Part 4 – The Warning Signs

Marriage – Who is the Right One?

Time to remind ourselves …

What is the purpose of having a husband or a wife, and what are their roles towards each other? One of the clues comes from Surah Rum, verse 21 "And among His signs is this, that He created from you mates amongst yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts, verily in that are Signs for those who reflect."

In Surah Al Baqarah, it is also mentioned that "... they (your wives) are your garments and you are their garments ... " (2:187)

Spouses are enjoined upon us in order to grant us peace and tranquility, and to be mutually complementary to each other. The overreaching goal in a marriage is not to focus on the material successes of this life, but as a mercy in terms of companionship to give us a partner who will support us in our journey to the next life. Allah has created us in pairs and bestows upon the believers tranquility, calmness and comfort between them. He grants them a soft relationship of rahmah (compassion) and mercy.

If we are out of Islam, or we choose people who are out of Islam, then why would Allah bestow such a quality on the marriage? The quality is only given to the believer, the one whose heart is content, not full of the sickness of dunia.

Whoever you marry, his or her habit and custom will not change after marriage. The person will not change for you, and even if he or she does, that change will be short lived. True change takesplenty of iman. This is why it is so much better for yourself in the long run, to be patient and to wait for someone with the right qualities, rather than settling for any person with a half baked character just because he makes your heart flutter!

Think of buying shoes. How many women buy beautiful shoes but can't wear them because they hurt?It may sound funny, but it is the same with spouses. You don't choose one because heor she looks good, you want one because he or she gives you comfort. Uncomfortable shoes will not last too long, they will either end up in the closet or in the bin, and you will instinctively go back to your comfortable shoes in the long run – the ones that fit well, are from a good material, and lasts for years as you journey through life. The same way that if it is not a good fit from the beginning, even the most good looking couple will end up in a sour marriage. We want something long term, and we love those who comfort us. The rest is just the detail and many of them do not really matter.

What do I Look For?

There are plenty of good people out there, but similarly, there are also plenty of people who aren’t. Looks can be deceiving, so be careful when making an assessment.

It is not easy to make a choice when you have limited facts presented before you. However, be aware and try to look beyond appearances. We have, in the earlier articles, given some clues and red flags to be alert of, and this article, insha Allah, will help you develop further insight.

For example, amongst Muslim families from Muslim countries, we sometimes see people with beards, hijab and niqab – people who present themselves as beautiful Muslims, but on deeper examination, have very little Islam in their mannerism and behaviour.When it comes to reality, they are materialistic, discontented and centre their lives around dunia.They have no respect, love, unity or compassion, andtheir talk is focused on the apartment, status, dowry and allowance.

This does not mean to write off a person who outwardly appears to be a beautiful Muslim, but a caution that and you should not just look at appearances when making such a crucial decision. Therefore, don't think that just because someone wears a scarf or has a beard, the criteria of a perfect Muslim has been met. The signs on whether the person is focused on dunia or akhirah lie in the manner and behaviour. Clothes can be taken off, but Islamic mannerism comes from within and is more permanent.

For example, look at the proportion of the conversation or plans on the marriage that focus on materialistic criteria as opposed to talk of akhirah, and you will know how much of Allah is in the heart. Look at other telling characteristics, for example, does the person backbite others, or is stingy, or is too rooted in material status?

Also keep an eye on how the marriage is being planned. In majority of the cases, the discussions before the marriage are akin to a business transaction - the ceremony, the wedding ring, the dowry and the financial expectations. In some cultures, it is as if the bride has been reduced to merchandise to be auctioned to the highest bidder during the dowry negotiations. Where is the talk of Allah, of how each can help the other to become better Muslims and to be a good companion towards jannah? It can be a show-stopper if the man does not offer enough dowry, but does it raise alarm bells when the conversations do not have any references to Allah, what the respective roles in the marriage are, or how the children are to be raised? If the mention of any religious objective or alliance to Allah is swept under the carpet, or makes the potential spouse nervous or uncomfortable, then is this a promising start to building the nucleus of the ummah?

If it is the family making the choice for you, you also have to be critical of their choice. If your family has strong values and makes decisions with wisdom, you are fortunate. If your family is deep rooted in dunia, do they have the authority and capability to make the right choices for you? This is something that you have to think about.

What are the Tests?

''Umar (RA) asked about a man who had given testimony, wanting to find out whether anyone could vouch for him. A man said to him: "I will vouch for him, O' Ameer al-Mu 'mineen, 'Umar asked, "Are you his neighbor?" He said, "No." He then asked, "Did you mix with him for a day and come to know his character?" He said, "No." He asked next: "Did you travel with him, for traveling and being away from home reveal a man's true essence?" He said, "No." 'Umar said, "Perhaps you saw him in the-mosque, standing, sitting and praying?" He said, "Yes." 'Umar said, Go away, for you do not know him."

In another narration, Omar RA also asked if the man had dealt with the other with money, and the answer was no.

It is very easy to fake qualities for short periods of time. The true character emerges when put under the above tests. If you have experienced overnight trips with your friends or relatives and seen their true colours as a result, or if you have lent someone money, you will understand the truth of this. Therefore, one of the best ways to know your future spouse is to get someone trusted to vouch for his or her character using the above tests.

There are other clues to a person's character, because habits and traits show up in simple actions. The following apply to men and women – it may appear like a random list, but if you apply it, it will reveal a lot about one's character:

Watch the way he eats – is he picky and always complaining? Or does he overeat? Is he neat or does he spill food everywhere?

Does he keep his appointments or does he frequently delay or cancel? Delaying or cancelling appointments is an indication of lack of respect for other people's schedules.

Does he keep to his timing? Lack of punctuality hints a lack of respect for your time and selfishness, and by extension, lack of respect for you.

Does he keep his promises? If he does not, then he carries one of the signs of a hypocrite, and is unreliable and insincere.

How is his cleanliness, including the appearance, scent or odour? Personal hygiene reveals a lot about a person's relationship with Allah.

Are his hands and fingernails clean? The hands and fingernails are often the clue to one's personal hygiene.

Is he generous or stingy? There is a direct relationship between stinginess and selfishness. Generosity has nothing to do with wealth – one can be rich but stingy, and also poor but generous.

Does he repay his debts? This is self explanatory, because his debt problems will be yours once you get married.

Does he have any addictive habits, such as smoking? If so, this is an indication of lack of discipline, and that this person may potentially feed his addictions before everything else.

Does he anger easily? You do not want to spend your life walking on eggshells with someone who cannot control his temper.

Does he use a lot of swear words and profanities? Swearing may seem amusing at first, but it will not be in the long run when he is a part of your family and a parent to your children.

Is his conversation full of complaints for example, about the weather, the traffic, the co-worker? If so, this shows a deep discontentment, which is an indication of a weak iman.

Does he thank the people around him or does he take them for granted? This relates to arrogance. It is said that one who does not thank others, does not thank Allah.

How does he spend his money? There is a difference between being economical and being a cheapskate, and between being generous and a spendthrift.

Is he always changing his mind? If he constantly changes his mind on the small stuff, do you think he has figured out what he wants from life?

What does he talk about – is it empty conversation or does it have substance?

Does he behave differently with different people? You do not want a hypocrite in your life who behaves differently towards you behind your back.

Is he rude or disrespectful to his parents? This should not need an explanation!

Hoe does he drive and how does he treat others who make mistakes around him? Does he get upset or does he let it go. Driving styles reveal the personality, integrity, goodness or faults.

Does his action match his words?

The above list can reveal a great deal about someone. In addition, authentic hadith has stated that the signs of the hypocrite are three – if someone makes a promise, he breaks it, if someone entrusts him with something, he breaks the trust and if he speaks, he lies. If the person displays any one of these three signs, then please think the situation carefully.

Salat Istikharah

Even if we have met someone who seems to have fulfilled the criteria, we should return the decision to Allah. One of the ways is to make salat istikharah, a non obligatory salat to beg Allah for guidance to make the right choice.

Do not wait too long before performing this. Many people delay this too long into the relationship until strong feelings have developed and their own hearts have already made the decision. By the time the salat istikharah is performed, the heart is in conflict and no longer clean to accept the verdict and guidance of Allah, and it will interpret any sign to suit what it longs for.

If possible, make salat istikharah before even before the first meeting. Prepare your heart for Allah's guidance, and do not set your own personal dunia agenda or a list of material things. For example, if you were wishing for a doctor, you might see it as a definite sign if one shows up in your life. Because you had preconceived notions, the profession of the person, rather than the outcome of the istikharah, is what you will listen to.

If your prayer was sincere, then the answer will be clear to you, whether by a dream, a vision or a strong inclination one way or the other. For example, make dua before you see the person, and check your heart and your soul, and not your eyes. Ask Allah SWT to put in your heart what is good for you in this life and in the hereafter. If, by the will of Allah, you are sincere, the first moment you see this person, you will either feel calm, peaceful and contented, or you will feel uptight. Trust your feeling or instinct, not your eyes, and continue making dua.

If you trust in Allah, then you will know that what Allah decides is the best for you, even though you may not be thrilled about the sign initially! Sincerity comes into play here, because you must be prepared to act on the signs, whatever it may be.

If you are sincere, then Allah will guide you, but you must be willing to be guided by Allah. There are some people who are so deeply in love that they marry the person despite the outcome of the istikharah indicating otherwise. They usually suffer the heavy consequence of a short lived and tormented marriage. I know of others who were given the sign to choose someone that they did not find appealing, and in obeying the message from Allah, ended up in blissful and harmonious marriages.

To be continued.

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