“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Date a Muslim?”

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Q: Should a practicing Catholic have even one date, knowing the fellow is Muslim? I feel it is as bad as dating a man knowing he is married. Thank you! I want to instruct a relative. – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Ideally the purpose of dating is to see whether there are grounds for a possible marriage. Relationships should ideally be pursued so long as there are signs of a reasonable potential for a good marriage.

That is the theory, at least. In practice, life and relationships can be very complex.

Two numbers from the Catechism might be worth quoting here:

1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise. [end quoted material]

That notion of disparity of cult would be a key issue in a relationship between a Catholic and a Muslim. There are lots of reasons why the Church doesn’t encourage these type of marriages.

Now, to your specific questions. If someone goes out on “one date,” it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue. “One date” could just be a simple social event, with no intention of pursuing a serious relationship. It is certainly not akin to dating a married man, which would objectively illicit, given his marital vows.

A more delicate matter — and this I can’t really speak to since I don’t know you or your relative — is how much to “instruct” the loved one. This would require a bit of prudence and timing. How things are said, and when they are said, could make a big difference. Such “instruction” could be edifying if done well. If done not so well, it could cause a bit of resentment.

Again, I can’t gauge the situation with so little information. Perhaps it would be helpful to pray a lot beforehand if you decide to approach your relative. Perhaps you could share your own experience (if it’s the case) of how it has enriched your own marriage to have a spouse who shares the faith.

If this dating is a once-only event, you might not want to press the issue. I hope some of this helps.

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