She says, “It’s halal.” He says, “No, it’s haram.” So begins an online dating conversation in the world of Islam.
Online dating is a relatively new phenomenon. There are few hard and fast rules to guide a prospective Muslim couple’s online dating behaviour.
Instead, the prospective husband and wife must apply their best judgment. Judgment grounded in ancient scripture, mixed with the erratic conventions of the online dating scene.
Not everyone in the online dating community, much less every observant Muslim, is up to speed with the terms separating “haram” from “halal”. As we’ll explain, though, this is more than a simple case of “he said/she said”.
What Are Halal and Haram?
The sacred Qu’ran and Islamic law (Shari’ah) see halal and haram as opposites. Halal is approved behaviour, while haram is usually perceived as sin.
A lot is at stake in being able to distinguish the two. In today’s global society, such a distinction can be all but impossible to make. There are too many contingencies.
Halal vs Haram
These contrasting concepts most likely originated with Islam itself, between the late BCE and early CE. At that time, they appeared to refer most often to food and health choices. Muslims still refer to “haram food” and “halal food”.
Still, these concepts ultimately come down to people’s personal decisions. Those decisions extend, literally and metaphorically, beyond the realm of food.
For instance, “riba”, which means monetary interest, possibly usury, is haram. Engaging in an unequal exchange with another person creates an exploitative relationship. Thus, it is sinful.
However, when someone gives the interest (e.g., stock dividends) to a charitable cause, it is halal.
Another example of the fine line separating halal from haram is with streaming television services. The viewer must make a judgment call. That call relates to factors like:
- Program content
- Amount of time spent watching
- How the streaming companies use subscriber payments
How does halal vs haram play out when it comes to online dating?
The Role of Online Dating in Islam
It’s generally known that devout Muslims draw a line separating the Islam-sanctioned style of dating and what goes on with couples from other (often Western) faiths.
Islamic Marriage Traditions
Isn’t it surprising that Muslims would date at all, including online? Traditionally, marriages in Islam have been arranged by parents and other relatives acting as “matchmakers”.
When one eager family networks with members of other marriage-ready sons or daughters, they hope to discover a perfect match for the eligible future wife or husband-to-be.
Once a family has identified a possible future spouse, the couple moves on to a courtship phase. One or more chaperones escort them to dinners and other events so they can get to know each other.
In many cases today, though, the courtship can go in different directions:
- If both members of the couple agree the match is a good one, they continue the courtship until someone sets a marriage date.
- One or both members of the couple might go along with the courtship to assuage family worries — while discretely dating others.
- The entire family (or most of them) agree that, in the 21st Century, a single person might need more latitude in choosing a future mate.
What, then, should be permissible in today’s Muslim dating protocols, especially given the social prohibitions surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic?
Online Dating for Muslims Today
In recent decades, some Muslim families have compromised on traditions and expectations. Career-focused young people face different realities than their parents did due to changed cultural norms.
Like those of other faiths, many Muslims now live and work far from their families and their expectations. While quite a few still adhere to Islamic beliefs and practices, some rituals are no longer feasible.
A young Muslim career woman could hardly expect her mother or another family member to chaperone her on a date if they live many miles away. Plus, living in a majority non-Muslim place can bring new pressures.
What about work-related social invitations from culturally mixed groups? These can be both tempting and necessary. A young Muslim may not want or expect to be excused from such an event on religious grounds.
Online dating — at least certain Islam-approved sites — serves as a sort of compromise. It offers a neutral ground for independent-minded young adults and their more conservative elders and family members.
The latter want to guard the former against sinful actions.
Is Online Dating Allowed in Islam?
As mentioned earlier, there can be a blurred line between halal and haram. And as we all know, dating brings people very close to that line, if not over it.
For those needing a way to find a future spouse and uphold Shari’ah, using the right online dating site could be the answer. It can’t be just any site, though.
For halal online dating, the site must understand and promote the observance of Islamic law. Still, as with any faith, how young people interpret dating rules is contingent on how they process that law.
What follows is a brief discussion of some of the more popular Muslim dating sites and the degree to which each adheres to Shari’ah.
Muzmatch was the first and now “world’s biggest” community for single Muslims to find partners. The company was started in 2014 by an engineer and a former banker to solve the Muslim dating dilemma.
As one of the founding partners explained, “For Muslims, marriage is such a big part of your life. We don’t really date, we marry.”
Yet Muzmatch owes much of its success to an ability to combine cultural expectations with the chattiness and other conventions of most online social media interactions — not significantly different from other dating sites.
One exception might be Muzmatch’s option to invite an online “chaperone”.
At the other end of the Muslim online dating spectrum is Minder, often referred to as “the Muslim Tinder”. This dating app launched the year after Muzmatch — and with a somewhat different approach.
For instance, when creating dating profiles, new members are asked to indicate their religiosity on a scale, from “Not practising” to “Very religious.”
While of some relevance to non-Muslims, for Muslims, information like this is essential for dating success. So is a question asking about the Islamic sect to which a member belongs.
Following the precedent of the religion-neutral app Bumble, ESHQ has turned the gender tables and put Muslim women in charge of their dating experience. As the site puts it:
“We want you to take ownership of conversations. Ladies, when there’s a mutual match, you have 48 hours to initiate the conversation. Of course, fancy pickup lines are optional, but you may be surprised how far they can take you.”
Many women are pleased to have slower, more extended courtship processes.
Pure Matrimony has a clear purpose: for the subscriber to find a marriage partner in the most expeditious yet traditional Muslim way possible.
As they explain, “Our ethos is based upon the Quranic ayah in which Allah states ‘women of Purity are for men of Purity and men of Purity are for women of Purity'” (Quran 24:26).
Hawaya and other new entrants to the traditional Islam online dating scene have missions similar to Pure Matrimony.
Other Muslim Dating Sites
Among several other Muslim dating sites that emerged in recent years are Muslima, MalaysianCupid, Shaadi and eHarmony. The last, eHarmony, was originally a conservative Christian-leaning dating platform.
Launched in the U.S. in 2000, the values eHarmony espoused and its unique personality tests appealed to some U.S. Muslims. This was when there were no Muslim-specific online dating sites.
Now, eHarmony has a site targeting Muslims directly. It includes “mature” Muslim singles, as does another newer dating site, Islamic Marriage.
These older Muslims comprise widowed men and women and those who haven’t found a wife or husband. Most dating sites overlook this population.
The Verdict: Is Online Dating Haram or Halal?
The 21st Century has brought rapid and often unpredictable change to the ways people interact socially. Cultural norms and generational differences, which have always caused friction, are as palpable as ever.
Even so, generational differences, sometimes outright clashes, have always played a role in cultural evolution.
When all is said and done, many Muslim parents (even some grandparents) see online dating sites as an apt compromise among different generations and cultural expectations.
Is online dating halal in Islam? There is no right way to answer this since “halal vs haram” comes down to an individual’s decisions and behaviours.
While most online dating sites for Muslims strive to be halal, they (and we) can only hope their subscribers comply.
The Future of Muslim Courtship and Marriage
Muslim parents and other relatives might feel relieved about the chances online dating sites offer young people. After all, these sites’ goal is helping their children find marriage partners.
Might older generations also be nervous about a possible dissolution of the values that have held Islam together for centuries? And how long will the line dividing halal vs haram remain a solid one? Only time will tell.
At Crescent Wealth, though, we remain steadfast in our support of the Islamic faith. We will continue to uphold its values and demonstrate them to future generations through our principles and actions.
Feel free to contact us today!
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