What is the criterion in meeting (getting to know each other) before the marriage?

The Details of the Question
To what exent should I know A non married muslim sister before I commit to marriage, If we were brought together about it?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In Sunnah we see that there are two ways. The first one is to send a lady whom that person trusts to go see the girl whom he wants to get married with. It is been narrated that Enes bin Malik said about this matter that:
Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) has sent Ummu Sulaim to see a woman for him telling her ‘look above her feet and smell her mouth.’” The reason for Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) requesting Ummu Sulaim to do these tasks is to find out if the woman has nice legs and bad breath smell.1 
This matter has both sides, meaning same case applies for women too. The girl who is going to get married also can send someone to the man whom she is going to get married to see if he has the qualities she is looking for.
According to the Sunnah seeing each other in person is another way of prospecting for the sides who wants to get married. This way the man sees the beauty of her face and body, however while doing that he can only look at her face, her neck and her hands. Her face depicts her beauty, her hands depict elegance and her height depicts if she is tall or short.
There is a direct approval in this matter which is given personally by Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) himself.
According to the story narrated by Ebu Humaid Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) has told:
 “When one of you wants to get married with a woman, there is no inconvenience in looking at her. It is permissible only with the purpose of marrying her. The rule does not change even if the woman he is looking at does not know his intentions. ”2
We even see that Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) encourages this method as in:
Muire bin Shûbe wanted to marry a woman. Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) told him, “Go and see her, for seeing her in person is much better for having the harmony between the two of you.”3
In another hadith we learn how Prophet Mohammad (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) showing us the way of doing it:
 “When one of you wants to get married with a woman, if he can do it, he should look at the attributes and features of the woman that would encourage him to marry her.”4
These hadiths are telling us the necessity, the benefits and the mysteries of seeing each other for the both sides. However there are some limitations during these times of looking at and meeting with each other. First of them is related with the place of the meeting, the following hadith is shows us the way to do it accordingly:
Who among you has faith in Allah and the judgment day, should not stay alone in solitude with a woman who is not related closely to him. If he does that the third among them will be the devil himself.”5
For this reason there should be a third person ready at that place among the sides that got together with the intention of getting married to each other. Otherwise this would lead to the case of being “halvet” which means being alone in a secluded place whish is not permissible. Within this meeting it is possible for the sides to talk, to have a conversation and to ask for their demands and requests from each other. For this the more they talk the more it reveals the thoughts and the intellectual levels of the sides either through their shyness and stuttering or through the tone of their voices.      
After some time through this meeting and conversation both sides will have opinions and impressions of each other which will them to decide. Not long after they would inform their decisions. There is permission to meet only once according to the religion, it would be flippant and not too serious to meet a few times and there would be no benefits in meeting a few times for the family that is to be established by the sides.  
The Shafi'i perspective about this matter is very striking for indicating the importance and the seriousness of the foundation of marriage. The person who wants to get married with someone should see that girl before becoming her suitor. The girl and the family of the girl should not know about this intention. To proceed as such will be much more appropriate for the sake of the honor and dignity of the girl and her family. If he will like the girl after seeing her, then he would proceed with becoming a suitor so both the girl and the family of the girl would not be hurt and offended. This is the way that is reasonable and worth praising. It is confirmed by the hadiths which states that looking is permissible either with or without the permission of the girl.6
From that moment on, in the further meetings till the wedding clearly there is no inconvenience in looking at each other unless there is any lustful feelings as in looking at any other stranger women. 
1 Hâkim, el-Müstedrek, 2: 166.
2 Neylü’l-Evtâr, 6: 110.
3 Neseî, Nikâh: 17.
4 Hâkim, el-Müstedrek, 2: 165.
5 Buharî, Nikâh: 111.
6 İslâm Fıkhı Ansiklopedisi, 9: 24.

Mehmed Paksu Aileye Özel Fetvalar

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