“Sorry, we’re looking for a doctor.”
“We want someone from Pakistan, not India.”
“He is too dark.”
“We have a gut feeling that he is not the right person for you.”
Do these statements sound familiar?
If you are one of the many Muslims engaged in the marriage process, it is likely you have heard similar phrases from your parents or even the parents of possible suitors.
These statements are often said by parents to reject a marriage proposal, and often leave their children wondering: are you serious?
In Islam we are taught that marriage and the responsibilities that come with it complete half our deen, and we are encouraged to marry as soon as one is capable of doing so.
So then why are the people who are supposed to be facilitating our marriages, and helping us form one of the most beautiful, lasting relationships in our life, preventing us from it?
According to Bukhari, our beloved Prophet (pbuh), a man whose wisdom and knowledge transcends that of anyone today, told us, “A woman can be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty, and her religion. Seek the one with religion.”
Sadly, these days religion seems to take a backseat when it comes to determining whether a person is suitable to marry into a family. Instead, factors such as culture, profession, skin color and even height take precedence. There is nothing wrong with considering these factors, as they are things that can be looked at when making marriage decisions, but they should not take precedence over everything else. If a person has strong deen, good character and is compatible with a potential spouse, then parents should facilitate the marriage, not hinder it.
This subject is of such importance that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) spoke directly about it. As noted by Tirmidhi, he said, “When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks to marry your daughter, comply with his request. If you do not do so, there will be corruption and great evil on Earth.”
This is not to say that the girl has no say in the matter or that the parents should accept the first guy that comes along. Rather, parents should strongly consider these qualities in a suitor, and they should not expect to find the “perfect” match.
We can see this exact corruption playing out in our society today, with rejected marriage proposals leading many people away from the religion and into troubled situations.
One example is a young man and a young woman who I know were very interested marrying one another, but the young man’s parents did not allow him to marry the young woman because she was not Palestinian. The young woman, after losing her biggest spiritual supporter, felt emotionally devastated and betrayed by Islam. This experience impacted her to such an extent that she refused to talk to potential suitors with Muslim parents and later married a non-Muslim.
I know another young woman who, through a friend, was introduced to a young man for purposes of marriage. The young woman told her parents soon after they started talking, but her parents refused to meet him. The young woman continued to talk to the young man, and after finding that they were very compatible, finally, convinced her parents to meet him. The parents still turned him down because they thought he was too short, unattractive and his job was not “professional” enough.
Do not get me wrong. Parents are an important part of the marriage equation, and they should be involved in the process from the beginning. However, because parental opinion is so important in the Muslim marriage process, most Muslims want parental blessing before marrying someone and many are finding it difficult to get that blessing. That is why parents must understand the Islamic marital requirements and their children’s needs in a spouse.
We are told so much about how parents have rights over their children, but children have rights over their parents, too. Parents need to discuss issues with their children, not simply make all the decisions in their life. We see one of the finest examples of this with Prophet Ibrahim. When he had dreamt that Allah (swt) told him to sacrifice his son, he told his son about the dream so he could get his thoughts on the matter. He did not order him to lie down so he could kill him or deny him a say in the matter. He had a sensible conversation with his son, who was ready to cooperate fully, but was replaced with the sacrifice of an animal instead.
Young Muslims are often told to reject the norms common in American society today, such as dating and pre-marital sex. However, if we are expected to avoid these situations and live according to the ideals of Islam, then parents need to make it easier for us to get married. Show us the advantages and disadvantages of certain courses of action. Guide us through the process of finding a spouse with good character. Do not simply reduce the process to finding a “slim fair-skinned girl” or a “tall Pakistani doctor.”
Naved Qazi works as an attorney in Houston, TX. He serves as the legal internship supervisor for CAIR Texas-Houston and is also involved with several non-profit legal organizations around town. He has a BBA from The University of Texas at Austin and a JD from Michigan State University College of Law.
(Photo Credit: David Campbell)