From the beginning: how we choose spouses
The ummah longs for unity and demands a strong leadership. We blame the government, the society and enemies of Islam for our failure to get there. Yet if all of us implement Shari’ah values within our four walls, Islam will automatically be implemented outside our houses and into society. Islam is a status generated from within and cultivates a deep sense of responsibility. It promotes guardianship and watchfulness for those who fall within our care.
Reported by Ibn `Umar (RA): Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian and responsible for his subjects; the man is a guardian of his family; the woman is guardian in her husband’s house and responsible for her wards; a servant is guardian of his master’s property and responsible for his ward. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects”. [Bukhari & Muslim].
We will be questioned by Allah about how we implement these responsibilities and all our decisions. For example, if the husband is a slave of Allah, and chooses his wife for the sake of Allah, then it is a good starting point to have children who are the slaves of Allah. If all families make their choices and live their lives in Allah’s path, the whole community will be united. In reality however, when someone raises marriage prospects, the normal questions that follow are how the person looks like, how rich or poor, how educated, or how well connected the family is.
Can any of us, whether rich or poor, educated or ignorant, imitate what Umar (RA) did? He on his patrol of Madinah late one night, felt tired, so he leaned against a wall. In the darkness, he heard a woman order her daughter to mix milk with water. This practice was prohibited by Umar (RA) because it was a form of cheating the customers.
The girl refused, reminding her mother of Umar’s (RA) decree on this issue. The mother still insisted for the girl to mix the milk with water, but to do it in a location where Umar (RA) could not see her.
The girl refused and said, “I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey Him in private.”
How many girls today are willing to stand up against their mothers to uphold the Truth? While obedience to mothers is mandatory, it only applies in matters which are consistent or in line with Islam. Many Muslim mothers, when it suits them, are swift to remind their offspring that jannah lies under their feet, but ignore the commands of Allah on the majority of other issues which are not to their liking!
Umar (RA) was so impressed by the response that he asked his companion to investigate the girl’s background. When he reported back to Umar (RA) that the girl was unmarried, Umar (RA) gathered his sons and said: “Do any of you need a wife, so I can arrange the marriage for you? If I had the desire to get married, I would have been the first one to marry this young woman.”
One of his unmarried sons, Asim, agreed, and Umar (RA) arranged for their wedding.
What was the appeal of this girl? Umar (RA) had not even seen her physically and could not assess her beauty. She was poor, unsophisticated and from a humble family, but her piety and obedience to Allah were so appealing that Umar RA urgently wanted her as part of his family. The marriage produced the mother of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, also known as the fifth Rightly Guided Caliph or the Second Umar, one of the most just and pious rulers after the Khulafa Ar Rashideen.
In another incident, a poor man found an apple on the ground. Being extremely hungry, he took a couple of bites before realizing that the apple had fallen from a tree within the compound of a house, which meant that the apple belonged to the owner of the house. He rushed to the owner and pleaded for forgiveness for eating the apple without permission. The owner said that the only condition for forgiveness was if the man were to marry his daughter, but warned that she was blind, deaf, mute and paralysed. Due to the fear of Allah, the man immediately consented. In Islam, a woman cannot be forced into marriage, and she has the final say on the matter. The house owner told his daughter that he had found a pious man to be her husband, but that the man was extremely poor. The girl agreed to the marriage, and the wedding took immediately.
The new groom saw his bride for the first time, and gave her a greeting of salam. Surprisingly, she replied even though she was supposedly mute. She walked towards him and he discovered that she was neither blind nor paralyzed. In fact she was extremely beautiful. She explained that her father had not lied: she was “blind” because she had never seen a non muhrim man before him. She was “deaf” and “mute” because she neither listened to forbidden things nor participated in forbidden conversations. She was “paralysed” because her feet had never stepped into forbidden places. The marriage produced Imam Abu Hanifah, who is one of the most renowned scholars in Islam.
While travelling, Abu Dharda (RA), the wisest man in the ummah, spotted a man making several mistakes in his salat, so he enquired what the matter was. The man explained that he was too poor to find a teacher on Islam (much less a wife). A few days earlier, the Khalifah had asked for Abu Dharda’s (RA) daughter’s hand in marriage on behalf of his son, but Abu Dharda (RA) declined because he did not want the daughter’s iman to be corrupted by power and luxuries.
Abu Dharda (RA) then suggested to his daughter that if she were to lead this man to Islam, it might take her to jannah. She immediately agreed to the match, without asking for gifts or a big celebration. How would we, as parents have chosen today? Would we have been willing to bar our daughters from marrying a man of influence in favour of a man of piety?
Real v Fake Choices
It is said that your children’s characteristics are determined the moment you choose your spouse. If you are a blessed soul and marry a blessed soul, your children insha Allah, will be of good stock. A Bedouin one day said to his children: “I did good to you not only when you were young or when you grew up, but also before you were born.” They said “Indeed we know that you have treated us well when we were very young and then when we grew up, but how is it that you treated us well even before we were born?” He said “I chose mothers for you that will not disgrace or discredit you.”
There are many other narratives of the Companions and the early pious predecessors marrying for the sake of Allah, forsaking other qualities such as beauty and wealth.
Narrated Abu Hurayrah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, ‘When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so, there will be temptation on Earth and extensive corruption.’ (Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)
The mother is the teacher of the next generation. The father is the role model. If you and your spouse’s souls are full of spiritual disease and Shaitan, what kind of children will you produce? The mothers of jannah used to perform wudu and prayers before cooking in the hope that it would be a blessing for the children, rather than being overly concerned about the actual recipe.
If we are fake, our marriages will be for materialistic motivations. Hence the lack of iman in a potential spouse does not raise as many red flags as the lack of a university degree.
Parents should ask for Allah to honour our children, and not to make them the cause of fitnah but rather the coolness of our eyes. As a nation, we should fully appreciate that the next generation has the power to either uphold Islam or destroy the ummah entirely.
The ultimate example of a family unit functioning in the unconditional worship of Allah was demonstrated by the family of Ibrahim AS. He sacrificed time and again for Allah, as did his wives Sara and Hajr, with each sacrifice progressively more difficult than the previous one. Allah granted him the ultimate honour – the rebuilding of the Ka’bah and a progeny of all the prophets and messengers that came after his time.
How many parents aim this high and make du’a for their children to honour Islam and to honour themselves through the child? Is it on our minds to supplicate for our children not to be a fitnah (trial) for us in this life and the hereafter? Do we supplicate for our children not to be the enemy or destroyers of Islam once they are adults?
Even if the parents pass knowledge to the children, it has to be with manner. There is no knowledge without Islamic character. True to the prophecy of Rasulullah SAW, close to the end of time, the slave will give birth to her master. Today, most children are raised without even basic manners or discipline. Mothers allow the child to dictate all the conditions, even from a young age when he is not old enough to know between benefit and harm, and the mothers obey unconditionally, even to the destruction of the child. If the early life of the child is devoid of adab, then how can they be the bearers of Islamic knowledge for the next generation? The child will never possess a sense of responsibility, but will instead grow up feeling entitled to everything even without any effort. What happens if the child gets married to a similar person – what hope is there for the subsequent generation?
The new generation is a reflection of the previous. When one plants a bad seed, one will yield a poor crop. When one scatters pepper seeds on the earth, he cannot expect to harvest watermelon. We claim to want piety, but in reality, we are not willing to downgrade our dunia. We choose spouses based on physical attraction and materialistic criteria at the expense of moral fibre, and it should not be lost on us that a child cannot develop strong values within such a household.
We outwardly extol the virtues of Bilal RA, but will we marry our daughters to someone of his social status, physical appearance or secular education?