Short Answer: Islam is flexible because life is varied and always in flux. If Islam is truly meant for all of human kind until the end of time, it has to be flexible in some ways. Having an arranged marriage is not the only Islamically sanctioned kind of marriage. If you intend to marry, you should be getting to know what each other expects from a marriage. Most Muslims don’t consider chatting online as being alone with someone of the opposite gender. As a female convert, you don’t need your parents’ approval for all the reasons you mentioned. What you need is a wali or protector.
Walaikum Asalam sister!
I am so glad to hear from you again and have the opportunity to address the great questions and insightful comments you’ve made.
There is a lot to be said here and very little room. So, let me get straight to the point.
Having an arranged marriage is not the only Islamically sanctioned kind of marriage.
You don’t even need to be set up by a third party, online or off.
Islamically speaking, you can meet someone in your life and decide they are what you are looking for in a partner and seek marriage.
The tricky party of all of these avenues to marriage, even the strictest, Islamically arranged marriages is that, on one hand, the two people involved have to get close enough to figure out if they are physically attracted to each other and have compatible personalities; while, one the other hand, they should not get so close that they initiate a physical relationship before marriage.
Modern vs. Traditional
This way of doing things sounds so foreign to the Western ear. It did to me at least.
But I have come to understand a lot of what we believe to be true of romance and sex and even marriage is just a figment of the Western media’s imagination.
Even more modern ideals about the “construct of marriage’ is simply conjecture based on a flawed value system in the West, and specifically Christianity. I wish I could expound upon this here but there is little space.
Many Muslims think the best way to avoid slipping into what is haram prior to marriage is to arrange a marriage through families. This is not so. Even these couples can slip up because getting to know one’s intended spouse is necessary.
And this is where the third person comes in handy when you are checking someone out for marriage.
It is way too easy to slip up and fall into a physical and inevitably a deep emotional attachment before a marriage that may never even happen if you are alone.
It seems to me that many Western Muslims looking to get married choose an online option to find a spouse because of the obstacles you mentioned.
As far as one on one communication goes, I think most Muslims don’t consider chatting online as being alone with someone of the opposite gender. Or at least that it is a bit safer than being alone in person.
But I have found that nothing is impossible when you are creative. You always have the option to add someone to a chat or CC someone on an email or be in the room with someone else while on the phone or facetime, etc.
The Religious Rulings for Converts is Different
All this brings up an important point about religious rulings and the flexibility of Islam.
What you are reading as far as advice given by counselors on this website is mostly for people who are in vastly different situations than you.
Most of those question come from people who, even if they don’t live in a Muslim majority society or a large Muslim community, at a minimum they have the support of a Muslim family and a larger network of community even if it is not in their physical vicinity.
But Islamic advice or even religious rulings is not one-size fits all. There is a concept known as ‘urf in which the individual’s circumstances must be taken into consideration. Things like time, place, family, and even culture impact how we live and what we are capable of.
The core tenets of Islam do not change (the pillars of faith and belief). There are also well documented and straight forward issues of halal and haram that do not change.
But beyond these things, the religion is flexible because life is varied and always in flux. If Islam is truly meant for all of human kind until the end of time, it has to be flexible in some ways.
You should check out articles on this site that are aimed at converts, convert scholars like Anse Tamara Gray or Suhaib Webb, and organizations like the Ta’leef Collective.
In the traditional sense, at the most parents can arrange a marriage to which a child can refuse. And at the least, parents have the right to veto a child’s marriage choice.
However, parents don’t have total power in this situation and are warned against using their veto as a weapon against their children because it is oppression.
There is always a balance in Islam. If you read something about one person’s rights, there is always something on the other side of the equation balancing it out.
Keep that in mind as you learn more about the faith.
But as a female convert, your parents’ approval is not needed for all the reasons you listed.
What you need is a wali or protector. You can pick your wali, but he should be an older, religious man who will think of you as his own daughter.
He will be the one to check out your intended spouse to see if he is marriage material, if he has good intention, and if he will treat you well.
He will also be the one who makes sure you are not treated poorly by your spouse of in-laws during your marriage.
My wali was/is the imam of my masjid. Many female converts go for this option since the imam is the one person in the community who knows the most about the congregates and he has some influence.
I am happy to hear you are thinking of seeking a nikah with your boyfriend.
As far as cutting off communication goes, I would advise a cutting off physical contact. But do not cut off all communications if you wish to seek a halal path toward marriage.
If you intend to marry, you should be getting to know what each other expects from a marriage, what you plan for the future, what you want in your marriage contract, etc.
As I said before, having someone else in the conversation is best, but having your families or even a third party arrange all this for you or be a go between, I don’t think is necessary or useful, especially since your family is non-Muslim and his family doesn’t speak English.
Space is so limited in these Q&A’s for me to go into any kind of depth. I feel as if I have only touched upon some of what you are curious about.
But you have a wonderful ability to pick out what seems to be out of step with reality and ask the important questions. So, never stop doing that and I hope to hear from you again soon.
May God bless you in all things.
I hope this helps.
Salam. Please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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