Yet, as more and more Muslims become a part of the 'West', the 'West' becomes part of the Ummah and leads us away from the strict interpretation of Islamic guidelines in regard to marriage.
Muslims are not permitted to touch, have social intercourse, have personal relationships, have intimate relationships or date members of the opposite sex outside of specific 'blood' relationships and marriage. Therefore, the customs of the 'West' - dating, inter-gender gatherings, and Internet communications that become personal are forbidden. There are some who would disagree with this statement, saying that this is 'old-fashioned' and that 'times have changed'. we would counter by saying that the injunctions of the Qur'an and Sunnah have never changed - they were written for all times and all peoples. They are, in fact, the categorical imperative that Immanuel Kant strove to find. This is opposed to the customs of the 'West'.
In cultures outside of Islam, dating and touching exist. We see the results every day. Women and men go in and out of relationships, many children are born out of wedlock, children remain fatherless. Fatherless homes are the norm rather than the exception and these homes tend to have a lower standard of living and a higher rate of troubled children.
Muslims are encouraged to marry - and to marry early. Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A) said,
"When a man marries, he indeed perfects half of his religion. Then he should fear Allah for the remaining half."
Marriage eliminates the temptation for zina, thus assisting partners to remain on the 'straight path' that Allah has created for us. Marriage is a mercy for us.
Women are encouraged to marry a good Muslim man who offers himself. Men are able to choose a woman based on her appearance, her wealth, her social standing, or her God Consciousness - the latter being the greatest. Nowhere does it say that women can choose based on educational degree or profession. Nowhere does it say a woman or man may seek a spouse based on ethnicity or nationality. Yet, often there are matrimonial ads placed by a woman or her family seeking a 'professional man' or a man of specific ethnic or national origin. Often we see matrimonial ads placed by a man looking for a woman of specific educational degree or specific ethnicity or national origin.
The notion of 'arranged' marriages is still the Islamic way. Marriages may be arranged by family, through a service, through friends, through relatives. Today, especially in the West, there are many settings where Muslims of opposite gender interact because of educational pursuit or employment. It is possible that a couple may meet in a coeducational setting (university) or a work setting and be attracted and wish to make intentions for marriage. This must never be done through personal conversation or interaction. This should not be prolonged. We know the dangers of this situation.
The key to a good marriage arrangement is a good and capable person - one who will do a thorough investigation and a good interview session; one in which ALL questions are asked and answered.
In the many years we saw many people in extreme marital problems because they did not have clear understanding of the responsibilities each expected of the other in marriage. In Islam, this is never the case. The expectations of marriage partners are clearly established. If there is conflict, it is because of what we bring in - not what Islam directs.
While these are 'modern' times, Islam is the perfect religion - the 'categorical imperative' - in regard to the guidelines for life, including marriage. AlHamdullillah!!!(Thank God) This has not changed - and will not change.