Engagement constitutes no more than a promise of marriage. Engagement, therefore, does not entitle a fiancé to any right other than keeping the fiancée for his sake, in such a way that no one else can propose to her. In a hadith, it is stated: “It is unlawful for a man to make an offer of betrothal to a woman who is already betrothed to another man.”

As for parents’ role in the process of marriage, they, especially the girl’s parents, should be involved. Islam’s insistence on parental involvement in the selection process is to ensure that a person exercises his or her choice correctly. In other words, so parents can step in if there is a serious issue of compatibility.

Compatibility entails a person’s worth in a spiritual and moral sense: the only primary criterion that makes or breaks a marriage. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “If a person of acceptable religion and character presents himself for marriage, marry him, otherwise, there would be widespread sedition and rampant corruption in the land.”

Parents of the girl, therefore, have the authority to intervene should their daughter chooses someone of questionable moral and religious character. Should she proceed in such a case against their wishes, her marriage is deemed null and void according to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence.
Given the above, we can say that parents, whether from the boy’s or girl’s side, cannot force their son/daughter to marry someone without his/her consent. Similarly, a girl cannot marry without her guardian permission.

Breaking off the engagement is the right of the fiancé and the fiancée. The parents of the fiancée can intervene if they discover a serious problem with the fiancé. Parents of the fiancé’s opinion should be considered and valued by their son.