"Dating" as defined in Western culture does not exist in Islam. Interaction between Muslim men and women is reserved solely with marriage in mind. Muslims who are able to marry are encouraged to do so, and they must follow the established laws of courtship.
Many non-Muslims believe that all Muslim marriages are arranged, but this is rarely the case. Friends and family may assist in arranging matches, but the final decision is left up to the couple.
Instead of dating, Muslim couples "court" with the intention of finding a suitable spouse. Unlike dating in Western culture, it is not done for recreational purposes. While courting, the man and woman are never left alone together. They are always accompanied by a chaperon to prevent the temptation of giving into lust. It states in the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, "Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them." Therefore, whenever the couple spends time together, the visit is supervised.
A Muslim man and woman approach the decision to find a marriage partner with much prayer, asking Allah to guide them in finding the right person. The family also becomes involved by discussing and suggesting candidates, and helping to narrow the prospects. The parents typically approach the other family once a suitable partner has been agreed upon. They continue to investigate the prospective match by inquiring of friends, families and coworkers about the character of the individual.
Muslim courtships are relatively short. Once the couple decides that they are a suitable match, they typically agree to get engaged. They may "go out" during their engagement, but only in groups. These short engagements are normal, so the couple can effectively avoid temptation.
The divorce rate in Muslim countries is drastically lower than in Western countries. Muslims say this is evidence that their take on courtship is a better alternative to dating. The Muslim religion calls for purity, cleanliness and chastity in all aspects of life. Therefore, the strict behavioral rules are established to help a couple think clearly about a lifelong partnership without being distracted by lust.
Muslim dating rules in Western countries have become more relaxed over time. Many young American Muslims have devised their own ways of getting past the restrictions with three novel alternatives. The first group practices Halal dating, which is in agreement with Islamic law. The second group called Eid Muslims practice their faith only on holy holidays and do not follow the laws of Muslim dating completely. However, they do stay away from physical relations. The third group is known as "Free Birds," and they do not follow any Muslim laws, including those about premarital sex and courtship.