As-Salaamu `Alaikum dear brother,
This is a great question. Many individuals continue to ponder on this question, especially in the modern society that we are living in, western and non-western. In addressing your concerns, it is important for any individual who is serious about marriage to do their own research and study a variety of opinions before drawing their own conclusions for themselves.
What is also important to note is that marriage for many is also contextual, meaning the process of marriage is often expressed differently from various cultures. Taking from the good and leaving the bad of one’s culture is a very important consideration when understanding and implementing certain values and actions during this process. What is also important is that individuals not impose their interpretation upon an individual based on one’s personal interpretation and without any valid proof.
There are various opinions regarding gender relations and interactions between men and women, especially with regards to the intention to get to know one another for the purpose of marriage. What are often two major factors of concern for the individuals involved are the elements of protecting the reputation of the two people involved and the element of maintaining respect versus shame and protecting the honor of the family.
There are several verses in the Quran and sayings from the hadith that emphasize these points including the following:
“No person should be alone with a woman except when there is a Mahram with her. (Sahih Muslim)
“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Apostle. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.” (9:71)
Healthy interactions between men and women are very important in maintaining the wholesome fabric of community and society. When I mention healthy interactions, I mean understanding the importance of how to deal, work, and interact with women with respect, not objectifying them in any shape or form, and being able to acknowledge and appreciate women for the important role they play in societies throughout the world as men do as well.
In the Quran, men and women are described and encouraged to work as partners and are created in pairs to complement one another and support each other. How amazing this phenomenon is that there is a person who is out in the world that complements us and is our life partner that will complete half of our faith.
What is partnership? It is a contract between two individuals who wish to work together and cooperate in achieving similar goals. Marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals; it is a partnership between two individuals and their families with the two individuals “steering” the direction of their spiritual journey.
All of these verses can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, but what is important to understand is the overall theme of courtship when getting to know someone for the purpose of marriage.
You should start examining gender relations in Islam by looking at the overall theme and at keywords being used in the spiritual discourse which include: journey, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, protectors, mahram, looking at the person you are interested in, and not being alone under the context of seclusion with the opposite sex. These words should immediately prompt any man to first examine his intentions in speaking to a particular woman in the manner that you described in your question.
You mentioned initially that your friend has not committed to her and is just talking through the phone, chatting and sometimes dating, which he says is allowed. Dating in Western and non-Western cultures could have several meanings and connotations. I do not have enough information to draw any conclusions about your friend’s situation; however, to help your friend explore whether he is taking the best approach, you should ask him several questions:
1. What are your intentions towards this woman? Dating or Marriage? Seven years is a very long time to speak to someone and also leaves a lot of room for error if certain etiquettes are not upheld.
2. Are you committed to her? If not, why have you decided to date a woman for 7 years without commitment?
3. Have you been meeting her in secluded settings where you are in isolation from others and the general public?
To explore whether your friend is violating any principles, do your research, consult with viable scholars (You can submit your question to our ‘Ask the Scholar’ section), and ask yourself these core questions. You will find your answer in sha’ Allah.
Allah (swt) knows best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.