By Rabi'ah Hakeem
In light of the experience of the past years, it is time to take stock
and try to halt the ever-mounting tide of divorces among Muslims. It
is not unusual today to find Muslim women (and even an occasional
Muslim man) who, by the time they are 30 or 35, have been married
three or four times, their children suffering again and again through
the trauma of fatherless and broken homes. Accordingly, we may list a
few essential points to be considered by both brothers and sisters in
the process of choosing a partner in life (although the masculine
pronoun has been used throughout for the sake of simplicity, the
following is generally equally applicable to both men and women).
- 1. Du'a.
the matter of finding and choosing a mate. As often as you feel it
necessary, pray Salaah al-Istikhara, Islam's special prayer for
guidance, in order to reach a suitable decision.
- 2. Consult your heart.
you to guide you, tells you about the prospective partner.
It is likely to be more correct than your mind,
which often plays tricks and can rationalise almost any- thing. For
many people, first impressions are often the most accurate.
- 3. Enquire.
interested in you as an individual or will just any person do? Why is
he not doing the logical thing, that is, to marry someone from his
culture? If there is evidence that the primary reason for this
marriage, despite claims to the contrary, is for convenience
(greencard, money, property, etc.), forget it. This spells trouble.
- 4. Get to know your prospective partner,
Just ' seeing' someone once or twice in the company of others, who may be anxious for
this marriage to take place, is simply not enough under today's
conditions, where two per- sons of totally dis-similar backgrounds are
meeting each other without the safeguards of families. Without
violating Islam's prohibition about being alone, try to understand his
nature, what makes him tick, his temperament, what he might be like to
- 5. Talk to several people who know your prospective partner,
from various people, not just from his friends because they may
conceal facts to do him a favour. And ask not only about his
background, career, Islamicity, etc., but about such crucial matters
as whether he gets angry easily; what he does when he is 'mad';
whether he is patient, polite, considerate; how he gets along with
people; how he relates to the opposite sex; what sort of relationship
he has with his mother and father; whether he is fond of children;
what his personal habits are, etc. And find out about his plans for
the future from people who know him. Do they coincide with what he has
told you? Go into as much detail as possible. Check out his plans for
the future - where you will live and what your lifestyle will be, his
attitudes toward money and possessions and the like. If you can't get
answers to such crucial questions from people who know him, ask him
yourself and try to make sure he is not just saying what he knows you
want to hear. Too many people will make all kinds of promises before
marriages in order to secure the partner they want but afterwards
forget that they ever made them, (this naturally applies equally to
women as to men).
- 6. Find out about his family,
What will his obligations be to them in the future? How
will this affect where and under what conditions you will live? What
are the character and temperament of each of his parents? Will they
live with you or you with them? And are they pleased with his
prospective marriage to you or not? Although it may not be the case in
most Western marriages, among Muslims such issues are often crucial to
the success or failure of a marriage, and answers to these questions
need to be satisfactory to ensure a peaceful married life.
- 7. Understand each other's expectations.
under- standing of the marriage relationship,
how he will behave in various situations, and what he wants of you as
his spouse. These are issues which should be discussed clearly and
unambiguously as the negotiations progress, not left to become sources
of disharmony after the marriage because they were never brought up
beforehand. If you are too shy to ask certain questions, have a person
you trust do it for you. At an advanced stage of the negotiations,
such a discussion should include such matters as birth control, when
children are to be expected, how they are to be raised, how he feels
about helping with housework and with the children's upbringing,
whether or not you may go to school or work, relations with his family
and yours, and other vital issues.
- 8. See him interacting with others in various situations.
partner, the more clues you will have as to his mode of dealing with
people and circumstances.
- 9. Find out what his understanding of Islam is
This is a very important matter.
Is he expecting you to do many things which you have not done up to this
point? If he emphasises " Haraams", especially if you are a new
Muslimah, and seems unable to tolerate your viewpoint, chances are
your marriage will be in trouble unless you are flexible enough to
accommodate yourself to his point of view and possibly a very
restrictive lifestyle. Let him spell out to you clearly how he intends
to practise Islam and how he wants you to practise it as his wife so
there will be no misunderstandings later.
- 10. Don't be in a hurry.
partners are in such haste that they don't take time to make such
vital checks as the ones outlined above and rush into things. Shocking
as it may seem, marriages between Muslims which are contracted and
then broken within a week or a month or a year have become common
place occurrences among us. Don't add yourself to the list of
marriage casualties because you couldn't take time or were too
desperate for marriage to find out about or get to know the person
with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life.
- 11. Ask yourself,
my children? If it doesn't feel just right to you, think it over
again. Remember, marriage is not just for today or tomorrow but for
life, and for the primary purpose of building a family. If the person
in question doesn't seem like the sort who would make a good parent,
you are likely to find yourself struggling to raise your children
without any help from him or her - or even with negative input - in
- 12. Never allow yourself to be pressured or talked into a marriage.
allegations of "Islamicity" - he is pious, has a beard, frequents the
Masjid, knows about Islam; she wears Hijab, does not talk to men- are
not necessarily guarantees of a good partner for you or of a good
marriage, but are only a part of a total picture. If an individual
practises the Sunnah only in relation to worship or externals, chances
are he /she has not really understood and is not really living Islam.
Possessing the affection and Rahmah (mercy) which Islam enjoins
between marriage partners is vital for a successful relationship, and
these are the important traits to be looked for in a prospective
- 13. Never consent to engaging in a marriage for a fixed period or in