(Quick disclaimer: This article is mainly for the sisters, though some tips will be useful for the brothers as well.)
Understandably, many people may become hesitant when they consider a marriage proposal; they may feel unable to make a decision, and keep on asking friends and family for advice…
This could affect their spiritual, emotional, social and professional spheres of productivity. So, this article is a reminder that – with the help of Allah – there are some action points to consider that would facilitate this situation, in sha Allah.
Without further ado, here are some tips.
Understand and use istikharah properly
This is a very critical point. Many people either belittle or misuse the istikharah prayer.
Why did we start with this and why is istikharah tremendously – tremendously – important and indispensable?
Because nobody, absolutely nobody, knows the unseen, past, present and future but Allah ! Allah is The One who knows the full story of the person proposing. Allah knows his true nature.
No matter how many people you ask, they won’t really or fully know. This issue is completely Allah’s ; as with any test, it is there to intensify your neediness for Him .
So, do istikharah like you’ve never done it before. Ask consciously, sincerely and seriously.
Say it like you mean it, “Oh Allah, given your full knowledge, is this the best for me? Only you know, so guide me to what’s best for me in this life and the next.”
Now, some people may do something that isn’t quite right thinking that it is istikhara. Instead of consulting Allah for His Knowledge, they’d say: “Allah make x person my perfect righteous spouse” without wanting to accept any other scenario or outcome.
If you do so, what’s the point of istikharah? This is not consulting Allah and accepting His Hekmah (Wisdom) and Qadar (Decree). This is asking Allah to make something right at any expense. And it isn’t quite right… Why? If x person is not a good person in reality, and you ask Allah to make him good, do you mean Allah is going to enforce goodness upon him? It doesn’t work like that. This life is a test. We are responsible for our deeds – the good and bad.
When you ask Allah to turn x person into superman/superwoman, then where is that person’s free will? How will Allah judge him if He is The One who forced him to be good or be someone that he is not? Allah will guide those who are truthful and have the desire, but if someone isn’t really good and doesn’t have the intention, then this is their choice.
What you need to do is ask Allah whether this person, in fact, carries goodness, if he’s the one who is capable of making you happy, if he’s the right match. If not, then ask Allah to just remove him from your way and remove you from his way and facilitate what’s right for you according to His Knowledge. This is istikharah.
Read carefully what the Prophet Muhammad taught us here:
Jabir reported that the Messenger used to teach them the istikharah (seeking guidance from Allah ) in all matters as he would teach us a surah of the Qur’an. He used to say: “When one of you contemplates entering upon an enterprise, let him perform two Rak’ah of optional prayer other than Fard prayers and then supplicate: O Allah, I consult You through Your Knowledge, and I seek strength through Your Power, and ask of Your Great Bounty; for You are Capable whereas I am not and, You know and I do not, and You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah, if You know that this matter (and name it) is good for me in respect of my Deen, my livelihood and the consequences of my affairs, (or he said), the sooner or the later of my affairs then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. But if You know this matter (and name it) to be bad for my Deen, my livelihood or the consequences of my affairs, (or he said) the sooner or the later of my affairs then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and grant me power to do good whatever it may be, and cause me to be contented with it). And let the supplicant specify the object.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Again, the point is that you are submitting your affair to Allah , seeking His Full Knowledge and Full Power to your advantage by either guiding you to go ahead with this or remove it from your way.
Now here are a couple of ‘don’ts’ before we move on…
Do not go around asking all your friends about their opinions. This is not going to help. Ask Allah instead, and then ask wise/fair/trusted elders within your direct family/ community who can honestly vouch for the person.
Do not go around revealing every single detail about the person to other people. Protect the brother’s or sister’s privacy – what if he/she became your husband or wife, and you’ve already told meticulous personal details about him/her to your friends? This isn’t how we preserve and guard our homes and spouses. And what if the person married someone else you know? Many decent individuals will not be suitable for you, but perfect for other people. So protect the person’s honor and privacy; either accept or let it go quietly and respectfully.
Have Taqwa and ask smart questions
Some people fall into grave mistakes or indecent acts thinking: “I have to get to know the person fully first.”
Well, there is something right and something wrong here.
Sisters, if someone didn’t come through the door to speak with your family officially and announce his desire and readiness for marriage, and instead approached you privately and asked to get to know you first and go out with you etc., then that’s bad news!
If he acts sneakily and does not, as a man, know how to act responsibly and show seriousness and commitment, then this is not someone to entrust with your life and future. In addition to it being unlawful, him wanting to know you privately, chat, go out, etc. is abusive and a waste of your time. Don’t get emotionally, mentally and physically entangled with someone who hasn’t shown proper steps and desire for committing to you. What if he decided whenever he wants that you are not good enough for him and just disappears, does this approach really preserve your heart and dignity?
He needs to come and speak officially with your family, and if it didn’t work out, then you break it through your maharem – the men who protect and take care of your affairs in order to preserve your honor and dignity.
Now, are we saying that you should marry someone blindly without getting to know him? Absolutely not!
What we are saying is: have taqwa in your pursuits. Meaning, follow the pure routes, be conscious of Allah , do what’s right and leave what’s prohibited in every step of the way and Allah will descend His barakah and ease your affairs for you. You do not need to go out and about alone with the person and test him in all possible situations. This is a fallacy. There is no way you will be able to figure out everything about a person except after you live for a long period with that person and go through the good and bad together. Even when some people get to live together and get to know each other through non-halal means, does this guarantee successful relationships? No, and you see people breaking up hurtfully and others who get divorced soon after they get married. Elongating the process unnecessarily in a way that makes you fall into what’s haram is not going to help you. So what do you need to do then?
Ask smart questions
When the person proposes officially and you are seriously considering him, it’s time to ask about what really matters to you. For example, ask about:
- How he deals with anger and disputes
- Expenditures and who’s responsible for what
- Expectations for rights and duties of the spouse
- Life plan/vision/purpose
- If you, let’s say, want to wear the niqab, then ask if this is something he will oppose or is open to and will be supportive of?
Basically, ask smart questions about what really matters to you, what you can’t live without and what you can’t accept.
You need to understand who you are and what you want, then communicate it. Be clear and honest. This should be rational, almost like a business deal.
Don’t allow emotions to get in just yet.
Again, don’t allow emotions to get in just yet!
And here are some more ‘don’ts’…
Please don’t keep staring at his photo(s) if for some reason you have unreserved access to them.
Please don’t keep checking his Facebook account or imagining him as your husband, partner, protector, and father of your children.
Please don’t just yet. Be merciful on your heart; don’t let your imagination too loose. It will make it harder for you to make a proper decision. If you let your imagination loose and get emotionally attached, you won’t see the problems with the person rationally. Then when you get married and fulfill those emotional needs, you’ll be left with the problems you’ve overlooked, and they’ll become an unbearable reality.
So, make an effort in this period to identify the main problems – if any – and discuss how you two can solve them and whether this is something you’re comfortable with or unwilling to accept.
Do not expect complete transformations
Many people get attracted to someone, and then overlook major problems as a result, hoping that the person will change in the future. For example, they would accept someone who doesn’t pray, but hope he’ll pray in the future. They would accept someone who smokes but promises to stop in the future, or someone who is freely mixing/doing all sorts of wrong, but promises to change in the future.
Well, don’t test your “luck.”
What proofs do you have that this person is going to change on such major issues?
Don’t build a decision on promises that don’t have solid grounds.
The Prophet Muhammad said:
“When someone whose religion and character you are pleased with proposes to (someone under the care) of one of you, then marry to him. If you do not do so, then there will be turmoil (fitnah) in the land and abounding discord (fasad).” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]
If you find someone you are currently pleased with in terms of his character and religious commitment, then you marry him… not someone you expect to be pleased with in the future after he fixes himself.
For the brothers, if you need to change something about yourself, and you are sincere about it, start changing now. Change for the sake of Allah first and foremost because this is what you were created for. Don’t rely on someone to completely transform you.
You can help one another of course if you already have the basis and foundations to build on and have common goals. Someone can become better, of course, because you will grow together. But someone can’t change drastically if they aren’t currently working on themselves. There should be basics that are non-negotiable, like prayer for example and all obligatory actions for that matter; you should be wary if this isn’t there, to begin with.
Do not get pressured
And this goes both ways also. Even if there is someone who is, let’s say, a hafidh of the Qur’an, and an imam of a masjid and so forth, but you don’t feel comfortable or attracted to him, then that’s it, that’s a good enough reason to reject.
You don’t need to feel bad about it. Someone can be perfect but is not perfect for you, and vice versa. The point of seeking religious commitment and good manners in men is that we want to entrust someone to take care of our affairs in a way that brings us all our rights and preserves our dignity. We want the religion that disciplines and humbles the character—it’s a protection and honor for the woman and should be a reason for her happiness and comfort knowing that this person would fear Allah and realize he will be held accountable before Him if he ever harm her in any way, shape, or form. This is the sunnah of our Messenger and this is our deen: gentleness and mercy towards women.
If the religiosity doesn’t reflect in the character, then don’t be pressured to accept. And if you found both religion and character, but you don’t feel comfortable, can’t imagine yourself living with that person, something is repulsive about him, and you’ve done istikhara and feel you don’t want him, then that’s it, that’s your answer. You do not have to go ahead with this.
Remember this story: a woman came to the Prophet complaining that her husband isn’t bad but isn’t good for her, and she doesn’t want to fall in any wrong accordingly. He simply granted her divorce from this man, even though he was a righteous person. It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that the wife of Thabit bin Qais came to the Prophet and said:
“O Messenger of Allah, I do not find any fault with Thabit bin Qais regarding his attitude or religious commitment, but I hate Kufr after becoming Muslim.” The Messenger of Allah said: “Will you give him back his garden?” She said: “Yes.” The Messenger of Allah said: “Take back the garden and divorce her once.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i ]
So, you shouldn’t be forced or pressured. Remember the Prophet said that a woman should not be married without her consent and permission [Sunan Abi Dawud].
So, seek overall acceptance, compatibility, and satisfaction, in addition to religious commitment that reflects positively on the character – basically someone you can trust and entrust yourself with.
Use this time to get closer to Allah
Remember that Allah says:
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Qur’an, Chapter 30: 21]
What is a sign? A sign is something that leads to a destination. If marriage is one of Allah’s signs, then it is something that should lead you to Him, every step of the way. From the minute you’re praying to get married, considering someone seriously, living with someone and going through life together… And until you meet Allah together, pleased by Him for how He helped you, and well pleasing to Him.
You are marrying someone, but Allah is your first love. He is and will always be The One who has been with you from the very beginning and The One who will remain when everyone perishes.
Don’t forget that.
Make this time a time that gets you closer to Allah and strengthens your dua and makes it more heartfelt and increases your reliance upon Allah .
Remember to renew your intention!
I recently read an answer by a scholar to a sister asking “what intention should I have in wanting to get married?” and he replied: “you can have intentions that fill the heavens and the earth… an intent to give peace, serenity, and rest to the soul of another person, an intent to keep someone chaste, care for them, aid them in righteousness, bring up righteous progeny together… an intent to let someone taste happiness through halal means and give true thanks to Allah accordingly… Perhaps a marriage that resulted in [giving birth to] someone like Al Shaf’ee or Ahmed Ibn Hanbal would be worth more than a thousand years of worship.”
Renewing your intentions and understanding what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will help you and give you clarity.
Indeed actions are determined by their intentions, and every person will get what he/she intended. So, just remember this, and know that the believers’ affairs are all good, as the Prophet Muhammad said,
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” [Sahih Muslim]
If for some reason the proposal didn’t work out, then it’s fine, no problem. So long as you’ve done istikhara and everything in a halal manner, then know that this happened for a good reason. No worries, you’ll be able to move on. Make dua for that person and for yourself; the Kingdom of Allah is Vast, Allah will never get tired of providing for you and all of us, so khair, we remain pleased with Allah’s will. Allah said in a hadith qudsi:
“O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all to stand together in one place and ask of Me, and I were to give everyone what he requested, then that would not decrease what I Possess, except what is decreased of the ocean when a needle is dipped into it.” [Sahih Muslim]
Final comment: Yes we cannot prevent any or all problems in a marriage that may arise in the future. However, we are required to do what’s right and take the proper steps because this is why we were created and this is what Allah will judge us for.
Remember that Allah is The One who enriches and suffices… A husband/wife is a means, but Allah is The Provider. So, continue to have hope in Allah who says,
“I am to my slave as he thinks of Me…” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
So think beautiful, good and pure things, and they will come your way with the Will of Allah .
Ask Allah to give you someone that He loves and to make you and your spouse people that He loves. The love of Allah is infinite, your love is finite. If you involve Allah , you involve what’s eternal.
Ask for a relationship that starts here and lasts for eternity under Allah’s care and protection.
Ask Allah to make your household one that He would be pleased to look at.
Ask Him to be pleased with you and to please you.
Ask Him as He taught us to ask,
“Our Lord, grant us from among our spouses and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”
What are some other tips you have that would increase one’s spiritual productivity and closeness to Allah during this process? Share your advice in the comments section below!