Arranged Marriage Didn’t Work Out, Can I Date?

17 October, 2016
Q Salam. I understand that dating is haram. But in a society that can be said, western-izing, it is difficult to get to know someone without having to go out with that person. The practice of arranged marriage can hardly be found. Also, some parents tend to be more 'open'. They allow their children to have boy-girl relationships provided the latter informs them about it and also introduce the so called potential partner in life, ceteris paribus. Boy and girl still get to embrace one another as though they're married. Personally I think this is worse than the children having relationships behind their back. I would like you to share your view on this matter as I'm currently growing up in a 'dating-active' society, rather than the traditional arranged by parents marriage. Is it okay then, to go out on dates with the intention of getting married to that particular person and seeking forgiveness from God after it? Thank you very much in advance for answering.

Answer

Salam Dear Muhammad,

Thank you for the honest question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

There are a number of issues that you brought up. First, you have pointed out that you live in a society where dating is the norm. While I understand and sympathize with that struggle, it is important to make clear that just because something is the norm in one’s society, this does not justify participating in it.

In the society that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived, burying little girls alive was the norm. Of course, the principles of Islam prohibited such barbarism — regardless of what was widespread at the time.

In fact, the Prophet told us that those who follow the right path will always be ‘different’ or ‘strange’ in comparison to the mainstream.

In one beautiful hadith, the Prophet says:

“Islam began as something strange, and will revert to being strange as it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers. Then the people asked, “Who are they (the strangers), O Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Those who are pious and righteous when the people have become evil.” (Ahmad)

Secondly, you state the concern of getting to know someone for marriage. You explain that dating is needed since arranged marriages are not feasible. However, by saying this, you imply that these are the only two routes to getting married. What you are forgetting is that there is a third option — the option taught to us by our beloved Prophet.

Let us examine each of the three options for meeting a marriage partner.

Dating

One option is dating. This option is prohibited for a number of reasons. First, the Prophet taught us that it is unlawful for a non-mahram (unrelated) man and a woman to be alone together. This is called khulwah (being in seclusion). He warned that if this happens, Satan will be present with them.

The Prophet said: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Devil makes a third” (Al-Bukhari). Now, it is important to note that Allah never prohibits something unless it is harmful to us. Let us examine for a moment the harm in this.

First, most sexual abuse is not committed by strangers. In fact, according to theU.S. Department of Justice, 68 percent of young girls who were raped knew their rapist either as a boyfriend, friend, or casual acquaintance, and 60 percent of rapes of young women occur in their own home or a friend or relative’s home — not in a dark alley.

So overwhelmingly, it is those people who you are out on a ‘date’ with that commit these crimes. Also, as dating has become more widespread in a society, so has unwanted pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. By prohibiting dating, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, is protecting us.

Also, as you know even consensual extra-marital intercourse is a grave sin in Islam. But Allah did not just tell us: “Do not commit extra-marital intercourse.” He says in the Quran:

{Do not come close to illegitimate sexual intercourse for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).} (Al-Israa’ 17:32)

One does not leave their infant to play on a highway and hope they will not get hit by a car. One important Islamic principle is: prevention before cure. You do not come close to fire, and then wonder why you got burned.

Therefore, Allah has prohibited anything that may lead to illegitimate sexual intercourse, namely being in seclusion. Now if just being in seclusion is prohibited, what can be said about physical contact and the whole institution of dating?

In support of dating, some argue that it is needed in order to find a spouse. The irony in this is that dating does not increase marital success. In fact, the United States is a culture where dating is the norm. However, 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second and 74 percent of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology.

And according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, couples who lived together before marrying have nearly an 80 percent higher divorce rate than those who did not.

So if dating is putting you at a higher risk of sexual abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancy, and it makes you no more likely to find a successful marriage partner — but in fact less likely — what logical person would chose this option, even if it were not prohibited by Islam?

Arranged Marriage

There is also the option of completely arranged marriages. While it is fine for parents or mutual friends to introduce two prospective partners, the Prophet has told us not to go into a marriage blindly.

Once a man came to the Prophet and told him that he was going to get married. The Prophet asked if he had seen the woman. When the man said no, he said: “Go and look at her for it is more likely to engender love between the two of you.” (Ahmad)

Islamic Courting

Islam provides the balanced solution to courting, which protects the individual and the society, but does not have people enter marriage blindly. If there is a woman you are considering for marriage, you should approach her family. From there, many avenues exist to get to know her better, without having to be in seclusion or engaging in physical contact.

Talking to someone over the phone, through email or the internet, or in the company of a family member, gives you a chance to find out more about them, without crossing the boundaries set by Allah in His infinite wisdom.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not meet in seclusion with a woman without the presence of a close male relative of her.” (Ahmad)

This is the way designed by our Creator, who made everything in the universe, who knows what is hidden and what is open, who knows the future and the past, who knows us better than we could ever know ourselves.

How could we ever think that a better system could exist than the one prescribed by our Maker and the Master of the universe?

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.