Please note: The answers on Hawramani.com constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Secret romantic relationships in Islam

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Hello, i have a question.I have a boyfriend and he loves me i also love him and he wants to marry me and he has told this about his family. I'm not really sure about get married but i also can't share this with my family because they are sooo strict. And this problem makes me so anxious. What am i supposed to do please give me some ideas. Thank you!

I understand the difficulty of your situation and hope that you will find a satisfactory solution.

There are good reasons why Muslim parents do not approve of such relationships, as I explain in my essay: The Point of Marriage in Islam (and the Problem with Romantic Relationships Outside of Marriage)

My general advice on such relationships is either to make them known to one’s family as soon as possible, or to end them and wait patiently until the time when he can propose to you formally. Some cultures allow the couple to get engaged (perform the nikah ceremony) without getting married. This allows the relationship to be halal, it gains the approval of their families, and the couple can wait years before they finally move in together and are considered married. But not every culture practices this (even though it is perfectly fine according to Islam). For more on “halal” dating see my answer Dating and Relationships in Islam: What is Allowed and What is Not.

It is not good for your soul to live in an in-between situation like this. If it is impossible that your family could approve of the relationship (maybe you are too young and they do not expect you to marry for the next few years) then the admirable thing to do is to end the relationship and wait patiently until you can marry / until he can propose publicly. This is what a respectable, pious Muslim person would do. We do not all have the same spiritual strength and patience, so I am not saying you should do this–just that this is the spiritually ideal thing to do (even if it leads to suffering). Whether we can live up to the ideal is a different matter and changes for each person.

Here are some words I wrote to someone else who asked a similar question. In their case the relationship was secret from both of their families:

The main point is that the relationship between a man and a woman is not meant to be only between the two of them--arranged privately by them. The families on both sides should be involved so that they can say whether they approve of the relationship or not, because if they do not, then your relationship can tear your family apart and cause lifelong estrangement from your family or his family. Even if both families get to accept the relationship and forgive the fact that it was kept secret from them, they may continue to hold onto the feeling of betrayal. This often reflects especially badly on each of you from the perspective of the other’s family.

The right way is to do things in a way that gains the approval of your family and his family, so that there are no resentments or hatreds or feelings of betrayal once the relationship is discovered or made public.

I understand that your situation is difficult and that you have an emotional need for this relationship. I cannot tell you what to do. It is true that you are not violating any strict rulings of the Quran or the Sunna as far as I am aware. But having such a relationship can end in disaster. It can also have a happy ending, you never know. But you are taking a risk and you can never be sure how it will work out. The more pious and dutiful thing to do is to abide by your parents' restrictions even though you find them narrow-minded and unsuitable. This would be the admirable thing to do.

The question therefore is whether you prefer your personal emotional needs or prefer doing the right and honorable thing. It is not an easy choice and will likely take you from one status of suffering to another. But this is life. We often find ourselves in situations where there is no satisfactory choice. We just have to do the best we can. And God will reward those most who prefer spiritual ideals to their immediate needs.

For more on dealing with difficult situations in general, please see my essay: The Road to Maturity: On Dealing with Life’s Unsolvable Problems

And God knows best.

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