As-Salaam Alaikum. I am a 34 years old Muslim woman who recently divorced. My friends have introduced me to a practicing Muslim guy. Since that moment, we really get along with each other. We have spoken about marriage and our expectations, and we both want similar things. After my very first meeting with him, I had a very strong feeling that this was the guy I was going to marry. I prayed istikharah and felt good. But then I felt the guy started drifting from me. Although I really liked him, I put my trust in Allah and prayed for Him to do what is best for me. He still kept contacting me regularly but was distant. I was really confused because anytime I prayed istikharah, I felt good about this engagement. After two and a half months, he finally told me what the problem was; he said he really liked me and really wanted to marry me, but because we had not had any physical contact (as we are both practicing Muslims), he was scared what if we got married and did not connect physically. He is praying istikharah as well, but this now has left me feeling really confused. Can you give me any help or guidance on this? Jazakallah.
RESPONSE by Karim Serageldin
As-Salamu ’Alaikum Sister,
I identify two major concerns in your question: 1) the istikhara 2) No physical contact with the man you might get married.
First of all, you must know that Istikhara is a du’aa’ in which a person prays to Allah to guide him to reach a right decision. The point of Istikhara is not to invoke miraculous signs or dreams about the correct choice to be made, but it is instead an official “letting go” of attachment to any particular result or choice in a matter. Often times, we pray Istikhara, but it is trite, insincere action because we have already decided what we want to do, even though Allah and His reasons may be indicating a different course of action.
Second, to make an Istikhara does not mean that a person abandons all other necessary inquiries. A person must carry out all efforts necessary to reach a correct decision, even after making Istikhara. If you only follow the Istikhara results and do not make other required efforts and investigations, your decision might be mistaken. With that said, the reason for your confusion is because you are focusing only on the results of Istikhara, and when you felt that he was distant (for an understandable reason), you started to doubt if you should marry him or not.
Use common sense, sister. Alhamdulillah, you got two positive answers from people you trust which is a great sign, and on top of that and equally important, you feel right about this brother. As you said, you both share expectations and have feelings for each other. Besides the answers from your prayers, you both seem to want the same thing, and I don’t see why you both aren’t taking the steps to get to know each other more and then take a decision.
Regarding his fear to marry you without any physical contact, the first step to connect physically is having connection emotionally. As I said, it is understandable that he is scared; getting married is a lifetime decision and requires many things to succeed, such as feelings, intimacy, comprehension, respect and so on.
I could not see your question if you both ever met in person. If not, it is not against Islam to do so. You should get to know each other more than 2 months before doing the Nikah. The main goal of the courting process is to see if there is compatibility and attraction and check the spiritual understanding. I would strongly recommend you get your families involved and create safe space for you both to meet.
We all know that the only relationship between family man and woman are allowed to have is marriage. If you are serious about taking this step, it is very important that you and he have more than the religious beliefs in common, which I believe you do, considering your good feelings about this bother. Make sure you are marrying him with more connection than his religion. Are you likely to sustain and succeed in a marriage where there is no compatibility beyond sharing a similar theology and ritual practices? We cannot live a true path of spirituality if our attempt to follow Islam lacks sincerity, wisdom, and deep reflection on our context and ourselves.
In conclusion, take your time to talk to him more, have few meetings with him in person in a safe space, get to know his family, and let him know yours. I strongly advise you to keep your du’aa’ and let God lead your decision. If everything seems easy in order for you and him to get married, it might be a strong sign that Allah is in agreement with this relationship. Remember that your Istikharah must be sincere, and it is not a superstition or a means to fortify what you already decided. Use your intellect and look for evidence that this brother is the right man for you, and advise him to do the same.
My last advice is to take some compatibility tests or even try pre-marital consulting if you feel that you need more certainty of your decision. It is very important to talk openly about expectations in the relationship. I don’t think you and him have to worry about physical contact after marriage now. If you have compatibility and chemistry to spend a life together, I am sure that the intimacy won’t be a problem.