potential spouse.
Before making a final decision, the couple prays salat-l-istikhara (prayer for guidance) to seek Allah’s help and guidance.
The couple agrees to pursue marriage or part ways. Islam has given this freedom of choice to both young men and women – they cannot be forced into a marriage that they don’t want.
This type of focused courtship helps ensure the strength of the marriage, by drawing upon family elders’ wisdom and guidance in this important life decision. Family involvement in the choice of a marriage partner helps assure that the choice is based not on romantic notions, but rather on a careful, objective evaluation of the compatibility of the couple. That is why these marriages often prove successful in the long-term.
Brothers and sisters in Islam, will you like to share your story on how you meet your husband or wife? Was your family involved in introducing you to potential suitors? Did you meet your spouse at work or in university? Was it an arranged marriage? Did you go on dates alone or with a group? What were you looking for in a potential life partner? Help future couples by sharing your story with us.
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By Rauf ‘Seyi Owoyomi