Part 1 – Where do I begin?
In many countries today, a prerequisite to a marriage is to submit basic information about yourself and to undergo a medical test to screen whether you have any communicable diseases. That is about all the information that they are looking for. Looking at the high incidents of failed marriages, whether Muslim or non Muslim, one wonders whether there should be a proper qualification test to determine whether the couple is indeed ready to embark upon married life!
After all, we do the same thing when driving a car. We want to get around, we desire a car, and we have the physical capability to drive it. However, we are not allowed to drive until we have undergone the training, the road test, familiarized ourselves with road rules and regulations, and developed basic safety knowledge so that we do not hurt others and prevent others from harming us.
You want to get married. You may be physically able and ready, but do you have the knowledge, the character, manner and maturity to be a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, to be physically, spiritually and emotionally responsible to someone other than yourself?
During the time of the Prophet SAW, there didn't seem to be such concerns. However, it was a different time, because the youth then were always in the company of beautifully mannered and knowledgeable men and women, from whom they absorbed knowledge and understanding which helped them develop their manner and character. This allowed them to become men and women – emotionally, spiritually and mentally mature - from a young physical age.
Today, our society has changed. Life flashes by at a high speed, the father is at work all day and comes home tired at night, and sometimes so does the mother. Parents nowadays have little time or are too occupied to teach their children about life, consigning this responsibility instead to the education system. Children are cloistered in school until the late teens, during which time they live in an artificial environment which is out of touch with the real world. Parents are increasingly disinterested and uninvolved in their children's lives and bombard them with toys, luxuries and vacations which they think is what the children need to make them happy even if it makes them hollow. Children spend their pivotal formative years in the company of friends who are equally hollow and deprived of proper adult company and guidance, and subject to an education regime that gives them only the knowledge of success in dunia, rather than on emotional, personal or spiritual growth. It is not common for the young to seek the interaction of the older ones, for children are now taught that they can gain all the knowledge they need from school and college.
Because of this, we lack a basic understanding of life. We are emotionally stunted and flounder at life's challenges. Think of a person who buys an advanced recipe book without understanding the basic elements and terminology of cookery. He may have purchased all the ingredients and utensils, but he will not have the skill to follow the recipe properly because of his inexperience and lack of familiarity with cooking techniques; and the dish will be a flop. Marriage is similar, we may be at the right physical age and have the financial means to get married, but has anyone ever prepared us for the responsibilities that accompany marriage? When we get married, we work out the details of our future house, the car, the financial obligations, but what about the core questions: Who am I? What can I give? What do I want from the other person? What is the purpose of the marriage? And the most important decision: who should I choose?
Follow these series and you will realize that much of the answer lies in yourself and what you want, and from there, the rest will fall into place, insha Allah.
How Do I Know if This is the One for Me?
We can't choose our families, and we certainly can't divorce them, but we can choose our friends and our spouses. The choice of spouse is perhaps the most important personal decision in your life.
Why is this choice so important? Think of people buying a car because they like its fancy appearance. They buy because of the looks, not paying attention to performance, reliability, quality or maintenance. After a short time, the car turns out to be problematic, and much time, money and effort is spent repairing the car until eventually the car has to be thrown away. It is the same with a blouse or t-shirt, how many times have we bought something that looks so stunning, but after the first wash, we discovered that the material and workmanship was poor, and all the glamour is gone. Similarly, we end up frustrated, having lost time, money, and feeling deceived.
These are small but real examples. With all the effort that we put into our car and clothes, we should be even more critical and cautious when choosing a spouse. This person will be the one that we will spend our lives with, and their presence in our lives will have a huge impact on us.
How do I choose the right person? How do I know if the other person is compatible with me? How do I know if this person is for real? The questions are daunting, especially if you are young and have not had much experience in life.
For this, you need to be clear in your thinking. Marriage is not a decision to be made when you are overcome by attraction or when love has clouded your judgment. While all of us look for everlasting love in our spouse, the choice has to be guided by principle, not by passion. Someone mentioned that women now place more time choosing their bridal outfits than they do their grooms, it may be amusing, but it can lead to tragic consequences!
You should choose your spouse according to your goal in life. What are you planning to do with your life? What do you want from life, as a man, woman, husband or wife? If you can decide what your goal is, then you can determine the kind of incorporation and partnership you want to have. From there, you will know what you are hoping to generate from your marriage and what you are hoping to create in the next generation.
You need to set your goal first, and once your aim has been set, then you should choose someone who has a similar goal in life. You will get your spouse according to what you want and the status of your soul. It cannot work any other way.