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Criterion for seeking a spouse in Islam

Md. Mokhter Ahmad

Associate Professor
IIUC-Dhaka Campus
Email: mokhter_ahmad@yahoo.com
Marriage is the only source in Islam to constitute a family which is the also the first formal
institute in Islamic social system. Besides family is the abode where one will resort to have
peace and happiness. If it is not formed rightly and if there is any wrong or mistake while
selecting the partners in the family atmosphere then one's life will be hellish and thorny. This
is why Islam has looked into the issue of choosing a right life partner and clarified the criteria
which are essential for the sake of composing a peaceful and happy life.
‫ومن آياته أن خلق لكم من أنفسكم أزواجا لتسكنوا إليها وجعل بينكم مودة ورحمة إن في ذلييك ليييات‬ 
,‫لقوم يتفكرون‬
When a boy or girl comes off age it is the responsibility of the parents or guardians to marry
them off. The Prophet (saas) said:
‫ل تفعلوا تكن فتنٌة في الرض وفسيياد عريييض( رواه‬
ّ ‫ إ‬،‫(إذا جاءكم َمن ترضون ديَنه وخلقه فزّوجوه‬ 
)1022) ‫الترمذي من حديث أبي هريرة رضي ال عنه و حسنه اللباني في السلسلة الصحيحة‬
"If someone with whose piety and character you are satisfied comes to you, then marry him. If
you do not do so, there will be disorder in the earth and a great deal of evil." (Reported by At-
Tirmidhi and others and classed as Hasan)
Umar (r) presented his daughter Hafsah to Uthman and then to Abu Bakr who both disagreed
with the offer and Umar, without becoming angry or despaired offered her to the Prophet who
eventually agreed and married her.1
Besides, unnecessarily delaying the marriage of any marriageable boy or girl is against the
spirit of Islam. Because marriage is in fact the most effective way for keeping oneself safe and
secured from immorality and sexual abuse. The Prophet (saas) said:
‫ وميين لييم‬،‫ن للفييرج‬
ُ ‫ض للبصيير وأحصي‬
ّ ‫ع منكم الباءَة فليتزّوج؛ فإّنه أغي‬
َ ‫ن استطا‬
ِ ‫ م‬،‫شباب‬
ّ ‫)يا معشَر ال‬ 
،(5066 ،5065) ‫طع فعليه بالصيام؛ فإّنه له وجاء(( )مّتفق عليه(( )أخرجه البخاري في النكاح‬ ِ ‫يست‬
.‫( من حديث ابن مسعود رضي ال عنه‬1400) ‫ومسلم في النكاح‬
Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at
women (lit., lowers your gaze) and preserves your chastity; but those who cannot should fast,
for it is a means of cooling sexual passion.
Moreover, when one gets married for the sake of keeping himself or herself biologically
moral and sound then Allah comes to his/her assistance and removed his/her financial
constraint. Look at the followings:
‫ )وأنكحوا اليامى منكم والصالحين من عبادكم وإمائكم إن يكونييوا فقييراء يغنهييم ال ي ميين‬:‫قال تعالى‬ 
(32 :‫فضله( سورة النور‬
.‫ الناكييح الييذي يريييد العفيياف‬:‫ "ثلثيية حييق علييى الي عييونهم‬:‫وقال رسول ال صلى الي عليييه وسييلم‬ 
‫أي العبد الذي يريد أن يحرر رقبته ببذل مقييدار ميين المييال يكيياتب عليييه‬- ‫والمكاتب الذي يريد الداء‬
."‫ والغازي في سبيل ال‬-‫سيده‬
There are three who have a right to the help of Allah: the one who marries out of the desire to
live a chaste life, the slave whose master has agreed to his buying his freedom when he wishes
to pay the sum, and the one who fights in the cause of Allah. (Reported by Ahmad, al-Nisai, al-
Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim)
In society, men and women have the right to choose a life partner. That is not to be done
merely on the basis of physical beauties or economic benefits leaving aside the inner and
spiritual aspects of the other partner. However, parents also have an important role in the
process of marriage by offering experience, counsel and rightful intervention, which is
preferable to being left to the feeling of confusion and a failed future marriage.
Below are some Islamic principles, both general and specific, to consider if you will be
meeting or seeking a potential spouse for yourself or someone else.
Criteria for selecting spouse:
The Prophet (saas) explained in many Hadiths about the various characteristics which one
looks for in a spouse, their relative importance, and which ones determine success, and bring
Allah's blessing on a marriage. A few principles are stipulated by Islam for choosing the right
life partner:
A) Family Background:
‫ لمالهييا‬:‫ "تنكييح المييرأة لربييع‬:‫عن أبي هريرة رضي ال عنه عن النبي صييلى الي عليييه وسييلم قييال‬ 
"‫ فاظفر بذات الدين تربت يداك‬،‫ولحسبها ولجمالها ولدينها‬
"A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her
religion. So you should marry the religious woman; (otherwise) you will be a loser." (Reported
by Al-Bukhari)
‫ تخّيروا لنطفكم فإن العرق دساس‬:(‫قد ورد عن رسول الله )ص‬ 
‫ولما للمسألة الوراثية من تأثير في سلوك البناء نهى الرسول )ص( من الزواج‬ 
‫ الصحاب يسألون‬- ‫ قيل‬,‫من‬ َ ِ‫ إياكم وخضراء الد‬:(‫بالمرأة غير الصالحة قال )ص‬
‫المببرأة الحسببناء فببي المنبببت‬: ((‫ وما خضراء الدمن يا رسول الله؟ قببال )ص‬-
‫ لنهييا‬،‫ أي تكييون ميين أهييل بيييت الييدين والصييلح‬،‫واشترط المام الغزالي أن تكون الزوجيية نسيييبة‬ 
.‫ وكذلك الحال بالنسبة للرجل‬،‫ فإذا لم تكن مؤدبة لم تحسن التأديب والتربية‬،‫ستربى بناتها وبنيها‬
‫ "يييا بنييي الناكييح مغييترس‬:‫ولقد أوصى عثمان بن أبي العاص الثقفي أولده فييي تخييير النطييف فقييال‬ 
"‫فلينظر امرؤ حيث يضع غرسه والعرق السوء قلما ينجب فتخيروا ولو بعد حين‬
،‫ أن ينتقييي أمييه‬:‫ ما حق الولد على أبيه؟ فأجاب بقييوله‬:‫وسئل سيدنا عمر بن الخطاب رضي ال عنه‬ 
‫ ويعلمه القرآن‬،‫ويحسن اسمه‬
B) Property:
Property of the prospective mate is often the sole or one of the fundamental criterions for
choosing a spouse. It is not haram but it should be accompanied by some other things.
C) Beauty:
This characteristic is one of the important principles for choosing a life partner. It will have
certain role to play since it creates a strong attraction between spouses which will have lasting
effect upon the marriage life. Although this is something which surely grows over time, initial
impressions can in some cases become an obstacle to a successful marriage. The Prophet
(saas) separated Qays ibn Shamas from his wife in the famous case of Khul` and her stated
reason was that he was exceedingly displeasing to her. There are many Hadiths which urge
the prospective spouse to get a look at the other before undertaking the marriage. Once a
Companion told the Prophet (saas) that he was going to get married and the Prophet asked if
he had seen her. When the man answered in negative, he said, "Go and look at her for it is
more likely to engender love between the two of you." (Reported by Ahmad and others and
it is Sahih)
Ibn `Abidin, a famous Muslim jurist, said, "The woman should choose a man who is religious,
of good character, generous and of ample wealth. She should not marry an evildoer. A person
should not marry his young daughter to an old or an ugly man, but he should marry her to one
Beauty has its role, but it is way down on the priority list under piety, character and religion.
When a person puts beauty above all else, the consequences can be disastrous. This is one of
the main reasons that young people seeking to get married must be helped by more mature
family members in making their choice.
D) Character and Behavior:
In one of the above Hadith addressed to guardians and parents, the Prophet commanded them
to facilitate their marriage when they are satisfied with two issues: the faith of the suitor and
his character.
Character is of extreme importance in Islam and goes hand in hand with faith and piety. The
Prophet has even described it as the purpose of his mission to mankind as we can see in the
following Hadiths:
"I have only been sent to complete good character." (Reported by Al-Hakim and others
and classed as Sahih)/ "I am a guarantor of a house in the highest degree of Paradise for
one who makes his character good." (Reported by Abu Dawud and it is Hasan)
One of the important issues of character in the spouses is the quality of Wudd. This means
kindness, lovingness and compassion. The Prophet said, "Marry the loving/friendly, the
child-bearing woman, for I shall outstrip the other nations with your numbers on the
Day of Judgment." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others and classed as Sahih)
The advice of one of the companions of the Prophet, Umar Ibn al-Khattab can help in this
regard: A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and spoke in praise of another. Umar asked him:
“Are you his nearest neighbor such that you know his goings and his comings?” “No.” “Have
you been his companion on a journey so that you could see evidence of his good character?”
“No.” “Have you had dealings with him involving dinars and dirhams [money] which would
indicate the piety of the man?” “No.” “I think you saw him standing in the mosque muttering
the Quran and moving his head up and down?” “Yes.” “Go, for you do not know him...” And
to the man in question, Umar said, “Go and bring me someone who knows you.”
(quoted from Islam The Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid, p. 66)
‫ ول‬، ‫ وتطيعه إذا أميير‬، ‫التي تسره إذا نظر‬: ‫ قال‬، ‫ أي النساء خير‬: - ‫ صلى ال عليه وسلم‬- ‫قد سئل‬ 
‫تخالفه في نفسها ول ماله بما يكره‬
، ‫ والجييار الصييالح‬، ‫ والمسييكن الواسييع‬، ‫ المييرأة الصييالحة‬: ‫ أربع من السعادة‬: ‫وقد ورد في الحديث‬ 
. ‫والمركب الهنيء‬
E) Child-Bearing:
The Prophet also recommended men to marry women who are child-bearing. It is because that
it will help making the ummah greater in number and save the ummah from the ultimate
disappearance and extinction. It is also helpful to the effect such as procreating the Muslim
Ummah, raising a pious family as a cornerstone of society and so forth.
(‫)تزوجوا الودود الولود فإني مكاثر بكم المم يوم القيامة‬ 
‫ إني اصييبت امييرأة ذات‬: ‫ فقال‬- ‫ صلى ال عليه وسلم‬- ‫ جاء رجل إلى النبي‬:‫عن معقل بن يسار قال‬ 
‫ صيلى الي علييه‬- ‫ ثم أتاه الثانية فنهياه رسيول الي‬,‫ ل‬: ‫ وإنها ل تلد أفاتزوجها ؟ قال‬، ‫حسب وجمال‬
)‫ تزوجوا الودود الولود‬:(‫ صلى ال عليه وسلم‬- ‫ فقال الرسول‬، ‫ ثم أتاه الثالثة‬، - ‫وسلم‬
F) Virginity:
There are many Hadiths which recommend that a man must marry a virgin woman; such as
the following:
"Marry virgins for they have sweeter mouths, more productive wombs, and are contented with
little they get." (Reported by At-Tabarani and it is Hasan). Once, when Jabir married an older
and previously married woman, the Prophet said to him, "Why not a virgin? You could have
played with her and she with you."
Muslim scholars stress that this good attribute applies to man just as it applies to woman.
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab once heard about a woman who was married to an elderly man and he
said: "O people, fear Allah and let people marry their types.”
‫ن أنتييق‬
ّ ‫ فييإنه‬، ‫ عليكييم بالبكييار‬:‫ قال‬- ‫ صلى ال عليه وسلم‬- ‫ أن النبي‬- ‫ رضي ال عنه‬- ‫عن جابر‬ 
‫ وأرضى باليسير‬، ‫ وأقل خبًيا‬، ‫ وأعذب أفواهًيا‬، ‫أرحامًيا‬
‫هل بك يًرا تلعبهييا‬: ‫ صلى ال عليه وسلم‬- ‫ فقال له رسول ال‬، ‫ ثيبًيا‬- ‫ رضي ال عنه‬- ‫وتزوج جابر‬ 

G) Religiosity:
According to the above-quoted Hadith, the Prophet mentioned the issue of "religion", i.e., a
prospective spouse's piety and religiousness to be the most important characteristic to be
found in any spouse. The Prophet said, "So you should marry the religious woman;
(otherwise) you will be a loser." This order is quite different from the general statement at the
beginning of the above-mentioned Hadith.
This religiosity is not to be superficial as there are many people who at first glance appear to
be abiding by Islam, but upon closer inspection have a twisted understanding of Islam and
their practice in reality may leave much to be desired. `Umar once told someone who had
testified to the goodness of a person by the fact that he had seen him in the Masjid that he did
not know him as long as he had no dealings with him that involved money, did not live with
him, and did not travel with him.
The characteristic of piety applies to the groom just as much as to the bride. This should be
the main focus of both the woman’s guardian and suitor. In this context, the Prophet said, "If
someone with whose piety and character you are satisfied comes to you, then marry him.
If you do not do so, there will be disorder in the earth and a great deal of evil." (Reported
by At-Tirmidhi and others and classed as Hasan)
، ‫ والجييار الصييالح‬، ‫ والمسييكن الواسييع‬، ‫ المييرأة الصييالحة‬: ‫ أربييع ميين السييعادة‬: ‫ ورد فييي الحييديث‬
. ‫والمركب الهنيء‬
‫ و بييدن علييى البلء‬، ‫ و قلييب شيياكر‬، ‫ لسان ذاكر‬، ‫ أربع من أعطيهن فقد أعطي خير الدنيا و الخرة‬
- ‫ اللبيياني‬:‫ عبدال بن عباس المحييدث‬:‫الراوي‬0 ‫ و زوجة ل تبغيه خونا في نفسها و ل ماله‬، ‫صابر‬
756 :‫ الصفحة أو الرقم‬- ‫ ضعيف الجامع‬:‫المصدر‬
‫ إن خطب إليك رجل رضيت دينه وخلقه فزوجه ول يمنعك فقره وفاقته‬

Two other things are to be taken into consideration:

1) The age difference between potential partners should not be too great. It is
not fair to give a young girl to a man who is twenty or thirty years her senior
because it will have a very negative effect on the future of their relationship. A
gray-haired man once passed by a young black-haired girl and he proposed to her.
She looked at him and said, 'I accept, but there is a snag.' He enquired what it was,
to which she answered, ‘I have some gray hair.’ The man passed on without a
word. She called out. ‘My uncle, look at my hair!’ She had hair as black as coal. He
said to her, 'Why did you say that?' She answered, ‘To let you know that we do not
like in men what they do not like in women.’ Marriage is not for fun or experience.
It is a life-long relationship. For that reason, any factor detrimental to the
relationship should be avoided as much as is possible.
2) Highly educated males and females should seek partners with a similar
educational background. Cultural and family background is very important. Such
things help the two partners to understand, communicate and relate to one another
and are factors of stability and success - as are financial independence and the
ability to provide a decent acceptable level of maintenance.
But choosing one for her or his beauty, property, and other issues is not prohibited a as long
as there is religiosity the prospective bride or bridegroom. So the Prophet said:
‫ " ل تزوجببوا النسبباء لحسببنهن فعسببى حسببنهن أن‬:‫قببال عليببه الصببلة والسببلم‬
‫ ولكن تزوجوهن على‬،‫ ول تزوجوهن لموالهن فعسى أموالهن أن تطغيهن‬،‫يرديهن‬
"‫ ولمة ب جارية ب سوداء ذات دين أفضل‬، ‫الدين‬
‫ْ‬ ‫َ‬
‫ه‬‫ف وَٱْنبب َ‬‫معُْرو ِ‬ ‫مْر ِببب ٱل ْ َ‬ ‫صل َ ٰوةَ وَأ ُ‬
‫ى أقِم ِ ٱل ّ‬ ‫الرجيم‪ٰ :‬يب ُن َ ّ‬ ‫‪‬أعوذ بالله من الشيطان‬
‫خد ّ َ‬
‫ك‬ ‫صعّْر َ‬‫مورِ وَل َ ت ُ َ‬ ‫ن عَْزم ِ ٱل ْ ُ‬ ‫م ْ‬ ‫ك ِ‬ ‫ن ذ َل ِ َ‬
‫ك إِ ّ‬ ‫صاب َ َ‬‫ما أ َ‬ ‫صب ِْر عَل َ ٰى َ‬
‫من ْك َرِ وَٱ ْ‬ ‫ن ٱل ْ ُ‬
‫عَ ِ‬
‫صد ْ‬‫خوٍر وَٱقْ ِ‬ ‫ل َف ُ‬ ‫خَتا ٍ‬
‫م ْ‬ ‫ل ُ‬ ‫ب كُ ّ‬ ‫ح ّ‬ ‫ه ل َ يُ ِ‬ ‫ّ‬
‫ن ٱلل َ‬ ‫ً‬
‫مَرحا إ ِ ّ‬ ‫ض َ‬ ‫س وَل َ ت َ ْ‬
‫َ‬ ‫ش ِفى ٱلْر ِ‬ ‫م ِ‬ ‫ِللّنا ِ‬
‫ميرِ ]لقمببان‪:‬‬ ‫ح ِ‬‫ت ٱل ْ َ‬ ‫صوْ ُ‬‫ت لَ َ‬ ‫ص ٰو ِ‬ ‫ن أنك ََر ٱل ْ ْ‬ ‫ك إِ ّ‬‫صوْت ِ َ‬‫من َ‬‫ض ِ‬ ‫ض ْ‬ ‫ك وَٱغْ ُ‬ ‫شي ِ َ‬ ‫م ْ‬‫ِفى َ‬
‫‪ ‬قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم‪ :‬لن يطعن في رأس أحدكم بمخيببط‬
‫من حديد خير له مببن أن يمببس امببرأة ل تحببل لببه )صببحيح اللببباني‪ ,‬صببحيح‬
‫الجامع‪(5045 ,‬‬
Sahih al-Bukhari, Book on Marriage, Hadith No. 5122