written by abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed
Allah Created. And among His unique qualities is that He Creates without precedent.
Before Allah Decreed it, there had never been a “pair” of anything. What He made could never have been imagined by any of His Creations, and what He Created was something wonderful, walhamdolillah.
He has described the husband and wife as garments for each other. Think about that — if you are unmarried something about you is fundamentally incomplete.
Allah has decreed that man and woman each has free choice. So how will you choose to complete the pair?
When you shop for your spouse, what will you look for, who will you ask, and what questions or discussions will follow? Length? Width? Color? Perhaps.
The sunnah in Islam is to find out the information that will cause you to know whether to propose to someone or accept that person’s proposal. And when you have what you need to know, then you should proceed with the proposal or else stop.
This differentiates Islamic practice from other courtship rules in as much as other rules would permit courting as entertainment, ie, dating.
If you want to take your spouse on a date, bismillah. If you want to go on a date with someone to whom you are not married, beware the evil into which shaytan would lead you.
The same discretion should enter your questions and conversations before marriage. It is perfectly reasonable to have conversations whose only purpose is to establish that you two can have an easygoing and light conversation.
Yet too many open-ended conversations might lead to affections developing, and at that point many commentators have pointed out that people’s brains switch off: at that point they see only good in the other person. One writer even said that the person in love is as unreasonable as a drunk person.
Indeed Allah does not hold us accountable for our feelings: just as the pen is lifted for the intoxicated person — but the person who is intoxicated now may find tremendous punishment for his actions while he was sober: when he had the aql to avoid drink. And in the same way, Allah may hold us to account for indiscretions committed before we fell (intoxicated) in love — blameworthy actions that led us to a state of love, actions committed when we still had the aql to avoid them.
At the same time, how the other person makes you feel is important. Indeed when the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam found out from Jaabir that Jaabir had selected a woman to marry, the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam did not first ask Jaabir if she were a pious woman. He asked if Jaabir had seen her, looked upon her. And he advised doing so until Jaabir saw what would cause him to marry. Implying that it would have been possible he might not see it, and thus might not marry. And Allah’s Decree was that he saw, and they did marry, alhamdolillah.
So we know looking is allowed and that implies that other investigation is, too, because when you observe a person you do not see them posed or on a runway, naudhobillah, like clothes in the store. You see them in life, and you observe their interactions so inquiries into those are like what you would see, permissible at least as to what could be seen.
With so many warnings in mind, you may imagine that the only conversations and questions should be about deen: “How many verses have you memorized and of how many of them have you studied the tafseer?” “What are your favorite adhkaar — in salaat — before the basmallah?” “Do you read Muslim more often, or Bukhari?”
Those questions are… odd. Let’s face it — if you are starting out with conversations like those… Who are you marrying? Your shaykh? Shaykh Waleed is already married, folks.
So which questions then should come first? Indeed, Imam Ahmed, RahimAllah, advised that questions about deen should be the very last ones a person asks. Why? For a beautiful reason: good deen beautifies a person and it is better to reject a physically beautiful woman for her ugly deen, than to reject a woman whose deen is beautiful to you for any other reason.
This principle is so strong that it may help explain why the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam re-married the daughter of Omar, Umm al Mumineen Hafsa, radi Allaho anhumaa. Jibreel alayhis salam conversed with the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam about her taqwa and ibadat after their initial divorce, and it was some time after that conversation that they remarried, alhamdolillah.
Interestingly, from the sunnah, there is also the case of Umm Salamah, also Umm al Mumineen, walhamdolillah. She was widowed and had children from her marriage. And after her iddah the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam came to her to propose marriage. And clearly no one had more beautiful deen than him, sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam.
And yet, knowing that, she was prepared to reject him — not for his qualities, subhanAllah, but for her own issues that needed reconciliation. Her children — that they should have a father who loves them. Her age — that she avoid a situation whereby her husband find her at all lacking. And her jealousy of other women — including the other wives of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam.
And mashaAllah, this case shows us one of the keys to a successful courtship — indeed a successful courtship by the way, is one that ends in a marriage that pleases Allah. The nikah is just one moment, the exchange of a few words. And what follows the nikah is much more than just one night.
Keep that in mind: the success was more likely to come in marriage because the qualities the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam showed in his responses to her were qualities of a successful husband. Her children he promised would be just like his own to him. As for age he compared theirs as reassurance to her. And he prayed to Allah for an easing of her jealousy, walhamdolillah.
Three beautiful qualities (at least) are easy to see in the responses: accommodation, empathy, dua/taqwa/tawakkol. Okay i squeezed three qualities in there for the last example, but alhamdolillah alaa kulli haal, it is difficult to pick only a few traits from his example.
We know that Umm Salamah was a perceptive and intelligent woman — witness her advice to the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam at Hudaybiyyah. Thus she must have seen in his answers what she needed to know to accept his proposal, alhamdolillah. And indeed it was a successful marriage.
Before embarking on advice about specific questions or conversations you could have when looking for your wife or husband, reflect again on the example of Umm Salamah’s proposal and what followed: how could she have asked such good questions? She was aware of her own needs. And she knew the difference between her needs, and her wishes.
A Messenger of Allah for a husband? A wish. Her questions reflect that she knew, too, her needs. And you should, too, before you propose or respond to a proposal, wAllaho’Alim.
Otherwise, if you merely read to each other from a list of questions or conversation-topics — at best you are throwing darts in the dark wondering if you will hit something that yells out in surprise. And at worst you are ignoring the concerns that should be addressed.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Below are some Islamic principles,both general and specific, to consider if you will be be meeting or seeking a potential spouse for yourself or someone else at a conference, lecture, the mosque or another event:
1. Ask yourself: Why am I getting married.
‘Because all of my friends are' is not a legitimate reason. This is a good question to ask even if you are meeting the person to make a final decision because it will be a reminder about the real purpose of marriage from an Islamic perspective.
Marriage, from an Islamic perspective, is part of faith and it is part of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saww).
As well, “my intention should be I am looking for someone with whom I will build a family,” says Muhammad Nur Abdullah of St. Louis, Missouri, a member of the North American Fiqh Council. He has conducted pre-marriage counseling in the U.S. for the last 20 years.
“Marriage is a commitment and relationship that starts in this Dunya (world) and will continue Insha Allah in Paradise together,” he adds.
2. Ask yourself: what am I looking for in a spouse.
Prophet Muhammad (saww) said: “Men choose women for four reasons: for their money, for their rank, for their beauty and for their religion, but marry one who is religious and you will succeed”.
This of course, applies to women as well.
However, religion it seems, is not always foremost in the minds of many people. In fact, it's probably the last factor on too many Muslims' list.
According to Tasneem Qadeer, one of the seven volunteers who runs the Islamic Society of North America's matrimonial service, being a doctor or a lawyer is much more important to many Muslim women than piety.
And the men are not any better. Many matrimonial advertisements for instance, demonstrate a key demand for a wife who is “fair, slim and beautiful”.
“If we want to have healthy Muslim families then Deen has to be first,” says Aneesah Nadir, Director of Social Services for the Arizona Muslim Family Health and Social Services in Tempe.
She is one of the co-developers of the program “Marriage the Islamic way”, which teaches various aspects of marriage such as how to find a spouse, the wedding and the post-wedding marriage relationship with your spouse.
3. If you're looking for a spouse lower your gaze.
This may seem like a contradiction, but it's not. Looking for a spouse who has the right qualities and whom you are physically attracted to does not mean throwing out the obligation to lower the gaze for both sexes and leering or ogling the person.
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do” (Quran 24:30).
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms...” (Quran 24:31).
“Scoping the territory”, from this perspective, would not be Islamically acceptable.
However, for the purpose of marriage looking at a potential mate is permissible (definitely with limits) according to the Hadith:
Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: The Prophet (saww) said: “When one of you asked a woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so. ...”.
This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but not ogle or stare.
There is certainly limit on the number of times the two people can look at each other, and both should fear Allah and remember the purpose of this is to build an Islamic family.
It is not permissible for a man to see a potential wife without Hijab, since he is not her Mahram (a relative with whom marriage is not possible, or legally her husband); seeing her face and hands are enough to determine attraction, although some scholars allow to see the hair as well.
4. Get someone to help
Marriage is not something to throw yourself into all by yourself. Getting the help of someone, especially parents, relatives, an Imam, and/or respected and trustworthy members of the Muslim community to either look for the right spouse and initiate and participate in a communication process is very important.
In fact, even some non-Muslims have come to see this as a more viable way of meeting someone instead of getting involved in the disappointing dating game or picking someone up in a nightclub or bar.
Involving others, by the way, does not mean signing over your right to say yes or no to a marriage proposal. It simply increases the likelihood of finding out important information about a prospective partner in a way that maintains rules of Islamic modesty (i.e. not meeting alone, see next point).
Getting that third party involved also helps verify if the person you are interested in is decent, honest and respectful. This person(s) often checks out references, asks about the individual's character and behavior, and looks out for your best interest in general.
This person should be a trustworthy Muslim, since you are seeking a Muslim in marriage, and would want someone familiar with the Islamic way of doing things.
For those blessed with Muslim parents, remember that they are probably your best allies and helpers in seeking the right husband or wife. They have known you all of your life, and have your best interest at heart.
However, parents must be open and attentive to what their children are looking for, and never forget the element of choice. Ultimately, it is their son or daughter who is going to make the final decision. They must never become too pushy or aggressive, whether this pressure is being applied on their own son or daughter, or on the person s/he is interested in.
If parents, other family members, an elderly figure or members of the community are not available, you can also try seeking a husband or wife through the matrimonial services offered by a number of different Muslim organizations.
Always ask for references
This is also where your “third party” comes in handy. Not only will they be able to be your reference. They can also check out a prospective mate's references.
A reference can include an elder who knows the brother who proposed to you, a sister who knows the woman you may want to marry well, a family friend, a boss, a co-worker, and/or business partner.
A note about honesty and references: the people you ask may know something not very nice about your prospective spouse. Remind them that if they reveal this information, they would not be backbiting from the Islamic perspective. In fact, in the case of seeking marriage, complete information should be given about an individual, both good and bad.
The advice of one of the Scholar, can help in this regard:
A man came to a Scholar and spoke in praise of another. The Scholar asked him: “Are you his nearest neighbor such that you know his goings and his comings?”
“Have you been his companion on a journey so that you could see evidence of his good character?”
“Have you had dealings with him involving dinars and dirhams [money] which would indicate the piety of the man?”
“I think you saw him standing in the mosque muttering the Quran and moving his head up and down?”
“Go, for you do not know him...”
And to the man in question, the Scholar said, “Go and bring me someone who knows you.”
This gives you three types of people you can ask about a prospective mate's character: a neighbor, business colleague or someone who has traveled with them.
5. When you meet, don't be alone
Rasulullah (saww) said: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Shaytan makes a third”.
Also, Ibn Abbas related that Rasulullah (saww) said: “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees”.
Meeting alone, in the hotel room of one or the other potential spouse for example, is forbidden. The two cannot be in a situation where no one else can see or hear them.
Instead, a discreet, chaperoned meeting should be set up. The chaperone, while allowing the two to talk, is in the same room, for example.
As well, parents or guardians should set a time limit, recommends Winnipeg-based social worker Shahina Siddiqui. A whole day, for example, is too long for this kind of a meeting.
6. When you speak, be businesslike and to the point.
The purpose of meeting and talking to each other must also remain within Islamic guidelines. That means no flirtatious speech of a sexual nature on either side.
Some of the topics discussed can include each other's interests, financial situation of the man, who is Islamically responsible for providing for his wife and children, and the two potential spouses' relationship with their parents.
Conversations between potential mates cannot be talking just for the sake of talking. There should be a firm and clear intention of either pursuing engagement and marriage, or, if one of the two or both the man and woman feel they are not compatible, a quick end to the relationship.
This ensures both sides are safe from getting hurt more than they could in this kind of a situation and remain within the bounds of Islam, Insha Allah.
With regards to questions pertaining to a person's sexual history (for example, has s/he had a boy/girlfriend, does s/he have any type of sexually transmitted diseases), these things have to be investigated at the very beginning, when the communication for marriage begins. This is not something that should be brought up at the last stage.
Other topics that should also be discussed at the early stages include level of Islamic knowledge and practice, future career and education plans, home making skills and where the couple will live right after marriage and in the future (state and/or country).
The couple can even get a blood test to ensure both are healthy. Some states even require this before marriage.
Seeking marriage is something highly recommended in Islam. While looking for a potential mate should be something Muslims help each other with, this cannot be done at the expense of Islamic rules pertaining to modesty and respect between the sexes