What does engagement mean in Islam? Is it a party where the fiancé/fiancée exchange rings? Actually no, it is not.
Engagement according to Islamic Shariah means that a man asks a woman or her guardian for her hand in marriage. It is a proposal for or a promise of marriage.
There are no specific practices that must be followed for engagement in Islamic Shariah.
There are some regulations for engagement that need to be observed:
- The woman should be eligible for engagement, as it is impermissible to engage some women in some particular circumstances, for example.
- Women whom a Muslim cannot marry (maharem): “Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster mother who gave you suck, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives’ mothers, your step daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in – but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in them (to marry their daughters), – the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you. All others are lawful, provided you seek (them in marriage) with Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property, desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, so with those of whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [Quran.com 4/23-24].
- A woman during her ‘Iddah (waiting period after revocable divorce or death of a prior husband).
- A woman engaged to another man. The Muslim is not permitted to covet what his Muslim brother possesses, afflict him with harm or hurt his feelings. This is also to prevent the woman from abandoning the first suitor, if she is tempted by the proposal of the other suitor. It was narrated that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “A believer is the brother of a believer, so it is not lawful for a believer neither to outbid his brother nor to propose to a woman who is engaged by his brother unless; he leaves (the woman).” [Ahmad and Muslim].
- A Muslim woman cannot get engaged or marry a non-Muslim. “They (Muslim women) are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them (Muslim women).” [Quran.com 60/10].
- A suitor is allowed to look (Know how she looks) at the woman’s face to whom he wishes to propose. According to the hadith, “When any one of you proposes marriage to a woman, if he can look at that which will encourage him to go ahead and marry her, then let him do so.” [Abu Dawood].
- A woman must be asked for her opinion (free to accept or refuse the man) and she cannot be forced in any form.
- Up on approval on the betrothal both are not allowed to be alone together before marriage but amongst others and behave respectfully. The warning of our prophet (PBUH) is clear to that effect: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not stay alone with a not mahram woman (a woman he can marry); then the third person with them will be the devil (encouraging sin).” [Müsnad Ahmad].
- When more than one suitor proposes to a woman at the same time, her guardian in such a case is entitled to choose the best of them in terms of religiousness and noble morals. He should perform Istikhaarah(the guidance-seeking prayer) and consult righteous people.