I attended Sheikh Alaa Elsayed’s seminar on marriage at the Twins of Faith conference and it gave me lots of food for thought. The seminar was engaging and very funny and I came away with some clear information. The seminar listed things that men and women should look for in a spouse and what things they can do to help them make a decision once they have met someone.
For men, the hadith that was quoted was:
The Prophet (Peace be upon him ) said: “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage (family status), her beauty or her religious commitment; Choose the one who is religious and you will prosper.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Hadith Number 27)
The Sheikh explained that the first right of a child was to have a pious mother. So brothers were encouraged to look for a woman who had strong faith. He advised that it made sense for brothers to look for a women they could be attracted to as the world is full of temptation and a good women acts as a mitigation for these temptations. However to find a woman of faith and then reject her on the basis of her looks would be cruel, so it is better to find someone you are attracted to and then enquire after how religious she is.
Another piece of advice given to brothers was find a woman who will be good friends with your mother. I can wholeheartedly support that one!
For women, the following hadith was presented:
“If there comes to you one whose religious commitment and attitude pleases you, then marry [your female relative who is under your care] to him, for if you do not do that, there will be tribulation on earth and much corruption.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 1084).
So we are encouraged to look at a brother’s good character and religiousness, although it felt to me that the first was emphasised more strongly as the second can change over the course of a life, whereas the first one impacts on every aspect of a persons conduct throughout his life.
Once we have found someone that appears suitable, Sheikh Ala outlined four things we can do to help us make our decision. The first is “Istihaarah” or research about the person. Belonging to the South Asian community, I am well aware of this one! This usually consists of discreetly asking around about the person (or in my dad-in-law’s case on one occasion heading down to a prospective young mans neighbourhood and interviewing neighbours, shopkeepers and passersby, maybe not the best approach?)
The second is “Istikhaarah” or asking Allah (SWT) for guidance (method and dua for doing this here). Most people expect to be told what to do in a dream and Sheikh Ala suggested this was not entirely correct (the sheikh suggested that our dreams can be related to our daily life and what preoccupies us, so are not always meant to be signs – I was impressed and surprised at a sheikh that admits this). The correct way is to pray two rakaats of nafl and then proceed with what you intend to do. If it goes smoothly then the istikharah was positive, if there are obstacles and difficulties from the outset then in the words of the sheikh “run, run, run Forrest run”)
The third thing we should do after we have done our istihaarah and istikharah is act accordingly, although we should look for a sign. Fourthly if everything has fallen into place and we have committed ourselves then we should place out trust in Allah (SWT) regarding the matter and not hesitate.
It’s a curious situation where so many brothers and sisters are clearly looking to marry, so many well meaning people have set up websites or services to assist them and still there seem to be so many people who are having trouble finding a spouse.
I know a dozen or so people in my family and amongst my friends who are currently looking to marry and it seems really tough to find the right person (the variation in ages and requirements means that none of them match despite my trying). For some there are standards they cannot come below (height and education seem to be too common ones) which means they are not willing to consider a whole swathe of really good people. Some seem frightened of marriage and commitment and are turning away good people. In more than one instance I have seen a young woman reject a man and then as time goes by (five, eight, ten years) and there are fewer option with less to offer, the early ones seem like excellent opportunities that have been missed. The other big obstacle seems to be prospective spouse’s families – too different, too demanding, too religious, not religious enough and so on.
After eleven years of marriage and seeing the examples of others around me, good and bad, more and more I am coming to the conclusion that in making a marriage work, more than the qualities of the spouse, a persons own good qualities are what make the difference. These are not the exciting things: a nice house, a good job, good looks or a charming personality, but the less sexy ones: patience, gentleness, kindness, the ability to forgive and forget. a willingness to make small sacrifices. When the wedding is concluded and the party is over, these are the things on a daily basis which keep a marriage going. Some of these qualities will be in one partner and some in the other, so the questions to ask might be, not “what can you offer me?” but rather “Which of these things can I cultivate?”
I make dua that all of those brothers and sisters with good intentions for marriage find their way to each other insh’Allah
You can watch a video of the seminar here or below.
If it is of any use to anyone, Sheikh Alaa Elsayed also mentioned Mercy Mission World's Pure Matrimony website for those looking for a spouse.