Criteria for Spouse Selection
We must have certain standards for the selection of a spouse. That is to say, girls and boys must have criteria and know what kind of spouse they wish to have and with what qualities and virtues. This is the actual work. It is much like someone who wants to travel, so he must fix and specify his destination and then start the journey. But if he only knows that he needs to travel but does not have any aim, objective or destination in his mind, he wanders around and gets lost.
There are two kinds of standards, qualities, and specifications that should be taken into consideration when selecting a spouse:
(a) Those which are the pillars and foundations and definitely required for a prosperous life.
(b) Those which are the conditions of attaining completion, and are necessary for the betterment and welfare of life and are mostly relevant and dependent upon the taste, style and the status of a person.
1 – Religiosity
2 – Morality
3- Nobility of the family
4 – Reason
5 – Physical and mental health
6 – Beauty
7 – Knowledge and education
8 – Being each other’s match
First: RELIGIOSITY (From the fundamental and Inevitable Factors)
He who does not have religion does not have anything. Whatever he owns and possesses, he is considered and evaluated as ‘nothing’. An irreligious man is actually a ‘moving dead body’. The person who is not committed and bound to religion, which is the most real matter of life, there exists no security and guarantee that he would be committed to the rights of his spouse, and be bound to the norms of a shared life.
A religious and pious person cannot go along with an irreligious spouse and have a prosperous and blessed common life. A pious person may possibly tolerate and bear other shortcomings of the spouse, but can never bear and accommodate the irreverence and recklessness of the spouse.
Yes, if both of them are without religion and heedless to the laws of religion, it is possible. But their lives would never be successful. Prosperity is absolutely impossible to achieve without honesty. Absolutely impossible to achieve without honesty. Absolutely impossible!! Yes, they might have accepted something as prosperity and consider themselves as prosperous, but this consideration is ‘sheer ignorance.’ That is to say, they are in fact unfortunate and miserable, but they think they are blessed and successful.
Anyhow, a religious and pious person wants a religious spouse. If one is religious and the other, irreligious and uncommitted, they will not become prosperous.
Of course, being religious means being so in the real sense of it. Meaning being absolutely committed to Islam, accepting it from the core of one’s heart, and practising upon it, not the shallow, rootless and feigned religiousness.
A reflection of the Prophet’s (a.s) saying:
A man came to the Prophet (a.s) to seek guidance in connection with the selection of a spouse. He (a.s) said to him:
“It is (binding) upon you to have a religious spouse.” 1
And again in another case he (a.s) said:
“A man who marries a woman for the sake of her wealth, Allah leaves him in his own condition, and the one who marries her (only) for her beauty, he will find in her (things) which he dislikes (displeasing matters) and the one who marries her for the sake of her faith (religiousness), Allah will gather up all these things for him.”2
There is an elegant an subtle point in the tradition; that is, if he marries her (only) for her beauty, he sees unpleasant things in her.
Perhaps these ‘unpleasant matters’ mean that the beauty of an irreligious wife would be the cause of a bad name, scandal and disgrace. The same beauty that was the stimulant of marriage with her becomes the cause of nuisance and dishonour.
The fruits of religiousness:
This quality and virtue has many other fruits. That is to say, religiousness is like a root or origin, which has many branches and fruits.
(a) Piety: A religious person is positively pious; and if he is not, then he is not religious one.
(b) Veil: The veil is from the fruits of the ‘tree of religiousness’. The Hijab (veil) is not only specified for women and girl, boys and men too must wear a (spiritual) veil. To sum up, the veil of a woman and a man has some differences which exist due to women’s physique, being bodily more attractive, and the physical and sexual differences between the two sexes.
“The one who does not have modesty lacks religion.” So the one who has modesty, does have religion as well.
Second: MORALITY (A basic and positive specification for both parties)
Morality does not alone mean to be conventionally booming and smiling and good-natured, since laughing on certain occasion is not only anti-morality, but also immoral. Instead, morality means good etiquette and lovely habits and virtues from an intellectual and religious point of view.
STATUS OF MORALITY IN SPOUSE SELECTION
The Prophet (a.s) said about the virtues and qualities of a suitable and decent spouse:
“When someone with whose morality and religion you are pleased comes to you (for marriage), conclude the marriage. If you do not do it, then a great commotion and disturbance and corruption would take place on earth.”
Please observe that the prophet of Islam (a.s) described ‘morality’ and ‘religion’ as two real standards and criteria of marriage and spouse selection. These two are the foundation of prosperous life and the importance of other standards follows them.
SPECIMENS OF DECENT AND INDECENT BEHAVIOUR
Now we discuss the meaning of ‘decent attitude’ an morality in detail and describe two example of these so that the meaning of morality when it comes to spouse selection is illustrated and explained explicitly.
1- USING DECENT AND INDECENT LANGUAGE
2- MAGNANIMITY AND JEALOUSY
3- SWEET-NATUREDNESS AND ILL-NATUREDNESS
4- ACCEPTING THE TRUTH AND STUBBORNNESS
5- WISE HUMILITY AND STUPID PRIDE AND ARROGANCE
6- TRUTHFULNESS AND LYING
7- GRACE AND DELIBERATENESS AND UNGRACIOUSNESS AND DEBAUCHERY
8- FORBEARANCE AND IMPATIENCE AND INCAPACIOUSNESS
9- FAVOURABLE OPINION AND MISTRUST
10- BEING WARM AND AFFECTIONATE AND BEING APATHETIC
11- FORGIVENESS AND HOSTILITY
12- RESPECT AND DISRESPECT
13- BOLDNESS AND FEAR
14- POLITENESS AND ROUGH ATTITUDE
15- FAITHFULNESS AND DISLOYALTY
16- GENEROSITY ADN PARSIMONY
17- CONTENTMENT AND GREED
Third: NOBILITY OF THE FAMILY( A fundamental and unavoidable condition for both sides)
Family nobility does not mean fame, wealth,and social status. Rather it means modesty, purity and religiousness. Marriage with someone is equal to a bond with a family, tribe, and a race.
It is not logical that in connection with marriage one says:”I desire to marry this person and have nothing do with his or her family, relation, and tribe”, since:
1- This person is part of the same family and tribe and is the branch of the same tree. This branch has received its nutrition and growth from the roots of the same tree. It is certain that most the moral, spiritual, intellectual and physical qualities and specifications of that family have been transferred through heritage, training, environment, habits, etc to this person.
The prophet of Islam (a.s) said in this regard:
“Marry from a decent family, for genealogy affect very much.”
2- Even if you do not have anything to do with them, they would have something to do with you!
Never can you detach your spouse from them. Neither can you yourself cut off your link with them. You must be associated and linked to them for a whole lifetime. If the spouse’s family are a wicked and corrupt people, they will agonize the person. And one cannot totally refrain and put and absolute constraint upon their interference in one’s life, and on the bonds with them.
3- Their good or bad name and reputation remains attached to a person for the whole of his life and does have effects upon it. It will be much too difficult for you to endure and withstand their bad name.
4- Their qualities and peculiarities have effect upon the future of the children.
The Prophet (a.s) said in this connection:
“Choose a proper and suitable place for your semen, because children become similar to their maternal uncles.” 3
Forth: REASON (Basic condition for both parties)
A sound and healthy mind is need for the sake of bringing about a prosperous life. Intellect is like a flashlight, which illuminates the avenue of life and projects and shows the ups and downs of it, so that one can take suitable decisions about them. Intellect is the medium of distinguishing between goodness, wrong and evil. Spouses must be equipped with the power of mind and reason for the sake of administrating and managing a correct life and bringing up and raising decent children.
The commander of the believers Ali (a.s) staunchly and strongly forbade marriage with a foolish and insane person.
“Avoid marrying a stupid person, since her company is a woe (calamity or distress)
and her children are also wasted.”4
Imam described two important point in this Hadith; one is that the company of a foolish spouse is distress and woe which makes a wise man miserable, and the other one is that of the waste and loss of her offspring, since genes affect them by way of heritage and simultaneously, their training, conduct, and character to are lost.
It is possible that a person is educated but not wise an sagacious, or wise but not educated. That is to say, being educated does not necessarily mean being sage and wise, just as intelligence is not the same as being educated. Of course, knowledge and mind mutually affect each other. Many a time, a person may be educated but lacks reason and insight into life. At the same time, another one may be uneducated but have the reason and wits to organize and run one’s life. And if these two (reason and education) get together, it is so much better. Similarly, some of the craftiness and cunningness must not be taken for intellect, and the doer of those be named intelligent ad sagacious.
FIFTH: PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
Physical and spiritual health has an important role in the success an prosperity of the joint life of a couple. Some of the ailments do not have much importance and are not hurdles and hindrances in performing marital duties and responsibilities. They do not give any shock or blow to life and one can bear them, or they can be cured and remedied by treatment and looked after.
Our discussion does not pertain to such diseases. Instead, those which must be taken into view while selecting a spouse are chronic ailment and deformities and disabilities, both of a physical and spiritual nature, which are incurable and accompany a man for the whole of his life, and where their endurance and bearing difficult for the spouse. Moreover, they are constraining factors in playing the perfect role of a spouse.
A spouse must love his of her mate to have a good life, and some defects and deformities hinder this love.
Letting this matter go unnoticed and having a sentimental and unreasonable attitude to may cause heavy loss and damage to life.
Beauty is a distinction and has an exceptionally great effect in sweetening and making marital life prosperous. When persons, as spouses and helpers, want to raise a prosperous and felicitous centre and live together with love, purity, and intimacy for the whole of their lives, it is necessary that they should like each other from every aspect and must also like each other’s physiques, faces and apparent looks.
Beauty does not have a certain standard and fixed scale and lacks a ‘law of criterion’ so that individuals may be judged by that; instead, to an extent, it is pertinent to the taste of the individuals themselves. It is even possible that a person is beautiful from one person’s view and ugly from that of another. It is said aboutLaila and Majnoon (two lovers) that Laila was an ugly girl from the point of view others, but from majnoon’s she was pretty. So the quality of beauty is a relative quality and it must not essentially be at the loftiest grade. Instead, what is necessary, is the mutual liking and attraction of the two spouses. If a person does not like the apparent looks and the face and figure of his spouse, he may unintentionally commit excess upon her and find faults and criticize her make her life bitter.
The beauty of the spouse has effect on protecting and strengthening the modesty and faith of the spouse. If a spouse is pleased with the beauty of his spouse, he would not divert his sight, mind and practice towards others and would not envy others’ beautiful spouses. As a result, he would not go after strangers and would not commit dishonesty with his wife (both men and women), unless he comes out of the course of nature and does not have a share of faith and modesty.
Islam has emphasized and stressed this point. The Prophet (a.s) said:
“When one of you intends to marry a woman, he should ask about her hair, just as he asks about her face (beauty), since thehair is one of the two beauties (of women).”
And similarly, it has been recommended that the spouses beautify and decorate themselves for each
other and please and satisfy one another to remain safe and sound from deviations, corruption, and debauchery.
Beauty should be considered beside other qualities and standards, no as an independent one. That is, beauty devoid of religiousness, modesty and morality is not only unappreciated as a distinction, but also is a dangerous calamity. Beauty is taken to be a perfection, worth and distinction for someone, only when that person is equipped and decorated with religion, morality, modesty, nobility and reason,otherwise it is a defaming affliction.
Beauty lacking modesty is greenery growing upon a dung hill. The saying of the Prophet (a.s), which has been described, is very suitable here:
“Avoid the greenery growing over the dunghill (heaps of dirt).”
Similarly, “The one who marries a woman for her beauty (only), he will see unpleasant thing in her.”
SEVENTH: KNOWLEDGE AND EDUCATION
Knowledge and education have a great effect on the prosperity and felicity of man. Being educated and gaining knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim man and woman.5
This specification is the focus of attention in spouse selection and a joint life and is considered to be a distinction for a decent and suitable spouse. It also has a deep effect on attaining perfection and the progress of life, performing marital duties and the bringing up and training of children.
But this peculiarity (like beauty) is the condition of perfection, not its foundation and should be considered beside real and basic qualities and standards, not independently. All that has been discussed about ‘beauty’ stands valid and is true this discussion as well.
Knowledge, short of commitment and faith is always harmful, as is beauty without faith and modesty.
That which is important in this topic is the proportions and equality of learning between two spouses, which will inshallah, be described in the next discussion, i.e.’equity.’
Eighth: BEING EACH OTHER’S MATCH (Equity and Proportionateness)
It has been said in the beginning of this chapter that this part, (standards of spouse selection), is the most important chapter out of all the discussion. And now we say that the vitally important part of the discussion is ‘equity and balance between the two spouses.’ This is the most sensitive matter to concentrate on while selection a spouse.
Equity between the couple means: a proportion, balance, co-ordination, concurrence and congeniality between the boy and the girl, and conventionally, the harmony of a man and woman to get along together.
Marriage is a form of combination between two human being and two families. Joint and common life is ‘a compound’ thing, the actual and basic elements of which are the man and the woman. The more the harmony, co-ordination and congeniality of thought, spirit, morality and physique in this compound, the more its strength, enjoyment, fruits, positive consequences, stability and continuance. The less the ration of its consistence, the more life would be unstable, bitter and fruitless.
The main cause of the miseries, turbulence and turmoil of family life is due to the lack of co-ordination and proportion between men and women.
Two people who join each other’s company and wish to prolong this company for the whole of their lives and share all matters, taking joint decisions, bringing children into existence, training them and making them reach prosperity must definitely be harmonious, concurrent, and congenious and have reciprocal equity.
Regrettably, in the wake of the spouse selection problem, conventional goodness is usually taken as sufficient , and less attention is paid to the equity and balance between the boy and the girl; whereas this is the axis and pivot of the standard of spouse selection.
There are only a few people on our society who are completely incapable of marrying and having a spouse. All boys and girls have the capability and capacity for marriage, but all that needs to be taken into consideration is which girl suits which boy.
These problems that we see all around us for e.g., that such and such a woman has difficulty with her husband and their life is disturbed and in a bad shape, or that such and such a man has conflict with his wife and is offended and annoyed with her and they pass an ‘unwanted’ and ‘undesirable’ life, are due to the fact that mutually proper and suitable spouses were not chosen. If this had been done, these difficulties, odds, conflicts and family disturbances would not have existed of at least, been minimized.
“The persons who, before their marriage, endeavour to study their spouses and find spouses who are suitable and proportional for them and are conventionally their counterparts, have solved a part of their post marriage difficulties and problems regarding children training. Otherwise, they save and secure the difficulties which could be solved before the post marriage period.”6
A hundred percent co-ordination and congeniality is not possible, since every individual has his own mind, spirit, morality and character, specific environment and family and has a certain distance and difference from the other one. But an attempt should be made to lessen and reduce this distance to a minimum, so that the two spouses are as close to each other as possible.
Source: ‘Youth and Spouse Selection‘ by Ayatullah Jafar Subhani
1- Wasail al-Shia, vol. 14,p 30.
2- Wasail al-Shia, vol. 14, p 31.
3- Jawahir, vol. 29,p 37.
4- Wasail a-Shia, vol. 14, p 56.
5- Prophet (a.s), Usool-e Kafi, vol. 1, the chapter on Excellence of knowledge, Hadith 1.
6- Wasail al-Shia, vol. 14,p 30.