Dating and courtship in Islam

Is nikah engagement or marriage?

Isn't Nikkah actually a marriage? If nikkah is dissolved, isn't the couple going through divorce and the woman has to observe the iddah? Why call it engagement when the Quran uses nikkah to mean marriage?

Because there is a space between engagement (nikah) and marriage (consummation) that Islamic law acknowledges. If the couple separate after the nikah but before the consummation, the Quran requires the man to only pay half the alimony to the woman, while telling the woman and her family that the pious thing to do is to not accept any of the alimony (2:237). Therefore Islam makes it easy to break engagements/nikahs that have not been consummated, similar to the way in the West breaking an engagement is nowhere as serious as a divorce.

The nikah therefore is more correctly called an engagement rather than a marriage. Some cultures do not differentiate between the two, and that is fine, since to them the nikah is always immediately followed by consummation. But other cultures separate the nikah and the wedding and consider the nikah only an engagement. This too is perfectly fine and Islamic law supports them in this, and it is practiced by millions of Muslims, both Sunni and Shia.

On proposing to a man as a Muslim woman

Salam Alaikum, I have a question, I want your opinion on it. There is a guy, he seems very nice conservative and holds good deal of manners and deen. He is single, I really would like to have a future with him. I'm not sure if he is looking for marriage now or if he's interested in me. He is a family friend. How can I approach him without looking so unmodest. He does not have any family around and only our friends. Any tips on how to address that situation. Thanks and jazak Allah

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The best thing would be to tell someone who is respected by both of you and ask them to introduce the topic to him. This would be less awkward for both of you.

What is acceptable in one culture may not be in another, therefore it is the people around you who will have the best ideas on how to deal with this matter.

There is nothing in Islam to forbid you from talking to him directly, although this can be very awkward for most people, especially if he is not planning to marry. Having an intermediary gently introduce the topic to him would be much better.

Writing him (such as through email) is not a good option because it can send the wrong impression and because it puts you at his mercy. Even  if he is a good person and you expect no harm from him, you never know how people may change in the future, therefore it is always best to act cautiously (and get other people’s approval and involvement) in this matter.