The Palestinian Authority’s Supreme Fatwa Council ruled on Tuesday that men and women are allowed to date online, but only for the purpose of marriage.

The council explained that dating and chatting on social media websites, “which have hugely developed in this era, have become an indispensable necessity.”

This unprecedented ruling contradicts fatwas by many extremist Islamic scholars against the use of digital technology for dating between Muslim men and women.

The council acknowledged that dating between members of the opposite sex through the Internet had become “unavoidable and impossible to prohibit completely.” However, the new ruling cautioned that online dating was conditioned on the the two sides’ “adherence to the required moral standards and Shari’a rules.”

One of the main conditions, the council ruled, is “the existence of an urgent need for establishing such contact through the Internet, with the basic goal being marriage in line with available legitimate means.”

“The conversation should be restricted to achieving this goal. It should not transcend to private matters that could stir instincts and awaken desires.”

According to the ruling, a woman is prohibited during the conversation from providing excessive detail about herself, displaying her photo to her male interlocutor or even meeting with him without the presence of her family.

The man and woman are also required to refrain from chatting or speaking in a soft or submissive tone, the council explained.

“The conversation should take place with the full knowledge of the family and not in a closed room or in secrecy,” the council said.

It said that this “conditional permit” should not be viewed as an alternative for legitimate means and familiar traditions for dating between potential spouses.

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