Many marriages today, increasingly among Muslim communities, are on the threshold of divorce.
Seemingly happy on the outside, seams are splitting and tolerance levels are rapidly declining. Perhaps it’s because divorce is easier to accomplish in modern times, more so than possibly during our parents’ and grandparents’ times.
There are many factors, and many reasons seem plausible. Usually, haste in decision-making is blamed as the culprit. However, in today’s world, it’s not the amount of time spent in making the decision.
The fiend lies in the standards that people have built.
Items on the prospective marriage partner checklist vary from culture to culture, but when you step back and observe, they’re all quite similar.
Money, looks, education, status, citizenship. These are all the most common, and unfortunately, most crucial, in people’s eyes.
What we often forget is the advice of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:
"A woman is married for four reasons, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her piety. So you should marry the pious woman otherwise you will be losers (your hands will be covered in dust" (Bukhari).
Many books have been penned on explaining just this one Hadith, but to state the obvious – set priorities.
First of all, the Hadith is for both men AND women. Piety should be the main deciding factor for both genders.
It’s not at all wrong to look at the other factors such as wealth, beauty, family status. It’s recommended to go into a relationship where both the man and woman are physically attracted to each other, are confident that they will be comfortable financially, and also have a sense of their family and background.
The Prophet said: “Choose carefully for your children. Marry those who are equivalent (qualified) and give to them in marriage“ (Ibn Majah).
But let’s look at the dilemma today. Isn’t it apparent that something is missing? Parents have sleepless nights, desperate to find someone
suitable for their daughters and sons. On the other hand, there are parents who turn down perfectly good proposals for minute, small reasons, small flaws that actually don’t matter at all.
There are sons who turn down women because they’re not fair enough, tall enough, slender enough, young enough. There are daughters who turn down men who aren’t professional enough, handsome enough.
They say marriage is a gamble. No matter how much you look into another person’s background, get a private investigator if you so desire, you still cannot predict how your marriage will turn out.
So how do you decide?
Take out your checklists, move everything down one space, and at the top, write Deen. Circle it, highlight it, underline it, write it in bold, because without that quality, everything else is absolutely useless.
No matter how much of a family man or a family woman s/he might seem, it doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to look for both of your best interests. Family might just be their way of control, their hobby. Unless and until that passion is directed by Allah’s guidelines, you might get hurt, physically or emotionally. And when it comes to culture, just choose according to what is comfortable for YOU. Even if you both might be from the same country, you might be raised differently. Sometimes it doesn’t matter about your family line, or birth city, or hasab (heritage), or nasab (social ranking).
And even if you do marry to please your parents or your extended family, at the end of the day, it’s YOU whose life is being affected. It’s ideal when everyone is happy, but don’t put your own gut instincts, feelings, and morals aside just to please others.
You can marry into your own wealth status. It’s not Haram to do so. In fact, it’s recommended, because the way you were raised is going to have an effect on your later life. However, if someone is slightly beneath you, yet they have strong Deen, then think ten times, a hundred times, before turning them down.
Looks? As many people say, beauty only matters on the wedding night. As soon as the morning after, you start dealing with the other person’s character. You have to have a degree of attraction, but to base your decision on superficiality is foolish. In a few years, skin will start slacking and hair will start falling, and if your foundation was built on looks, then your marriage will start peeling away as well.
We read stories and gush over the bravado and strength of our Islamic history’s shapers, the Sahabah, Sahabiyat. They chose life partners. They led revolutions together, fought in battles, raised children to be leaders. Their goals and priorities differed so much from ours. They weren’t harangued by their elders to keep up the unIslamic cultural traditions of their past, and even if they were, then they didn’t pay mind to it.
They always looked at the expression on our beloved Prophet’s face. What pleased him, pleased them. And what pleased him, pleased Allah.
Can’t we at least try to be like those people? Can’t we strive to envision the Prophet’s beautiful, shining face, in our minds, and what he would say about the decisions we make?
Ideally, when you’re on the way to choosing your soulmate, you will make Istikharah prayer, ask for Allah’s guidance all the way. Ideally your main decision factor will be the other person’s Deen. And yes, even someone’s show of Deen isn’t really a guarantee of how religious or how God-fearing they are. But when you ask Allah, surely He will not let you make the wrong decision.
And if you’ve done all that, if you’ve always had the right intentions, asked Allah for help, and still you encounter troubles, then just know that Allah will always find you a way out of your troubles.
Oh our Lord, gift us from our spouses and our descendants, coolness of the eyes, and make us leaders of the pious. Ameen.