Courtship, Dating and Premarital Love

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In Islam, there is no room for courtship and dating. Islamic teachings prohibit all forms of premarital intimacy, including taking a boyfriend or girlfriend (Surah An-Nisa: 25). It is strongly recommended for a Muslim woman to cover up her face in front of non-mahram men. Only under certain exceptions (such as a marriage proposal or medical treatment or witness in the court, etc.) are women allowed to display their faces in front of men. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in one tradition:

When one of you (believer) intends to marry a woman, there is no sin on him if he looks at her, so long as his looking at her is only for the purpose of the intention of marriage. And this is even if she is unaware of it.”

Islam discourages courtship and love-affairs before marriage. According to Islamic law, a man and a woman are non-mahram for each other until their marriage (nikah) and departure of the bride from her parent’s home to her husband’s home. Just a betrothal (engagement) ceremony cannot make the man and woman permissible for each other. Islam forbids parents to send their daughter out with her fiancĂ©. She cannot be alone with her fiancĂ© under any circumstances. Such instances are not uncommon when the girl became pregnant right after engagement and then the man informed the girl and her parents that he has changed his mind and he will not marry this girl. The engagement ceremony is just an intention to marry and not an actual marriage. It has been clearly stated in a tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding unrelated men and women:

"Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Devil makes a third." (At-Tirmidhi)

The commandment in this hadeeth is clear that any form seclusion of unrelated men and women together is a guaranteed invitation to Satan. Obviously, this includes having a private meeting and sharing love-cards or e-cards on Valentine’s Day (or on any other occasion) in the absence of guardians, etc. More importantly, this also includes online chat rooms, online dating sites, texting, IMs (instant messages) between them, sharing of photos by emails or Facebook or by sexting. In the same vein, private chatting especially with the advent of online cameras or pictures is equivalent to khalwa (i.e. an unrelated man and woman being alone together) and this involves one of the greatest causes of temptations for both women and men. Under such circumstances when unrelated (non-mahram) men and women are together in seclusion, it is easy to experience temptations and, as a result, human basic instincts can be ignited and haraam (prohibited) things can happen. Therefore, we must never be alone with a woman who is not mahram to us (even if she is our future wife). When unrelated (non-mahram) men and women interact with each other on social networking sites or when the pictures of a Muslim girl or a woman leave her home through their postings on social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and others, then Satan definitely looks at them and spreads corruption in the society. As a consequence, the incidences of premarital love-affairs happen and divorce rates go up in our Muslim societies. It is precisely for this reason that in February 2010, renowned Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdul Hameed al-Atrash, former president of the Fatwa Committee at the prestigious Al-Azhar University (Cairo), issued a fatwa (Islamic legal verdict) that the use of social networking websites by Muslims has resulted in the rise of marital infidelity. This fatwa by Sheikh al-Atrash came after a study earlier that week which claimed that one in every five cases of divorces in Egypt had been resulted after one of the partners started to use social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Sheikh al-Atrash advised Muslims to stay away from such cyber platforms. While Sheikh al-Atrash issued this fatwa in Egypt, this is equally applicable to the Muslim men and women of every single Muslim country. Sheikh al-Atrash explained that such sites are mainly responsible for the growing incidents of marital discords in the country. He said in the fatwa:

“It is an instrument that destroys the family because it encourages spouses to have relations with other people and this is against Islamic Shariah law… While one or other of the spouses is at work, the other is chatting online with someone else, wasting their time and flouting the Sharia. This endangers the Muslim family.”

It is little wonder that legal experts in Europe and America are predicting that social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo will soon be used in divorce court proceedings. According to the Western legal experts, many people “who enjoy flirtatious emails and conversations with people, who are not their partners, are often lulled into a false sense of security that they are not doing anything wrong because they are only flirting electronically”. Antonia Love who is the chairperson of family law and partner at Farleys has noted in this regard that this will “certainly make a lawyer's job easier as people are a lot less careful about what they write in emails than what they write down on paper." In a recent survey conducted in the U.S. by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, it has been discovered that with the advent of social networking sites, emails, texting and chatting, an 88 per cent increase has been observed in the number of divorce cases where “electronic data” was used as the evidence. To add insult to injury, computer and Internet companies “are already preparing to cash in by bringing out software which a suspicious husband or wife can load on to a computer so that they can spy on all email sent to and from their spouse.” Such cyber-spying of husbands and wives on each other will only increase the rates of divorce in societies.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in a tradition that hayaa (modesty and inhibition) is the most important characteristic of Islamic culture:

Every religion has a characteristic (khuluq) and the characteristic of Islam is modesty and inhibition (hayaa).” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

The word hayaa(modesty and inhibition) in the Arabic language shares the same root as hayaat which means “life or existence”. This hadeeth means that the life of the Muslim nation lies in its modesty and inhibition. When shamelessness and immodesty will prevail among the Muslims, it will result in the death of the Muslim nation. Indeed, in another tradition, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned the believers:

If you do not have modesty & shame (hayaa) then do whatever you like to do.” (Saheeh Bukhari)

Islam does not permit men and women to have relationships outside of marriage. There lies deep wisdom in this command. During courtship or premarital love, men and women show to each other only the bright aspects of their lives. After marriage, the two of them cannot live up to their premarital expectations which are indeed artificial. At that point, the bitter realities of life start to surface in their relationships which sometimes end up in divorce. This idea of “testing the waters before marriage” has born bitter fruits in the Western countries as Germaine Greer noted in her bestseller book The Whole Woman:

“Some of the briefest marriages are those that follow a long period of cohabitation.”

Scientific evidence by psychologists and sociologists suggests that dating, courtship and premarital relationships have long-term damaging effects on marital relationships. In one study published in the Journal of Biosocial Science in the year 2000, sociologists Neville Bruce & Katherine Sanders showed that the average high school romantic relationship lasts about eleven weeks. Such premarital romantic relationships serve only to provide the worst type of preparation for a long lasting and loving relationship of husband and wife to stay together during times of hardship in marital life. Another study which supports this argument is the research of the psychologists Wyndol Furman and Elizabeth Wehner who studied romantic relationships for years. For middle and high school students, they found that “adolescents are not very concerned with the fulfillment of attachment or care giving needs…. Instead, their focus is on who they are, how attractive they are … and how it all looks to their peer group.” Similarly, Dr. Leonard Sax argues that premarital romantic relationships and dating often develop bad habits in the youth. Those boys and girls may very well carry those bad habits (acquired while dating) with them for the rest of their lives. For instance, they may learn that it is very easy to dump your boy-friend or girl-friend for the smallest mistake he or she had made. Young men may learn to treat girls as merely-sex objects for male gratification without sense of deep relationship with them. By the time those young men and women get married, the bad habits or bad experiences they had developed during their premarital romance or dating can potentially damage their marital relationships. It would have been much better if they had stayed away from premarital romance or dating to begin with.

Recently, a U.S. national survey of family growth looked at the cohabiting couples’ marital trends on their fifth, tenth, fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries. In this national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was observed that the “couples who do not live together before marrying are much more likely to have long-lasting marriages”. In other words, those men and women who go through courtships and who cohabit in order to develop understanding between them before getting married, when they do get married, their marriages turn out to be of the shortest duration. It seems that the “understanding” and “getting to know each before marriage” does not help to keep the marriages between couples and, instead, those “trial marriages” have an inverse effect – getting to know each other before marriage only increases the chances of divorce later.


Sheikh Al-Albaani authenticated it in his Silsilaat as-Saheehah (no. 97) where he said: “its chain of narration is authentic. Its narrators are all reliable, according to the standard of Imam Muslim.”  

At-Tirmidhi (hadeeth 1171). Sheikh Al-Albaani authenticated it in his as-Saheeh At-Tirmidhi.  

Urdu Link Weekly, California (USA), (Friday Feb 19, 2010) “Fatwa of al-Azhar University Scholar about Facebook” quoted in: Mushtaq, Gohar (2015) Muslim Youth in the Age of Dajjal. Riyadh, International Islamic Publishing House (IIPH), in press.  

Bell, Jane (March 10, 2008) “Facebook and Flirting: the dangers of divorce” Georgia Family Law Blog. Retrieved on: Oct. 18, 2013  

Malik, Imam. Muwattaa Imam Malik. Kitab al-Jaameh (The Book on Comprehensive Topics), vol. 1, pg. 613  

Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Book on Etiquettes (Kitab al-Adab), Chapter: If you do not have modesty then do whatever you like to do. (Hadeeth No. 5769)  

Greer, Germaine (2000). The Whole Woman. New York, Anchor Books.  

Bruce, Neville & Sanders, Katherine (2001). "Incidence and Duration of Romantic Attraction in Students Progressing from Secondary to Tertiary Education." Journal of Biosocial Science 33: 173-184.  

Furman, Wyndol & Wehner, Elizabeth, “ Adolescent Romantic Relationships: A Developmental Perspective” in Shulman, Samuel & Collins, Andrew, eds., (1997). Romantic Relationships in Adolescence: Developmental Perspectives. San Francisco, Wiley. Quoted in: Sax, Leonard, MD, PhD, Why Gender Matters  

Sax, Leonard M.D., Ph.D. (2005). Why Gender Matters: what parents and teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences. New York, Broadway.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Survey of Family Growth, 2006-2010. Quoted in: Kim, Christine and Sheffield, Rachel (March 28, 2012) “Family Fact of the Week: Headlines Mask Cohabitation’s Continued Risks” The Foundary Retrieved on: Oct 22, 2013.  

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