Thank you for reaching out! This is such a common dilemma for many Muslim Americans, and is something that people are very conflicted on, where you have the haram police on one end saying “Absolutely not,” while others are telling you not only that you can, but that you should. So what do you do?
Getting to know someone before involving family, or in other words “halal dating,” is something a lot of people resort to, because the idea of entering into something more official with someone we barely know is, quite frankly, terrifying. Involving family from the start can sometimes add so much pressure to the relationship from the get-go, and it makes either or both people in the relationship feel stuck, and like they have to make it work because they end up worrying about, “what this person will think,” or “what will they say.” This leads to serious red flags being overlooked for the sake of pleasing others, and to avoid being the subject of gossip.
We touched on this a bit in a previous response to the question, “What is halal dating?” and as I mentioned in it, I personally feel that there is nothing wrong with getting to know someone on your own, as long as you know you can set, discuss, and maintain boundaries with each other. It’s important to discuss early on what your intentions are, what your hard no’s are, your goals, expectations, and what you hope to get out of marriage, and life in general to make sure that you both are on the same page.
I would also suggest that if you are to meet in person, to either get together with a group of friends, or to bring a third wheel along to be at least in the same place as you. There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about that. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, no matter how comfortable or well you think you know the person.
So, in other words, you should behave in the same way your parents would expect you to if you were to ask and receive their permission. And that usually means with boundaries and some supervision. Take it upon yourself to be responsible in this situation. As my parents would never fail to remind me, “Even if we can’t see you, Allah is always watching you.”
Which leads me to another point–you didn’t mention how old you are, so I would say if you are younger, like still in high school, for example, I would definitely wait until you are more mature and responsible enough to make smarter and more well-thought-out decisions. When we’re younger, our hormones are running wild, and it can lead us to make impulsive decisions based on what our heart wants, and what we think is cool, rather than what is right. This can get you into some trouble if you aren’t careful.
But if you are older, mature enough, and in a place in your life where you are ready to start getting to know someone for the sake of marriage, then I think it makes sense to take the time to make sure whether you are serious or compatible enough before taking the more serious step of discussing it with your parents. Because what if you come to find, after only a short period of time, that it’s just not working out, and you’re no longer interested? It becomes a tad bit harder to call it off when family are in the picture.
It, of course, would help and not hurt if you can confide in at least someone you can trust in your family, like a sibling or your mom, if you feel comfortable enough to. But Baba, can wait until you’re both more ready and sure about moving forward with things.
When I was in your situation, my now husband and I talked for a while before we told our families. Since it was long distance, we were only able to talk via MSN messenger and over the phone with international calling cards that gave us a set time limit to talk. That was until magicJack came about and completely changed the game, lol.
I waited a few months to tell my mom, and it actually took years until the time came when my mom finally approved of him asking my father for my hand, which is why I suggested to wait until you are in the right place in your life to move forward with something like that, especially if it is long distance.
I was a junior in high school when we started talking, and my mom was 100% against him asking for my hand until I graduated college because she wanted me to focus on school (even though we still talked throughout that entire time). However, it put a lot of stress on our relationship and on our lives because of all the uncertainty and discomfort of having to keep it a secret for so long.
In hindsight, I wish I had waited until I was a little older and more ready to get into something so serious, even though at the time I couldn’t understand my mom’s point of view, and would constantly fight with her about it. But now, I knew she was right.
Alhamdulillah, things went smoothly, and my father approved. I really think a lot of it had to do with the timing. It happened when it was meant to happen. And now, I am actually grateful for all of that time we had, and for what we had to go through, because it really tested our relationship, and made us more sure about what we wanted.
That being said, the same process does not always work or apply to everyone because each person’s situation is different. So, if it would make you more comfortable if your parents know, and/or if you have a strong feeling about him from the start, and want to pursue it seriously, the Islamic way, from the very beginning, then you should do that.
So, my last words of advice to you would be: Take your time. Think with your mind and not just your heart, and do what you genuinely feel is right. Know your worth, and never settle for anything less than you know you deserve. And finally, never let anyone overstep or disrespect your God-given boundaries. Keep it halal, stay safe, and listen to your instincts no matter what.
Here are some great videos that offer more perspectives on and experiences with this topic:
I hope this advice and these videos are helpful, and will make you more comfortable with whatever decision you feel is best.
Best of luck, and Inshallah, we’ll hear back from you with a positive update!