Find answers to your questions about family life, dating, marriage and parenting.
Q There are a number of speed dating programmes set up for Muslim professionals. Is this something that is allowed in Islam?
The answer is yes but within certain limits. Within Islam there is no fixed way of finding a spouse. The reason why I think programmes like speed-dating have become popular within Muslim communities is because the traditional methods like arranged marriages are not working as well in a country like Britain.
Dating, however, with no intention of marriage is frowned upon within Islam because this might lead to promiscuity.
I think the important point in all of this is that you've got to do your homework before launching into it. It is important to get to know the other side thoroughly and this is where I think the arranged marriage is quite good, where your parents and family get involved.
I'm not sure if speed dating is the best way to get to know your future partner properly and in some cases could be too fast.
You need scholars to back up the project, decide the framework, and to supervise it. I was a supervisor for one of these projects a couple of times and it worked well, I was very keen to make it happen in the right way. Through supervising, you can tell people about the concept behind it and that it's in a safe environment.
At a couple of events which I have attended people were accompanied by the parents, which added to the feeling of security. It's not something fishy, it's something which is needed in the community. We need to open up new links, new ways to find the right match, but it has to be in an Islamic way.
Marriage is the first cell of your community, the husband and wife, then family, then community, then the whole country. This concept is encouraged and supported by many verses and by the Sunnah. In this day and age it is difficult to find the right partner. The traditional way of organizing a marriage isn't always suited to our time today. The older generation want the younger to continue the same practice they had fifty years ago - in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, or elsewhere - with a particular kind of arranged marriage. It would rarely work here.
I believe that Islam would permit for the arranging and meeting, in a controlled environment, between two individuals who have the intention of getting married. However this has to be done under strict supervision with no room for any incorrect acts to take place. If they are engaging for reasons other than marriage then that would not be permitted.
It's recommended that a mahram, a guardian, is present but not an absolute condition, as there are other people at the event.
Islam teaches that when an individual reaches the age of marriage then one should not delay getting married if they have the means to do so. The Blessed Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) said that a man marries a woman for four reasons: for her wealth, for her beauty, for her family status and for her religion. He recommended choosing one who is religiously inclined so that one can be happy and prosperous in life. If the other three qualities are present in the woman then good but otherwise one should not be worried too much.
Q When meeting a potential marriage partner, are Muslims required to have a chaperone or can they meet in private?
In a modern British context, it is fine for men and women to meet in a public place, such as a café for instance, without a chaperone.
If a man and a woman meet in a public place then there is no need for a chaperone - Islam has no objection to this. So it's fine if the meeting takes place at a university or café but we must be aware of the purity of the intention.
Being open with your parents is also important, especially if you decide to take it forward - this can minimise a lot of hassle and heart-ache. Ultimately, it has to be within the right frame, the right space and place. However the customs and traditions of community should also be taken into consideration so that the reputation of both the male and female are not ruined.
The Islamic way of finding a partner ensures that the female is always protected and given security, and so she is not taken advantage of.
Q Can women refuse offers of marriage against the wishes of her parents?
You can say no to your parents. They should definitely advise as they will have more experience but they can’t force their children into marriage. Parents should always be respected but you should only marry someone of your own free choice.
Yes absolutely. This is one of the conditions of marriage - without the consent or permission of the bride and bridegroom there can be no marriage.
A traditional arranged marriage will be proposed by the parents but the woman should have freely given her consent before the marriage can go ahead. Her parents can make recommendations, but the final decision should be hers.
Forced marriages are however forbidden for both women and men. During the time of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh a young woman called Khansa came to the Prophet to ask his advice. She said: ‘My father is trying to get me to marry someone against my will’. Taking the Prophet’s advice she refused to marry and highlighted the right of women to choose their husband in Islam. It was a very courageous act and was supported by the Prophet.
I recently replied to a long email from a woman suffering in her marriage, which she had been forced into 15 years ago. She said ‘I love Islam, but I don’t want to dislike my Lord because of the practices of people – is what they are doing really Islamic?’ I replied that in fact this is a cultural practice that has been wrapped in an Islamic wrapper. All the packaging is supposedly Islamic but I can open it up and show you that inside it’s fake. These things have nothing to do with Islam, as Islam respects your choice.
Islam teaches that we should be obedient to our parents; we should honour and respect them, especially when they tell us to do something that is lawful. Islam also says that if our parents or others tell us to do something that is haram, we don't have to obey even our parents.
When it comes to a marriage partner we have every right to let our parents know of our approval or disapproval. If we disapprove of the choice, we should do it for good reasons not just because it is our parents who have chosen that partner. If you feel that the individual is not religious enough and therefore will harm your own religious chasteness or if you are aware that they are involved in bad habits and they are not showing any signs of changing themselves then these are valid reasons to disagree with your parents.
But at no point should you feel obliged to go ahead with a marriage if you are not happy because it is your right to be happy with your marriage partner and no one should force you to marry someone you don't want to marry.
Q Is circumcision for boys compulsory in Islam?
The jurists differ on whether it is compulsory or highly recommended. It is a tradition following on from the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the Old Testament the prophet Abraham was circumcised at the age of 80 years old.
I think there is no reason why newborn babies shouldn't be circumcised, but it is not obligatory for male converts. Although not obligatory (especially for adult male converts) it is highly recommended.