Is it true that giving an engagement ring is unlawful in Islam? Please explain your answer.
I believe that engagement rings are not unlawful, but I prefer that people avoid the practice whenever it it is possibly that it could be associated with some superstitions notions.
The practice of giving engagement rings is a new one and thus not addressed by the classical works of Islamic Law. However, there are three situations with respect to those who adhere to this practice, and these situations affect the ruling that must be given.
1. Some people vest in such rings certain powers and believe that they create love in the couple’s hearts and that removal of the rings will lead to separation or hatred. In this case, use of these rings is expressly forbidden, since it constitutes a type of polytheism, albiet to a lesser degree. The reason for this being polytheism is that the people give effective power to something that is neither a divine cause nor a natural cause for anything.
2. If the engagement ring is made of gold, then the man may not wear it, since it is forbidden for men to wear gold. The woman, however, may have her ring made out of gold.
3. In cases where there are no beliefs associated with the rings and where the man will not be wearing a gold ring, then scholars disagree. Some say that it is permitted but disliked for being a new and baseless practice. Others say it is permissible without any reservation because it is a harmless custom.
It does not have to be prohibited on account of it being a particular religious custom of certain non-Mulsims, especially since the custom is widespread in most Muslim countries.
As I said before, I do not deem it prohibited, but I warn against it if it has a chance of bringing about those false beliefs mentioned above.
And Allah knows best.