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Involving the Family

Involving the Family

If your family plays a significant role in your life and this is a decision they expect to be part of, it is wise to consider their opinions early on and often in the marriage process, preferably before you begin courting someone. Please note that some of the advice in this section may not apply for people in a variety of circumstances, for example, if they are much older or if their family does not play a large role in their life. If this is the case for you, consider involving a trusted friend, elder, or community leader instead.

Talking to Your Family About Marriage

Having honest, respectful conversations with your family about your expectations and theirs, is the first step to building understanding. Ultimately, both the parents and their adult-child want each other to be happy. If they can articulate that to each other, it can result in more positive conversations.

Some families experience tension because a couple has already decided to marry without involving their families. Therefore, it is important to honor your parents by including them from the start with honest and respectful conversations. Below are some questions you can use to get the conversation started.

How do I talk to my family about marriage?

Involving the Family

Ask your parents these questions:

  • What type of person do you hope I marry? Tell me more about why this is important to you.
  • What do you think it means to be prepared for marriage?
  • What role do you see yourself playing in the marriage process?
  • How would you ideally like me to meet someone for marriage?
  • If I am interested in someone, how do you expect me to proceed?
  • What types of boundaries do you expect me to uphold before marriage?
  • What are your thoughts about texting, phone calls, online, in-person meetings, etc.?
  • How long do you feel the courting process should take?
  • How will our family and my potential partner’s family get to know one another?
  • What is your wish for me?
  • If we don’t agree, how can we meet in the middle where we are both pleased
  • How did you get married? What worked and didn’t work in the process for you?
  • What advice do you have for me?
  • What role do you see yourself playing in my life when I get married?

You and your family may not see eye to eye on some aspects of the marriage process. One common point of tension for families is how long a courtship should be. Sometimes out of excitement or because of cultural expectations, your family may expect a quick courtship. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable with you talking to someone for more than a few weeks without deciding to commit. 

Some people get to know their partners deeply over a shorter period, while others require more time. There is no magic number for how long a courtship should last before you know that you want to marry someone. What’s important is that you are spending quality (halal) time with the person. This means asking critical questions and interacting with them/their family in different ways. Depending on your circumstances, cultural/family values, and whether the relationship is a long-distance one, this can look different for each couple.

The duration of your courtship does not determine how compatible you are with someone. But allowing for a slow, thorough, and intentional courtship can have three positive consequences:

  1. It allows for that initial burst of excitement about the new relationship to wear off a bit so that you can both be more objective in your decision-making. 
  2. It can provide you with more information about each other. This is important because it takes time to get to know someone on a deep level and to observe their character. 
  3. It ensures that you have done your due diligence in learning more about yourself, identifying your needs, and assessing compatibility.

If this is a point of tension with your family, share these reasons and explain why you may need more time during a courtship. Ask (don’t assume) about what makes your family uncomfortable with taking things slowly. Together, talk about how you can address their concerns while allowing you enough time to make a confident decision.

Some families might have strict expectations about courtship and limit speaking or interacting with a potential spouse until after the marriage ceremony. It is important to have conversations with your parents about their expectations regarding courtship and to discuss options that allow you to get to know a potential spouse before making a decision. If your parents expect you to have no contact with a potential spouse and are uncompromising about this, you may need to get creative in using various methods to gather information about this person before making a decision:

  • Consult with an elder in your family and/or community whose values you trust and who knows you well – perhaps an uncle or aunt who is close to you. Ask them to meet with the potential and give you feedback about them. Give them a list of questions you would like them to ask the person. Ask them what their impression was, and whether they see compatibility between the two of you.
  • Ask the person for references, and have a family member or trusted mentor speak to each reference. See the Courtship Roadmap For the Potential Couple section for a list of questions to ask a reference.
  • Find the person on social media, and observe what you can about their posts, likes, friends, and people they follow. Does their online presence reflect a person whom you’d consider committing to?


The information that you gather from different sources should yield a consistent characterization of the potential spouse. An inconsistent testimony about his/her character, for example, would be a red flag to note and address. See Section 4 for a discussion on red flags.

 



If you feel that you still need more expansive and direct contact with the potential spouse before moving ahead, re-engage your parents about the courtship process. Explain to them why you feel the expected process is not working for you. If that does not work, seek out the help of a local community leader, imam, or family friend/elder that your parents respect and ask them to intervene on your behalf.

The marriage process usually intensifies existing family dynamics – like poor communication or mismatched expectations between parents and their children. Knowing this means that you can better prepare for potential conflict as you discuss marriage with your family.

In the case that your parents or other family members disapprove of your choice of partner, it’s important to distinguish between genuine concerns or red flags your family may have observed about the person – and less sensible reasons for their disapproval like their own cultural preferences or cultural/racial biases. Some parents may also discourage a marriage because they were not involved at the start of the courtship. 

In situations where family members unreasonably assert their authority in preventing a marriage, it’s important to balance between respecting their wishes and making your own choice. But don’t make such a decision without support. If you find yourself in this situation, get help from a mediator such as an imam, trusted friend, or community leader to help facilitate these difficult conversations between you and your family. Consider working with a marriage counselor as well. 

Whether or not you are experiencing conflict with family, involving people you trust in the marriage process is indispensable. This is especially important if you are estranged or live far from family, or if you are a convert whose family may not understand certain cultural nuances you deal with as a Muslim. The people you reach out to for support should not be peers but rather older, more mature individuals who have more life experience to help guide you through this process. They are the kind of people who can help you stay focused on what matters most in a relationship, avoid crossing personal or religious boundaries, and be a sounding board for you as you think through any decisions.


Involving the Family

 

While marriages that begin with peace and family blessings are easier to navigate and maintain, religious rulings in Islam address the rights of the individual when parents obstruct a marriage for invalid reasons. The Quran states, “Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner.” (2:232) A couple that does not have the blessing of their parents to marry has two choices: end the relationship or proceed with the marriage without parental consent. Both options have long-term consequences, and a couple will be making a decision that will forever impact their future relationship with their parents.

 

Finally, there is no compulsion in marriage. Both parties must agree to marry one another and they cannot be forced to marry one another. The Prophet said, “A woman who has been previously married has more right concerning herself than her guardian, and a [previously unmarried woman’s] consent must be asked about herself…” (Bukhari and Muslim).

How Family Communication Impacts the Marriage Process

When talking to family about marriage, poor communication or mismatched expectations can make things challenging. These tips can help. 

For Parents:
How to Support Your Children Through the Marriage Process

Thinking about marriage?

Check out the Marriage Prep Toolkit for all the resources you need.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

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.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

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

About Shaikh Ali

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).