“If people realize that dating is simply a normal thing that has been around for centuries everywhere, that you don’t need to learn it from movies, then people start to see it as something independent of physical [acts]. Physical relations are simply a choice.” -Taimur Ali, senior at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus
I would have to agree with this statement, but I know that a lot of people think that this is just something that millennial Muslims have come up with to make the rules lax for ourselves. But I believe that there is nothing wrong with getting to know things about your spouse before marriage, and I believe there’s a way to do so without truly engaging in Western dating culture. The lines are extremely blurry though, and most Muslims will preach that dating is completely haram. All respect to both viewpoints.
Yes, dating can lead to a plethora of haram actions, logically making it better to completely abstain from in the first place. But what if you don’t just want to marry someone you don’t know very well? Where is the line between getting to know someone and dating them? Is there one, or is this something I’ve just conjured up in my head to ease my own soul?
We see the rise of apps and sites like Minder, though. “Halal dating” sites that allow Muslims to date without feeling the guilt of it, because they know they’re looking for a Muslim partner. But does that resolve the issue at hand? It’s still dating, and the potential for haram-ness is still there, even if you are both Muslim. A lot of people would argue that the idea of dating in the first place is what leads to haram acts and even thoughts, which should be avoided no matter what in order to keep that person clean and pure and ready for marriage when the time comes. But really though, is it fair that we aren’t really allowed to get to know our spouse on our own terms?
I, a proud Muslim woman, have dated a couple of people in my lifetime. Again, I don’t know what technically qualifies as dating from person to person, but I would definitely call it dating. None of them were serious, so looking back at it now, I only find shame in myself for letting those “boyfriends” happen. Do I think they were worth it? No. Do I think I learned a lot about myself and Islam through them? Yes. By no means am I saying that people should go out and date people to learn Islam, I’m just saying what I got out of it. Through being part of something most Muslims regard as haram, I found extremely valuable lessons.
I never thought I would date. In all honesty, I always looked down on the few Muslims that I knew that did date, wondering why they thought it was worth the risk of getting caught by their parents, or why they so desperately felt the need to be part of the American culture. While I never necessarily felt that having a distant guy friends or two that you occasionally talked to was anything to be ashamed of, I didn’t ever feel the urge to picture myself having romantic feelings for someone else since I wasn’t close to marriage or feel sad when boys didn’t show me romantic interest first. I was happy honestly, because I knew it would be so much easier to avoid the whole fiasco of explaining why I don’t date if there was never any need to. But then all of a sudden, boys started showing me attention.
I never thought I would date. In all honesty, I always looked down on the few Muslims that I knew that did date, wondering why they thought it was worth the risk of getting caught by their parents, or why they so desperately felt the need to be part of the American culture.
This is how I ended up with a couple of boyfriends. They would ask me out, I grew weak
over time, and I said yes. Again, none of them serious and probably wouldn’t even count as
anything to most people, but to me they did. Even to this day I feel extreme discomfort thinking
that I walked around calling people my boyfriend, like it didn’t phase me at all.
Through my subtle dating though, and my sudden letting down of my guard, I met the best person I know. He understands me like no one else does, he cares for me like no one else does, and he plans to spend his entire future with me. We went through some extremely rough patches like most
couples do, and even though I’ve had many, many periods of doubt and shame and agony
throughout our relationship that I thought was in the form of God punishing me for what I was
doing, I don’t regret sticking with him this entire time and texting him every day and planning a
future with him. I know many other Muslims have done this, even though we barely speak
about it. As a community, we often shy away from topics that make us uncomfortable, and then
they never get addressed. He isn’t Muslim but he plans to convert, and honestly I see more
Islam in him than I do in some “born Muslim” boys and men I know. Maybe these are just more
justifications for myself that I’ve conjured up in my own head, but at the end of the day I don’t
feel bad about the decisions I made that lead me to the person I want to give my heart to. And I
don’t feel bad getting to know him in order to make certain that I’m going to marry who I think
I’m going to marry.
But it’s still difficult for me to admit to these things, solely because I know how pathetic
it will come off to a lot of readers. I know to a vast majority I’m definitely regarded as a bad
Muslim. I know I will be tested in the future for the things I’ve allowed myself to be lenient
about. But I also know that I will be eternally happy with the person I plan my wedding with,
even if the way we got there is pegged as haram. The thing is, Islam doesn’t forbid love. In fact,
Islam encourages it.
This is not me trying to sway others to believe that there is nothing wrong with dating and everything that can result from it, but if you’re strong in your Islamic beliefs and know that dating someone isn’t going to sway your beliefs and get you to do things you have always told yourself to restrict from, I say why not. Most “progressive” Muslims these days would probably agree that subtle dating with the parents of both people getting involved early on is okay; even some scholars agree. Just like some other ideals, the concept of no dating whatsoever, lowering your gaze at all times, literally ever might be getting a little outdated. But that’s still for you to decide. If you think dating is completely haram, don’t even tempt yourself, stay out of it. If you think casual dating is going to lead you to the best possible life partner, by all means that’s your choice. Most Muslims who do date – like me – date with the intention of eventually getting married; they just might not be old enough yet, or financially or emotionally ready. But that’s the difference between traditional dating and “halal dating” – you’re getting to know the person with the intent that it will pay off in the long run because some day in the not so distant future you will become wed to that person, and they won’t feel like a complete stranger.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with communication, but gossip runs deep, and someone’s reputation can be seriously tainted if people spread lies about what you and your boyfriend/girlfriend do together. Even these words; “boyfriend”, “girlfriend”, and “dating”
spread a lot of concern for some Muslims. I think that, aside from couples actually engaging in
inappropriate behavior, is what most Muslims – especially older Muslims – are essentially