Premarital Relationships — Why Not?

Why not engage in premarital affairs?

How would you answer this question? As a young Muslim, do you feel this question is relevant to you at all? Have you discussed it with your friends?

Is it a question you have thought about? Do you understand why not?

If you are uncertain about how you would answer this question, don’t worry. Perhaps the most misunderstood of all human relationships is the premarital relationship between young men and women, especially among those who are just coming of age and coming to terms with their sexuality.

The dominant understanding is that premarital relationships should be allowed and even encouraged. The most common arguments are that premarital relationships help to socialize young people to deal with one another, and that they help those who are looking to get married to have up close and personal, intimate knowledge of their potential spouse.

Do you agree with these two arguments? Do they reflect your way of thinking?

The latter argument couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning to socialize with the opposite sex, however, is a commendable personal goal. But it cannot be left to chance and definitely need not involve having an intimate, physical relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

Are Islamic Teachings Old-Fashioned?

Depending on your upbringing, who your friends are, and your exposure to television shows and movies, you might have been socialized to believe that premarital relationships are glamorous, filled with romantic overtures, and a natural expression of a man’s attraction towards a woman.

In fact, some young Muslims are so convinced that premarital relationships are the norm rather than the exception that, when told “dating is haram [forbidden],” they respond by saying, “Why is Islam so backward? Why can’t we just get with the times and realize that today, premarital relationships are OK because not everyone is thinking about sex all the time.”

Is that right? And so how would you propose going about helping those young people who are inclined to think about sex some or most of the time and not, as you say, all of the time. What shall we tell them?

Even the premise that the Islamic prohibition on premarital relationships is rooted solely in the notion that people think about sex all the time is false.

There is no outright prohibition of friendship between men and women and, yes, those friendships can also be warm, caring, and long lasting. The important question is, how are these men and women related to one another?

In Islam, men and women who are ineligible to get married to one another, who are each other’s mahrams, are able to have very powerful, long lasting, warm and caring, platonic relationships. It is helpful to review who these people are. In Surat An-Nur, after telling the believing men to lower their gaze, Allah Almighty continues in the next verse:

{And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical desire, or small children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.} (An-Nur 24:31)

So, yes, in principle, there is no problem with men and women being friends, as long as the men are in any of the categories described above in Surat An-Nur, verse 31.

For those men who are non-mahrams, that is, eligible to be married, the risk is always there that one or the other will become vulnerable and will incline towards the other outside of the framework of a marital contract.

Think about it. If you have come of age recently, you know that with the onset of puberty you experienced distinct and profound changes in your body. Among those changes were an increased awareness of your own sexuality and the occurrence of ‘wet dreams,’ or nocturnal emissions.

With hormones raging and very new and intense feelings of sexual stimulation, sometimes brought on by the least provocation, it is possible that a young person will become preoccupied with thinking about sex, even if he or she takes no action to actually attempt to relieve his or her sexual tension.

The fact of the matter is, sexual desires become pronounced and you might have experience mixed emotions, including confusion, guilt, and outright shame.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) understood human development well. In a teaching narrated to us by `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet admonished young people thus,

O young men! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e., his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.” (Al-Bukhari)

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