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Real Talk: Can Men and Women Be “Just Friends”?

30 October, 2017
Q Dear Respected consultant, As-salamu `alaikum. First, I would like to sincerely thank all of the staff involved in Ask About Islam section for answering upon numbers of questions that I have presented in the past. My newest question concerns a wonderful relationship that I have recently developed with a Muslim man, who is 9 years older than me. I have talked to this man for several weeks and have been meeting up with him constantly, where we discuss my thoughts and questions regarding Islam. Now that we have become very good friends, I have thought about the future. With the help of my friend, I will be taking the shahada any day now. After many months of contemplating the declaration of faith, I have deeply thought about the consequences and the actions that I will have to take, once I officially embrace Islam. Recently, I have been very apprehensive because I am afraid that I will not be able to see the man that has helped me revert to Islam, due to the ‘no dating’ and ‘no free mixing of the sexes’ policies in Islam. I very much understand the reasoning behind these rules, yet I feel like my heart is being split in two. My friend has assured me that he does not intend to use me in any unacceptable way (I feel the same). I feel so grateful and blessed to have Allah send me this man, and I want to continue my friendship with him. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or guidance.


Short Answer: Yes, in the right context.The issue is not dating or free mixing… it is the definition of friendship that we are trying to clarify here… You are allowed, in Islam, to have a relation of Islamic fraternity in the public sphere, while keeping Islamic manners…” If you have more feelings for this man than just “friendship” and feel unable to scale-back your relationship, consider marriage. If marriage is not possible for whatever reason, it’s time to step back and evaluate things. Above all, don’t delay coming to God purely because you’re afraid to lose a man.

Salam Bethany,

Thank you very much for your message.

I appreciate the sincere feelings you have towards Islam and your honorable emotions towards your friend who is helping you in your reversion to Islam.

Limits, Not Extremes

The issue is not dating or free mixing, Bethany.

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The issue is framing a relationship so that it abides by the Islamic rules of social interaction.

This is meant to enable Muslims to avoid the development of emotions or a relationship, which would end up violating the boundaries of what is halal (permitted) and approaching the boundaries of haram.

Then, things might get out of control. 

So, it is the definition of friendship that we are trying to clarify here.

And that’s why I prefer using the word “fraternity”: It implies an equal relationship, in the public space, not a private affair, which takes you to attitudes and practices that are not Islamic. 

If You Can’t Marry Him, Back Up

I presume you don’t think that dating or having an affair is the only way to keep in touch with him.

You are allowed, in Islam, to have a relation of Islamic fraternity in the public sphere, while keeping Islamic manners.

And you can also exchange ideas and social discussion over email or on the phone.

This is not haram (prohibited), as long as it does not involve any indecent talk. Muslims are, first of all, brothers and sisters in faith. 

If you do find that you have romantic affections towards this man, you can consider getting married

If he is already married, then you should keep the relation to the very minimum, formal level.

Otherwise, we would neither be discussing dating here, nor fraternity; we would be discussing cheating on his wife.

So, if you cannot get married – for any reason – then you should restrict yourself to the general kind of relationship, which you can have with any person in your public life. 

Islam: Forward Thinking

Islam is not about denying people the right to love, but it is about asking the question: and what is next?

Feelings are a matter of heart that one cannot always control, but actions should be set on the path of God, and this is part of Islam as submission to Allah’s guidance

If you have more in your heart than circumstances would allow, then remain patient.

Pray to Allah to allow you, in the future, to have a legitimate relationship that would end up in marriage.

If this can never happen, for one reason or another, then try to shift to the accessible, general Islamic standard of manners.

Then, you should know that maybe your destiny is not to marry him.

Seek Love and Happiness In The Right Context

Sister, be certain that piety will bring you happiness and inner peace, even if your heart suffers for a short while. 

I have felt love myself and was blessed by sharing life with the man whom I loved, through the bond of marriage.

So, I know how it feels.

Still, I insisted not to go beyond the Islamic boundaries.

Then, we agreed that if we cannot get married, we would keep the relation of Islamic fraternity, and remain forever on the path of Allah as caring brother and sister. 

This is not romance, sister Bethany, but this is life! It is piety – as I said – that brings people eternal happiness and helps them stay on the straight path.

Don’t Delay Conversion to Islam Over a Man

We would not like you to hesitate to revert, simply because Allah does not permit you to date.

If you did that, you might end up remaining friends, but losing your relationship with Allah, which you have striven to achieve for so long.

That is why you have to carefully consider the matter and decide. 

If you need to talk more about any feelings you have for this man, kindly send us a personal message and we can resume talks offline. We can also advise you to contact our colleagues in the Ask the Counselor section. 

We do understand your feelings, but also, we should urge you to make the decision, which would bring you more happiness for the long term.

Keep well and stay in touch.

(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more:

Gender Interactions… Are We Too Strict?

Mixed-Gender Interaction: Prophet’s Time vs. Today

Prophet Musa and Opposite Sex Interactions