Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: I just had a question regarding marriage proposals… if a brother approaches a sister and proposes to her while the two are alone without any mahrams present, is the proposal valid?
Also, if the proposal is valid, does another brother still have the right to pursue interest in that same girl, or even propose as well, considering she hasn’t given the first brother an answer?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
A proposal is merely a request to marry someone. It is not a legal issue per se and so we cannot really define it as being valid or invalid.
However, there are specific rulings related to proposals.
Firstly, generally, It is permissible to do, as long as it is not done in an inappropriate manner or where there is fear of it leading to unacceptable behavior.
Secondly, it is prohibitively disliked for an individual to propose to someone after she has agreed to marry someone else. This is based on the prophetic narration, “A man should not propose on the proposal of another, until they marry or retract.” [Bukhari, Muslim] The prohibition, as indicated, relates to proposing to someone who is engaged to someone and when all that is left between the two individuals is the actual marriage contract.
However, if there is no agreement or commitment between the two parties, it is valid for a third party to propose. [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
In the case you mention, since the woman has not given an answer, it would be permitted for another to pursue her. Even here is it best to proceed with discretion to avoid ill-feeling and damaging relations.
On a final note, concerning the specific scenario you mention, it is always best to propose to someone through channels that limit potential fitna. This entails having a reliable third party overlooking the process and keeping things in check, not overly expressing one’s emotions, avoiding being alone with the potential spouse, and so forth. There is great wisdom in the limits and guidelines of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in relation to gender interactions.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani