“And we created you in pairs.”
Surah An-Naba 78:8, The Quran.
As a young woman growing up in a Muslim household, I know the struggle of trying to balance faith with very natural, all-too-real desires and emotions — notably one in particular — falling in love.
So, is love haram in Islam? What are the general teachings around love, and how can they be balanced with the rapidly changing world we live in? We’ll explore that and more in this article.
1) What does Islam say about love?
Love has a place in Islam, just as within every religion. But it might not always feel that way, especially if you’re in love with someone and marriage isn’t on the horizon.
Many people hide their relationships from the community and family, as having a relationship before marriage isn’t encouraged and is considered a sin. We’ll look into the reasons why further on.
So it’s natural to wonder, what are the teachings around love?
Love between family members, friends, and (married) partners is encouraged, through verses in the Quran and the Hadiths (the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh)).
Let’s start with some verses from the Quran on the love between a couple:
“Your spouses are a garment (comfort, chastity, and protection) for you as you are for them.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah 2:187)
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them, And He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who give thought.”
(Surah Ar-Rum, 30:21)
The general understanding is that within your marriage, you and your partner should have each other’s back. You’re a team, united in matrimony.
You should support and look after each other. Being affectionate with your husband or wife is not prohibited, and the importance of forgiveness is emphasized between couples in love.
2) Halal love vs haram love
Now, if you’ve found yourself in the predicament of falling in love, you might wonder where the line is between halal (permissible in Islam) and Haram (forbidden in Islam).
Generally, the actual act of falling in love isn’t seen as a sin. It’s a natural occurrence, bigger than emotions (as love can encompass so many emotions within it), and it’s not something that can be controlled or switched off.
And if you’re in that situation, you’ll know how tough it is to think of anything else!
It becomes haram, however, when acted upon.
For example, falling in love isn’t necessarily a sin, but if you attempted to have a romantic/physical relationship before marriage, it’d be considered against the teachings of the Quran.
For this reason, many Muslim communities tend to keep young singles of the opposite sex apart, so there’s less chance of a “haram” relationship developing.
3) Dating in Islam
But just because it’s deemed haram, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to do it. The truth is, dating happens in most Muslim communities, but is usually kept a secret.
And when it comes to dating in Islam, there is no one right way to do it. It will depend on how deep you are within your faith, your family upbringing, your cultural values, and more.
Some young Muslims prefer to avoid dating altogether.
In many communities, arranged marriages are still the norm, with parents introducing the couple to each other, and gaining both of their consent before proceeding with marriage rituals.
Others take their love lives into their own hands and find a partner without the help of their family.
For those who want to date as “halal” as possible, it’s advised to get to know your potential partner in group settings where there’s less chance of “temptation” sneaking in.
So how do Muslims meet?
Well, the same as everyone else thanks to the host of Muslim marriage and dating apps that rival the likes of Tinder!
Some of the most popular include:
These apps/sites are free to use and put Muslims in touch with others from around the world. They might not be the traditional way used culturally or religiously, but for many young Muslims, it’s the easiest way to meet new people.
And if the online dating thing isn’t your scene?
Find out if your local mosque or community holds any events for singles (and if they don’t, pitch the idea to them!). This is great for those who want to find love themselves but still keep it halal and in line with their faith.
4) Haram relationships can turn halal
The reality is, young Muslims still enter into “haram” relationships. It’s difficult to resist falling in love, wanting a boyfriend or girlfriend, and experimenting with newfound sexual desires.
But this can cause a lot of conflict for Muslims who worry that they’re living in sin. Not to mention, for many Muslim families this would be considered dishonorable and shameful behavior.
Yet, love is love, and for some, the risk is worth it.
And the good news is if you’re in a “haram” relationship but you want to make it “halal”, you can by following these steps:
- Ask for forgiveness (pray) and move closer to your faith
- Stop any sexual activity with your partner
- Speak to your families about the prospect of getting married
- Halal dating might include meeting your partner with a chaperone present or in a group setting rather than alone
Ultimately, marriage is what will turn your relationship “halal”. This will make the relationship more acceptable to family and the wider community too.
But with that in mind, if you’re not sure about spending the rest of your life with your partner, don’t rush into marrying them just because you feel guilty of sinning.
Even if you strive to be the best Muslim you can be, you’re still human and love is innate, complex, but above all, natural.
But that doesn’t mean you have to commit your entire life to someone. Take your time, be sure about your feelings, and do what you feel is right for you.
5) Arranged marriage vs love marriage
Muslims come from a wide range of cultures all around the world, each with its own customs and traditions regarding marriage. But since casual dating isn’t permissible, finding love isn’t as easy as it is in Western culture.
That’s why for many, arranged marriages are the go-to method. We all know stories of people in past generations who first saw their bride or groom on the day of the wedding, but thankfully now the process has changed (in most cases).
Now, an arranged marriage is more like an introduction. The parents will put the couple in touch, and if they like each other, they can agree to the marriage. If they don’t, that should be the end of it and there should be no pressure to marry.
If there’s any coercion or pressure, this is called a forced marriage, and it’s a sin in Islam (plus illegal in most countries). The prophet (pbuh) makes it clear that women especially have the right to reject marriage.
Knowing your rights in Islam is extremely important to battle what are often cultural practices that are still used in some cases to enforce marriage.
Research your rights on issues like dowry, divorce, forced marriages, the right to education and work. No religion should be followed blindly, and knowing your rights as a woman or man will make your life easier.
On the other hand, some Muslims take the route of a “love marriage”. This is where you choose a partner of your liking, date, fall in love, and then get married.
This might be done with or without the consent of their parents.
There’s a lot of debate over which is best, an arranged marriage or a love marriage, but ultimately it comes down to the couple involved and what they’re happy with.
6) Sex and intimacy before marriage
Okay, time for the gloves to come off – we’re going to talk about sex and what the general rules are in Islam regarding intimacy.
In a review by American Sociological Review on premarital sex in different religions, the results showed that 60% of Muslim participants had engaged in sex before marriage.
And let’s just be honest – sex happens.
It’s naive to imagine that it doesn’t, even in Muslim communities. It’s one of the purest forms of intimacy, it brings couples closer together, and provides satisfaction. The word of the book might make it a clear sin, but it’s one many struggles to resist.
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The problem is, in most households and religious settings, sex is still an enormous taboo.
Most young Muslims are simply told to stay well away from the idea of having sex before marriage – something that’s a lot easier said than done!
From an Islamic viewpoint, “Zina” (illicit sexual relations) is heavily advised against:
“The fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allâh, if you believe in Allâh and the Last Day.
And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. (This punishment is for unmarried persons guilty of the above crime, but if married persons commit it (illegal sex), the punishment is to stone them to death, according to Allâh’s Law).”
(Surah An-Nur, 24:2)
So, it’s quite clear that in Islam, having sex before marriage is a non-disputable sin. This is because according to the word of Allah, Muslims should save themselves solely for their marital partner:
“And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts). Except from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hands possess, – for then, they are free from blame. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors.”
(Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23:5-7)
But as we’re all aware, reality often looks a lot different from what is prescribed by religion.
So now we’re clear on the stance of having sex before marriage, what about after it?
7) Sex and intimacy after marriage
You’ve taken the plunge and got married. Or, maybe you’re about to take the plunge, and those pre-wedding night nerves are kicking in.
Don’t worry – having sex after marriage is perfectly acceptable in Islam, in fact, it’s encouraged; marriage and children are the basis of an Islamic society. It’s also referred to as an act of pleasure, too.
The prophet (pbuh) himself makes mention of sexual satisfaction between spouses and encourages the use of foreplay.:
“Do not engage in sexual intercourse with your wife like hens; rather, firstly engage in foreplay with your wife and flirt with her and then make love to her.”
Oral sex is also permissible between husband and wife – some scholars frown on it, but there’s nothing in the Quran or Hadiths to state that it’s haram.
With that being said, having sex comes with some conditions, and some acts are considered haram under Shariah law, such as:
- Having anal sex
- Having sex in public places or around other people
- Having sex during a woman’s menstruation
- Masturbating or performing sexual acts on yourself
In marriage, having sex is not just about making babies. It’s a chance to explore your sexuality with your spouse, increase the connection you share, and express your love to one another.
For young, newly married couples, I’d recommend speaking to your partner about sex and any desires/reservations you have.
Because having sex, as taboo as it might seem, is a necessary part of life.
And it’s not an area to ignore or suffer through. For both men and women, it’s deemed an act of pleasure, and the best way to ensure you’re both happy and satisfied is to approach it as a team effort and…communicate!
8) Islamic prayers around love
Unsure about the person you’re in love with? Deciding whether to go ahead with an arranged marriage but having doubts about your future spouse?
It’s recommended to do Istikhara. This prayer is a way of asking Allah for a sign that you’re making the right choice and is usually performed before agreeing to marriage.
So how do you perform it?
- Pray your usual nightly prayers
- Pray an extra two rakat nafl prayer
- Read/recite the Istikhara, which goes as follows:
“O Allah! Behold I ask You the good through Your Knowledge, and ability through Your Power, and beg (Your favour) out of Your infinite Bounty. For surely You have Power; I have none. You know all; I know not. You are the Great Knower of all things.
O Allah! If in Your Knowledge this matter be good for my faith, for my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then ordain it for me, and make it easy for me, and bless me therein. But if in Your Knowledge, this matter be bad for my faith, for my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then turn it away from me, and turn me away therefrom, and ordain for me the good wherever it be, and cause me to please with it.”
Some people report seeing confirmation that they should proceed with their decision or abort it through dreams, others just get a “feeling” telling them what they should do.
So why do Istikhara?
Well, love may have its place in Islam, but the religion is also very clear; love isn’t the be-all and end-all.
At the end of the day, most Muslims accept that Allah makes the plans and they should trust what he has in store for them – hence why they pray to seek His support before making an important decision.
Choosing the right spouse isn’t seen as just an emotional decision, it’s based on whether the person will be right for you and your family if they’re of a similar religious stance, and so on.
Again, this will depend on how you practice your faith and how closely you stick to the teachings of Islam. It’s an individual choice.
9) What about homosexuality in Islam?
Homosexuality within Islam is a big topic right now.
More and more people from the LGBTQ+ community, who also identify as Muslim, are speaking out about their rights to practice their faith and stay true to their sexual orientation.
But if you ask most scholars or members of Muslim communities, they’ll likely argue that Islam, just as Christianity and Judaism before it, doesn’t permit homosexuality.
This is derived from the references to homosexuality especially in the stories of Lut (Lot) and Sodom and Gomorrah in the Quran.
But it also stems from the Quran’s clear stance on men for women and women for men, and the procreation of children.
The truth is there are different viewpoints on homosexuality in Islam.
Some would argue that it’s a sin (even punishable by death under strict Islamic regimes), whilst others would say Allah made you the way you are and you are given free choice on how to live your life.
Now, with that in mind, many LGBTQ+ individuals struggle to find support as they navigate this life turbulent journey.
Just like sex, in most Muslim communities, homosexuality is another taboo topic, so being honest about your sexual orientation can be incredibly difficult.
Thankfully, as more progress is made in this area, there are organizations that you can reach out to, whether it’s support coming out to your family or community, or fighting for your rights. Some of these include:
- The Naz and Matt Foundation. They offer legal advice, support when coming out to families, education, and a community to become a part of.
- Muslims for Progressive Values. These guys have several resources for the LGBTQ+ Muslim community. They’re big on human rights for all and offer a range of services.
- Hidayah. This group holds events in the UK but offers support worldwide to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community, including those from the Islamic faith.
As I write this article, it strikes me as to how difficult it is to give a general overview of Islam’s stance on homosexuality, as the Quran can be interpreted in so many ways.
There’s no head of religion, like the pope, to lead the way, and that’s why there are those with extreme views and those who are more liberal in their faith, as it’s up to the individual.
But ultimately, love is love, regardless of who it’s between.
If you’re facing this dilemma, seek help, be true to yourself, and keep those who love and accept you close to you. You have every right to practice your faith and be who you want to be.
One article is certainly not enough to cover the complexity of a religion like Islam, especially on the subject of love and sex.
But I hope for the most part you can take away the fact that love is not wrong, nor is it a sin, and it’s not haram in Islam.
At the end of the day, love is what keeps the world moving, what makes strangers help one another, and what motivates others to do good.
The tricky part for most is balancing the desire for love with your faith, and finding your “line” between what’s right and wrong.
For some, that might be dating without sex.
For others, it might be avoiding the opposite sex until their parents find a suitable match.
And then there’ll be those who will go the whole way in the name of love, and follow a more spiritual form of Islamic rather than literal. Whichever way you decide to do it, just make sure it feels right in your heart.