Choosing a Life Partner: Choice of a Lifetime By Rahena Begum

The most comprehensive advice given regarding the choice of a spouse is the teaching of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), "A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers." (Al-Bukhari, Book 62, hadith 27). As the best of all leaders, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) knew his community well and understood that there are very real considerations that must be taken into account when selecting a spouse. Criteria such as wealth, family status, and beauty are of common concern to people around the world. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) acknowledged these criteria but then went on to say that above all, the emphasis should be placed on how religious the candidate is. When it comes down to it, you will have to ask yourself, "how do I understand this hadith? What does it mean to me? Am I going to risk being among the losers and go after only wealth or beauty or family status, or am I going to find beauty, wealth, and family status as possibly additional qualities of an otherwise religious spouse?" This is not an easy question to consider, especially when there are divergent expectations between the spousal candidates themselves and between the parents and their children. I will address some of these expectations below. Being Honest The worst mistake a young person can make in the process of choosing a spouse is to assume that everything will just fall into place after marriage. Two specific areas of concern involve the level of practice of Islam and the expectations about career and childbirth. A common misconception among young people is that the person whom they are considering for marriage will suddenly start to be more religious the moment the ink on the marriage contract dries. Be honest with yourself and with your prospective spouse about your own level of Islamic knowledge and practice and what you expect from him or her. If you are struggling to practice, if you do not pray regularly, if you have very little attachment to Islam, your future spouse needs to know that. He or she does not need to know what sins you have committed in private as long as you have felt remorse, repented, and gotten yourself back on track. Often a person is overtaken by how handsome a young man is or how beautiful a young woman is, and the thought process is "well, so what if he does not pray or fast now, in sha' Allah, he will do so after marriage" or "she does not wear hijab now, but she tells me as soon as we are married, she will start to wear hijab." A person who says he or she will change after marriage is not being honest with himself or herself. Why? The obvious question is, if you say you will practice Islam after we are married, what stops you from praying regularly now or from wearing the hijab now? What does your being a better Muslim have to do with marriage? The answer: Nothing, absolutely nothing. A person strives to be a better Muslim because of their desire to imitate Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in their obedience to Allah. If you are not pleased with your own level of practice or with that of your future spouse, be very careful that you do not compromise and accept a "promise" to change after marriage. The change should happen now, before marriage, and for nothing other than for the sake of Allah Most High. While the concept of marriage still involves a man and a woman, the traditional notions of the roles the man and the woman will play as husband and wife are changing. In the past few decades, the number of women pursuing higher education and then focusing on establishing careers has increased. It is much more common to find young women who have delayed marriage until they have completed at a minimum their undergraduate studies and perhaps even their graduate or professional education. If you are a young man, it is critical that you are honest with yourself as to whether you want to marry a young woman who wishes to establish a career for herself or who wishes to pursue graduate or professional education. If you look forward to marrying a young woman who will essentially stay at home and help raise the children, you are doing yourself and your future spouse an injustice by thinking you are being "cool" or "hip" or "with the times" by saying "sure, no problem, I would never hold back my wife from working or going to school." Similarly, if you are a young woman who intends to pursue a career and wishes to delay having children, you should be just as honest with your future husband. Whether you are a man or a woman, you should be honest with yourself and with your prospective spouse so that these types of issues can be resolved in the early stages of the marriage talks. Equally important, please help your parents to understand your expectations of your spouse so that they do not say later, for example, "But we expected that we would be seeing grandchildren right away." Or even worse, that they say, "Why did she agree to marry you if she wanted to pursue a career?" These are private matters to be resolved first between the husband and wife and, actually, long before there is even talk of finalizing the marriage. Final Thoughts There is great cause for optimism as you set about choosing a life partner. By the grace and mercy of Allah, more young Muslims are practicing Islam in their daily lives, and you will be able to find that one special person with whom to spend the rest of your life. It is imperative, however, that as you set out to find that special person, you know more about who you are and that you ascertain just how ready you are for marriage. Involve your parents right from the start in order to minimize heartaches and headaches. One of the toughest challenges you are bound to face is when you set your mind to marry a person who is not from your own race or ethnicity. It is likely that your parents will insist that you marry someone from your own race or ethnicity, and if you are of immigrant origins, your parents' village or city in their native country. We urge you, if you are not already in such a predicament, to discuss at length with your parents their expectations. Do not get yourself so convinced that you must marry this man or that woman without involving your parents. Within reason, you should be able to come to a compromise as to how to proceed, reminding yourself and your parents of the Prophetic advice noted above on the qualities to look for in a spouse: "Marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers." Remember in the end that your parents deserve all the respect in the world. Their insights, their life experiences, and especially their love for you are all assets upon which you should rely although it is in Allah that you ultimately place your trust.   Photo credit:

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