بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
:الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد
وَلۡيَسۡتَعۡفِفِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّىٰ يُغۡنِيَہُمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦۗ وَٱلَّذِينَ يَبۡتَغُونَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَـٰنُكُمۡ فَكَاتِبُوهُمۡ إِنۡ عَلِمۡتُمۡ فِيہِمۡ خَيْرًاۖ وَءَاتُوهُم مِّن مَّالِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِىٓ ءَاتَٮٰكُمۡۚ وَلَا تُكۡرِهُواْ فَتَيَـٰتِكُمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡبِغَآءِ إِنۡ أَرَدۡنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِّتَبۡتَغُواْ عَرَضَ ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَاۚ وَمَن يُكۡرِههُّنَّ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ إِكۡرَٲهِهِنَّ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ . وَلَقَدۡ أَنزَلۡنَآ إِلَيۡكُمۡ ءَايَـٰتٍ مُّبَيِّنَـٰتٍ وَمَثَلًا مِّنَ ٱلَّذِينَ خَلَوۡاْ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ وَمَوْعِظَةً لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ
And let those, who do not have the means to marry, keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them out of His bounty. And if any of those in your possession desires a deed of emancipation, make it possible for them, if you find goodness in them. And give them some of Allah's wealth which He has granted you. Do not force you girls into prostitution for your own worldly gains while they wish to remain chaste. And if they are coerced, then after such a coercion Allah is certainly All-Forgiving. Most Merciful (to them) Indeed, We have sent down to you clear revelations, along with examples of those who had gone before you, and a lesson to the God-fearing (Quran 24:33-34)
“Most couples spend more time preparing for the wedding than they do preparing for the marriage”, says Dr. Aneesah Nadir, a Muslim social worker and community activist. The result, she adds, is that “divorce and marital discord are reaching epidemic proportions in …. the Muslim community”. Adequate preparation before marriage to ensure its success is thus paramount and all the necessary steps for its endurance must be taken. This process starts long before the wedding.
The interim period between the selection of a spouse-to-be and the ’aqd nikaaH (عقد نكاح / marriage contract and/or wedding ceremony) is the most important time in the pre-marriage phase. This is a critical time when the choice of a matrimonial partner for life is confirmed or can/must be recalled. To assist couples through this process and arrive at a sound decision to marry each other, it's vital to take into account the need for the four “C”s: Communication, Compatibility, Consent and Counseling.
Communication, first and foremost, must begin with Allah (SWT) and must continue with Him throughout. Marriage is entered into for Allah’s sake, and His guidance must be sought in all our affairs, particularly the decision to marry and whom to marry, and when problems arise and through trying times. This interaction with the Almighty must include istikhaarah ( الاستخارة / help with decision making), a tradition of the Prophet (SAW) and the best springboard for marriage. One should sincerely ask Allah in supplication (du’aa / الدعاء) for His guidance in the choice of a partner with whom to live in love and tranquility, and for preserving each other’s iman/faith and best preparing for the Hereafter. Constant dhikr (remembrance of Allah / الذكر ) at this specific time is desirable too as it will aid in the exercise of reflection and decision making.
There has to also be open and honest communication between the couple-to-be, within the confines of the shari’ah (Islamic Law / الشريعة ), and conceived and executed with modesty and taqwa (God consciousness and piety / التقوى ). Discussion topics to be addressed should include: future plans with regard to the marriage, religious life, parenting and family life, careers and finances, personal strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, preferences, etc. When meeting in person, it should be with the intent to learn about each other and to make an informed choice of proceeding (or not), and with the presence (nearby) of close family members. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : ألا لا يخلون رجل بامرأة إلا كان ثالثهما الشيطان
"No man has the right to be in the privacy of a woman who is not lawful for him. Satan is their third party". (Ahmad)
Would-be-spouses are also allowed, in order to help them make a better decision, to see each under certain conditions that include those mentioned above and only seeing certain body parts and features. Al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah (RAA) narrated that he proposed to a woman in marriage and the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Look at her, for it is the best way to make lasting affection between you.”
عَنْ الْمُغِيرَةِ بْنِ شُعْبَةَ أَنَّهُ خَطَبَ امْرَأَةً فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ انْظُرْ إِلَيْهَا فَإِنَّهُ أَحْرَى أَنْ يُؤْدَمَ بَيْنَكُمَا
Al-Imam al-Tirmidhi (RA), who reports the Hadith, said, “Some of the people of knowledge adhered to this tradition. They said: ‘There is nothing wrong with looking at her as long as he does not see parts of her that are forbidden to see’.”
The primary goal of communication described above is to establish Compatibility (الكفاءة / al-kafaa’ah), especially when couples are recently introduced, from different (cultural, socio-economic, intellectual, etc.) backgrounds, or may have opposing personalities and different approaches and goals for the marriage. And while the basic aspects of the deen may be the common factor, there may be different levels of religiosity and observance of Islamic practices. They may differ in their understanding of the role and importance of Islam in their lives, and in their reliance upon the Quran and Sunnah as the primary source of guidance and resolution. This period before marriage would be the best time to discuss the important issues and adjust accordingly; or openly state their stance and unwillingness to compromise - this is better in the long term!
Mutual Consent or, more specifically at this particular time, Confirmation of Choice, from both parties is given the highest consideration and respect. As with most things in life, Islam has given each individual the freedom to choose their future spouses, the freedom to reject any proposal and the freedom to change their minds before marriage without any repercussions or consequences. Allah Almighty says:
(وَإِذَا طَلَّقۡتُمُ ٱلنِّسَآءَ فَبَلَغۡنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ) فَلَا تَعۡضُلُوهُنَّ أَن يَنكِحۡنَ أَزۡوَٲجَهُنَّ إِذَا تَرَٲضَوۡاْ بَيۡنَہُم بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِۗ ذَٲلِكَ يُوعَظُ بِهِۦ مَن كَانَ مِنكُمۡ يُؤۡمِنُ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِۗ ذَٲلِكُمۡ أَزۡكَىٰ لَكُمۡ وَأَطۡهَرُۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
….. Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands, if they come to an honorable agreement. This (instruction) is for all amongst you who believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is (the course making for) most virtue and purity amongst you and Allah knows, and you do not know. (Quran 2:232)
In most successful marriages, there had been at this stage for the would-be-spouse, some input from parents, family or friends (often, considerable input). It usually comes in the form of suggestions, recommendations, influence, blessing and approval. This input must be embraced and appreciated, and the extent must be determined as that which is necessary and appropriate. One side should not preclude the other and a reasonable balance between the two is healthy and desirable. It should be considered as a type of cooperation that leads to Allah’s pleasure and assists all in their worship and service to Allah and His creation. He (SWT) says:
وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡإِثۡمِ وَٱلۡعُدۡوَٲنِۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ
Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness and piety); and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And be mindful of Allâh. Surely, Allâh is severe in punishment. (Quran 5:2)
May Allah Almighty bless us with the light of the Quran and the light of the Sunnah. May He come to our aid when we make decisions, when we act and in the eventual outcome. And may He (SWT) instill love and tenderness in our hearts for all those around us, especially for those closest to us. Amen.
PS: In the next article in this series, we will discuss Premarital Counseling and Education. However, with the annual Hajj fast approaching, we will highlight some aspects of the pilgrimage and related topics in the next couple of weeks, in sha Allah.