بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
:الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد
وَأَنكِحُواْ ٱلۡأَيَـٰمَىٰ مِنكُمۡ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ مِنۡ عِبَادِكُمۡ وَإِمَآٮِٕڪُمۡۚ إِن يَكُونُواْ فُقَرَآءَ يُغۡنِهِمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦۗ وَٱللَّهُ وَٲسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
"Marry off those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among your servants, male or female: if they are needy, Allah will make them free of want out of His grace: for Allah is All-Bountiful, and He knows all things." (Quran, 24:32)
Muslims have been encouraged (and in some cases obligated) by the Quranic paradigm and the sunnah/tradition of Prophet Muhammad (SAW/PBUH) to live a large part of their adult life (if not all of it) within the framework of marriage. As they enter into adulthood they must plan to have a Halaal or lawful and legitimate relationship, and finding a suitable Muslim partner is an Islamic imperative that has to be part of their goals in life.
Before even looking for a compatible life partner, there are certain criteria to be met and requirements or conditions to fulfill - in the prospective choice certainly, but also in the person seeking a spouse! This will go a long way in helping them to develop a stronger Islamic personality and to fulfill the purpose of their existence as delineated by Allah Almighty and effectively carry out the responsibility of each being the khalifah or steward of, and on, this earth. And if they share a common way of life (deen) and have the same aspirations, they will help build, in a harmonious way, a well integrated and virtuous community.
Every Muslim individual seeking marriage should be sufficiently prepared for it: physically, psychologically (mentally and emotionallly), socially and financially or economically. They must be informed about marriage in Islam: what it means, its purpose, choosing a suitable spouse, how to make the marriage work and how to resolve conflicts, and - most importantly - to be aware of their mutual Rights, Roles and Responsibilities, which we usually refer to as the three “R”s of a happy and successful Muslim marriage. Some knowledge about divorce in Islam is highly recommended too.
Usually, the criteria for selecting a spouse are whittled down to one or a combination of some of the following: religion or piety, moral character and ethical behavior, wealth, beauty, lineage and (socio-economic) rank or status, congeniality, compatibility, etc. Whichever of these criteria is/are used to select a matrimonial partner, the likelihood is that those attributes will be the sum total of the marriage. The Quran therefore enjoins Muslims to choose a partner who is good and pure (Tayyib / طيّب), so that they may together dwell in harmony and attain the bliss of a life that is good and pure (Hayaah Tayyibah / حياة طيبة) as mentioned in the Quran (16:97).
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) also guided the believers, both the males and females, to choose a prospective Muslim spouse who excels in their outward and inner expression of the deen (دين / piety and character):
وعن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: "تنكح المرأة لأربع: لمالها، ولحسبها، ولجمالها، ولدينها، فاظفر بذات الدين تربت يداك" (متفق عليه)
Abu Hurairah (RAA, may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (SAW) said, "A woman is married for four things: for her wealth, for her lineage, for her beauty or for her deen. Select the one who has deen, may your hands be rubbed in dust!” [This means either: “may you be blessed” or “(otherwise) you will perish”.] (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
وَعَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: "إِذَا خَطَبَ إِلَيْكُمْ مَنْ تَرْضَوْنَ دِينَهُ وَخُلُقَهُ فَزَوِّجُوهُ إِنْ لَا تَفْعَلُوهُ تَكُنْ فِتَنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ عَرِيضٌ" . (رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ)
He also reported Allah’s Messenger (SAW) as saying, “When someone with whose deen and character you are satisfied asks for (your daughter in) marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be tribulation on the earth and extensive corruption." (al-Tirmidhi)
With so much emphasis placed on the quality of the deen of each partner in a marriage, it makes absolutely no sense for a Muslim to marry outside the religion of Islam. Allah Almighty says:
وَلَا تَنكِحُواْ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكَـٰتِ حَتَّىٰ يُؤۡمِنَّۚ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُّؤۡمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن مُّشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوۡ أَعۡجَبَتۡكُمۡۗ وَلَا تُنكِحُواْ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ حَتَّىٰ يُؤۡمِنُواْۚ وَلَعَبْدٌ مُّؤۡمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن مُّشْرِكٍ وَلَوۡ أَعۡجَبَكُمۡۗ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ يَدۡعُونَ إِلَى ٱلنَّارِۖ وَٱللَّهُ يَدۡعُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱلۡجَنَّةِ وَٱلۡمَغۡفِرَةِ بِإِذۡنِهِۦۖ وَيُبَيِّنُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman even though she may allure you. Nor marry (your women) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he may allure you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire, while Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of Paradise) and forgiveness, and He makes His Signs clear to the people, that they be mindful. (Quran 2:221)
Among the preconditions for choosing a suitable spouse in islam, falling in love is NOT one of them. Two important things to keep in mind: One: that the Islamic concept of love (as explained below) is different from the more commonly understood romantic (often, illicit) “love” relationships so valued in some non Islamic cultures. Two: that Allah (SWT) places love (mawaddah / مودّة ) between the (married) spouses (Quran 30:21), and this can only be realized and expressed in a lawful marriage. Yes, it may start to germinate upon the commitment to marriage by the prospective couple, but it can only fully blossom after the marriage is effected and the couple live together legally.
Love in the Islamic sense is to give and share, and to care and cherish - but for the sake and pleasure of Allah Almighty, who is always the main player (and Protector) in the “Love Triangle”. And just as Allah expresses His love (raHmah / رحمة ) for us as the Nourisher, the Cherisher and the Sustainer, we too demonstrate our love for our spouses by sustaining them spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually and materially, as described by Sister Shahina Siddiqui, a leading social worker in Canada. She concludes by stating that: “Love is not to consume but to sustain”. Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest)!
Entering into marriage, if done in the correct Islamic manner and for the sake of Allah Almighty, is in itself an act of worship (‘ibaadah / عبادة ) and the rewards thereof are tremendous. Allah’s bounty is assured for those who wish to share divine love and live a life of purity, following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) and the righteous folk after him. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) told us, according to a Hadith in Sunan al-Tirmidhi, that: “among the people Allah (SWT) obliges Himself to help ... is the one who wants to marry to live a chaste life".
“ حق على الله عونهم: … الناكح الذي يريد العفاف“
It is said that there is no fulfilling Muslim marriage without a spiritual foundation, and that it is a union of two souls/spirits before even being a partnership of two individuals (in the same home). The primary objective therefore of developing and implementing a marriage preparation program is to produce stronger individuals and families - spiritually speaking, for the most part - who will in turn renew and strengthen the foundations of Muslim society.
In the next article, we will focus on the period between the selection of a prospective spouse and the marriage ceremony, God willing. All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of the universe, the Merciful, the Mercy-giving, the Most Loving and Ever Compassionate.