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Choosing the Right Spouse

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Q: How important is it that a person who wishes to get married should have a permanent job and enough savings to have an expensive wedding? How about a person, who has enough to pay a dower and lead a decent standard of living, but cannot afford a luxurious wedding? What is needed to change the social view that only a wealthy bridegroom is worth considering. May I also ask of a person who feels that he needs to get married but finds himself unable to arrange that? Should he resort to fasting? If so, for how long?

A: Islam encourages marriage for both men and women. It lays down a criterion for choosing the right spouse. In the case of a wife, the Prophet, peace be upon him, says: “A woman is sought in marriage for one of four things; her wealth, beauty, family and faith. Make sure to choose the one with strong faith.” In this Hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, makes it clear that most of the considerations to which people attach great importance when choosing a wife, such as wealth, beauty and family, are of little value.
The important consideration is that she should have strong faith, because that is the one, which shapes her character and makes her a good wife.
Similarly, when a father receives a proposal of marriage for his daughter, he should consider the character of the suitor, not his wealth or family connections. The Prophet says: “Should a man whom you find satisfactory with regard to his honesty and strength of faith propose to you for marriage, then give him your daughter in marriage”. Again the Prophet, does not attach any importance to the wealth or position of the man who comes with a marriage proposal. He speaks only of the man’s honesty and strength of faith. The Prophet also warns that if we choose different criteria, our society will soon suffer from corruption.
Having said that, I should also explain that these criteria which the Prophet outlined are the ones to be given priority. Other considerations also have their importance, although they must never precede the ones the Prophet has outlined.
For example, if a family has to choose between two proposals from two persons who both meet the proper standard of honesty and strength of faith, then other factors such as the age of the suitor and his type of job or trade may be given their due importance. Hence, scholars have stressed compatibility as an important basis for accepting or rejecting a marriage proposal.
It is certainly against the teachings of Islam to make marriage difficult for young people by making excessive demands of dower, housing and furniture. Fasting is recommended to a young man who feels the urge to get married but is unable to marry for any reason. He is the one to decide how often to fast. There is no specific recommendation on this point. It is when a person feels that he is liable to slip into sin that he should resort to fasting. That weakens his desire and strengthens his resolve to resist any temptation he may be facing.