How should engagement and the period of engagement be? What should the criterion for the engaged couple to meet each other be?
After the couple to be married sees each other, talks to each other and agrees to marry, an engagement ceremony is arranged. Since an engagement is regarded as a contract, nobody else can ask for the engaged girl’s hand in marriage. Engagement is a common tradition in our country; it is also present in Islam. As a matter of fact our Prophet (PBUH) married Hazrat Aisha after an engagement period of about three years. After the couple to be married sees each other, talks to each other and agrees to marry, an engagement ceremony is arranged. Since an engagement is regarded as a contract, nobody else can ask for the engaged girls hand in marriage. Engagement is a common tradition in our country; it is also present in Islam. As a matter of fact our Prophet (PBUH) married Hazrat Aisha after an engagement period of about three years. Thus engagement is also regarded as a sunnah. (1)
After the engagement ceremony the first attempts to set up a relationship between the families are started. The parties send each other presents and preparations for the wedding start. The sign for the couples to be married are the rings. The man can only wear a silver ring since it is not appropriate for him to wear a ring made of gold or other metals.
Engagement is only a promise to marry and the beginning of marriage. It is not fair to break the promise without a just reason such as death or an illness that occurred afterwards. However, since marriage does go into effect only by engagement, neither of the parties has to keep their promise in terms of Islamic law, because offer and acceptance which are present in marriage are not present in engagement.
The most significant use of engagement for both parties is that it is a precautionary measure applied to base marriage on a sound basis. The breaking of an engagement due to some just reasons is less harmful than a probable divorce in the future. Although it is necessary to talk about everything before the engagement fully, the engagement contract can be broken if there are serious indications that the engaged couple will not be able to be happy.
If the engagement is broken, the parties can return the presents they have given to each other. If the presents have been damaged or lost, their price can be demanded. Something that is not paid attention and ignored from time to time during the engagement period is that the parties regard themselves as married and violate the boundaries of privacy.
As we have mentioned before, the people to be married can see each other only when people go and ask the girls parents for her hand in marriage. Otherwise it is not appropriate for the engaged couple to see each other, to talk to each other and take a walk alone unless they make a marriage contract. They are regarded as namahram to each other. If there is a necessity for them to have a talk, there must be a relative of the girl or the woman with them. 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 namahram woman; then the third person with them will be the devil."(2)
As a result of ignoring the boundaries of privacy between the engaged couple by regarding the engagement as a marriage, there occur many regrettable and troublesome happenings for families in the society. It should not be ignored that there will be the possibility of making mistakes which will cause the parties to feel sorry as a result of not paying attention to privacy. Both parties should be careful not to violate the boundaries of privacy before the marriage contract goes into effect.
The engaged couple should not only see each other and talk to each other alone but also avoid shaking hands with each other. Even during the marriage ceremony unless the marriage contract is signed, they should not violate the boundaries of privacy. Only after the marriage contract goes into effect, will they be halal to each other.
In some regions in our country religious marriage is applied during the engagement ceremony; thus the drawback for the engaged couple to see and talk to each other is eliminated. Under Islamic law they are regarded as husband and wife; however, since the official marriage is applied later, the marriage contract does not go into effect. However, a religious marriage that is applied in the presence of two witnesses in accordance with the requirements of offer and acceptance makes the engaged couple halal to each other. They may see each other and talk to each other alone, shake hands, have a walk.
Although they have become halal to each other and have agreed to become together lifelong and take some risks after saying yes to each other, there are numerous advantages of being careful in their relationship during the engagement period by taking into consideration the worst possibilities. In particular, the would-be groom should understand the sensitivity of the girls relatives. It should be known that such sensitivity is based on caution not on distrust. Such caution is necessary, God forbid, to prevent the parties from having a guilty conscience and from having a second attempt to marry in case the engagement is broken.
By the way, we should make the following clear: when an engagement is broken, the girl or woman is not religiously allowed to marry another man if she has had religious marriage and if it is still valid. The marriage she does with another man is not valid. In order for the womans marriage to become valid, her previous fiancé (husband) must divorce her first. If he divorces her, she can marry another man. She does not need to have a waiting period. Otherwise the girl cannot marry another man unless her previous fiancé divorces her. It is not taken into consideration whether they have become husband and wife or not. The religious marriage that was applied indicates that the parties are married. If the girl marries another man without divorcing first, her marriage is invalid. The case for the man is different. He may marry another woman while he is married. (3)
1. Müslim, marriage: 69.
2. Müsned, 3: 339
3. Nisa Chapter, 3.
Reference : Mehmet Paksu, Kadın, Aile, Hayat, Nesil Yayınları
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