Q. What is the Islamic position on a boy and girl getting engaged and then marrying sometime later due to one person not yet graduated from school, or the hall for the ceremony not being available, etc.?

A. An engagement for marriage -- known in Arabic as "khitba" -- is allowed in Islam. Its purpose is the same as that in the non-Islamic theatre: i.e. to let the society know that person A and person B intend to become spouses of each other at some future date. Therefore, no attempts should be made by any other party/ies to seek either one of them as marriage partners. It also gives the society time and notifies anyone who knows of any reason why the proposed marriage should not go through to come forward with the reason for objection. This is the general rule.

Difference of circumstances can, as with the case in most fiqh rulings, cause a change in the ruling. If the milieu imaged in your question is collegial or later secondary, then it would seem that, as presented in its broad terms, there is no problem. We need to point out that no coercion should be used to initiate this engagement, nor to maintain such engagement if once initiated, either party wishes to break it. We need to point out too that in the Islamic weltanschauung, there is no room for the age-old assumption that once a girl reaches "marriageable age," she should be harangued into seeking a suitor. With this in mind, use Allah's book as your guide, and seek divine counsel through prayer when making your decision. And Allah is the best of guides.

Posted February 19, 2000