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What are your thoughts on dating?

What are your thoughts on dating?


What are your thoughts on dating? In today’s society the age of getting married is 23+. How should one control his sexual desires and maintain his deen?

Salaam alykum,

There are so many levels to this question, that even with my long-winded answers, I feel like there are aspects of this massive issue that I will forget to mention, so please forgive me, and if you have further questions, ask me.

Dating is a funny thing, because it means very different things to different people. My house has a strict no dating rule, and my mom, having come to America earlier in life than other moms or my dad, seemed to understand how to handle me best. I remember at 16, I went up to her, and I was like (think Napoleon Dynamite here) “Mom! I want to date a girl!” And she asked me, surprisingly calmly now that I think about it, “Why do you want to date someone?” And I was like “Uh… Uh…” And she goes: “Do you want to get married?” I’m like: “I’m too young.” She goes, “Okay, so you don’t want to get married, and you’re not ready, so why do you need to date?”

I had no answer, because I was a stupid 16 year old boy. So as far as dating goes, when people are not ready to even consider marriage, no matter what culture you come from, how can you even consider dating? What is the point? This was my mother’s perspective, and was generally directed towards addressing my teen angst, but, I think it holds true, even to someone at my age (25).

As far as what I think about dating, I think it really matters what you mean, by “dating.” Now, before you reach for that ask button to tell me how I am corrupting the youth, allow me to explain myself. When I speak of dating, I am speaking of frivolous relationships between males and females that have no clear defined goals or objectives; this can be the result of immaturity, fear, a broken heart, or a whole host of other issues.

Marriage should be the goal of any romantic interaction, whether it’s through intermediaries, being alone together, or through a website. Whether for men or women, marriage should be your goal.

Now, normally, this is packaged as the primary motivation for women, but, I think this idea (that marriage should be your goal) is even more important for men. Why? Because, think of marriage as more than just the ability to be romantic with someone, or to have sex with someone, for a man, it’s about protecting someone, caring for someone, it’s about stepping up and actually being a man.

Marriage is the process in which you protect the woman. I’m not talking, big strong man, punch a robber in the face-type stuff, I’m talking about ensuring that no matter what happens, she is protected from everything, including you. You marry her, because you respect her, and that respect is the ultimate form of love, and it is within the confines of marriage in the Islamic sense that we see the centrality of the protection of women to be the central goal of Islamic injunctions, as well as obligations of men to women.

Let’s be honest, for a moment, Muslim men. You don’t talk about marriage with the non-Muslim girl, because you know you can’t marry her. People’s immediate thoughts are, “Oh my parents would kill me,” or something stupid like that. Think bigger. You can’t marry her because you don’t respect her. If you did, you wouldn’t be doing what you were doing. The only reason that girl is putting herself in that position, is because she wants love, and she’s compromising herself, because she thinks that’s what she needs to do, to get you.

That’s the basis of dating, for a man, it is temporary filling, and in his mind, that’s perfectly okay for that to happen. Believe me, when a man wants you, he’ll go after you. I’m not talking Romantic Comedy crap, I’m talking about, he’ll do whatever you (women) say. If he doesn’t, well, toss him the hell out, if he’s not respecting your boundaries, ladies, seriously, smile and wave, peace sign, whatever makes you happy, just get out of that situation.

It’s this process that simply allows people to hop from relationship to relationship, where people are unclear of what their goals are, and they play out this fake dance in which people hide what they feel and they simply accumulate more and more baggage. They got destroyed from their last relationship, the next one has to deal with it, and it snow balls from there.

Whether that baggage is emotional, physical, medical, whatever, you are creating people who take massive emotional risks with little to no guarantees, in the name of a sort of “freedom,” to “find who you love.”

You’d imagine that my simple answer to this problem is “So get married!”

Not so much.

Muslims in the West have created this fallacy that, “okay, we make the kids get their nikkah/katb ketab (Islamic marriage ceremony) done, and then, the kids can be ‘married’ and that way, they can finish their studies, and nothing haram can happen, yay.”

Great, you’ve married two young kids, who while, yes, on their ID cards it is listed as “21” or whatever, they don’t act like 21 year olds, they don’t have the perspective of one, and they’re certainly not as mature or adult as the 21 year olds from back in the day.

So what has happened? Young Muslims are getting divorced, and they’re treating marriage like a method for them to simply “date Halal.” This actually bothers me. Yes, in Islam, we have the right to get divorced, but I’m not sure if we should abuse that right, and we seem to underestimate the tremendous effect upon those who are getting divorced after a year of marriage. I, personally, know of people who have went through this, and I cannot describe to you the tremendous pain I have for how they feel. I wish that upon no one.

So, for me, dating can still exist, even within the confines of “marriage.” What we have done, is that while pretending that we have “no dating” here in the West, we have simply created a “Islamic dating,” because we bring together two people who have no idea what they want in life, they have puppy dog crushes on each other, and they are not prepared (mentally) for the challenge of actual marriage. What we’ve done is make marriage simply a mature version of “playing house.” Marriage is a far more than just, holding hands, cooking for each other, and nice notes on pillows.

Marriage is about being there when you don’t want to be, to listen to someone when they are making no sense to you, to confront problems that you can’t run away from, to emotionally support someone unconditionally, to grow and help someone to grow. I don’t think kids at 21, for the most part, whether Muslim or not, have the maturity to deal with these realities. We make marriage a way to “save face,” rather than as a bond between two human beings so that they can go through life, and all its up and downs, together.

We force people to think that “Oh, I have to get married, or I’ll die,” I mean, let’s look at your question, you say “In Today’s society the age of getting married is 23+” Now, within our cultures, we have this idea that you have to get married young, and that’s a good thing and designed to prevent the issues I spoke of earlier, but if we want to talk about marriage, from the perspective of Islam, let’s take a look at The Prophet.

The Prophet did not get married until he was 25. He married a divorced woman, Khadijah, who was older than him, richer than him, and who was his boss. Oh, and she proposed to him, ps.

When people discuss Islamic marriage, how many of them point to this example?

When it comes to Shariah, very few parts of the marriage process are actually dictated. When I say “marriage process” I am talking about, specifically, the methodology in which “courtship,” for lack of a better term, is conducted. 

We are not talking about how men and women interact, that is a question that I will answer (tomorrow, I think), rather we are talking about how men and women, who are interested in each other, romantically, should conduct themselves. Frankly speaking, when it comes to classical Shariah, there is no “Islamic” answer to how you conduct courtship.

The methodology of courtship is dictated by the Adat [customs] or ‘Urf [existing practices] of a society. As long as these customs and practices do not contradict with The Qur’an and Sunnah, then they are to be deemed to be permissible. When something in the culture does conflict with The Qur’an and Sunnah, the Muslim must not engage in those activities. Again, we’re speaking about courtship here.

In the Hadith, the only place that directly addresses how one should conduct themselves is when it comes to courtship and marriage, and even then, it is in a very limited scope.

In the Hadith of Muslim, Abu Hurairah is reported saying that a man came to The Prophet and told him that he had contracted to marry a woman of the Ansar. “Did you look at her?” The Prophet asked. “No,” the man replied. The Prophet simply said: “then go and look at her.”

That’s not the only place, in another Hadith, this time reported by Tirmidhi, the following was said:

Al-Mughira ibn Shu’bah said: I asked for a woman for marriage and God’s Messenger asked me whether I had looked at her. When I replied that I had not, he said ‘Then look at her, for it may produce love between you.” I went to her parents and informed them of The Prophet’s advice. They seemed to disapprove of the idea. Their daughter heard the conversation from her room and said, “If The Prophet has told you to look at me, then look.” I looked at her, and subsequently I married her.

The problem that we face is that The Prophet did not specify to either the man or Mughira over how much of the woman they would be permitted to see. There is debate among the scholars over how much can be seen, and some argue that only the face and hands are permissible to be seen. However, even within these interpretations, it would be permissible for any man to look at a woman within these constraints, as long as desire is not involved, and if we are to assume that a man asking for a woman’s hand in marriage is an exception, he should be able to see more than the face and hands.

The basis for this exception is centered around a Hadith from Abu Daoud, in which The Prophet said “When one of you asks for a woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.”

Scholars have bounced from one extreme to another, but in staying with Islam’s stance, the middle ground seems to be the most appropriate. Thus, whatever would be acceptable for a woman to wear in front of her male family members, should be appropriate for a man to see of a woman, when he approaches her for marriage. It should be underlined that this is simply a suggestion, and not a requirement, so if you (a woman) are uncomfortable with even a prospective husband seeing you without hijab, you are NOT required to.

Furthermore, I am simply giving you all sides of the argument, so, please do not ‘correct’ me, I am simply providing you with the range of opinions. 

It is also critical that when we view the phrase “to look at what will induce him to marry her,” we are not only talking about keeping his hands to himself, but, that it should be more than just the “daaaaaaayyyyyyuuuuuuummmmmnnnnn” factor of how gorgeous she is, but that it should be through interaction that the two of them should assess whether they have the same goals, whether they have compatible personalities, and what their expectations are, and so on and so forth.

The majority of scholars argue that a chaperone is required during these interactions. When I look at these opinions, I believe that they are misunderstanding the role of intermediaries in Bedouin Arab culture, with something actually Islamic. However, if those are the customs of the woman and her family, then those are the “rules of the game” for the prospective husband.

Which brings me to this statement: women control the level of interaction. It is the woman who decides what she wants to happen and what she doesn’t. Please do not confuse my statement to mean anything other than, what the woman wants (from the man and her family) to feel respected while staying within the injunctions of her religion is what must be respected and done. Anything and I mean, anything, that occurs outside of this, is impermissible on the most fundamental levels. 

I think it is funny that a family would allow their daughter to go to a school, interact with male classmates for several hours a day, but then, suddenly, when a man comes to ask for their daughter’s hand, they create a little bubble in which zero trust is given to their daughter and the man. Granted, I understand the suspicion towards another man (I have sisters) but what is clear from the Hadith is that, within limits, we are to trust our daughters and those who come to ask for her, again, within limits to ensure that the woman is comfortable and at ease so that she may ultimately either accept or reject the proposal, completely free of any considerations, save her own, guided by her religion and self-respect. 

Thus, it is within these confines that you function and through this that you must control your sexual desires and understand that, if you have based your relationship on sexual misconduct, it is created on a faulty foundation. If you have made a mistake, or if she has, or both, then repent, and God will accept your repentance should it be sincere. There is no use beating yourself up for it, and nothing will change what you have done, but, the worst aspect of your mistake would be if you fail to learn from the mistake and improve yourself accordingly.

As far as towards your sexual desires, that will exist, even after you have prayed, fasted, and conducted other religious rituals directed towards staying “in line,” I think personal improvement would be a great way to direct yourself. Go to the gym (get jacked, bro), help your mother with the housework and cooking (brownie points, bro), or expand your horizons through reading, etc (being deep is like catnip to girls, bro)

All jokes aside, ultimately, this question centers around masturbation. Now, I realize this is super awkward, but, we have to talk about it, because the classical scholars did, and if these Islamic superstars could, we can too.

What people don’t realize is that there is a wider range of opinion on this matter than they’d actually like to admit. To my surprise, when I was doing the work for this, is that the Imam who is considered to be more strict is far more flexible in this case, than the flexible Imam.

Imam Malik, founder of the Maliki madhab, ruled that masturbation was impermissible (haram), based upon Surah Al-Mu’minun:

“(5) and who are mindful of their chastity, (6) [not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouse– that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock] – : for then, behold, they are free of all blame, (7) whereas such as seek to go beyond that [limit] are truly transgressors;” – Muhammad Asad [23:5-7]


“(5) And they who guard their private parts (6) Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed (7) But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors” – Sahih International [23:5-7]

For Imam Malik, the phrase in the 7th ayah, means that masturbation is outside of these limits, and thus is prohibited.

Ibn Hanbal, of the Hanbali madhab, argued that semen was simply a bodily secretion, and said that to excrete semen would be akin to blood letting. The classical scholar, Ibn Hazm, agreed with Ibn Hanbal, while Hanbali scholars would allow masturbation only in two circumstances: first, if there is a fear of committing fornication or adultery; and second, if one does not have the means to marry.

I would argue that you have several avenues in which to control your sexual desires, and the final “end game” does not have to be masturbation. Regardless, I don’t think that the age requirement of marriage should be used as some sort of excuse as to why Muslims should be “excused” from doing certain things. Remember, The Prophet did not get married until he was 25, so even if people back in the day got married young, The Prophet didn’t, and that should be good enough for us. 

I think the core teaching of The Qur’an and the example of The Prophet’s life is that marriage can only work when you are aware of yourself, and if you know what you realistically want from life, so that you can find a partner that you can share and grow with, together, in a healthy way.

I realize that this was a very long answer, but, I felt that it deserved a thorough explanation. Again, if you are going to send me a comment (as opposed to a question) about this issue, please understand that I have simply provided the spectrum of views, and it is you, as the believer, to decide what course of action is best suited to you, your family, and your sensibilities.

Insha Allah, I hope I answered your question and that if you, or anyone else, has a question on this, or any other matter, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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