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!
How 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.
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.