In this counseling answer:
• Set aside time to speak with him about these issues, but don’t approach the topics in a demanding or blaming way.
• Consider pre-marital counseling.
• Ultimately, if he refuses to compromise on these issues, then this is a red flag for you concerning the future.
• Pray istikhara and don’t be afraid to speak with your family and Imam for assistance. This decision will impact the rest of your life.
As-Salamu Alaikum sister,
Thank you for writing in to us with your concern.
I commend you for taking the step to reach out. Be honest with yourself and your intended husband before marriage.
I understand from what you wrote us that your fiancé maintains contact with his ex and touches non-mahram women via handshaking and side hugs.
To begin with, you stated he was good, practicing Muslim and a good man. I would encourage you to remember that almost all husbands and wives seem good during the engagement process. I am not saying your fiancée has bad intentions. I merely say you must ask questions and be completely honest with yourself because once you sign the marriage contract, you have made a commitment.
Keeping in Touch with the Ex
Some situations demand a level of correspondence between exes such as if kids are involved or the families are closely connected. In such situations, proper boundaries must be maintained.
You must assess your unique situation. Is this a necessity? How do you truly feel about it?
If you know that this is not needed, not acceptable for you and would make you unhappy, make it clear. The Sunnah of the Prophet encourages us to help one another, yes. However, we cannot mix with the opposite gender in a way that ignores modest boundaries and upsets our families.
Hugging & Shaking Hands with the Opposite Sex
I am not a scholar, but, according to my knowledge, touching the opposite gender is frowned upon Islamically.
Here are two fatwas from our Ask the Scholar website:
I must wonder, is he okay with you hugging non-mahram men? If he would answer no to this, then you have your answer.
Additionally, ask yourself if YOU can accept this type of behavior. Even if it was Islamically permissible, if you cannot handle it then you must speak up now.
Trust, Talk, Truth
You mention being worried about how he will take it if you express your concerns. My three T’s are this; Trust, Talk, Truth.
Check out this counseling video:
In a marriage, it is imperative you have open and honest communication, and you trust one another. This is your life partner, your team through the good and the bad, and in sha Allah, your helper in developing your spirituality as you mature together. If you cannot speak honestly to your spouse and trust they will communicate in a healthy way with you, then you must address this issue.
I encourage you to speak with your fiancé very honestly and candidly about how you feel. If you two cannot talk this out now, what happens later when hardships occur, or you disagree?
If you do nothing and simply hope this will change later, then I need to disappoint you, sister.
Set aside time to speak with him about these issues, but don’t approach the topics in a demanding or blaming way.
Remember, the goal is to seek positive resolution, not argue. In sha Allah, you two can talk this out and improve your communication skills at the same time.
While speaking with him, listen actively. If you are in person, look into his eyes and sit up straight. Occasionally summarize what he said to you; this shows him you are really trying to understand his perspective and in sha Allah will encourage him to see your perspective.
Try to use open questions instead of questions with one-word answers. For example, instead of “Do you want to shake their hand?” you could ask “Why do you shake their hands?”
Avoid interrupting him when he expresses himself. Even if you really want to rely on a specific area, make a mental note and come back to it later.
Use I-statements to avoid confrontation. Such as, “I feel hurt and dishonored thinking about you hugging another woman” instead of “you make me feel so bad when you hug them”. You are saying the same thing but in a more merciful way.
Bringing in Help
You can consider pre-marital counseling. You can do it online or in person. It will not only help you find a resolution to the current issue, but it can help both of you learn how to handle conflict as a team.
Another option is to ask a family friend or local Imam to sit down with both of you and talk this out unbiasedly. Especially as you are asking about Islamic rulings on touching and speaking with an ex, an Imam could really help you.
If you cannot find resolution and you end up taking another step back, then you have a decision to make: will you continue with the engagement, or should you call it off? You owe it to yourself and him to be honest and address this concern now before you marry him.
Ultimately, if he refuses to compromise on these issues, then this is a red flag for you concerning the future. Pray istikhara and don’t be afraid to speak with your family and Imam for assistance. This decision will impact the rest of your life.
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Quran 30:21]
May Allah (swt) guide your decision and help you on this path,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.