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101 On Muslim 'Halal Dating'

Do Muslims Date?

No. But some do.

That's the short and long of it. But then, one might ask, how do all Muslims hook up? Is every marriage pre-arranged and what about, you know... the sex part?

Well, here's the thing with Muslims. Unless you ask them what actually happens, they won't tell you. They're a shy bunch. And since you are still reading, I'll explain as best I can.

Before you try to understand the hows and whys of Halal Dating, bring God into the equation. Muslims believe in One God and therefore live by a moral code they believe is set organically by Him. All of the explanation below goes back up to the top. Please remember this whenever you're faced with a Muslim conundrum. Loving God and following His ultimate guidance is the sole reason and goal in Muslim belief. Even in 'dating'.

Do Muslims Date At All?

The more real answer is that yes, a lot of Muslims do. Even here in conservative-ish Britain. There are different ways to go about it though.

Some Muslims outright say it 'I'm dating' and they are, in the complete boy-meets-girl-third-base sense. But that's not part of the Muslim faith. This entire dating culture of meeting someone for only sex, for only a short-term relationship, is not the ideal or healthiest way to go about finding a partner-in-crime. This type of dating to see if it's going anywhere or just stringing people along with heartache is not in Islamic law.

The reason for this is that Muslim priorities are long-term and originate from God. Of course anyone else who is looking to settle down will have that in common with Muslims. Yet, things like physical connections outside of marriage, 'experimenting' or having a 'fling' don't exist in Islamic ethics. Things like self-preservation, discipline and protection, do.

Islamic Courting

What people here in Britain call dating, Muslims prefer to use 'courting'. And while a date is usually focused on 1) Sex  2) New encounters and 3) Good times, Islamic courting has different priorities altogether.

The first goal of Islamic courting is not sex, it's marriage. Sexual relationships, or any physical relationship between a man and woman for that matter, is not the initial experience because any physical act requires a spiritual attachment. In Islamic law, a physical relationship is initiated with a marriage (nikah) to gain God's blessings. Physical and deeper emotional attachments are a second or third aim, after this long-term commitment is made.

Thus, a 'date' for Muslims is transformed into a Halal date. A Halal date means it is lawful, ethical and legitimate, with marriage on the agenda.

From the first meeting (i.e. 'date') to getting married (nikah), Islamic courting has these generic goals:
  1. Mutual compatibility
  2. Attraction
  3. Spiritual understanding
  4. Social blessing and announcement
  5. Islamic marriage
It might sound somewhat mechanical or controlling to readers but Halal dating has always included these vital elements. They're not really modern or cultural, they are ingrained in the Islamic law system. Such goals also ensure that a couple really serious about getting together understand just how important their relationship is in their faith. Just like the government only gets involved with married individuals (a man/woman can sleep around all they want without responsibility), God's relationship laws are only for those with the maturity and intellect to legally commit.

For a detailed description of what points 1-3 are talking about read: What Muslim Women Look For In A Husband.

What Happens On A Halal Date

Variety is the beauty of Muslim lifestyle so you'll find that no two Muslims think exactly the same about the Do's and Don'ts of a Halal date. In spite of this, there is a generally accepted process as to how an Islamic date should go about. Remember the ultimate Muslim belief: there is One True God Who creates love and unites people. His laws on interaction and dignity are priority throughout.
  1. Single Muslims are introduced through friends, family, mosque networking. These days there are new and interesting ways to meet people which families are becoming more accustomed to; halal marriage sites, matchmaking individuals, social events.
  2. Two single Muslims meet for a Halal date within preset boundaries by Islamic law. No, you wouldn't want to meet a guy in a dim lit alley and no, you wouldn't meet a stranger off the internet. Similarly, Muslims meet in public places, without being isolated and with Islamic behaviour and dress codes. 
  3. Islamic behaviour: Muslims, men and women, do not gather in seclusion (khulwa) with the opposite sex without a chaperone-type guardian (we call them mahram). Not even in large groups or parties.
    • 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 'sense' the other person without pressure from relatives and without losing modesty (hayaa). Islamic behaviour defines the custom of courting.
    • Flirtatious language and physical contact, although common, are not healthy for Halal dates and therefore not allowed in Islamic courting.
  4. A personal compatibility test is ascertained after meeting a few times. Single Muslims have the general questions, 'will this person make a good parent? and 'will this person make my parents happy?' but there is no real set criteria, it's up to each person on whether they 'click'. 
    • Things like looks, dress sense, personality, character and humour are really important. Muslims are human too so it's not all about finding the 'religious' person for mum and dad. In fact, it's hardly about making the parents happy at all; Islam's social system is so considerate that parental input is highly valued and since elders have all that marital experience, their wisdom is taken on board. Muslims are encouraged to make their own decisions.
  5. Arranged marriages have so much stigma attached that it becomes hard to explain or justify. In contemporary Muslim lives, an arranged marriage simply means your parents or family helped you find your partner in crime. It doesn't mean they made you marry him/her. The final choice and decision is always left to the mature Muslim whose life it involves, this is in Islamic law again.
    • In a lot of instances a young man will leave the whole decision up to his parents because he feels they know him well enough to find him a bride and he says 'yes/no' to the options he has. That is a case of trust and communication and is unique to Islamic relationships. The real problems lie is forced marriages. They don't involve any dates whatsoever.
    • So, a couple can meet one another and eventually get married but they were introduced and blessed by family. This makes it a sort of arranged marriage. No big deal.
    • Family and society approval is not the end all of Muslim marriage. Muslims can get married without the consent of family altogether but not on a whim or in rebellion. When two people have decided with maturity that they are compatible for marriage, no-one is allowed to interfere or object.
    • When two people go on that Halal date, the goal is to seek the blessing of God. If such two people really think they can make it work, they seek God's approval and pave the way to getting married, all the while taking onboard advice and guidance from authorative relatives, imams and counsellors.
My Big Fat Muslim Wedding

After all that Halal dating, finally, a proposal! There is no engagement in Islamic law, as understood by popular culture. You don't wait 6 months to get married and there is no gigantic engagement party. But that's not to say you can't have an engagement party. In Islamic custom the best marriage is a sweet, short and public one.

For example, a couple can get engaged and allow a few weeks to prepare for the wedding ceremony. All this while though there is still no secret balcony meeting or physical contact allowed which is why the Nikah (Islamic marriage) needs to be performed first. It's cultural customs that prolong or cut-short engagement periods. All that hoohah is not in the Islamic tradition.

Part 1: Lastly, the couple get married by verbally accepting and signing a contract stating that they are a committed wife and husband in God's name and with His blessings. The marital contract is the Nikah and no Islamic marriage is valid without it. There are no set rules for how to do this, it can be a small affair a week before part 2 (explained) or on the same day as the Walima.
Part 2: The big party afterwards is a public announcement known as the Walima, catered and sponsored by the husband. This is an Islamic rule to marriage. It's not supposed to be costly but it is supposed to be joyous and open to all. Think 'My Big Fat Muslim Wedding'.

That's almost everything to how Muslims date. It all begins with Islamic courting and ends with a wedding party.

Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for how your Halal date ends. If heartbroken or stalked, seek help.

Image: ampalestine.org

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1 comment:

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