When a man finds a Muslimah of good attributes for marriage, his next step will be to propose to her or her family. This act of proposal is referred to as ‘khitbah'. In this situation, the Muslimah either accepts or rejects the proposal. If she accepts and the Seeghatul-Aqid is established (i.e. a categorical statement of offer and acceptance jointly understood by all parties involved - the Waliyy, the Muslimah, the proposing Muslim and the Witnesses to mean giving her out in marriage) in the presence of at least two witnesses, it is referred to as 'Aqdun-Nikkah.
However, many people think of this period between the Khitbah and 'aqd as a period to "test-driven. period in which they fully try out their partners to see if they will be able to pursue a long life together thereby committing many sins in the process. So, what is the Islamic ruling concerning these relationships?
The Manner of Interaction
It is necessary to note basically that the fact that a Munikaah (the muslimah) agrees to the proposal of a Muslim does not establish any marriage between them even when the proposal and acceptance is to the knowledge and acceptance of the parents of the two family. An exception to this is when the Waliyy of the Muslimah imply by their acceptance (of the proposal of the Male to their daughter) to be giving out their daughter in Marriage. Even at that, it must be to the knowledge of the Muslimah and the proposing Muslim Male that marriage has already been established between them.
Nevertheless, the singular fact that a Muslimah accepts the proposal of a man is not in itself Marriage! All these are based on the fact that the consent of the Muslimah is a condition for a valid marriage (as discussed in previous editions), so is the consent of the Waliyy and the witnessing by witnesses (as will be discussed inshaAllaah). Thus, the prospective spouses between the period of Khitbah and 'Aqdun-Nikaah are still strange to each other and the rulings of the Shari’ah regarding a strange Muslim and Muslimah should also guide their interactions.
"(Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture before your time, when you have given their due Mohr (bridal money), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girl-friends." (Q5 [Maidah]:5)
He also says:
"Wed them with the permission of their own folk (guardians, Awliya' or masters) and give them their Mahr according to what is reasonable; they (the above said captive and slave-girls) should be chaste, not adulterous, nor taking boy-friends." (Q4 [Nisa]:25).
These verses clearly establish the prohibition of establishing relationships that are prelude to zina
Ash-Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al'Uthaymeen (RAH) was asked, "What is the Ruling Concerning these relationships before Marriage?' He said, the statement of the questioner -'before Marriage' - if he intends by it before conjugal relations after the 'Aqd, then there is no blame, since with the 'Aqd she becomes his wife even when the formalities of conjugal relations had not been performed. But if he intends before the 'Aqd during the periods of (Khitbah) proposal or before that, then surely it is prohibited and not permissible. For it is not permissible for anyone to enjoy a woman strange to him (not married to him) not by speaking with her nor by looking at her nor by staying in privacy with her.
It is authentically reported from the Messenger that he said:
"A man should not stay in seclusion with a woman except that one who is her Mahram is there. And a woman should not make any journey except that one who is her Mahram is with her.' The matter is that if this get-together (between the Muslim and the Muslimah) occurs after the 'Aqd, then there is no blame in it. But if it is before the 'Aqd even after the proposal and acceptance then it is surely not permissible and in it prohibited for her since she is still strange (to the man) until the 'Aqd (nuptial knot) is established on her." (Fataawah Nazar wal-khulwah wal khti laat pg 63-64)
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited