As a courtship progresses, each partner will begin to learn about one another more deeply. It’s important to consider when and how you will share deeply personal experiences with a potential partner. Some details about you or your family may feel private. It’s important to be transparent, but also important to safeguard your (and your family’s) privacy.
The best time to share more personal information might be once:
Your ultimate priority should be to share that which is in the best interest of your relationship. This does not mean that you owe it to a potential spouse to divulge all of your private information before marriage and expect them to do the same. Rather, it means that you carefully consider the following question: What benefit will this information provide to the overall health of the relationship in the short-term and long-term?
People often wonder whether they should share about their past behaviors, for example, bad habits or emotional/sexual relationships. The general Islamic principle is that once you’ve fully repented from a sin, you are not to reveal it voluntarily. Therefore, you are not expected to divulge behaviors of your past if they are no longer a part of your life and will not impact your potential spouse and marriage. However, consider that behaviors and people of the past may resurface in the future, and this may impact your marriage.
There is a significant difference between a sin committed in the past and an addiction. A key marker of addiction is when a person finds it incredibly difficult to stop the behavior, even when they want to. If you are struggling with an addiction, this will undoubtedly impact your marriage and should be communicated to a potential spouse. Addictions require treatment and thrive off of secrecy and isolation. Recognize the signs of addiction and seek help.
You are also obligated to share when your past or present behaviors can impact your potential spouse and your marriage. For example, if you’ve contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from a previous sexual relationship, you must share this information with a potential spouse. Other examples include mental health disorders, physical illnesses, significant debt, experiences of abuse that prevent you from forming healthy emotional bonds, and/or alcohol/drug addictions. A perpetual sin that is not an addiction may also need to be shared. Your potential spouse has the right to know about these behaviors before committing to the relationship.
In thinking about whether or not to share, consider the following questions:
Be wise in when and how you share information. Don’t share to gain pity or sympathy, and don’t reveal your shortcomings aimlessly. You should still try to allow your potential spouse to see you in a good light while being as genuine as possible.
If you decide to share your past, take ownership of the situation. Sincerely reflect on what you’ve learned from the experience and how it has impacted you.
Consider sharing these guidelines with him/her and agree to apply them when discussing sensitive topics. Deciding to share can be difficult and complicated. It requires nuance and must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure whether to share or withhold something from a potential spouse, consult a trusted advisor or see a counselor to help you think through this decision.
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The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.
It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.
“Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.
Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD
Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina. He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).