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Right way to put forth a marriage proposal, Interaction during engagement period

The concept of having long engagement periods before marriage: does this fall under the allowance in Islam of being able to know the person well before you marry him/her? Or is this too much of interaction? If it depends on the kind of interaction then what is the advised way of communication and meeting between two people who are considering marriage between them. Are, talking on the phone for some hours or communicating online/through email better modes than meeting in person? (Assuming that you would talk
on the same topics that you would on the phone/chat and would also refrain from physical contact during the meeting) Is it probable for two people planning to get married to not behave sweetly and softly with each other?
Then would the order, which forbids females to soften their voice when they talk to strange men, be applicable here too? Does this mean you should not keep a long engagement? Is it ok to assume that as soon as you’re sure you want to marry the person, you should not delay or else discontinue contact until you get married?
What is the best manner to communicate a proposal? (Male to female proposal and vice versa) In the Pakistani context reaching through parents is considered the decent norm but is that the only decent manner? Can one use any intermediary? Is proposing directly allowed?


I believe that if you are interested in a person, you should go for a marriage proposal as quick as possible. So long as you are not married, your interaction should be confined within the limits of the shari’ah, which means you can’t stay alone and stick around and talk for long hours. There is apparently no harm in communicating on telephone or through e-mails and chatting on internet, especially with a view to knowing more your spouse-to-be. But staying together and going for meals alone should most certainly be avoided.
There is no standard way of proposing. The norms of the society should generally speaking be respected. However, either of the two individuals can initially propose the possibility of the idea to the other person through any of the available modes of communication available. A direct communication of the idea in a one-to-one meeting is less desirable in our society. I can’t call it completely prohibited, but it should be avoided as best as possible. Once it is understood that one of the two individuals is interested in getting married to the other, communicating which is a much better idea than to just romance around, both should hasten to get things done formally. Of course, by hastening I am not suggesting that the idea should be destroyed through doing it in a hurried way. All that I am proposing is that after serious interest has been proposed by one person to the other in getting married, close direct contact between the two should be avoided as much as is possible. The sanctity of nikah requires that unless the two individuals are formally married, they shouldn’t meet each other alone.