Family & relationships
Two of our advisors give their reflections on family and relationships below.
- Browse the Family & Relationships Q&A.
Whereas strong familial and community relationships are ideally the foundations of a good society, dating is a particular kind of relationship which has become a prominent but controversial issue for many Muslims.
Marriage amongst Muslims was traditionally arranged in a way that there was little or no contact between the boy and girl prior to the wedding.
In recent years, as people want to know their prospective partners before marriage, many Muslims are spending time alone as a couple before they make a final decision. Some argue categorically that this practice is not Islamic. Others argue that whereas dating in the western sense has not been a traditional practice in Muslim cultures, spending time with someone with a view to marriage is permitted and fulfils a natural desire for companionship before any final commitment is made.
Modern living can make complex demands on our emotions but if people observe modesty in any relationship, then they are acting within the parameters of Islam.
Marriage is celebrated within Islam as the ideal way for men and women to come together to form a family, a relationship of partnership and mutual support and for the birth and nurturing of the next generation.
Muslims believe that God has created everything in pairs and marriage is about partnership and mutuality: 'And among His signs, is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, so that you may live in peace and tranquillity with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts... (Qur'an, 30:21).
Within the relationship of marriage, intimacy between husband and wife is seen as a perfectly natural and wholesome part of human life. People were encouraged by the Prophet to marry early and it is often said that marriage is 'half of the faith'.
Over the 1400 years of Muslim history, Muslims have migrated throughout the world and organically developed local customs and cultures, including patriarchal approaches to marriage and roles within the family. One can therefore see wide variations across the world in attitudes towards customs and ceremonies of marriage, finding partners, organising the family, gender roles within the family, respect towards elders, etc. But according to Islam voluntary choice, for both bride and groom, in entering the marriage is an absolute condition for its validity. Forced marriages are therefore not allowed.
Aspects of married life such as gender roles are also now under scrutiny as developing ideas around Islamic feminism, though at a very early stage, have started to critique the impact of patriarchy on Muslim culture and thought.