By Rumina Rizvi
There are a lot of single Muslims trying to work their way through the marriage process. It’s not always easy to know what’s permissible and what isn’t. What will work and what won’t. This is a guide for anyone who is thinking about marriage. It will help prepare one for what to expect, what to do and what not do to before one begins their search for the perfect match and start meeting potential prospects.
Courting, as it is practiced in much of the world, does not exist among Muslims. Young Muslims boys and girls do not enter into one-on-one intimate relationships, spending time alone together, ‘getting to know each other’ in any way before deciding whether that’s the person they will marry. Rather, in Islam pre-marital relationships of any kind between members of the opposite sex is forbidden.
Importance of Consent
The Prophet SAWS recommended the suitors to see each other before going through with marriage procedures. One of the conditions of a valid marriage is the consent of the couple. Marriage by definition is a voluntary union of two people. That is very important because it is unreasonable for two people to be in a relationship for life without knowing each other. The couple are permitted to look at each other, talk and seek a future husband or wife with mutual compatibility, spiritual understanding and also attraction.
Usually a family member approaches the other family to suggest a meeting. They consult amongst themselves to narrow down potential prospects. When the young couple and their families agree, the couple meets. The choice of a partner by a Muslim girl is subject to the approval of the father or guardian. This is to safeguard her welfare and interests. Still a woman has her rights secure. The Prophet SAWS, said:
“The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until she has consented to that and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is sought.”
The Qur’an says:
“…believing men and women should lower their gaze” (An-Nur: 30)
Getting to know each other
The couple are not permitted to be alone or go out together. Shariah law allows a man and woman to be in a room with the door open so that someone can hear just outside, or to meet in a cafe that is public and open. The idea is that a single Muslim gets to make judgement of the other person without pressure from relatives and without losing modesty. Islamic conduct elucidates the practice of courting.
Islam recognizes that humans are given to weakness, so this rule provides safeguards for their own sake. If the couple seems compatible, the families may investigate further, talking with friends, family, socially etc. to learn about the character of the potential spouse and family.
While it is recommended for a man to marry a woman whom he loves, because the Prophet SAWS said:
“There is nothing better for two who love each other than marriage.” (Sahih Al-Jami`, 5200)
However, this love should not be overwhelming and cause a person to forget other characteristics which he should look for in the person he wants to marry.
The most important characteristic is religious commitment. The Prophet SAWS said:
“A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her commitment to religion. Choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust [i.e., may you prosper]!”
Before making a final decision, the couple prays Salat ul Istikhara to seek Allah’s help and guidance. The couple may agree 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 they don’t want.
This type of attentive courtship helps assures the strength of the marriage, by drawing upon the wisdom and guidance of the family’s elders 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 to be successful in the long term.
About the author:
Mother to two wonderful kids, Rumina Rizvi works for an Islamic Education Academy, catering to a large community of Muslims, conducting Quranic and Islamic studies. She also works with New Muslim Care Halton Chapter for our New Muslim Revert brothers and sisters and feels privileged to be living in this part of world, learning and exploring knowledge of Deen and contributing to her community.