Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
If by “engagement” it is meant both parties agreeing and promising one another to enter into the contract of marriage (nikah), then this, obviously, is permissible and not something that is an innovation, for marriage must of course be preceded by mutual agreement.
Even in the days of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all), obviously mutual agreement between the relative parties would take place before the actual Nikah ceremony.
If by “engagement” it is meant to have a formal ceremony and celebration in which the relative parties celebrate the promise of marriage, then this, in it self, is also permitted, provided one does not consider it to be a Sunnah or part of Islam.
Some people argue that having an engagement ceremony was not common in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), thus it is an innovation (bid’ah) and unlawful.
The truth of the matter is that they have not understood the concept Bid’ah. If an engagement was celebrated thinking and regarding it to be a specific Sunnah or part of religion (din), then it would fall into the category of innovation. However, if such a ceremony was organized without thinking it to be part of religion, then it cannot be considered unlawful and an innovation. It is similar to any other worldly event that we organize many times in our lives.
However, one must ensure that engagement ceremonies are free from evil and unlawful practices, such as open and free intermingling of the sexes, playing of music, dancing, etc. If it is thought that evil practices will take place, then it would be best to avoid such ceremonies.
In conclusion, there are two conditions for the permissibility of holding engagement functions and ceremonies:
1) They should not be regarded as Sunnah or part of religion,
2) The various evils and unlawful practices must be avoided.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK
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