Choosing the right spouse
There is a
hadeeth reported by Ummul-Mu’mineen (the Mother of the Believers), ‘Aa’ishah
(RA), in the Sunan of at-Tirmidhi stating that the Messenger of Allah (SAW)
“…Verily, women are the partners of men.” (At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth no. 113)
Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi (RH) said the way men are attracted to women, women will also be attracted to men.
It is the haq (divine right) of every woman to be able to choose her life-long partner, as she will be sharing the rest of her life with him and living under his authority.
The good wali amr (responsible male guardian), who is usually the father, will choose for his daughter somebody with good Deen, behaviour and character.
Imaam al-Ghazaali (RH) said that when a woman marries she becomes like a slave.
Nikaah (marriage) is a form of slavery for the woman, and this is confirmed by the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (RA), who said:
“Nikaah is slavery (servitude), so let each one of you watch out (i.e. be cautious) to whom he gives his daughter.”
So it is compulsory for the father (or wali amr) to choose a good partner for his daughter, and it is likewise a duty upon the woman to choose a partner with good Deen.
But what are the characteristics of a good potential husband or wife? What should be the attributes and prerequisite qualities of a person to be considered as a suitable partner? What should a woman look for in a partner, and to whom should she agree to give leadership and authority to? Who should she accept to be the captain of the boat – the boat of her life – with whom she will live with in hardship and ease?
1. Good Deen
When a person marries they will either enter into a life of happiness and serenity, or a life of misery and anxiety. This is why it is so important to make the right choice in the beginning.
The first and most important thing the woman should look for in a man is good Deen (i.e. piety). Allah (SWT) says:
“…And give not (your daughters) in marriage to al-Mushrikoon till they believe (in Allah Alone) and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik (unbeliever, etc.), even though he pleases you…” (EMQ al-Baqarah, 2:221)
No doubt, the believing slave is far better than any Mushrik, even if the slave has no money or wealth.
It is narrated upon the authority of Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:
“If a person approaches you [for your daughter’s hand] and you are pleased with their character (manners) and Deen, let them get married. If you do not, there will be fitnah (tribulation) on the earth and widespread mischief.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah and others)
So the man who has good Deen will be the best candidate. He will never treat his wife badly, nor will he abandon her. And he will definitely not allow alcohol or music to enter the home or expose her to any corruption.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The best of you is the best towards his family (wives, daughters, sisters, etc.), and I am the best among you towards my family.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah, Hadeeth no. 1977)
So the Prophet (SAW) indicated that the best husband is the one who is best to his wife (or wives) and family, and he will ensure that they are not exposed to any corruption or disobedience.
As mentioned before, through nikaah the woman is entering into a form of slavery. So if the father gives his daughter to a corrupted man, a person who votes for man-made laws, allies with the Kuffaar against Muslims, calls for interfaith, believes the Prophet (SAW) is alive, worships graves, seeks intercession from the dead or hates the Muwahhideen (Muslims) and Mujaahideen, or possesses any other bad characteristics, he is committing a grave sin and will no doubt earn the anger of Allah.
A man once sought advice from Imaam al-Hasan (RA) and told him that a number of men approached him for his daughter’s hand in marriage but he could not choose between them. Imaam al-Hasan said, “Choose the one that fears Allah; if he loves her he will honour her, and if he dislikes her he will never oppress (her).”
We can learn from this (and many other incidents in the past) that it is usually the father that looks for a husband for his daughter. In Islam, it is considered to be shameful for a woman to look for her own husband; therefore, she should no go out “shopping” for one. The woman is supposed to be shy, and shyness is part of Imaan.
After Moosaa (AS) departed Egypt, in fear of pursuit, he went to the city of Madyan. There he met a father of two women who offered one of his daughters for marriage to him (AS):
“He said: ‘I intend to wed one of these two daughters of mine to you…’” (EMQ al-Qasas, 28:27)
Despite Moosaa being a poor refugee, with no clothes to wear and no food to eat, the father offered his daughters to him because he was a man of good Deen. This is the example of a real father.
If the father is not concerned about the Deen of the person this means that he actually does not care for his daughter and does not want any goodness for her. Furthermore, he has also failed to understand that he is leading her to a miserable life.
So the father should look for someone with good Deen, even if he is poor and has no money. The main concern should be that he is a man who fulfils his duties and has the right ‘aqeedah. All other issues such as wealth, home, family and so forth will come later.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) informed us that no child (or baby) spoke from their cradle except three: (1) ‘Eesaa (Jesus), (2) a newborn child that was falsely attributed to a pious worshipper called Jurayj (from Bani Israa’eel), (3) and the child of al-Ukhdood (mentioned in Soorat ul-Burooj). (This has been reported in Saheeh ul-Bukhaari, Book 60, Chapter 48, Hadeeth no. 3436, and Saheeh Muslim, Book 45, Chapter 2, Hadeeth no. 2550)
Jurayj was known to be a pious worshipper who was always busy worshipping Allah. However, whenever his mother would call him he didn’t know whether to respond to her call or to continue worshipping (his Lord). She would call for his assistance daily but he would never respond. Eventually, she became so frustrated that she supplicated: “Oh my Lord, do not let him die until he sees the faces of prostitutes (Moomisaat).”
The children of Israa’eel would speak so highly of Jurayj that eventually a prostitute heard about him. This woman was known to be considerably attractive and she believed that nobody could resist her. She deliberately sought to seduce Jurayj knowing that he was a pious man. When she reached his cave she attempted to seduce him but, to her amazement, he ignored her and refused. She then left and went to a local shepherd and offered herself to him. After committing illegal sexual intercourse with this man, she later bore a child and claimed the father was Jurayj, the pious worshipper.
When the people heard about this they looked for Jurayj, captured him and started to beat him. They decided to take him to the king and while he was being dragged across the streets he saw the face of a prostitute, which reminded him of the supplication (curse) of his mother. When he was brought in front of the people the child was placed in front of him. Jurayj performed ablution (wudoo’) and offered prayers. Then he placed his hand on the baby’s stomach and said, “Oh child, (tell us) who is your father?” Allah (SWT) defended the believer by allowing the baby to reply, “Ar-Raa’ie (the shepherd).” Stunned by the baby’s response, the people offered to build Jurayj a house from gold, but he preferred a house made from mud.
The Prophet (SAW) said that this kind of man (Jurayj) would make a good husband. The purpose of marriage is not only to have enjoyment but to (mainly) have a good (pious) partner and good children. If the parents are righteous the children will speak the truth even from a young age.
Sa’eed bin Musayyab (d. 94 AH) was a great Taabi’ie and scholar. It is said that his daughter was very pretty, polite, well-mannered and shy. She was also very knowledgeable and well-versed in the Qur’aan and Sunnah as she learnt from her father. The Khaleefah at that time, Abdul Malik bin Marwaan, approached Sa’eed for his daughter’s hand in marriage to his son, al-Waleed bin Abdil Malik, but Sa’eed rejected, even though al-Waleed was very wealthy, well-educated, smart and not to mention the son of the Khaleefah. Despite this, Sa’eed did not wed his daughter to al-Waleed. Instead he chose one of his students, Katheer bin Abee Wudaa’ah, who was so poor that he couldn’t afford to pay for a wedding or dowry.
Sa’eed decided to send Katheer 5,000 dirhams and told him to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Katheer accepted the gift and spent it on the dowry. He was very close to Sa’eed and greatly admired him. After spending a number of nights with his wife, Katheer told her that he needed to go out and attend one of her father’s sermons as he did not want to miss one of the circles of knowledge. His wife said to him, “Sit here and I will teach you the knowledge of my father.” So he sat with her and she taught him some of what her father had conveyed.
Not only did Katheer have a good wife, but he also had a great teacher. If he missed any of Sa’eed’s circles he could learn from his wife. This great Taabi’ie, Sa’eed bin Musayyab, chose a poor servant for his daughter and favoured him over the son of the Khaleefah as he knew he was a man of taqwaa and Deen, and this was more important to him.
There was a man called Thaabit bin Ibraaheem (RH) who once passed by a garden. Thaabit was feeling very hungry so as he passed by he picked an apple from the garden and began to eat it. Suddenly he remembered that it was not allowed for him to eat the fruit as it did not belong to him. So he entered the garden in order to seek forgiveness from the owner. Upon entering the garden he found a man there and asked him to forgive him. However, the man told him that he did not have the authority to forgive (as he was not the owner). He told Thaabit that his master was currently away and if he wanted to meet him he would need to travel for one night and one day. Thaabit said, “By Allah, I will go to him, no matter how far (he is).”
Thaabit had a good reason for concern as the Messenger Muhammad (SAW) said in one hadeeth: “Any flesh that was grown (earned) from haraam (income), Hellfire will be the only place for it.” (Mu’jam at-Tabaraani al-Kabeer and others)
This hadeeth teaches us that if one feeds their family from haraam income, that piece of flesh (or meat) that they consume will be in Hellfire. How many people today are feeding their beloved ones (their mothers, fathers and children) from haraam income which they have earned from ribaa (interest), gambling or cheating?
Thaabit departed on his journey and walked for one night and one day until he reached the man. Thaabit asked him for forgiveness, but after consideration the man replied, “By Allah, I will only forgive you on one condition.” “What is that condition?” Thaabit asked. “I will only forgive you if you marry my daughter, as you ate from my garden without permission.” Thaabit agreed to marry his daughter but just as he was about to leave the man said, “But she is deaf, blind and disabled.” Thaabit said, “You have asked for a lot, but are you sure you will forgive me?” “Yes,” the man replied. Thaabit again agreed to marry is daughter and look after her so that he may attain the man’s forgiveness.
After some time the nikaah contract was done. Thaabit entered the room to see his bride for the first time (though it is recommended to view the person first, before getting married). Upon entering the room he did not know whether to give salaam to her because he was told that she was deaf. Nevertheless, he said, “As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum,” hoping that at least the angels would reply. But to his surprise, the woman replied, “Wa-‘Alaikum as-Salaam wa-Rahmatullah.” She then stood up, walked towards him and took hold of his hand. At that moment, Thaabit realised that she was not how her father described. “Your father told me you were blind,” said Thaabit. “Yes, I am blind. My eyes have never seen anything forbidden and I have never seen another man before,” she replied. “Your father told me you were deaf.” “Yes, I have never heard anything that would anger Allah,” she replied. “Your father told me you couldn’t speak.” “Yes, I never utter anything but dhikr and tasbeeh,” she replied. “Your father told me you were disabled.” “Yes, my feet have never taken me to a place that would anger Allah,” she replied. Her face was radiant like the badr (full moon, in the middle of the month).
After a while she became pregnant and gave birth to one of the most famous Imaams in the history of Islam: al-Imaam al-A’zam, Abu Haneefah an-Nu’maan, the son of Thaabit bin Ibraaheem bin Nu’maan bin Marzubaan, from Kaabul. What a good mother she was to give birth to such a man. Again, like others in the past, Thaabit was chosen because of his good Deen.
2. Knowledge of the Book of Allah
The second thing a woman should look for in a partner is that he has knowledge of the Book of Allah. The man should be a person who memorizes verses and chapters from the Qur’aan and he should have knowledge of what is known in Islam by necessity. So besides having good Deen and the right ‘aqeedah (belief), he should be a person who regularly recites the Qur’aan and memorizes from the Book of Allah.
Abu Hudhafah bin ‘Utbah bin Rabee’ah (RA) was a Sahaabi from the Muhaajireen. His uncle, Sheebah, and brother, al-Waleed, were known to be from the richest and wealthiest men in Makkah. Yet, despite coming from such a wealthy family, Hudhafah allowed his sister Hind to marry a slave called Saalim because he was a Haafiz ul-Qur’aan.
Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’aan: “Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has at-Taqwaa…” (EMQ al-Hujuraat, 49:13)
The one who is most honourable and beloved to Allah is the one who fears Him and obeys His commands. Therefore, one should look for these qualities first, not cast, background, nationality, wealth, education and so forth.
A woman once came to the Prophet (SAW) and offered herself to him for marriage. He looked at her and then lowered his gaze. A Companion sitting nearby whispered to him, “If you do not like her I will marry her.” The Prophet (SAW) then asked, “Do you have anything to offer (for dowry)?” “I have no money,” the Companion answered. “Go and (at least) find a ring made from metal,” the Prophet advised. The man went off to look for a ring. When he returned he told the Prophet that he couldn’t find anything and all he had to offer was his izaar (a piece of garment wrapped around his waste) which he could tear in half and give to her. The Prophet (SAW) said to him, “What would she be able to do with that? It would not cover her properly and what remains would no longer be adequate for you.” As the Companion got up to leave the Prophet (SAW) said, “Have you memorized anything from the Qur’aan?” “Yes,” he replied. “If you are able, go to her and give her what you have.”
This is a specific case and no analogy can be drawn from it. There are other evidences that state the man must propose a specific dowry (mahr). But we learn from this hadeeth that the Prophet was keen to know if he had memorized from the Book of Allah.
3. Good family
The Messenger Muhammad (SAW) said: “People are like mines of gold and silver. Those who were the best in Jaahiliyyah (the Days of Ignorance) are the best in Islam – if they have fiqh.” (Saheeh Muslim)
We can learn from this hadeeth that the man should come from a good, pious and practicing family. If he is a convert to Islam, his family should not be thieves, corrupted and so forth.
4. Good character
Some people have good Deen, they have a good family and they have memorized from the Qur’aan, but they are also temperamental. So besides these things, it is very important for the man to be someone who is polite, courteous, gentle and well-mannered.
When Faatimah bint Qays (RA) was divorced by her husband he had left no nafaqah (provision) for her. She informed the Prophet (SAW) of her situation and he told her that after her ‘iddah period is over he will find a husband for her. Three men later proposed to Faatimah: Mu’aawiyah bin Abee Sufyaan, Abu Jahm and Usaamah bin Zayd (who were all unaware of each other’s proposals). The Prophet (SAW) said to Faatimah, “As for Mu’aawiyah, he has no wealth. And Abu Jahm would beat his women. Therefore, marry Usaamah.” Faatimah replied, “I obey Allah and His Messenger (SAW).”
The Prophet (SAW) did not choose Mu’aawiyah because he was a person who was not gentle enough with his family and did not spend on them. Abu Jahm was not chosen because he was too harsh with women and would often beat them. So Usaamah bin Zayd was the only choice.
The Messenger Muhammad (SAW) said: “The perfect believers (Muslims) are those who have the best behaviour (character) and are gentle with their family (wives).” (Al-Adhkaar by Imaam an-Nawawi, and others)
Therefore the Muslimah must be keen for her future husband to have these qualities, and she will only be able to learn about his character from her father or brothers, who have the ability to meet him and speak with him. If the man has bad character this will no doubt result in a miserable marriage.
It is reported in the book Tuhfut ul-‘Aroos (page 77) that a man once proposed to a woman who was very attracted to him. She decided to marry him without to look into his character. Her father told her not to marry him, but she insisted he was the right man and she would be able to change him if he had any defections. Her father told her that this was not the criterion and that she should seek a person who had good Deen and character, but she decided to go ahead with the marriage. After a month had passed, her father decided to visit her. He noticed some marks on her body but did not say anything. He asked her how she was and she appeared to be happy. He then asked about the marks on her body. She cried and said, “What can I say my father? I disobeyed you and chose a person without to be concerned about his Deen and character.”
Hence, it is very important for the spouse to be kind, gentle, considerate, patient and generous, and these are the things she should look out for.
Marriage should not be rushed – it is better to be single than to have a partner that is not practising the Deen. Furthermore, marrying a person who doesn’t have good Deen is a great crime and mistake as the children will also be affected.
The last thing to consider, which is less important than the others, is that the person is mature (mentally) and capable. There is no harm in being concerned about whether the man is able to look after one’s daughter, but this should not be the first and only concern.
Although Islam encourages one to get married, capability should be a factor to be taken into consideration. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:
“Oh youth! Those of you who are able to support a wife should get married, for it restrains the eyes from evil glances and preserves one from immorality. But those who cannot should devote themselves to fasting for it is a means of controlling sexual desire.” (Saheeh Muslim, Kitaab un-Nikaah, Chapter 1, Hadeeth no. 1400)
Submitted by a Mujahid