7 etiquettes of seeking a spouse

7 etiquettes of seeking a spouse

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Muslim conferences and conventions (like the one being held by the Islamic Society of North America & Muslim American Society, Imam W. D. Mohammad) are just one of the many places Muslims in North America often meet potential spouses either to make a final decision or to initiate the marriage communication process.

Other places include fundraising dinners, regional seminars, lectures, at the home of a relative or friend, and the local mosque.

Sadly though, Islamic guidelines pertaining to proper conduct between men and women are not always respected at these meetings.

It is not uncommon to see or hear about potential candidates meeting in private, brothers and sisters “scoping the territory” for a spouse that looks good at Muslim events like conferences or lectures, or starting up a flirtatious conversation with someone they are interested in. None of these things fall within the guidelines of Islam.

Below are some Islamic principles, both general and specific, to consider if you will 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.

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 is part of faith and it is part of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

As well, “my intention should be I am looking for someone with whom I will build a family,” says Imam Muhammad Nur Abdullah, a member of the North American Fiqh Council. He conducted pre-marriage counseling in the U.S. for two decades.

“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.

Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet 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” (Bukhari, Muslim).

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 in Islamic publications 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, president of the Islamic Social Services Association of the United States and Canada.

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.

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.

“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.

Imam Nur Abdullah notes that looking at a potential mate is recommended according to the Hadith in which the Prophet 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. ...” (Abu Dawud).

This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but not ogle or stare.

Abdullah also notes there is no limit on the number of times the two people can look at each other. However, both should fear Allah and remember the purpose of this is to satisfy the need for physical attraction to the person you are marrying.

He also notes 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 her husband). Abdullah says seeing her face and hands are enough to determine attraction.

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 or initiate and participate in a communication process is very important.

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 Imam 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.

5. 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 Imam 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 companions of the Prophet, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, can help in this regard:

A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and spoke in praise of another. Umar asked him: “Are you his nearest neighbor such that you know his goings and his comings?”

“No.”

“Have you been his companion on a journey so that you could see evidence of his good character?”

“No.”

“Have you had dealings with him involving dinars and dirhams [money] which would indicate the piety of the man?”

“No.”

“I think you saw him standing in the mosque muttering the Quran and moving his head up and down?”

“Yes.”

“Go, for you do not know him...”

And to the man in question, Umar said, “Go and bring me someone who knows you.”

(quoted from Islam The Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid, p. 66)

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.

6. When you meet, don't be alone

The Prophet said: “Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Shaytan makes a third” (Tirmidhi).

He also advised men: “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Meeting alone, in the hotel room during a conference for instance, is not permissible. The prospective spouses should not place themselves 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 Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association‘s Canada branch. A whole day, for example, is too long for this kind of a meeting.

7. 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.

Imam Nur Abdullah says 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.

He notes that 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), Imam Nur Abdullah says 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, with in-laws or in their own apartment/home).

The Imam also says the couple can even get a blood test to ensure both are healthy. Some states 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.

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Samana Siddiqui is Sound Vision's Content Manager. She is also a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Crescent newspaper.

Comments

Wow what an unbelievably complicated process. At the same time the western system of sampling here and there also doesn't seem to work. Do we have some statistics? Compared to the western system how many have divorced their spouses? This system seems just as broken as the western system I mean how are you supposed to know you've found the right person in one meeting? What about a guy who has no money for marriage? Should he fast for years everyday until he has money? So he has no right for sex but everyone else does? Just thinking rationally here, doesn't it seem more likely you'll divorce someone you've only met one time? I remember this hadith I heard at the mosque I don't know if its sahih but if any of you know it feel free to say it; where a woman divorced her husband because he was ugly. She said to the prophet whenever she saw him walking among other men she would not look at him (I don't know it exactly but I think you get the meaning). So maybe she married him for hispiety and thought she could bear his ugly face but then realized she was wrong. Then the prophet pbuh told her it was her right to divorce him. I mean doesn't this seem like a broken system to you guys if we are truly objective about this and set aside our pride that is hurt when it seems like someone is badmouthing islam. No one agrees with me here? That this system of marriage is broken, tragically, I truly wish it wasn't so but it seems to be. Oh yea I almost forgot my most important point! Have any of you tried lowering your gaze while driving? Seeing a (practically) naked girl on the street as soon as you're making a turn, then turning your head away so as to protect your islam only to find the car swerving in all directions in a non-muslim country at a time when everybody is almost naked. Come on guys is my argument not valid? It's not practical! I can't even do my job followinng this broken system. How am I supposed to hold down my job when most of my decisions are poor because I'm hungry and dehydrated all day not being able to concentrate. How am I suppose to make money? Is it going to come from the sky? I really would like to make this work but the darkness seems thick, I really wish it wasn't so but it's hard to deny what makes sense and what one can see with ones own eyes.

Location

Stockholm

A month, just a month in a whole year !!! be patient, the reward is GREAT Allah willing.

Location

Algiers

You foreign Muslims stop putting down Imam Mohammed's community. You all must realize and accept if it had not been for this community you all would not even be practicing Al-Islam in this country. You came here in the early 1800's and went into hiding. Now you want to teach us, teach your own people how to act

Location

Detroit

Asalamalaikum brothers and sisters. Its a great article. But I what i found interesting is that if we all followed the teachings of the Merciful Allah and Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) we find the peace in our hearts and the wisdom to find the person who will accept you as you are. Insha allah take the righteous path with Allah since Is He who knows whats in our heart and soul. Leave it to Him ,He one day will bring you that love one you need in your life. I myself wait for this moment to be Blessed and showered by His Divine Mercy and Love. You let Him guide you. And be patient, humble, and pray. Just open your heart and pour it to Allah(SWT): when He is ready to allow you to fulfill this part of your life He Insha allah show you. Just Believe in Him. Ahumdula trust in His words. Reading the Qur'an helps to find patience and all the answers to all your problems. Even your love life. may Allah shower you with His Blessings. Salam

Location

Davvenport

Asalamalaikum brothers and sisters. Its a great article. But I what i found interesting is that if we all followed the teachings of the Merciful Allah and Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) we find the peace in our hearts and the wisdom to find the person who will accept you as you are. Insha allah take the righteous path with Allah since Is He who knows whats in our heart and soul. Leave it to Him ,He one day will bring you that love one you need in your life. I myself wait for this moment to be Blessed and showered by His Divine Mercy and Love. You let Him guide you and be patient, humble, and pray. Just open your heart and pour to Allah(SWT): when He is ready to allow you to fulfill this part of your life He Insha allah show you. Just Believe in Him. Ahumdula trust in His words. Reading the Qur'an helps to find patience and all the answers to your problems. Even your live life. may Allah shower you with His Blessings. Salam

Location

Davvenport

Asalamoalaekum,MashaAllah!! this is a great write up and i think every muslim youth out there needs to read this,may Allah guide us.JazakAllah Khairaan!!

Location

New delhi

Masha-Allah...Subhaan-Allah...Alhumdulillah....Allahu-Akbar.....Really Very Impressed By This Kinda Method Really It Solves Many f My Problems

Location

Lucknow

Assalam Alaykum,Thanks for sharing this great article,infact like me many young muslims around the world are at crossroads because of the complexity of subject.Thanks for the clarification.

Location

Nairobi

Thanks for sharing this Great Islamic perspective on Marriage. Was visiting counselling sites for some suggestions, while all the required information on way to lead life is in Quran. A real eye opener...

Location

Hyderabad

One has to take the spirit of Islam, not blindly quoting this or that. Even using stars to rate an article is not islamic.thanks

Location

Amman

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