As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu dear sister,
These are wonderful questions. The first portion of your question is for “Ask the Scholar” section of our website. I would encourage you to consult with the section to learn about the various interpretations regarding etiquette during the engagement process.
Regarding the second portion of your question, if I am correct, you have three main concerns that are in the focus:
- What are the engagement dos and don’ts?
- If communication is limited, how can the potential spouses get to know each other?
- How can a Muslim girl know if her prospective husband really cares about her and is not just marrying her for his needs to be fulfilled?
In many ways, I think you have answered your own question by saying: “Actions speak louder than words”. You are correct. You described the engagement process wonderfully as it is a probationary period for both potential husband and wife to get to know one another thoroughly. Often what occurs is when there is over chaperoning, individuals never get the opportunity to become comfortable and see who the person truly is as an individual. This also allows the opportunity not only to put their best foot forward, but also to not present their true personality in certain aspects.
Meeting your potential spouse at your parents’ house and asking him a series of questions is only the beginning as you have only touched the surface in terms of developing rapport and a real relationship that can provide a foundation for your future together. There is no reason for two individuals with sincere intentions to get married to limit their conversations, unless they are about things which are inappropriate, for example, conversations that are of a sexual nature.
Any individual who decides to get married should go into the marriage with the intention to spend their life with the person. As a result, individuals, who are sincerely interested in you as a life partner, will be interested in getting to know you, your likes and dislikes, your personality, your passions and interest, and getting into the nuts and bolts of who you are. This can provide an individual with substantial information to determine whether the person is the right fit for them. The only way to figure out all of these things that I have mentioned is through interaction. Getting to know a potential spouse and interacting with him/her is also important because it helps the individual determine if there is chemistry between each other.
There are several options to make the courting process easier: bring a trusted, male family member with you on an outing because if during this period you are not in public places, you will need to have a mahram present. However, if you are in public and are socializing in a public environment, as long as you are adhering to the guidelines of Islam, going on an outing with the person to get to know the real personality of the individual is permissible.
Public places include the following: malls, amusement parks, museums, cafes, etc. Private places could possibly include: movie theaters, secluded parks that are away from the public, your home when there is no one else present, etc.
It is important to identify what public and what private means. Many people may interpret a movie theater to be a public place. I would encourage you to follow your intuition and judgment when interacting with men. If you feel you are doing something that you would not want others to know about, you are probably in questionable territory regarding etiquette.
If I understand correctly, I believe that the root of your concern is how you can know that the person is being sincere. This is a point where individuals should put their trust in Allah (swt), and where, as an individual, you are taking a risk or leap of faith in Allah’s plan.
Once you realize that He (swt) is in control of everything, it will provide you with a sense of reassurance in the whole process. This is where Istikharah or what is known as the prayer for guidance becomes very important. The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to teach his companions to make istikharah in all things just as he used to teach them surahs from the Quran. He (saw) said:
“If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak`ahs of non-obligatory prayer…” (Ibn Majah)
There is a special supplication for guidance that is made afterwards. I would encourage you to make your istikharah and if you have not done so, then make it as many times as you feel comfortable in moving forward and making your decision.
Remember that any individual, male or female, who is serious about marriage and maintaining a healthy and happy marriage will put in the work to get to know who the other person truly is in the initial stages.
I would also highlight that individuals cannot change right after they are married; they have just decided to reveal who they really are and in many cases, there are things you will not learn about the person until you are married and living under the same roof.
May Allah (swt) make this process easy for you,
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