“When are you getting married?” Ladies, we have all been there right? Well, I certainly have. The years of meeting potential husbands were probably the hardest years of my life. Of course I wanted to get married, but when I had to meet someone in these strained circumstances it was very difficult to figure out if they were “Mr Right”. Then when I finally came to the conclusion that he was in fact “Mr Wrong”, I would have to anticipate presenting my case to a judge and jury, otherwise known as my family.
As dramatic as that sounds, I would never be forced into a marriage. But to know people were concerned about why I hadn’t walked down the aisle yet made me realise this was something I really needed to take control of. So what is my advice to the sisters who feel the pressure? Just try and embrace it. Not convinced? Just hear me out here.
When I look back now as a married woman (alhamdulillah) I actually appreciate the pressure I was put under as it drove me to become proactive in my search for “the one”. If I didn’t have that push, I think I would have been far too complacent. I had a good job, a fulfilling social life and things were overall very comfortable. But there was a void, and I knew it was time to ‘complete half of my deen’.
“Why are you being so fussy?”
Whenever I was asked this question my face would automatically generate a smile accompanied by a dopy nod whilst my mind instantly conjured an exit strategy to take myself out of this conversation immediately! But then I would ask myself, am I being fussy? All I wanted in a prospective husband were three primary attributes:
- A practicing person from a nice family
- An occupation to ensure that they were in a position to provide for a family
- A pleasant physical appearance
Was this too much to ask for? At times I was made to feel that apparently it was!
However, I would still recommend not to compromise on these three things. At the same time, allow yourself to be pragmatic on certain issues. We all have our own special quirks so it is only natural to want someone who will either mirror or complement aspects of our own personality. The best piece of advice I was given was “be picky, but know what you want”. In other words, if you want something specific, let it be reasonable and realistic. Try not to focus on small details that make the prospect of marriage become a distant dream. Sometimes I hear statements like: “I want him to pray five times a day, but I don’t want him to be too religious”. You have to ask yourself what you really mean here and consider what the implications could be.
“How did you do it?” Now that I am sitting on the other side of the fence, I have a lot of friends asking me how I did it. I am often asked: “How did you know he was the one?” or “Was it love at first sight?” In all honesty, my approach was fairly simple, but it required an enormous amount of patience. You need total tawakul (trust in Allah’s plan) to get yourself through this process. This mind over matter way of thinking is possibly the hardest part because no one can teach you how to obtain total tawakul; it has to come from within you. This is why my heart sincerely goes out to those who are searching within the confines of Islamic teachings because it isn’t always easy to feel. But here is how I felt I managed to make it happen for myself. It sounds simple enough but I prayed sincerely for a good husband. I still remember standing in Arafat with a prayer list that asked for all the characteristics I wanted in my husband. Naturally as the years progressed, I often wondered whether this potential husband of mine actually existed. I went on to doubt if my prayer was answered or whether I was worthy enough to have such a prayer accepted.
I think I reached total tawakul when I realised that I made a prayer and surely all sincere prayers are answered because, Allah (SWT) is the most merciful and beneficent. With this in mind, I also realised that it was actually wrong of me to doubt whether my prayer was accepted, as that would mean I doubted Allah (SWT) of his infinite mercy.
Perhaps that’s what I was doing wrong all this time when Allah (SWT) was there the whole time? Sometimes we get so consumed with the punishment of Allah (SWT) that we forget that his mercy and generosity is just as relevant. So without being arrogant, I just graciously decided that I had no choice but to believe it was going to happen when the time was right. Once I had reached this epiphany, things started to fall into place.
“Tie your camel, and leave the rest to Allah.”
Once you have established this tawakul in your heart, you can then proceed to ‘tie your camel’ by using my Seven Point Plan. I have been inspired to write this because I have met lot of women who do not know what to look for during the matchmaking process. They also second guess themselves from asking valid questions, worrying about how it may sound.
When you meet a potential husband, it is important to discuss what is relevant. I would recommend thinking about the following seven points and decide what is important to you and identify what you can compromise on. I truly believe that if the majority of these points are ticked then it’s a promising start. So here goes!
1. His Religiousness:
When you regard yourself as a practicing sister, you are naturally going to look for the same in a potential spouse. A practicing man is likely to be a good husband. Why? Because if he is truly a God-fearing man, then he should understand that it is his duty to look after and care for his wife. Try and see if he possesses attributes that you want to obtain for yourself. Remember that this is potentially your life companion, so they should be someone with characteristics that you can aspire to and learn from. At the same time, do not underestimate where you are at on a religious level and the blessings that you can bring to this union. He will also learn certain things from you that will be of benefit to him. Ultimately, it is all about finding a balance between your similarities and what you both intend to achieve.
Mutual respect is a key component in any marriage, so if you see yourself as a woman of faith, then considering a man who takes the time and effort to learn more about his religion is a good start. However one must remember that there is a difference between being knowledgeable and being practising. What use is the knowledge given to us if we do not practice it? One way of assessing a man’s religious consciousness is to ask him how often he prays. Remember everybody is different and none of us are perfect, but try and assess if their attitude to praying is more honest than idealistic. At the same time, if he has given you what appears to be a legitimate answer, then try to appreciate his honesty and think about whether this is something that you can work with.
2. His Occupation:
Try and establish if this is a person that can support you. To the western world this statement may seem quite profound because these days a husband and wife can both contribute their earnings to the household they live in equally. But one should remember it is the husband’s duty to provide. Yes we are in the 21st century and more Muslim women are on steady salaries, and this is fantastic! However let’s be realistic. There are going to be times where you may be unable to work, for instance during pregnancy or after having children. You may even decide not to work after marriage to focus on other things such as education, starting a business or to simply pursue a lifelong hobby. Think about whether this person is someone who understands what his role is as a husband in Islam.
One must remember that the husband has a financial obligation to take care of his family and his household. Yes, a wife also has a lot of responsibilities within the marriage and this goes without saying; but being the breadwinner is not one of them. In today’s financial climate, most women do contribute their earnings and are happy to do so. But this should be her choice and not something that is expected from her. If the wife chooses to spend towards the household, from her own free will, then this is considered as a charitable contribution known as ‘sadaqah’.
3. His Family:
In most cases you are not only marrying a man, but his entire family. The family is also a good indicator of how they raised their son. The concept of ‘In-laws’ does not always have to be so negative. It can actually be a very blessed thing when two families come together for the sake of a marriage. It is usually a good idea if the family is similar to your own.
Also make sure to find out if you have any mutual family friends as they can give recommendations and indicate what the family members are really like so there are no nasty surprises later on. Exceptions will obviously apply to those who have reverted to Islam. In these cases, try and find a referral from an honest and reliable source, such as a trustworthy mutual friend.
4. His Physical Appearance:
To put it bluntly, can you see yourself waking up next to this person for the rest of your life? Most of us are not looking to marry a model, but someone they can look at and simply like what they see. In most cases, it is definitely worth meeting the man before vetoing him based on a photo taken from his graduation! This is because attractive qualities such as his confidence and manner will contribute to his physical appearance. I am sure most of us would not appreciate being judged solely by our photograph, so with the same reasoning, give the guy a chance. If you still feel the same after meeting him then at least you came to your conclusion fairly.
This coincides with many of the points I have already raised. Ask yourself if you can hold a conversation with him. Only you can determine if you share a spark or that certain click. At the end of the day your personalities should match or complement each other. After a few meetings his personality should become clear to you. Try and assess if he has good manners and observe how he approaches you. Generosity is probably one of the most desirable characteristics, not just with his wealth, but with his time. Try and assess how he answers your questions and how interested he appears to be in your answers. But please remember that men get nervous too!
In most cases potential spouses will exhibit some awkwardness, but they may just be put off by the situation and not you personally. It can be very overwhelming meeting a girl for the purpose of marriage and being totally aware that their answers are being monitored by yourself and whoever is chaperoning you. Try and arrange more than one meeting so you can see more of their personality shine through, but avoid it coming to a point where the meetings are becoming excessive. Be sure to ask appropriate questions, and if you feel a question has not been fully answered, do not be afraid to kindly reiterate yourself to ensure you know where he stands on that particular issue. You can do this by rewording your question so that it involves a hypothetical situation. He should then answer the question by stating how he would respond in this scenario.
6. Living Arrangements:
A conversation needs to take place where you discuss where you will be living and what the possible future plans are so you can assess what you are both comfortable with. If you are someone that knows in your heart that you need your own place and cannot live with an extended family, then be sure to raise this point as there is no shame in asking for this. The privacy between a husband and wife is imperative, so you are entitled to your own living space. Just be mindful of what the circumstances are. For many, this is the biggest compromise so you have to look at the whole picture and carefully consider the implications before moving forward.
7. Location, Location, Location:
This guy may live down the road, on the other side of the city or on the other side of the world. What you need to clarify is how important this is to you. Many women will say they cannot live far from their parents. This is understandable when parents have been widowed or separated, and there is an emotional tie between the single parent and their daughter. Sometimes both parents are ill and the daughter needs to be physically close to her parents. So some careful consideration should be taken when there are sensitive issues like these. It is always worth discussing with the man you are considering to marry and understand what his circumstances are too. If it is just a case of missing your parents, this is something that will happen when you get married anyway. When you get married you start a new chapter of your life. Your family will still be a huge part of your life, but things will naturally change over time. Even if you were to move down the road, it will be tough at first. Just remember that there is an adjustment period after you get married, it’s not always easy but eventually you gain a unique independence. Remember that marriage is for life. Circumstances will change, jobs will change and therefore locations will change. Your main priority is marrying someone who completes you and makes you happy.
Once the above has been discussed, whether this is via email, phone calls or face to face meetings, I would recommend not over-analysing and discussing small useless facts before making a decision. Avoid getting to a stage where you are practically dating because it could potentially take the barakah (blessings) away from your union. At the same time, he needs to assess whether you are the right woman for him, so allow him to approach you first. If you have not heard anything after a week to ten days, then have a think about whether you want to send a message or contact the mutual acquaintance who introduced you.
In my humble opinion, a man who is serious about getting married should not keep anyone waiting. But it is always best to give someone the benefit of the doubt as there could be many legitimate reasons as to why he was unable to provide an earlier response. If you are going to send a message, ensure that it is sent calmly and not in haste as you do not want to appear as if you are eagerly waiting. Just make it clear that you are, with respect, unable to engage in conversations with other potential candidates until this situation has been properly dealt with.
My personal recommendation to anyone in this process is pray istikhara (specific prayer for guidance) as it helps to guide those into making a good decision. This is a simple prayer that asks for guidance. A lot of people seem to think they would find the answer in a dream, whereas this is not entirely true. For myself, I performed the prayer and then I took the advice of others who were close to me. I then proceeded to follow my instincts. I have known many people who overcomplicate the istikhara prayer and worry about the consequences of performing it. All it simply does is ask Allah (SWT) to guide you, and if the situation is good for you, then the process will go ahead as normal. Unfortunately, a lot of people get carried away with this prayer. Remember that it is not as mystical as looking into a crystal ball. I recommend researching how to perform the prayer properly and then to read the translation, as this will help you to understand how the prayer works. It is simply a prayer asking for guidance. So consider all the facts after completing the prayer and be sure to take advice from one or two people who have good judgement.
On a final note, if your intention is pure and you have put your entire faith in Allah (SWT), this taqwa (Allah-fearing piety) will never go unrewarded. This process does require a lot of patience, but just remember that if it is meant to be it will happen, and if it is not then have faith that there is something better waiting for you.
Amina Hennah Khan is a Politics graduate who went on to work within the financial services. She is currently studying Arabic and also pursuing her creative writing.