romantic love in Islam

She is engaged to someone but wishes to marry someone else

1 Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatu. I am facing a very difficult dilemma at the moment. A few months ago, a cousin of mine asked for my hand in marriage. I was extremely shocked because I never thought of him in that way and I didn’t know he felt anything for me either but apparently he’s liked me for a very long time. Although we are cousins we never really spent much time together so I didn’t know much about him. My initial reaction to the question was leaning towards - cont next ask

2 no but my parents encouraged me otherwise because he is a good person, doesn’t have a bad history and to top it off he is my cousin so we did not want to make anything awkward or uncomfortable in our family. I decided to say yes because like I said I didn’t know much about him so it didn’t feel fair for me to say no without even giving him a chance. Things could possibly work out I thought. However I am having second thoughts now 🙁 I do not feel like I am in love with him.. cont

3 love for him but I feel like it’s brotherly love. On top of that, I think I am in love with someone else. I’ve always felt a connection with this person since we were small. We grew up together and I always thought we’d end up together but when my cousin proposed I didn’t think I had a chance with my childhood crush.. but now even though I’m engaged I still can’t get him off my mind. My heart is still drawn to him and I have no idea what to do. I feel like my love for my childhood - cont

4 crush is not allowing me to give my fiancé the love and attention he deserves. I’m scared to hurt him and my family by breaking things off but he deserves to be with someone who loves him just as much as he loves them. I really need some advice. I am scared that my parents, his parents, and most importantly Allah swt will not forgive me if I break things off.. I know divorce is permissible in Islam but it is frowned upon.. please help me. Thank you (sorry for the long ask)

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That is a difficult situation and there does not seem to be any entirely satisfactory decision to be made. All of us at one time or another will face similar circumstances where there are seemingly no right choices.

If you choose to break off the relationship for the sake of your own happiness, this can greatly harm your family’s relationship with his family, and your own relationship with your family, without it being guaranteed that it will bring you what you desire, since the person you desire may or may not marry you. It is therefore a very risky decision. And if you go through with the planned marriage, while you do not feel any love toward him right now, love can develop down the road.

I cannot tell you what decision to make, since in the end you will have to accept the responsibility for either decision. But if I were in your situation, I would delay the wedding if possible while constantly praying for God’s help and guidance, and I would spend at least an hour in extra worship every day (as explained here). Situations that seem impossibly difficult and complicated today can be made easy and simple for us by God if we prove our loyalty and dedication to Him. He says in the Quran:

And whoever has taqwā (fears God and remains mindful of Him)—He will make a way out for him. And will provide for him from where he never expected. Whoever relies on God—He will suffice him. (From the verses 65:2-3)

So rely on God in this difficulty and every other difficulty and inshaAllah He will make a way for you one way or another.

Is it wrong in Islam to feel jealous?

Salam, this guy i know is probably the one person i met who is genuinely kind-hearted and different to me. But, sometimes i have doubts about crushes and i just think about how im always thinking about the person i like rather than Allah SWT. I was afraid of how Allah might take him away cause ive put Him aside. Is it wrong if i get jealous if he starts to like my friend secretly? Ive let go of the people i like for the past few years for my friends but how i wished it could work out for me too.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It is best to give priority to your relationship with God, but God does not expect us to be super-human. He knows that we have human desires and weaknesses and does not expect us to give up our humanity or the sake of religion, but He does present us with a higher ideal that we should all strive toward to the best of our ability.

Feeling jealous is not “wrong” since it is a natural reaction to certain circumstances. What is wrong is if this jealously causes you to do mean things toward people or to think negative and ungrateful thoughts toward God. Suppressing your jealously is a virtuous act and you will be rewarded for it. Virtue is in going against your human nature for the sake of God, as in giving away something you love, or suppressing anger or jealousy, or giving up part of the time you could be using for entertainment so that you instead do worship in it.

For more on romantic love and dealing with the possibility of not getting the person you desire please see the page romantic love in Islam on my site.

The appropriate way to approach and propose to a Muslim woman

Salam, A man with good intentions and a clean heart, finds a young lady attractive and has heard very pleasant things about her. Mashallah, she is gorgeous and after getting to know her, he is very sure about the decision of inshallah making her his wife. Pure intentions, clean heart, no ill means wallah. However, the man is still early in life, needs to finish college in order to be able to provide for his loved ones. What should he do? (He is me haha)

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

To understand the proper way to approach her and why it has to be so, you have to understand the way marriage is meant to work in Islam. As I discuss in detail in my essay The Point of Marriage in Islam (and the Problem with Romantic Relationships Outside of Marriage), in Islam (and  Victorian Christianity), marriage is not only about the fulfillment of two individuals, it is about integrating their relationship into society in a safe and functional way. This means that the families of both the man and the woman have to be involved in the process, it is not something the man and the woman can set up entirely on their own. The same way that you have a right to be loved and taken care of by your parents, your parents have a right to have a say in your marriage.

The proper way to approach her is therefore through her family. You have to present yourself to her family and they have to cast their votes, whether in your favor or against it. In some families the woman herself has most of the vote and the family will respect her choice, while in other families the parents and siblings expect to have more of a say.

First, you should mention the matter to your own family. Even if you think they will like her and approve of the relationship, the respectful thing to do is to get them involved. If they are not Muslim and they expect you to manage your own relationships, then that makes their involvement less important.

If you do not know the woman’s family, you can politely approach the woman and tell her of your desire to request her hand in marriage from her family, she would then tell her family about you and a day will be arranged for you to meet her family. It depends on a woman’s culture and education how she will respond to being approached. Some may consider it a natural and acceptable thing, others may be seriously offended and may consider it very inappropriate. Some cultures, like in Iran or Malaysia, are accepting toward strangers approaching their daughters for marriage due to the spread of university education and their cosmopolitan lifestyles, while others, such as that of Afghanistan, will in general find the idea of a stranger approaching their daughter an utterly unacceptable thing.

If you cannot take care of a family now but expect to be able to once you finish college, her family may approve of your engagement but ask to delay the wedding until after you finish college. This is commonly done in countries like Iran and Malaysia. But some families may refuse such an arrangement and ask you to come back once you have a job. Some families may simply refuse to meet you and ask to meet your parents first, or only approve a meeting once you have finished college. And if the woman has other eligible suitors, that will further complicate the picture.

So the way to approach her is to ask to be introduced to her family. If the woman says she is not interested, then you have to leave it at that. And if she mentions you to her family but they refuse to meet you, then you have to find out the reason. If the reason is something that can be changed (maybe they expect you to have a job), then you have to wait patiently and try again in the future.

If the family approves of the relationship but does not want you to get married just yet, you can perform a quiet engagement ceremony (nikāḥ) to make your engagement official religiously. After that the two of you can stay in contact and date like any Western couple until you get married. This is how some Muslim cultures do it, while others may find it strange to perform a nikāḥ without performing the wedding.

What you should absolutely not do is try to start a romantic relationship with her in disregard to her family. Islam is not opposed to your happiness, but it wants your relationship to be conducted in a way that will work out for everyone in the long-term, rather than enjoying a few months of bliss followed by years of disappointment and suffering. Even if she seems interested in such a relationship and wants to keep in close contact, you should keep things formal and professional and keep in mind that she may end up marrying someone else. If she is someone you meet daily (you attend the same classes or work at the same place), then your behavior toward her should be in a way that if her family was watching, they should not disapprove of it. It is impossible to stay within the appropriate boundaries if you keep in contact with her in private (such as through chatting on social media). Both of you will strongly desire to keep pushing the boundaries, this is natural and will invariably lead to both of you starting to act more like lovers. Therefore I strongly recommend that you do not keep up regular private contact with her.

It can be very difficult to act with perfect religious composure when you strongly desire to be with someone and especially when they too desire to be with you. But that is the polite and civilized way to behave, and it is designed that way for your own good and her good, so that you can both remain pious and get married with the blessing and approval of both of your families. If her family discovers that you tried to bypass them by keeping a secret romantic relationship with their daughter, they may never forgive you for it, and even if the marriage takes place, this mistake can negatively color your relationship with them for the rest of your life.

Sometimes her family may say the marriage is impossible for one reason or another, but they may change their opinion eventually. If she is from an immigrant family, her parents may expect her to marry someone from their own culture, for this reason if you belong to a different culture, they may simply refuse to even consider you. Books can be written about all of the complexities and nuances of getting married in Islam, so I cannot cover everything in this answer.

The best thing to do is to be patient and respectful, and to keep in mind that we do not always get what we want in life. I recommend spending an extra hour every night in worship (as I describe here), this will make it much easier to be patient and to remain on your best behavior in your interactions with women.

She keeps dreaming of a particular man she likes

Salam. I’m in a difficulty. I dreamt about him for about 6 times and he’s the one that I dreamt the most compared to anyone that I know. We’re friends but we’re not close anymore. We don’t even talk anymore. But he still appears in my dream. Even when I don’t think about him on day time, he still appears in my dreams (not in a sexual way. More like he confessed to me that he like&love me). And that makes me miss him. But I strongly feels that he doesn’t been through this too.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I cannot say what your dreams may mean, but it is best not to assume them to be telling you something, they might just be a reflection of your own thoughts from the past. In my experience my dreams of people often involve people I interacted with or thought about a lot in the past but that I have not thought about recently. The dreams are like a reminder of people I have been neglecting to think about. As for people that I meet on a daily basis, I almost never dream about them.

My advice for being lovelorn is to attach your heart to God through daily spiritual work (I recommend performing tahajjud and Quran-reading together as described here), which makes all the concerns of this world lose their power to make us sad or stress out. Take care of your relationship with the Creator and He will take care of everything else for you in the best way possible. Our happiness and sadness can only come through Him, as the Quran says:

42. And that to your Lord is the finality.

43. And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.

44. And that it is He who gives death and life. (Verses 53:42-44)

It is part of our human nature to fall in love and to expect our happiness to come from other humans. But the wise and rational thing to do, when you recognize the nature of this world and the way everything and everyone we rely on invariably let us down, is to attach your heart first and foremost to God and leave it to God to manage your fate for you.

How do I find the one who is right for me?

I decided to do a lot of istighfar for loving someone before marriage and not lowering my gaze and I've lost attachment to that person Alhamdulillah. how do I find the one who is right for me?

That is similar to asking, “How do I become successful in life?” Each person’s life is different. Successfully finding the right person depends on your personality, your looks, your family’s reputation and connections, where you live and the number and quality of available men. There are dozens of factors involved with it and some of them are completely out of our control.

From the material side, you could increase your chances of meeting the right person by getting more involved with your community, such as through volunteering at the mosque, school or other charities and joining the sisters’ circle at the mosque. Meeting more people means that you will be more likely to be recommend to the men they know. But that, of course, depends on how well they like you after meeting you.

There are also Islamic dating services online and offline that could help put you in contact with the right man.

From the spiritual side, the right attitude is patience. You can do what is needed to make it more likely to meet the right man, but at the end of the day there are many factors that are outside your control. Rely on Him to give you a happy and meaningful life. God says in the Quran:

Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while being a believer, We will grant them a good and wholesome life—and We will reward them according to the best of what they used to do. (Verse 16:97)

That is a promise from God: if we take care of the spiritual side by being good people, God will take care of the material side for us by arranging those things favorably for us that are outside our control.

Regarding the spiritual side, please see the following two articles:

Best wishes.

The Point of Marriage in Islam (and the Problem with Romantic Relationships Outside of Marriage)

An essay on the question of whether romantic relationships outside of marriage are acceptable in Islam, and if not, why. Why is marriage such a big deal in religiously conservative societies? Why can’t people just enjoy themselves without involving everyone and their mother in their private affairs?

Islamic law does not have anything strict to say on the topic of romance. As religious scholars admit, falling in love is something we cannot help. But there are ways to engage in romantic relationships that fit within Islam’s framework of ethics and morality, and there are ways that conflict with it. Islam is not made to be applied in a vacuum. It is assumed that people who embrace Islam will, generation after generation, build their own culture around it, using its morality and ethical teachings to create their own standards of manners, etiquette and appropriate behavior. We see this in all Muslim societies. They often have a vast set of standards of behavior that cannot be found in any religious text. The reason for this is simple. Human life is so complicated that there is no way to define every single detail of their lives in a religious text. Rather, Islam provides general guidelines, people fill out the specifics, except in those rare cases where specifics are given (such as in the case of dividing an inheritance). If you were brought up in a devout Muslim family, you know that your parents will likely not think very highly of your being in a romantic relationship without their knowledge. To understand why there is a good reason for this taboo on romantic relationships outside the knowledge of your family and society, we have to talk about the point of marriage.

In Islam the appropriate, safe and socially integrated way for a man and woman to be in a relationship is through marriage. In many Western societies that have lost their religion and culture, marriage is just a silly formality, so that many people engage in intimate relationships without seeing a need for officially marrying. That is the primitive, natural way for humans to do things. Islam (and Christianity, and Judaism, and most sophisticated cultures) add an extra layer of formality to the relationships between men and women that greatly complicate matters. What is the point of that?

The point is that the formality enables the man and woman to relate to each other as socially integrated humans. A religiously conservative husband (assuming he is a relatively well-educated and civilized man) does not just see his wife as a piece of attractive flesh that can be treated however he likes. The solemnity of marriage, the fact that it involves so many people’s approval and attention, means that he is forced to look at her and see her not just as a body, but as someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s niece. She is not detached from her society and background. She is a great deal greater than her body and her personality. And that means he is forced to respect her as a person. He is beholden to dozens of other people who will all have something to say about it if he mistreats her. Through the constant interactions with her family, he is reminded over and over again that she is more than just a body, that she is a person with an honored social status. One could say that we can have such relationships without involving our families; we do not need our families to force us to be nice and considerate toward our spouses. But the reality is that human nature always “reverts to the mean”. At the beginning of a romantic relationship we can treat the other person with the greatest consideration. But once the honeymoon is over, the couple start to take each other more and more for granted and start to do less and less for each other. This is something that has been experienced by most people, who may have at first thought they would be the exception to the rule. The point of socially integrating a romantic relationship into society is to extend the honeymoon-level of consideration to the period that comes after the honeymoon. That is the magic that social integration achieves and that is almost impossible to achieve without it.

A wife, in a religiously conservative society, is not just a random woman who signed some paperwork. She has a defined and honored social status. It is similar to the way a queen is honored and respected by the virtue of her social status, without anyone caring what her body or personality are like. Just by being queen, she gets all kinds of rights and privileges. In a similar way, marriage in a conservative, religious society forces men to treat women as if they are more than their bodies, their beauty or their personalities. You can see this at work in classical English-language novels like Pride and Prejudice, when the West was still highly religious. Mrs. Bennet, the mother of the novel’s heroine, is an extremely ignorant and annoying person. But thanks to the institution of marriage, everyone around her is forced to treat her with great respect. This is respect that she does not “deserve” if we were to look at her personal qualities. That is the point of marriage; it integrates people into society, gives them a status and position, and in this way protects their honor and dignity. Today a person like Mrs. Bennet would be made fun of by her children for being stupid and ignorant. She would probably have to take antidepressants because no one will treat her like she matters. In a society like that of Pride and Prejudice or like today’s conservative Muslim societies, she will be treated like she matters, because the society’s values and the institution of marriage force everyone around her to treat her with great respect and dignity and to take her opinions seriously regardless of how ignorant or stupid she is.

That makes her feel like she is important, like there is a place for her in society. She feels appreciated and is happy with her lot in life.

Such a system has its own problems. But as a person who has experienced such societies in countries like Iran and Iraq, and their opposite in the United States, I can say that such a social system is far superior to the disintegrated societies of the West (of course, things are not bad everywhere in the West and there are still many happy families and societies). In secular societies a woman has to prove her worth to be respected and taken seriously. In a traditional society she does not need to prove anything. She is a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, and since these social roles are taken very seriously, they grant her all the respect she desires without having to do anything. She is like a queen who is born into a social position without having to work for it.

Naturally, the system also provides similar benefits to men. A wife has to treat her husband, even if he is not very intelligent or attractive or interesting, as a person who matters. In a class I was attending in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a woman side that her husband had “the most boring job in the world.” It was a funny statement, but it made wonder why a woman of my society would consider it extremely vulgar of a woman to say such a thing about her husband in public. The reason, of course, is that in my society a husband is not just any random man. A wife and her husband together rule their own little private kingdom where they are honored and valued, and it would be as foolish for her to make fun of her husband as it would be for a queen to make fun of her king in public. In a religiously conservative society, a wife does not treat her husband as if he is a random male, she treats him according to the demands and duties of the offices they both hold; the offices of “husband” and “wife”. It is similar to the way a company executive treats another executive; or one government official or minister treats another. They cannot treat one another as random humans who met on the street, they have to respect the office or rank held by the other person and treat them according to that.

Marriage as Election

If you think about it deeply, in a religiously conservative society a marriage is an election. The extended families on both sides are given a proposal and study it, until they cast their votes in favor of or against the marriage taking place. This process is sometimes taken as seriously as the cardinals take the process of electing a new pope. Once the marriage is approved, the husband and wife end up wearing the “robes of honor” that signifies their new offices or ranks that society has elected to give to the two of them through its approval. In a disintegrated society “walking down the aisle” does not have that much significance (although it can still be quite affecting), while in a religiously conservative society “walking down the aisle” is quite similar to the coronation of a new king or queen and just as serious and solemn. It is how society integrates these two new people into its future. The wedding process in Islam is similar to two kingdoms coming together to agree on the formation of a new kingdom on their borders with one side providing the new king and the other the new queen.

The Marriage of the Prince of Wales with Princess Alexandra of Denmark, Windsor, 10 March 1863 by William Frith (1865)

In Islam, when a man wants to marry a woman, he has to first present himself to her family. The family judges him and casts votes either in his favor or against him. A critic of Islam, on reading this, may jump to the conclusion that that means the family control’s a woman relationship. But that is just the prejudiced nonsense that we Muslims have to deal with every day. The woman, being part of the family, also casts her own votes. If she is in favor of the man, her vote may count as 50% of the necessary vote. If her mother also approves, that may add another 25% to the vote, meaning that the family as a whole is 75% in favor of the marriage. If the father disapproves, his 25% negative vote would have to stand against the 75% positive vote, meaning that he will be under pressure to justify himself, and this pressure may make him slowly change his mind in favor of the man. These percentages of course change from family to family, and if the woman has siblings, they too will cast their votes. Ideally, and in most cases, the marriage will only go forward once the man has 100% of the vote of the woman’s family, and the woman has 100% of the vote of the man’s family. This makes the formation of the marriage something that is done with the unanimous vote of both of their families.

This extra layer of complexity and formality that religious societies have (and truly primitive societies lack) helps create a society where most people feel as if they matter regardless of their personal qualities. By the mere virtue of being in that society they get a great deal of respect and honor. The society as a whole acts like an aristocracy where everyone holds some important position and has to be treated according to it.

Romance Outside of Marriage

The reason that a romantic relationship outside of marriage is not liked by religiously conservative societies is that it does not fit well within the above picture. It is perfectly fine to be in love with someone and to know that they love you back, and to work toward getting married through socially-approved methods. The problem is when two people in such a society try to bypass their society in order to enjoy the benefits that come with marriage without doing the hard work of getting the approval of their society. They want to enjoy the benefits of the office of marriage without bothering to get elected.

A man and woman who build a romantic relationship without involving their families are insulting both of their families. The pleasures of love are something granted by society to people who go through the process that society has designed for creating romantic relationships in a safe and integrated way. A religiously conservative society honors you, takes you seriously and treats you like you matter very much just because you were born into that society. You did not do any work to deserve being honored by your society the way they honor you. The honor is granted to you by the mere virtue of being born into that society. But in return for honoring you, society demands that you honor it back. The way that people take their relationship with you seriously, treating you as if you are a worthy and important human being just because you are a daughter/sister/niece and so on, you have to take your relationship with them seriously.

And that means that when it comes to a romantic relationship, you cannot act entirely on your own initiative. You can do so at first, for example you may love someone and think they love you back. You can act on this and find out if they are interested in marriage. If they are, then that is when you should involve your family. The longer you wait, the more you involve yourself romantically with them, the more insulting your actions become toward your family. Your family’s involvement and approval are necessary to integrate your relationship with your society. This ensures that the person you wish to marry will become beholden to their office and the duties that come with it. A husband cannot treat a wife in any way he likes, he has to treat her in the way that his socially-granted office requires of him. In the same way, the wife is beholden to her office. These offices force them to be nice and considerate toward one another and toward one another’s family even if they do not feel like it. They act according to their office, not according to their personal desires.

The worst cases of abuse that I have heard about in the Middle East have often involved a man taking a wife then separating her from her family, such as by moving to a different city or country. When that happens, when the woman is taken out of her social context, he no longer feels beholden to her family and society. He starts to treat her however he likes. If he is a good and kind man then she would be in no danger. But if he is not, then there is nothing forcing him to be kind and considerate. She is fully at his mercy. Even if there are laws in their country against domestic abuse, these laws rarely do anything until things get really bad, sometimes after years of abuse. Most cases of abuse will likely not involve the law, and emotional abuse, which the law largely ignores, can be just as bad as physical abuse. In a religiously conservative society, by integrating marital relationships within society, a woman gets a great amount of protection for her rights and dignity.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet cannot start beating or insulting his wife even if he feels like it, because he knows everyone around him will be seriously angry and upset with him if he does that. Any undignified treatment of his wife will bring upon him a great deal of negative consequences that have nothing to do with the law.

One of Mr. Bennet’s daughters (Lydia) tries to have a romantic relationship with a man without involving her family. Her family are naturally greatly upset and insulted by this. A modern reader might think their reaction illogical and unjustified, a silly and hysterical response to an unimportant matter. But within that religiously conservative society, they have every reason to be upset and insulted, because she is being disloyal to her society. Her action is similar to a minister making an important decision about his country without consulting the other ministers. It is also similar to an employee making an important decision about his or her company without consulting the other employees. It is a betrayal because she is making a decision that affects everyone around her without bothering to get their opinion, approval or involvement. It is also similar to your daughter deciding to sell the family car or the house without consulting anyone else.

The result of her action is that her family lose their respect for her. They continue to treat her with the basic dignity that everyone gets in that society, but her action has proven that she is either foolish, disloyal and ungrateful. She has been treated with the greatest honor all her life even though she has done nothing to deserve it, yet instead of repaying that treatment in kind by honoring her parents and relatives and helping her society continue in a healthy way, she thinks she can make a decision that affects everyone without consulting them.

Now a person may ask why marriage has to be such a serious decision (it is like selling the family car like I said). Why shouldn’t it be her own business? The reason is that marriage is a fundamental aspect of society, similar to birth and death. It is how society creates new humans and integrates them into itself. Marriage, in a conservative society, is very serious business because it has everything to do with society’s existence, survival and continuation. Selling the family car is serious business because it affects everyone’s fate and happiness in the family. Marriage is serious business for the same reason. Everyone around you wants you to marry in a way that enables them to continue having you as a beloved daughter or son. Marriage should be about you entering a higher and better stage in society while everyone continues to love and appreciate you. They want to grant you the office and all the honors and respect that come with it. But if you bypass this, if you try to create your own happiness without regard for your family, this will break apart the way everyone around you relates to you; they could in fact lose you forever, and what you did could give them as much sadness as if you had died. It is quite similar to an aristocrat betraying his or her country. They lose their honors, their place in society, and their own families can no longer relate to them.

When we are young and desirous of love, we wish to avoid the difficulties society throws before us when it comes to love and romance. We wish to find a lover and go live in the woods together without anyone interfering with our lives. The young man will treat his lover like a queen, she will treat him like a king, and everything will be happy ever after. But those who are naive enough to actually go through with such a plan almost invariably end up suffering the greatest misery. All that it takes is a month or two for the honeymoon period of the relationship to be over. When it is over, the two start to take each other more and more for granted. Neither of them sees the other in a socially integrated way; he is no longer a king but a not-too-attractive male with all kinds of annoying habits and shortcomings. She is no longer a queen but a demanding or needy female with an anxiety problem. Neither of them is capable of being the other’s “everything”. They start to miss their previous, socially integrated lives that so effortlessly granted them so much respect and honor, and they wish to get that back. They will enviously look at those who “married right” and who continue to get the love and respect of their families, while they themselves are outcasts who have the tiresome task of being everything for each other.

The problem with romantic relationships outside of marriage is that such relationships have their own gravity that pulls people away from their families and societies, unless they quickly involve their families. As most classical fiction and poetry tells us, romantic relationships make demands on us that can break apart our families and lead to much misery. So an intelligent and pious Muslim girl will avoid romantic entanglements like the plague, knowing that despite the pleasures such relationships bring they can also do the greatest harm to her long-term happiness among her family and friends. Like a good girl in a Victorian novel, she finds it far beneath her to develop a romantic relationship outside of the knowledge and approval of her family. That is something done by low-class and uncultured women, it is not something she does.

If a man falls in love with her and approaches her, if she likes him then she will refer him to her family. She can introduce the matter to her parents, who may ask to see him. If they think it is too early for marriage (maybe they want their daughter to complete her university degree first) but they approve of the man, they can perform the nikāḥ ceremony for them without performing the wedding. This would officially engage them and make it perfectly fine for them, from the point of view of Islamic law, to become romantically attached to one another and to do whatever the typical engaged Western couple do before marriage. This is how marriages work in Iran, whether among Sunni or Shia Iranians. The nikāḥ ceremony makes their engagement official. During the engagement period the man and woman are given freedom to spend time together and go out together, they are considered to be dating. But it is culturally taboo for them to become sexually intimate until after the wedding. If they do become intimate, they do not break any Islamic laws because they have performed the nikāḥ ceremony and are already married according to Islam, they are merely delaying the consummation of the marriage.

In the above way, a man and woman can safely date and get to know one another in a way that enjoys society’s approval and protection. While in the West we often have boyfriends and girlfriends treating each other with the meanest and most disrespectful and hurtful attitudes, by solemnizing the relationship before dating can take place, the couple are forced to be nice and considerate toward one another regardless of how they feel. In the West we run into many people whose self-esteem has been completely shattered because of an abusive partner’s actions toward them. This solemn dating system helps prevent that. Since their families are greatly involved, they feel beholden to everyone around them to act responsibly and respectfully. To a Muslim woman who understands the benefits of this system, it would sound like utter madness to involve herself with a man without enjoying these protections. It would be like a queen going anonymous and getting into a relationship with man on the street who, of course, can treat her with the greatest disregard and disrespect. A queen, by going through the formal, socially approved methods for getting married, ensures that her husband will continue to treat her like a queen. In the same way, a self-respecting Muslim woman demands a husband who will continue to treat her like she is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s niece. The husband is forced to take her social status very seriously, and this ensures even if she has the most infuriating and annoying behaviors, he will tolerate her and not insult her. She, of course, is forced to have the same respectful attitude.

The above is how things work in many relationships in religiously conservative society. Of course, things do not always go perfectly and we have cases of the greatest disrespect and abuse. But the point is the nature of the average relationship in such a society compared to the average relationship in other societies. If 90% of Muslim marriages involve a husband and wife who respect each other greatly compared to 50% of secular Western marriages, then that is a great proof of the superiority of the conservative, Islamic system.

Love and Duty

Sometimes we cannot help it and fall in love with someone our families do not approve of. In such a situation, we have to balance our responsibilities toward our family and friends on the one hand, and our desire for personal fulfillment on the other. It would be highly irresponsible of us to bypass our families and let the romantic relationship take its course (even if we desire to do this with all of our hearts). We should instead try to convince our families to approve of the relationship, and if they are adamantly against it, we should patiently wait. When they see that we are refusing all other marriage opportunities, then they may slowly, after months or years, change their minds. That is the price way pay for enjoying the honors given to us by our religiously conservative societies.

We are free to ignore our families and do whatever we want. But the costs of doing this are very high and very few romantic partners deserve this sacrifice. When your family sees that you are staying loyal to them and patiently waiting for their approval, that is likely to soften their hearts, compared to if you were to try to keep a romantic relationship going out of their sight and enjoying it regardless of what they think.

It is not always easy to be patient or to make the right decisions. But it should always be our goal to mend things between us and our families and friends. We should remain loyal to them and honor them as much as we can the way they honor us. If we make the error of engaging a romantic relationship without their knowledge, we should try to tell them as soon as we can. Our desire for the pleasures of love should be counterbalanced by our knowledge that we have many decades in front of us. The honors our religiously conservative societies grant to us are extremely valuable and we should not let them go to waste, we should instead work to maintain and improve our societies.

In the United States, you have homeless people who have rich family members and relatives who do not care about them. That is what things look like when a society has disintegrated. The reason why society gets in the way of your desire for casual romantic relationships is to prevent that from happening. Our conservative Muslim societies, despite of their myriad problems, are infinitely superior to a society where things are in such a state. Romantic relationships outside of our families’ approval almost always end up damaging our relationship with our families unless things go perfectly, which they rarely do.

Romantic entanglements often force us to make a choice between our loyalty toward our families and our loyalty toward our lovers. The wise and pious thing to do is to not put ourselves in such a situation. Our religiously conservative societies are not against our enjoying ourselves. What they want is for us to do this in a way that enables to keep enjoying society’s benefits, to keep the love and respect of our families and to contribute something back to their happiness. And the way to do this is through having our relationships critiqued and approved by them. Once we have their blessing, we can enjoy ourselves as much as we want in a way that adds to their happiness and to the health of our societies rather than causing harm to them. It is, of course, sometimes a great sacrifice to put our romantic relationships at society’s mercy, letting it decide whether it can go forward or not. But in return for this show of loyalty, we continue to enjoy the great respect and honor that such a society has for us and that we did not do anything to deserve them to begin with. By continuing to respect our religiously conservative societies and holding ourselves to the high standards they demand of us, we can continue to enjoy our Pride and Prejudice-like world.

As for those who have never enjoyed living in such a world (converts, for example), through following traditional Islamic values you can be the initiator of such a world (although it can take generations for it to fully develop and flower).

I should mention that I have never actually seen a Muslim society that lived up to the high standards of good manners and ethics depicted in Pride and Prejudice. It represents an ideal that we can aim for. I should also mention that when young Muslims engage in illicit relationships, their families and societies are often partly responsible. When our children do not get the love and respect they deserve, they seek these things from others when they grow up and get the chance, and a romantic relationship, by promising them a lover that truly loves them and cares for them, can appear as a highly attractive alternative to the lowly lives they currently suffer in their families. Some families treat their children, especially their daughters, as part of their home’s furniture rather than as proper humans to be honored and respected and treated as integral parts of the family’s life. The beautiful thing about Islam is that when everyone tries to follow it as best as they can, they naturally tend toward the beautiful society depicted in Pride and Prejudice. It is when we fail at following Islam’s values, whether through disrespecting our parents or neglecting our children, that we suffer the painful consequences mentioned above.

On giving up a sinful relationship

I was and still am in a “friends with benefit” relationship with a senior in my uni, it wasn’t intimate one but making out and I fell in love with him but he doesn’t love me back. I’m a revert and he happens to be a Qatari. I know we both have sinned but we couldn’t stop each other. I’m attached and each time I want to say no, he kinda blackmails and I give in. It is damaging me and my soul because, he became my strength and I just can’t give up. I deeply love him. Please help

Your situation is similar to any addiction situation, where a person wishes to give up something but does not have the strength to do so. Continuing to be in contact with him would be similar to an alcoholic who wishes to give up alcohol but continues to regularly take a sip of alcohol every now and then, which makes it impossible for them to have the strength to give it up.

The best way to escape that situation would be to cut all contact with him difficult as it would be, telling him that he should either marry you or stop talking to you.

If you are too much in love to consider that, you should try finding a job in a different city or state.

When you are addicted to something sinful, it means it is impossible for you to control your impulses, therefore if you truly want to give up the sin, instead of trying to control your impulses, you should plan against the sinful behavior. By planning I mean coming up with creative ways of making it difficult or impossible for you to engage in the sin. Perhaps you can honestly tell God that you tried to stop sinning but as long as the sin was available you could not stop. But you are still responsible for staying in that situation when there might be alternatives, such as moving to a different town, state or country, which would put an end to the sin.

The Quran says:

Say, “If your parents, and your children, and your siblings, and your spouses, and your relatives, and the wealth you have acquired, and a business you worry about, and homes you love, are more dear to you than God, and His Messenger, and the struggle in His cause, then wait until God executes His judgment.” God does not guide the sinful people.1

Now, God does not ask us for more than we are able to give. Therefore if you truly cannot escape that situation, then complain of your weakness to God, and ask Him sincerely to help you and find a solution for you, and His help will come to you sooner or later inshaAllah. Also see these essays of mine:

Is it forbidden for a Muslim to fall in love with a Christian?

Is falling in love with a Christian is haram?

Falling in love is an involuntary thing and Islam has no rules regarding it. Muslim men are permitted to marry Christian women, while Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men. Therefore if a Muslim woman falls in love with a Christian man, the falling in love in itself is not a sin, but she is not permitted to marry the man if she wants to remain a pious Muslim. Her case would be similar to a man falling in love with a woman who is already married.

Getting over an impossible love

I don’t know if this is gonna sound ridiculous/stupid... but I’ve been having feelings for someone for the past 3 years and I can’t seem to get over it, I make dua Everyday asking Allah to strengthen my heart and remove these feelings, I try to keep myself busy with work and worship but at the end of the day I still come back to this , the worst part is that this person is married. I will never act on this feelings but it hurts a lot that I can’t do anything

Everyone’s life seems to contain some unsolvable problems. It can be a chronic illness, poverty, having a disabled child, having an elderly parent that one is forced to take care of, having a grown child who constantly causes problems, having an uncaring spouse, not being able to find someone to marry, etc. Your unsolvable problem appears to be your love for that person.

The main thing to do regarding life’s unsolvable problems is to accept them, to humbly submit to God’s decree and be thankful that things are not worse, and to realize that God could be saving us from many other problems that others suffer from. If our problem is solved, it is quite possible that a new problem may arise in our lives that is just as serious and painful as the one before, and most people’s lives appears to be a story of going from one unsolvable problem to another. This is how this world works, there is no way to achieve permanent peace in it. This world always promises us utopia but never delivers. Regardless of what we accomplish, in a few days or weeks we are always back to square one, always with new problems, worries and discomforts ruining things for us.

The thing to do is to sit back and understand that this is how the world works. We want to create heaven on Earth, but we can never achieve it. It is far better to keep in mind that this world will soon pass and that the comfort and peace we desire can only be achieved in a different world.

One thing you could do that might help you move on is to read a lot of books (50 or more). As you read more and more, your thinking and understanding will change and this can make it easier to get over the past and look forward to the future. You can check out this page on my my site for a list of books to read.

On stopping having infatuation for a person

How do I stop having infatuation for someone?

People have been asking that for thousands of years and as far as I know no cure has yet been discovered. The best thing to do is to wait patiently, to read the Quran, to read other books, and to try to live life as best as you can until things slowly change for you. Five years from now you may be a completely different person who has moved on to a new and better life.