There has been quite a bit of fuss over the whole dating/non-dating, halal/haram issue here. I'm not a scholar (not even close) so I won't presume to know everything but I don't really remember reading the words "dating is forbidden." Men and women can't be alone together and we weren't alone together. I don't plan on being alone with him. However, I do feel that you need to know a person, at least somewhat, prior to getting married or even engaged. It's very difficult to do that with nosy elders or siblings hovering around you. Everyone is so busy trying to be on there best "parent" behavior that you aren't really getting to know the real them. Then you're engaged, because there's no reason not to be, only to have to break it off a couple of months down the line. I know Muslims that have been engaged more than three times. They have to keep breaking them off after a few months because they didn't know enough about that person. I'm trying my best not to be one of those people. At the same time, I'm trying not to do any real sinning. This is the result. I'm sure some of our dates will be chaperoned. Some of them won't need to be. This weekend we were in a crowded park so chaperones weren't necessary. I don't know about y'all but I would never be, to put it delicately, overly affectionate with anyone in public. I think it's tacky.
My own mother has concerns about this whole scenario, up to and including him being a Marine. She's not crazy about men in the military to begin with (dated some back in the day) and she's really not crazy about Muslims in the military. My brother wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and be a fighter pilot and she completely freaked. She feels it's a conflict of interest. She said he could fight for a Muslim country, which freaked me and my sister out. Our baby brother fighting for some third world country (most likely the enemy of our country), heck no! I mean, it's nothing personal, we're American and don't like the idea of our little brother fighting for another country. Anyway, she's got a bigger issue with pseudo dating. She doesn't believe that Muslims should date but, at the same time, she doesn't want us marrying or getting engaged to someone we haven't taken some time to get to know. I'm like, "and how will we get to know him if we don't spend time with him?" She says that's not dating but my sisters and I (being sane) disagree. At the end of the day, dating is spending time getting to know someone that you're romantically interesting in. Chaperoned or not, it's still pretty much dating. You can call it "talking", "hanging out", or whatever else; it's all the same. The only difference is that there's a right way and a wrong way of doing it. I won't say halal and haram because I don't like labeling things like that.
A man and a woman in a car, house, condo, apartment, or whatever alone together is wrong. We're clear on that. Meeting up for lunch, all good in the hood. An unchaperoned dinner in a dimly lit, romantic restaurant is asking for trouble. A Sunday brunch at a place filled with old ladies and society matrons, good times. Anything in a public venue, and by public I mean enough people around to discourage any type of canoodling, is pretty much okay. Hanging out at your families home with people drifting in an out (quasi-privacy) is also okay. Really, what are you going to do when a family member could pop in at any second?
I understand the importance of doing the right thing but at the same time, we (as Muslims) do have to adapt to modern times. Things are not like they were way back in the Prophet's (PBUH) time. And while I'm sure there are plenty of people that take issue with the whole "halal dating" scenario, I take issue with multiple engagements and/or marriages.
They say you never really know a person until you've lived with them and I suppose that's true. However, there's nothing wrong with trying to learn as much as you can prior to that point. I just don't really think it's possible to do that with a few IMs, phone calls, and family meetings. It works for some people, and that's fantastic, but we shouldn't pass judgement on those it doesn't work for.