Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Is the Courtship Process in Islam?

Would you be so kind as to explain your courtship process? Are there guidelines in Islam that direct you to adhere to certain dating rules? Are marriages arranged? Must parents agree on the potential spouse? Can you explain a little about your marriage ceremony (if it is not too sacred to discuss on a public board)?

Basically, before you are married, you are not allowed to kiss, hold hands, or have sex. You are also not allowed to be alone in a place together that may lead you to temptation. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “No man is ever alone with a (non-mahram, i.e. non-relative) woman but the Shaytaan (Satan) is the third one present.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2165). Meaning that when a man and woman are alone together, there is always temptation.

Marriages can be arranged, but do not have to be. It is a choice, but both ways, both the bride and groom have to agree to who they will marry. If you are forced into your marriage then it is automatically null. ‘Aa’ishah reported that a girl came to her and said, “My father married me to his brother’s son in order to raise his social standing, and I did not want this marriage [I was forced into it].” ‘Aa’ishah said, “Sit here until the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) comes. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came and she told him about the girl. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent for her father, then he gave the girl the choice of what to do. [i.e. divorce her husband, or stay with him] She said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I have accepted what my father did, but I wanted to prove something to other women.” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i, 3217).

You should take your parents' opinion regarding the potential spouse, however, a girl has to be married with the permission of her father, or male figure called a "wali". This is to ensure that her rights are taken care of. However, if there is a potential spouse that is committed in his religion and her father disagrees for no good reason, she could go to a judge who will be her "wali" instead of her father.

When a man proposes and the woman agrees, he must give her a dowry (mahr), which is basically a present that belongs to her and only her... it could be in the form of money, jewellery, etc... basically, he proposes a certain gift, and she either accepts it, or refuses it. This gift belongs to her, not her family.

The marriage ceremony is mainly cultural, and so, it would differ depending on who you're talking to. In Islam, the marriage is writing up the contract and it is highly recommended to have a feast, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, “Give a wedding feast, even if it is only one sheep.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari). All the other parts of the ceremony are cultural.

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