The 25 DO's & DON'Ts of the Courtship/Marriage Process in Islam
By: Hosai Mojaddidi & Dr. Nafisa Sekandari
Written: for Nikah.ca
There are a lot of single Muslims
trying to navigate their way through the marriage process. It's not always easy
to know what's permissible, what isn't, what works and what doesn't. The list
below is a great guide for anyone who is thinking about marriage and wants to
prepare in advance. It'll help prepare
you for what to expect, what to do and what not do to before you begin your
quest for "Mr or Ms. Right" and once you start meeting potential prospects,
1) DO make Istikhara.
There's an old Arab proverb that says,
Man proposes, God disposes." Before actively working on oneself and
pursuing marriage through worldly means, one has to turn to Allah (swt) and
make the intention for marriage. Next, one should make the Duah of Istikhara
and put their trust in Allah's divine decree, especially when considering a
particular candidate. Istikhara is a prescribed prayer with specific guidelines
that should be properly understood. There is also a lot of confusion about how
one "interprets" their Istikhara. Here is a good article from SeekersGuidance that helps
clarify everything one needs to know about it:
2) DO have a "checklist."
It's important to know what you're
looking for in a partner and to take the extra time to put your thoughts down.
Not only does the list give you tangible things to focus on, but it can also
reveal whether or not you have your priorities down. If you notice, for
example, that most of your "requirements" are superficial in nature
then you may scale back some things and put focus on more important matters
like character, family values, and future goals. Additionally, a written
checklist can also help your friends and family who are actively on the
look-out for you to better screen potential candidates.
3) DON'T dismiss someone if they don't meet all of your requirements.
Sometimes we think we know what we want
but it may take meeting someone we wouldn't normally consider to open our
eyes to other possibilities. When thinking of marriage, you should really give
each and every potential candidate a chance to make an impression on you and
whatever the outcome make it a learning experience instead of a wasted one.
4) DO consider "halal-dating."
Social media, technology, and living
in pluralistic as well as gender-integrated societies have completely changed
the way modern Muslims are marrying. It's also impacted the Muslim divorce
rate, which has consistently been on the rise for the past 20 years. These
realities are undeniable and in order to prevent further problems, as a
community we need to redefine the courtship process without compromising the
guidelines of our faith. A great article that helps explain the parameters for
"halal-dating" can be found here:
5) DON'T rush into marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, there is
nothing wrong with having an engagement period in Islam. The length of time it
takes to get from the initial meeting to the nikah process is entirely up to
the couple and their families. Sometimes, however, because of cultural
misinterpretations or misunderstandings people are made to feel guilty for not
marrying "quickly" and they end up foregoing the very important
process of truly getting to know someone. Marriage is supposed to be a life-long
union, so make sure you have enough time to thoroughly investigate or learn
about your potential partner. Make the time to talk to each other, observe each
other in different groups, and allow people closest to you to spend time with
you as well. And remember, "quickie marriages" more often than not
lead to not-so-quick and messy divorces!
6) DO request "references."
Part of the screening process should
include meeting / speaking with other people they know (references). This is
especially the case for matches found online, through matrimonial events or who
live in different communities, provinces or geographical locations than you do.
If you are introduced to someone who you know nothing about make sure to
thoroughly investigate who he/she is. If they have nothing to hide then they
should have no problem giving you an opportunity to meet or speak with others
close to him/her. If they make excuses, make you feel bad for not
"trusting" them, or make any other attempt to evade a reference list
then take it as a major red flag. In this day and age the last thing you should
do is let your emotions and the excitement of a budding romance cloud your judgment.
7) DON'T spill the beans too early.
It's a natural inclination to want to
confide in your friend(s) and family at the onset of any exciting situation.
However, when a relationship is just developing it's too early to get others
involved and can backfire against you. You may find yourself prematurely
soliciting advice or building up something that doesn't have much potential. A
rule of thumb should be to wait until you've had at least 3 substantial
conversations/email exchanges, and/or meetings before telling someone else. And
make sure the person you decide to confide in is qualified to give you advice.
It should be less about the role they have in your life than it is their
ability to give sound, practical, and balanced advice.
8) DO have the confidence to make the
If someone piques your interest then
don't wait around for something to happen but rather make it happen! Both men
and women are susceptible to putting too much of the focus on the wrong place.
If you're consumed with a fear of rejection or worry too much about some other
negative consequence then you are letting life's opportunities pass you by. On
the contrary, by reaching out to someone or finding a third person to get
involved you are writing the narrative and thus becoming an active participant
in your own life.
9) DON'T rely too much on your
Inviting a family member or your best
buddy/girlfriend to tag along with you on your first "date" is understandable
but after that you really need to think about cutting them loose (keeping in
mind the 'halal-dating'
rules we mentioned earlier of course). While it may be great for you to have
the support and presence of a familiar face around you, imagine how your date
feels. It's awkward to have strangers around when the focus should be on you
and this new person you've just met. Additionally, learning how to have focused
one-on-one communication is among the most important factors to a healthy and
10) DO be nice to everyone.
It's a fact that we are generally
drawn to happy and positive people. You never know what a chance encounter with
a stranger can lead to. Perhaps you're at a wedding and you graciously offered
your seat to a stranger. That kind and generous act may make an impression on
someone who is also looking for a suitable match for her son/daughter. Love
could literally be right around the corner, stay happy so that you can welcome
it with a smile on your face!
11) DON'T complicate your first
Whether you're going to exchange
introductory emails or you're planning to meet someone for the first time make
sure to keep it simple. If you lay it on thick in the beginning with too many
complicated questions or requirements about time, place, etc., you might put
the other person off. Part of the excitement of getting to know someone is the
build-up, the gradual process of getting to know someone. That can quickly be
destroyed by too much too fast.
12) DO plan around your stressful day.
If an opportunity arises for you to
meet or talk with someone but you've had an exceptionally stressful day, let
the other person know you need to reschedule. If you go through with something
after a rough day, it's much worse for both of you because you'll end up
complaining the entire time about your stressful experience or you might allow
the negative energy it created to completely high-jack your personality and
take over your disposition. Remember, not only are first impressions everything
but you also want to leave every conversation on a good note, making a positive
and lasting impression.
13) DON'T go overboard on
If you speak too much about yourself
or take too much effort trying to "dress to impress," you may be
giving the completely wrong message about who you are. While physical
attraction/chemistry is key to a successful match, you don't need to make it
your main objective. Chances are by the first few conversations you will know
whether or not there is "something" there and if there is don't turn
it into "nothing" with overkill. Ask more questions than talk, listen
attentively and dress appropriate for the occasion.
14) DO be your authentic self.
In the beginning of any courtship,
aside from making more of an effort with basic manners and etiquette, you
should never change yourself or accommodate who you are for anyone else. Being
transparent during the courtship process is very important, especially since
your intentions are for marriage and not just merely dating someone. You want
to be true to your feelings and opinions and feel comfortable expressing
yourself freely. If you have reservations about these things then you need to
ask yourself why. Are you afraid the person will not like who you really are?
Are you afraid of their reaction, i.e., anger, disappointment, judgment? Do
they intimidate you and/or make you feel like your opinions can't differ from
theirs? The answers to these questions may alert you to bigger problems if
there are any.
15) DON'T talk about your past
Disclosing a previous marriage is
required in Islam but anything else is up to your discretion. It's always
advisable however to stay clear of divulging too much about
your past, especially any indiscretions or questionable behavior. Those matters
are between you and Allah (swt) and really no one else's business. There are
exceptions of course that you have to take into consideration. If for example,
you have any health conditions as a result of your past then you would be
obligated to disclose them. Here is an excellent response on how to deal with disclosing
16) DO be honest.
It's very important to be honest from
the beginning. You don't have to share your whole life with the person
during the beginning stages but be honest about who you are and what you want
in life. If a person is worth your time, they will appreciate the
expectations you have for yourself and your potential partner. Pretending
to be all you think your partner wants you to be is a recipe for
17.) DON'T zone out.
Listen carefully when the person you are interested in is telling you about
their life. By listening carefully you can find out about their
personality, likes/dislikes, emotional balance, etc. You want to really hear
what the person is saying so you can determine if they are the right match for
you and your personality. Try not to interrupt or prepare questions and
interject too much. Let the conversation remain fluid and show that they have
your undivided attention.
18) DO be aware of time.
It's easy to get caught up in the
excitement of something new and allow yourself to get carried away. If,
however, you're finding yourself talking into the late hours of the night,
missing classes or going to work late, then you may need to pull back the
reigns for several reasons. First of all, you want to make sure that you don't
allow yourself to get too lax with each other where your conversations become
inappropriate. This can happen even without direct contact as words are
powerful and innocent remarks can quickly turn into flirtatious/sexual banter
even via text or email. Scaling back can make you more conscious of how you use
your time and how productive your conversations are. You'll organize your
thoughts more and ask the right questions in the timeframe you have as opposed
to talking so freely that you head for troubled waters.
19) DON'T convince yourself of
something that isn't there.
Most people want to be in a
relationship and are happiest when coupled with someone else so it's perfectly
normal to feel eager to find "the One" and start this exciting
chapter of your life. However, if you feel like you are making more exceptions
for things that you normally wouldn't be happy with then perhaps you're
eagerness to get married is clouding your good judgment. Relationships can be
complicated but they shouldn't start out that way. Look for red flags and take
each one seriously. If you address them and still don't find any conclusions
then it's time to move on. Furthermore, forcing something for fear of not having
it is a sign of weakness of faith. Marriage, like everything in life is a
decree from Allah (swt) and one has to exercise patience until He determines
the right time and sends you the right person.
20) DO trust your instincts.
Similar to the previous point, it's
important to not only look out for red flags but also pay close attention to
how you feel with someone. If you have a nagging feeling that something isn't
right, chances are you're right. If, for example, you see patterns in someone's
behavior that worry you, don't dismiss them as nothing or paranoia. Many people
swear that their sixth sense or instincts helped them out of a bad situation,
and some even attribute these thoughts to guidance from Allah (swt) in response
to one's Istikhara, prayers, etc.
21) DON'T ask for too much advice.
People who have a tendency of
confiding in too many people or who are always asking others for advice are
usually afraid of taking responsibility for their choices. You shouldn't
wait for someone else to tell you how to feel or what to do, especially on such
an important life decision, but that's probably what you're doing. You
need to stop turning to others and evaluate just how much time you've given to
actually thinking about what you want, what you need, and whether or not the
person you're talking to measures up.
22) DO listen to advice even if you're
not happy about it.
If a friend or family member points
out something negative in someone you're considering don't react emotionally.
Remember, unless there is something dysfunctional about your relationship with
them, most likely they're just looking out for you and are coming from a place
of love and concern. Plus, if more than one person tells you something about a
potential partner, even if it has to do with their past, be receptive to
hearing them out completely. You want your decision to marry someone to be an
informed decision. The worst thing to do is to just look for the positives and
then get flooded by the negatives after the wedding, when it's too late!
23.) DON'T be jealous.
Don't focus too much on what others
have. Just because your friend found his/her soul mate, does not mean you
are bound to be single forever. Be happy for your friends and don't waste
time being jealous of them. By being happy for your friends, not only
will your friendship flourish but also you might meet someone at his or her
wedding or through his or her new connections.
24.) DO have a life outside the
It's important to continue to have a
separate life outside your relationship even if you think you've found your soul
mate. Having a passion such as your career, exercising, spending time with
friends/family provides balance in your life and for your relationship.
You should continue to grow as a person in all ways that are important to
you. This not only makes you more interesting to be with but also makes
you more emotionally balanced in your relationship.
25.) DON'T text.
Using texting as your primary form of
communication interferes with building a deeper bonding experience. Texting
is less rewarding and provides less of the neurochemical reaction our brain
needs to increase bonding. If you must text, limit it to times when you are
running late or wanting to change plans. Using texting for important
topics should be avoided. It's important to create healthy patterns in the
beginning of the relationship to maintain them throughout. And ideal
relationship is one where the couple thrives on healthy, direct and regular
communication with each other.