I'm 20 years old and I plan to get married in the next couple of years. My aunty says she has found a girl for me. However, this girl lives overseas, hence I'm unable to meet her personally to make my decision. My family says there is a family video on which she appears. Is it permissible for me to see her on that video before making a decision to go meet her overseas to marry her? Also, what is the Islamic ruling regarding engagements? My family tradition is that a couple becomes engaged first, then after some time they get married. Is this bid'ah? I understand I'll be in the same situation if I do choose to marry this girl.
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.
It is lawful for a man who has made up his mind to marry a given woman and who is almost certain that she would accept his offer to look at as much of her as would lead him to do that. The majority of scholars are agreed that he is allowed to look at her face and palms several times if he wishes to and admire other attractive features - even without any permission - if he is sure to stay safe from sexual desire. However, under no circumstances should he stay alone with her without any other person present. The Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , said: "If one of you proposes to marry a woman and is able to look at what from her could drive him to marry her, he can do so." [Ahmad and Abu-Dawood] Jaabir narrated, "I made a proposal to a girl from Bani Salamah and I would hide (in a place from where I could see her) until I saw from her what pushed me to get married to her." There is no harm in looking at her in a video, but under the conditions mentioned earlier. You stated that in your country there is an engagement period before the marriage act itself; there is no harm in that. It could even be necessary under some circumstances such as to allow the completion of studies, etc. But you should know that the man who proposes to marry a woman remains alien to her as long as the act of marriage has not been finalized. He should not stay alone with her nor look at her attractive features. All this is forbidden although people have neglected this prohibition. If there is a necessity to talk to her directly or over the phone, this is allowed but in the presence of one of her Mahram (unmarriageable men), and such talk should be far from anything that could lead to temptations and their causes.
We ask Allaah to grant you success in finding a good wife who pleases you.
Allaah Knows best.
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