Finding a Partner
Why Islam does not permit boyfriend-girlfriend relationships
Islam clearly divides members of the opposite sex into mahram (relatives that, by law, you cannot marry) and non-mahram (those who are marriageable). It is haram to mix freely with non-mahram and, therefore, having a relationship before marriage (boyfriend or girlfriend) is strictly forbidden.
There is no such thing as “dating” in Islam. When young Muslims are able to marry, they are encouraged to find a suitable partner for marriage, following strict rules of courtship, and always keeping the intention of marriage at the forefront of any interaction.
This article takes a look at why boyfriend/girlfriend relationships are at odds with the teachings of Islam and at the benefits of a society where sexual relations are between spouses only.
Western society is rife with problems related to sex outside marriage as the following list shows:
- Teenage pregnancies (the rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK is the highest in Europe);
- A high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS;
- Unwanted pregnancies and abortion;
- High divorce rates;
- Couples co-habit with little commitment to each other;
The attitude towards free sex which has become part of Western culture is spread by the media and is taking effect on Muslim teenagers. Teenage relationships may begin as friendship but, as curiosity and peer pressure get the better of these youngsters, the temptation to sin becomes greater and greater and can eventually lead to sex.
Many Westerners, in their search for “love” and the right partner, move from one relationship to another with little commitment to their partners. This constant meeting and parting leads to heartache, let downs, lack of self-respect and some come to equate happiness with having a boyfriend or girlfriend.
A side effect of having many relationships is tendency to compare your spouse or most recent partner with previous partners, which often leads to a lack of satisfaction (including sexual).
By forbidding relationships outside marriage, Islam experiences a significantly lower incidence of those problems associated with societies that have a relaxed attitude to sex.
Islam places great importance upon the values of modesty and chastity on both men and women and, therefore, sex outside marriage is one of the biggest sins that a Muslim can commit. Indeed, the Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “When two people are (illegally) together alone then the third is Shaitaan.” [Bukhari]
Muslims of opposite sexes are not permitted to be alone together before marriage, let alone have any physical contact. Therefore, the trial and error approach to finding a suitable spouse, as practised in West, has no place in our society. Physical relations can take place only within the security of a marriage.
“(Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time, when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girlfriends.” [Al-Ma'idah]
According to the Shariah, all Muslim men and women should wear modest and loose clothing, which does not show nor emphasize their body shape so that they do not attract members of the opposite sex who are non-Mahram. In addition, a woman wears hijab as her head and hair are classed as Awrah (parts which must be covered).
“It is not permissible for a man to look at a woman who is not his wife or un-marriageable relative except for her face and hands (because of the necessity of her need to deal with men in taking and giving and the like). If a man is not safe from lust, he may not look at her face except for when it is demanded by necessity.” [Quduri]
Muslims are also required to lower their gaze when coming into contact with a non-Mahram, as stated in the Holy Qur’an: “Tell believers to lower their gaze, and tell the believing women to lower their gaze.” [Qur’an 24:30, 31]
Islamic “courtship” is focused and involves more people than just the prospective spouses. Choosing a marriage partner is a huge decision and it is one where involvement from experience family members should be welcomed. This ensures that the decision is carefully considered and that long-term compatibility is thoroughly evaluated by people who have your best interests at heart.
If a Muslim brother or sister is ready for marriage it is usual for them to ask friends and family if they know of anyone suitable. If a potential partner is found, then meetings between the couple take place in a chaperoned environment. The Prophet Muhammad (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative (mahram).”
This rule is to protect the couple from temptation as they are getting to know each other. Islam is all too aware of our weaknesses as humans and states that Muslims should follow the directions of the Qur’an in lowering their gaze and guarding their modesty.
If the couple agrees to marriage and become engaged, this does not mean that they can then begin a Western-style courtship. Those who believe that they can be alone with their fiance/fiancée have misunderstood the rules of Islam or have accepted foreign influences. Until the marriage takes place, the rules regarding non-mahram relationships still applies and both partners should be aware of this. It is recommended that the couple see each other in the presence of a mahram so that they can find out more about each other and develop feelings for one another. However, no relationship is permitted between the couple until the nikah.
Islam regards the family as the building block of society and, to enable the creation of a family, it requires the commitment of a man and a woman to one another in a lawful and life-long relationship. Because of this, dating, and all the associated problems it brings, is completely at odds with Islamic society.
What to Look For
The Islamic Marriage Ceremony and Beyond