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Halal Ways for Converts to Find a Spouse in the Modern World?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jul 15, 2018

Question

Assalamu alaiukum, Thank you very much for taking your time and effort to answer my previous question, I really appreciate your advice. I still have many questions considering the Islamic idea of marriage, which continue to make me feel that many rules of Islam are "outdated" (or at least not easy to implement in the modern world), so I would be thankful for some clarification. 1/ As far as I understand, any "1-to-1" communication between a man and a woman is haram, even if it happens online. But nowadays we have many reverts to Islam, many of them living in non-Muslim societies, far away from any mosque or Muslim community. The traditional way of "arranging" a marriage, including both families talking to each other, simply can't work in this situation. It's also not very likely that people will meet each other "by chance", let's say in a work place or some social event, if we're talking about non-Muslim countries. But if they search for a soulmate online, it automatically becomes haram, because there's no third person reading their messages. What is the solution? 2/ Why is parents' permission so crucial for marriage? I have the impression that this rule comes from some idealistic idea about family, where Muslim parents are truly pious, mature and experienced... But we all know that it's not always the case (and it doesn't really matter if the parents are Muslim or not). Even among Muslim communities, unfortunately, there are many people who are racist, many people who care about money more than about spiritual qualities of a person etc. Why should their agreement be absolutely necessary? And again, in case with converts like me: there's no chance that my (non-Muslim) parents would go through the whole traditional process with my boyfriend's parents, because, first of all, they don't even share any common language. Secondly, my parents would be really shocked if I asked them for a "permission" to get married, because they come from a different cultural background and while they can give me some piece of advice, they believe it should be only my decision. 3/ I understand that comparing Islam to Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) may not be very fruitful, but I think it's normal that some comparisons come to my mind considering that I have some knowledge of both religions. As far as I remember, the basic Catholic advice for young people who have pre-marital relationships is just "get married if you love each other and then the problem will be solved". The Islamic attitude seems to be much more strict. Most of counselors on this website don't advice such people to just get married as soon as possible, but rather to stop talking to each other, repent and then ask the families to arrange the marriage process in a halal way. What if it's impossible? In case with my boyfriend, we wouldn't have anyone to help us keep in touch in a halal way. We have talked about possibly doing nikah in the future, because he is afraid of the punishment for zina and I don't want him to live with this fear. But why can't we just arrange it on our own when we feel ready? Does there have to be a period of cutting all contact with each other? Thank you once again for your support and understanding!

Consultant

Answer


Halal Ways for Converts to Find a Spouse

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.

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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.

Khadijah, the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) first wife, proposed to him after she got to know his amazing character when he worked for her.

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.

Parent’s Permission

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.

Practical Tips

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.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

How to Get Married: Finding Someone – Part 3

Finding a Spouse: Is Arranged Marriage the Only Option?

The Challenges Muslim Converts Face When It Comes to Marriage

 




About Theresa Corbin

Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.

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