Choosing Your Life Partner – Part I
Translated by www.daralislaamlive.com
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
When we started this series we wanted to focus on returning the love in all of our homes. We focused on the word ‘love’ because even Allah said, “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Qur’an, 30:21) People are now having trouble finding a place where they can dwell in tranquillity but Allah wants the home, the husband and the wife, to be this place of tranquillity where we can dwell.
When the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) was on his way back from the battle of That Al Reqa‘, the army was exhausted. When they got closer to Al Madinah, all they wanted to do was go back to their homes and sleep. When they got closer to Al Madinah the Prophet found that one of the men, Jaber Ibn Abdullah had fallen behind. So the Prophet left the entire army and fell behind looking for Jaber. The Prophet then asked Jaber how he was doing; Jaber replied and said he was fine. The Prophet asked Jaber if he was married and Jaber said he was. The Prophet asked Jaber if he married a virgin and Jaber said that he did not because his father died and left him with 9 sisters so he wanted to marry someone to serve them. The Prophet then told Jaber that when they returned to Al Madinah, they wouldn’t enter until Jaber’s wife learns of his arrival. This is so that his wife can prepare a nice sitting arrangement for him. The wives of these men haven’t seen them for about a month, so instead of having them go straight to bed as soon as they get home, the Prophet wanted to them to be well rested. The Prophet wanted the first meeting between a husband and wife to be filled with joy. The Prophet wanted to make the wives happy, the Prophet wanted there to be love in the home.
This lecture is very important for everyone to read. Anyone who might be getting married soon, as well as fathers and mothers, should read this lecture. There are 4 phases in choosing your life partner:
1. Identify your criteria.
2. How you are going to search for your partner.
3. How you are going to ask about your partner and if you are going to pray Istikhara (decision making prayer).
4. The parents’ approval.
Why were we created? Allah says, “I will create a vicegerent on Earth.” (Qur’an 2:30) What does this have to do with marriage? The first to be given a task of becoming a vicegerent on Earth was a family. It all started with the family; the first glad tidings of heaven were given to a family, We said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden.” (Qur’an 2:35) Instead of starting civilisation with a single family, Allah could have created an entire tribe. It is as though Allah is saying to us that building the Earth is associated with the family.
Allah says in the Qur’an, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.” (Qur’an 49:13) This verse is a very important one. Our civilisation started with a single entity, from a single family. It is as though Allah is telling us to get married so that we can continue to do what we were created to do. How many of us want to get married so that we can fulfil Allah’s commandments?
Let’s talk in general about what guys and girls think and say. Some guys say that they just want a girl who is good, and that’s because they don’t have clear criteria. Girls usually say they also want someone who is good and who will take care of them. Girls say this however without set criteria in their minds. Other guys and girls look for significant others who are stylish, funny, good looking, cool, and sweet. A third set of girls may say that they want a guy who is ambitious, educated, religious, who will take care of her and who is responsible. Some people start getting too specific with regards to aspects like the colour of the eyes, the hair, the kind of car, and about money. Then there are religious guys who say they want a religious girl that must also be beautiful. Their reason for this is that they to lower their gaze and so they need beautiful wives. Some other guys only care about religion without caring about looks or anything else. These are all just some examples of what people say.
What about the Prophet, what does he say? Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “A woman is married for four things, i.e. her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a losers.” Many people misunderstand this hadith; they think it says that men should marry women for one of the four things mentioned above. What the Prophet is saying here is that there are four main reasons, or popular reasons, that men end up marrying women. These are: her wealth, family status, beauty or religion. What the Prophet is saying is that men should marry the religious women, they should hold on to them tightly otherwise they will be a loser; you will be a person who has taken nothing. The same goes for women, they will lose if they do not take a religious man. This is not the first time that the Prophet talks about choosing a good wife, he also says that life on Earth is for enjoyment, and the best enjoyment on Earth is the pious woman.
Allah says in the second verse of the Cow Chapter, “Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter.” Scholars have said that the good in the Hereafter is Paradise. The good in this world is the one that deserves to be mentioned next to the good of the hereafter so that there is balance and therefore it must also be something of equal value. Scholars said that for a man, the good in this world is the pious wife. As for the woman, it is the good husband. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) also said, “Whoever proposes to someone in marriage, he should be accepted, once they were pleased with his manners, religion, and trustworthiness, (if there is an emotional acceptance for the two parties involved) if he was refused for worldly reasons such as poverty, not wealthy enough or unsuitable social status, this will create corruption and fitnah on earth,” Hadith Saheeh (sound source). In the end, the meaning is to look for a person who is religious. This is not just the advice of the Prophet, but life experiences have also said the same. Men are happiest when their wives are religious, and women are happiest when their husbands are religious. A man asked a scholar who he should marry his daughter to. The scholar replied and told the man to marry his daughter to a religious man, if he loves her, he will be generous to her, and if he doesn’t love her, he will not be unjust to her.
Don’t marry someone who doesn’t pray, don’t marry someone who you know drinks, don’t marry someone who does a major sin; how can you build a home like this? Don’t marry someone just because they are good looking and say that maybe they will start praying after you are married. Some parents tell their sons to marry a woman and tell him that after they are married she is going to get better, and the other way around as well. If so, then shouldn’t they start becoming better now? Your children should not see their father drink or find that their mother doesn’t pray. On the Day of Judgment we will be questioned for not choosing our spouses carefully, we will be questioned for not providing our children with the best mothers and fathers. This is why the first criteria for choosing a partner is for them to be religious. And this is not a criterion that can be compromised. This is a mentality that we need to plant deep in ourselves.
We should number our criteria for choosing our spouses. And being religious is going to be at the top of the list then we need to actually follow that. The Prophet did not say to take a religious wife/husband and ignore everything else. No one said that your significant other should not be good looking, but the most important thing should be religion. Everything else should only be secondary.
‘Omar Ibn Al Khatab wanted to marry Om Kalthoom, the daughter of Abu Bakr. ‘Omar then went to Om Kalthoom’s sister, ‘A’isha and told her that he wanted to marry Om Kalthoom. Aisha went to Om Khalthoom and told her that she was so lucky to get a proposal from a great man like ‘Omar. Om Kalthoom replied and asked what is it that she could do with ‘Omar. “He is a very jealous man and all he cares about is that people walk in a straight path.” She said that she was a young woman who wanted to be showered with love. She wanted a man who would shower her with love and who also worships Allah. ‘A’isha tried to talk to her and tell her that ‘Omar was such a great man, but Om Kalthoom swore that if she did not leave her alone she would scream in front of the Prophet’s grave and say that she doesn’t want ‘Omar. Not knowing what to do, ‘A’isha called ‘Amr Ibn Al A as and asked him to solve the situation. ‘Amr went to ‘Omar and asked him if he was going to get married. ‘Omar said that he would. ‘Amr asked him, and ‘Omar said that he would marry Om Kalthoom the daughter of Abu Bakr. ‘Amr asked ‘Omar what it is that he has to do with this girl, her father passed away a few months ago and she is just going to sit there and cry all day and all night. ‘Omar looked at ‘Amr and asked him if ‘A’isha talked to him, ‘Amr replied yes and ‘Omar then said he would let the matter go and that there was no need for it. Om Khalthoom ended up marrying Talha Ibn Obayd Allah, who was a rich merchant, and was one of the ten who were given the good tidings of going to heaven.
Some people think that they can marry someone and then change them into becoming more religious. The media has painted an untrue picture of what the religious man and woman are like. The media painted a dark and ugly picture. To be religious does not mean to be ugly. There are many religious people who are also good looking and who are well maintained. What if a guy wants to marry a girl who is not religious? Let’s ask a question here; is she or is she not willing to become religious? If she says yes, she will become more religious after marriage, then is she taking the steps that indicate that? How serious a person is about becoming religious will show in how fast they implement what they say. Some people say they want to become religious but they do not do anything about it, there is no implementation. Write down your criteria. At the stop of the list should be religion. If you can’t do that then be more specific and set minimum requirements. Say you cannot marry someone who does not pray, or someone that does major sins. What are you going to say to God? What are you going to say to Him about your children?
Another important criteria is that of agreement and compatibility. When it comes to compatibility there are two problems. These problems concern religious people and many other people. Some religious people say they want a religious partner and that nothing else matters. They ignore social compatibility and the family. It isn’t important to them that there may be a huge difference in social status. Another kind of people say that social status is important and that religion is personal and that it is no one’s business, that maybe after marriage the spouse will improve religiously. Neither of the above arguments are correct. There are four kind of compatibility: religious compatibility, social compatibility, educational compatibility and materialistic compatibility. There will be a problem if a woman with an undergraduate degrees gets married to a man who hasn’t been to university. Social and educational compatibility are very important. There is an important incident that can be used to illustrate this. Zeinab Bint Jahsh was married to Zaid Ibn Haretha and there was a huge social gap. Zeinab was from the nobility of Quraysh, and Zaid was a freed slave. Both of these individuals were also very religious and Zeinab ended up being the Prophet’s wife so obviously she was religious. Zeinab’s relationship with Zaid failed because of the huge social gap. It is usually more difficult if a woman’s social status is higher than a man’s and it results in more problems. This does not mean that the social status must be the same. If a woman’s social status was slightly higher, that would be okay, and if his was slightly higher, that would be even better. The problems result when the gap is huge.
What about materialistic compatibility? This one doesn’t matter. As long as educational and social compatibility exists then money does not and should not matter. With regards to religious compatibility, can you imagine a girl whose aim is to please Allah marry someone who doesn’t pray or someone who doesn’t care about Islam? How can parents not care about something like this? How can a woman devoted to Allah be with a man who doesn’t even think about religion? In the end, the purpose of a family is for them to hold on tightly to one another, and if religion is lacking this will not be possible.
Now that we talked about compatibility let’s talk about age. There are two cases; either the man will be older than the woman or the other way around. The Prophet’s wife Khadeejah was 15 years older than him, she was 40 and he was 25. This however is related to the fact that the Prophet’s maturity was great. It is a fact that until the age of 22 women mature faster than men. Men can marry older women under two conditions. The first is that the woman is a reasonable mature women who will not feel that just because she is older that she will be the one who should be in control of the home and the relationship. At the same time, the man must be reasonable and mature so that he isn’t too young. If these two conditions are met then there is no problem if the woman is a year or two older than the man. Let’s look at the opposite scenario and talk about when a woman marries a man who is 15 or 20 years older than her. Scholars have said that ideally, a man should be 3-10 years older than a woman. This is why Abu Bakr refused to marry his daughter to a few men who were much older.
Nowadays, we find that some girls choose to marry men who are much older than them. They choose men, who were friends with their fathers that they use to call uncle. This happens because girls do not feel like they can find responsible young men. The number of young men who are willing or who can take this degree of responsibility is decreasing. Recently men do not want to take the responsibility, they want to come home from work and go out with their friends in the evening. Meanwhile, it is the women who not only take care of everything in the house like the cooking and cleaning, but she is also the one who is taking care of the paper work, doing the grocery shopping so that the woman ends up doing her job and his. Women don’t want this; they want to marry a man who will share the responsibility with her. Women should still be careful because it is not easy marrying someone who is a lot older.
Being religious does not mean to just go and pray and fast and wear the Hijab. That can all just be a façade and a false pretence. Being religious should be reflected on our actions and manners. It is not enough to say that someone is religious because they pray, you need to look at their manners and see how they treat others and that is when you will find out if they are religious or not. ‘Omar Ibn Al-Khattab met a man once and asked him if he knows a certain individual. This man said he did, and that he knew him well. ‘Omar asked him if he has worked with this individual in matters relating to money. The man said no. ‘Omar asked him if he travelled with this individual. The man said no. ‘Omar then said to the man that if he knew this individual only from the mosque and had seen him pray and read the Qur’an then he does not know him. Look for the true religious person, the one who reflects it and acts it. The truly religious person is the person you will be happy with in this world and the hereafter.
Tie your criteria with you goals. Some people want to go to heaven, so they need to look for the significant other who will help them worship Allah and go to heaven. Looking for a religious person does not mean you need to ignore the social status or pleasing looks. The Prophet said for men to go and look at their perspective wives, he told them to take a good look at their potential spouses.
In the hadith mentioned earlier, when the Prophet said, “Whoever proposes to someone in marriage, he should be accepted, once they were pleased with his manners, religion,” he differentiated between manner and religion. He did this because just praying is not enough; you need to look very carefully at the manners. What we are trying to say here is that the most important thing is for the individual to be religious and then you can look for someone who is appealing. Appealing does not mean beauty, appealing means looks that comfort you. It means find someone whose looks please you, and make you feel safe and comfortable. There are three main points here:
2. An acceptable appearance.
3. A compatible social and educational/mental level.
In choosing your significant other you should pay special attention to the above three criteria. If every one takes these three into consideration while choosing their life partner, they will feel better and safer about their choice. This is related to your goal in to heaven, then find someone who will help you attain that goal. If you want someone to help you worship Allah, and to be a good parent to your children, and to help you raise your children well, someone who will help you fill your community with goodness, then find someone who will help you do this.
Now that we have clarified our criteria let’s start looking. When we let go of the theory and hit the real world we run into problems. The problem is that we find that the age of unmarried people is older, in the 30’s and that we cannot find our criteria. Girls are especially running into this problem. They themselves will come from good families, they are religious and meet all the criteria, but they cannot find husbands that meet their criteria. There are three reasons that have led to this:
1. Monetary complications where sometimes parents end up asking for too much.
2. Men who do not want to take responsibility and women do not want this.
3. Chances are weak and this will be explained more clearly below.
In the last lecture we talked about not getting into boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Once you move into the work environment after graduating from university, without a boy/girlfriend, you find that the community around you has shrunk and become very small. So you are limited to choosing from a small number of people and you feel like there is no one around you that you can marry. Some girls say that they work to get married; they work so that they can meet people and get married. This of course is not wrong; girls want to get married without doing something wrong of course, that is fine. This is why people feel that they need to get into boy/girl friend relationship; they feel that this is the only way to find the person they want to marry. But as mentioned in the last lecture, statistics show that 99% of boy/girlfriend relationships do not end up with marriage. And when its time to get married your heart aches because of past relationships. What is the alternative?
In the past, it was harder to get meet people because not every one could afford to not work and go to university, however, our parents still managed to do it. Something must have changed between back then and now. What is lacking now is the strong familial network that was abundant a long time ago. Unlike before, now people want their own privacy, their own rooms, their own telephone lines and they isolate themselves. Not only was the family network strong, but people also had strong ties with their neighbours and everyone knew everyone else. Now, no one knows the name of his or her neighbours. Families used to visit each other all the time and travel together. Now, fathers go and see their families alone because their sons and daughters want to go out with their own friends instead of visiting their families. And when parents want their sons and daughter to come out with them on family outings, their request is met with objection. Another network was formed in the mosque where everyone used to go and pray and that is how people met other people. This is why they did not feel the need to subject themselves to boy/girl friend relationships to meet someone. These networks allow you to study each other’s behaviour without being in an unlawful relationship. And because of this network you know that this person will not fool you, you know that they will not turn out to be someone else after you are married.
Isn’t this what happens now? We find that people before marriage are one thing, and after they are another. Through a network however you will have known this person for years and so you will know who they really are. It is the fathers’ responsibility to do this, to try and create a strong web of family and friends. If you do this, your daughter will never have to resort to getting a boyfriend or to find someone over the Internet through a match making website. Essentially you are sending your info to an employee who matched you with that he believes to be your significant other. Instead of a father finding a suitable husband for his daughter, it has now become a company on the Internet that does that. Even worse, there are girls who advertise themselves on television because they want to get married.
Islam tells women that they are valuable, and that they should not degrade and cheapen themselves like that. Women are valuable, they are queens who should be pursued and chased by men who want to marry them. Brothers have also been neglecting their roles in this process. All brother and sisters do right now is yell and fight. Brothers need to choose their friends carefully so that they can help their sisters. Everyone should do what they can to create an environment where people can meet their significant others without doing anything wrong. This is the main solution to helping people get married.