6 Etiquettes of
Seeking a Spouse:
Muslim conferences and
conventions (like the one being held by the Islamic Society of North
America & Muslim American Society, Imam W. D. Mohammad, this Labor
Day weekend) are just one of the many places Muslims in North America
often meet potential spouses either to make a 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 the sexes 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 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.
'Because all of my friends
are' is not a legitimate reason. 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
Marriage, from an Islamic
perspective, 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 of St. Louis, Missouri, a member of
the North American Fiqh Council. He has conducted pre-marriage counseling
in the U.S. for the last 20 years.
"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 Muhammad 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,
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 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, Director of Social Services for the Arizona Muslim
Family Health and Social Services in Tempe.
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 with your spouse.
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 and leering or
ogling the person.
"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..."
"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:
Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah:
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
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 legally her husband). Abdullah says seeing her face and hands are
enough to determine attraction.
4. Get someone to
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
and initiate and participate in a communication process is very important.
In fact, even some non-Muslims
have come to see this as a more viable way of meeting someone instead
of getting involved in the disappointing dating game or picking someone
up in a nightclub or bar.
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
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
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.
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
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
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?"
"Have you been
his companion on a journey so that you could see evidence of his good
"Have you had dealings
with him involving dinars and dirhams [money] which would indicate
the piety of the man?"
"I think you saw
him standing in the mosque muttering the Quran and moving his head
up and down?"
"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.
5. When you meet,
don't be alone
Umar related that Rasulullah
said: "Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Shaytan makes
a third" (Tirmidhi).
Also, Ibn Abbas related
that Rasulullah said: "Not one of you should meet a woman alone
unless she is accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees"
Meeting alone, in the
hotel room of one or the other potential spouse for example, is forbidden.
The two cannot be 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 Winnipeg-based social
worker Shahina Siddiqui. A whole day, for example, is too long for
this kind of a meeting.
6. 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).
The Imam also says the
couple can even get a blood test to ensure both are healthy. Some
states even 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.
Please note: If you
will be attending the ISNA convention, the Islamic Social Services
Association is having open house at ISNA on Sunday Morning at 8:30
to 9:30. You can get more information about this at the information
booth, where you can ask about Sr. Aneesah's marriage program. It
is also useful for anyone interested in social services can be professional.