“Halal dating” or “halal courtship” mean something different to everyone. Varying viewpoints include some distinctions that seem negligible but can make all the difference.
A black and white way of thinking that courtship is haram and arranged marriage is the solution isn’t a one-size fits all solution. And it’s certainly not necessary to act that way! Let’s look at the idea of halal dating before marriage with two Muslimahs who share their experiences.
Arranged Marriages the Best Way?
According to a 2012 study conducted by Statistic Brain, 53.25% of marriages worldwide are arranged. This percentage likely includes both forced and facilitated unions).
The divorce rate for arranged marriages is a mere 6.3%. This is significantly lower than the divorce rate in America (40%), where conventional dating is prominent and encouraged. Regardless of whether these statistics prove anything revolutionary, I’m certainly not advocating for forced marriage. My intention is to debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding Islamic marriage and the courtship that precedes it with the help of my two interviewees.
Muslimahs’ Halal Dating Experiences
Salma*, a twenty-four-year-old from Southern California, has been married for nearly a year. She offered her newly-acquired wisdom concerning the halal courting process. Salma categorizes halal courtship (dating) as talking to and getting to know someone with the intention of potentially getting married. She adds that this process should include discussing life-altering topics from the very beginning.
Salma attests that the necessity of these serious dialogues is something she likes about the process of halal courtship. She explains: “You can find out answers to some of the most important questions quickly to see if values and visions of marriage and life line up. If they don’t, it’s easy to respectfully end discussions before it proceeds further, emotional attachments taking hold.” She is also adamant that a premarital counselor is a crucial step if both parties are serious about creating and cultivating a successful relationship.
She explains: “I also FIRMLY believe premarital counseling is essential for anyone seriously considering getting married. A licensed premarital counselor (LMFT) can offer guidance into the questions you should be considering before marriage, and discuss topics with both of you that may highlight potential red flags. That counselor is an unbiased party and can definitely provide insight that you may not be able to obtain on your own.”
While she thinks compatibility is extremely important, Salma acknowledges that sex appeal is also crucial. “I think physical attraction is just as important as having good qualities. Sometimes people have good qualities which are admirable and what you want in a spouse. You are just . . . not attracted to them. I think finding someone you have a ‘spark’ with is important too!”
Insincere People Clog the Process
Salma also warns against certain aspects of the halal courtship process. It can be difficult and frustrating to distinguish between people who are simply looking for attention and an ego boost, from those who are actually looking to get married, especially when the interaction results in unreturned feelings. The feeling of being led on is far from being unique to halal dating. When someone is earnestly trying to get married, the repercussions of an uninterested, insincere suitor are far more devastating.
Another potential downside of the halal dating process occurs when judgemental parents get too heavily involved. Young women being forced to reject quality men because their family does not approve of some part of his identity, be it looks, his job, not being “prestigious” enough, or his lack of a higher education (even if the man in question is able to provide financially) is incredibly common, according to Salma.
She laments: “Many times families make finding a spouse way harder than it needs to be. Some parents have a set idea of what they want their child’s marriage to look like and ignore some of the most important qualities such as good deen and character.” Thankfully, this did not happen in her case, but she watched countless friends go through this trying process.
When Halal Dating Crosses Over
Hana, a 43-year-old mother raising her four kids in Southern California, has been married since the age of 18. She met her husband at a masjid youth group which, as she puts it, “worked out really well.” One of her sons is approaching the age at which many parents begin considering potential spouses for their child.
Hana’s wishes for her children’s marital futures center around her wanting them to be able to discern how to choose a spouse while adhering to the guidelines of Islam and simultaneously avoiding feelings of obligation to the first person they end up courting.
Hana believes the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone should be considered at length and may require being acquainted with many candidates. In terms of timing, she and her husband hope their children will meet their future spouses in college, or shortly after graduating. She foresees the difficulty level increasing significantly once young adults enter the workforce.
For many young Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries, finding a spouse seems extremely daunting and unappealing. It can be tempting to follow the crowd and turn to western-style dating. However, as Salma and Hana demonstrate, Muslims can combine traditional Islamic principles and some modern concepts in order to maximize the chance of a fulfilling and exciting union.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewee.