Thursday, 29 October 2009

Conflicting Opinions

During the process of a spouse hunt, there are times when you talk to people that you like but issues arise when you come across conflicting opinions. Sometimes it's over religious matters, sometimes over personal choices and sometimes over what someone is most comfortable with. One of these issues I've faced is regarding my work. I've come across several good Muslim, practicing guys who have some issue with this subject.

It's also interesting to see, that this issue plagues not only Muslim doctors but also other female doctors hoping to pursue a career in medicine while raising a family. One such prospective bride talks about her decision on this matter subtly on an Indian TV show called "Lux Perfect Bride". Personally, I dislike the way they've gone about the process of finding compatible matches on this show and the title of "Perfect Bride" but the point is simply about this one bride who chooses to find a match who is comfortable with her pursuing her career in medicine.

I've felt like most guys don't consider the feelings of the bride's parents even though they have every intention of being good parents themselves. Parents who educate their children wouldn't be happy seeing their children not make use of it or give it up for the sake of getting married. Somehow it seems there is a misconception that unless the wife is at home full time, she cannot take care of her children. I would think a husband has his responsibilities towards his child as well. According to shariah, in cases of divorce, the child is given to the father over the mother which means Allah (swt) does think fathers are capable of raising a child beyond providing a home and food. And if single fathers can consider nannies to help raise the child, they can consider that for their wives as well, perhaps? And a mother will always love and care for their child so I don't see why husbands should be so concerned about it. The best Muslims are those who wish for their brothers/sisters in Islam as they wish for themselves after all.

Either way, I never try to persuade anyone to try and change their ideas for me. I believe it's best if people are willingly open to the idea so there are no major issues in the future.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Matching Expectations

This is a problem all single Muslims and Muslimahs face. Finding a decent spouse, not in terms of religion, but in terms of matching their criterias and expectations. It's a topic that's being discussed by many sheikhs in trying to solve the marriage problem of Muslim youths. That is, not being able to get married.

One of lectures I've heard, spoke of how single brothers and sisters may attend the same Islamic conferences but never see each other as potential matches. Or brothers and sisters part of the same MSA or other Muslim groups may not consider each other because they may have noticed some faults in their behaviour during the time they've known each other. So, the expectations have gone beyond that of simply religion and have moved on to other things.

Each one of us are looking for perfect qualities that we would like reflected in our spouses but do we see those qualities in ourselves as well? Have we worked on ourselves in the process and are we reflecting internally. Perhaps we are quick to judge others or have fears holding us back. Because we understand ourselves but cannot understand the other person. Is it a good idea to take a risk on a person and give them a chance? Common sense would say yes but is it all that simple when it comes to marriage? Divorce may be an option provided by Allah (swt) but should we jump into marriage hoping for divorce as an option if things don't work out? Again common sense would say no. So where do we set the boundary? Where do we decide that this risk is worth taking or as Desis might say "is this laddoo (sweet) worth eating"?

(original pic here)
I guess part of the reasoning comes if the matter is a major character flaw or a minor one. Similarly, is the expectation something that is extremely important to a person or not so important. If it is something that takes you out of your comfort level then perhaps the risk is not worth taking. But it also depends on how strongly the other person feels about it and what vibes you get from it. There is, however, very little cure for fear and the uncertainty one feels during this process. In that situation, one should make sincere dua to Allah (swt) and follow their heart. If one truly feels unhappy about the situation, then it's better to let it go and pray for the best.

Being "Choosy" When Choosing The Right Spouse

This word is thrown about so often that I'm not even sure how people define it. But one can be sure most often it's when people are aiming for something higher than what other people aim for.

Lately, I've been told to lower my expectations because there aren't any decent men. I really don't know why people think that because every day somewhere or the other people are getting married. Either they just close their eyes and pick a guy at whom their finger pointed or they've actually thought the guy was decent enough to get married to. And if they can find a guy, then I suppose I can too. If he's in my destiny then I'll find him, inshaAllah.

But the advice of lowering my expectations is hard for me to swallow because I don't feel like they are expectations as much as finding a guy who likes me for what I am rather than what I can become for him (not in terms of religion). There was a joke I used to read about how women marry men trying to change them and they never do and men marrying women hoping they never change and they do. Seems it goes the exact opposite in us Muslims. The guys are trying to change their wives according to their desires and the wives are hoping the husbands remain as what they were when they got married.

Who really gets to decide when one is being "choosy"? Shouldn't the reasoning of the person be understood as well? We are all unique and if we have a little insight, we understand ourselves and our needs. If the advice is based on a better reason than "it's difficult to find a decent man" or "you are getting older", then it has more worth when it comes to being considered. Being single is not the end of the world. And marriage shouldn't be what defines us Muslims.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Defining Religiousness

When it comes to marriage, most Muslims know that they need to look for the best in deen (religion). However, everyone's definition of religiousness is completely different.

Some require a husband/wife to read Quran daily and have part or all of it memorised. Others require that the man goes to mosque everyday and women pray tahajjud every night. Some guys even require that a Muslim woman speak/understand Arabic. Then there are people who measure deen based on the number of Islamic conferences attended, books read, or how involved one is in dawah. This is all good but what if your actions do not sink in and do not bring about a positive change?

A very long time back I spoke to a man who claimed he was Hafiz-e-Quran. I was really not expecting my husband to be one but I was definitely impressed by this fact. Initially our conversation was moderated but he later requested to speak with me privately (online). I agreed as I had a lot to ask since it was still in the early stages. Unfortunately, almost immediately, his true character was revealed. He started swearing as part of a casual conversation and this disturbed me a lot. It is one of the things that completely turns me off and I dislike keeping the company of people who swear out of the fear that I'll start it. If that was not enough, he went from suddenly proposing marriage (which caught me off guard since we hardly spoke) to wanting to "beat me" to asking me when we can meet all within 5 mins. SubhanAllah! I didn't even bother responding after that and I was completely flabbergasted. To think a Hafiz-e-Quran had such a poor character was shocking. I know this is probably a rare incident but it led me to redefine religiousness.

Any person who seems outwardly religious but their character doesn't reflect that cannot really be religious. I understand we are not perfect but there's a difference in qualities that can lead to a disastrous marriage and ones that can be worked on. Aggression and aggressive behaviour, I'm afraid, is not one that I will ever take a chance on. There's a difference between anger and aggression. Everyone gets angry and show it in different ways. Maybe they stop communicating with the person or they get into an argument but aggression is when they threaten you, get physical, include emotional taunts to break you, etc. The former can be managed provided the person is willing to change. The latter requires professional help.

Anyway, I digress. Personally for me, the most important things are a man who at least practices the basic faith - regular salah (prayer), fasting in Ramadan, avoids haram (by eating zabiha/halal foods, avoiding interest, guards himself, etc), has the intention of performing hajj (preferably with his wife :D ), gives zakat (if it is fardh on him). Anything above this is awesome. If he is actively seeking knowledge on Islam and making an effort to become a better Muslim by keeping his actions in check then I've found my perfect match. A Muslim man or woman who is oblivious to their defects in religion isn't really going to do much to change so insight is extremely important when it comes to religion. As far as having a difficult time changing, that can be managed because everyone needs motivation from time to time.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Do Looks Really Matter?

I think this is one of the first things if not the absolute first things that people consider in marriage. Somehow more so guys than girls or maybe my viewpoint is based mostly from what I've noticed among the Desi (Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi) culture. Or maybe because I haven't spent time reading too many girls' profiles or girls tend not to talk about looks even if they desire a good-looking husband. I don't want to imply that it's wrong to want someone you are attracted to, infact, it is important to at least feel some attraction. What I dislike is when people tend to give it more importance than anything else or it is their sole consideration.

It seems like some people are obsessed about looks and that's all they can see/talk about. They don't care about your religious values or to ask about anything else. They can only talk about pictures, meeting you in person, or describe how pretty they think you are, etc. Sometimes they are easy to spot because their profile includes words like "pretty, beautiful, fair, slim" and it concerns me to talk to them because I'm not sure if this is the sole reason they contacted me. And when I talk of other things, it comes across as though they've never thought about it as their response is rather vague.

I once read a sad debate among Muslim guys on a popular Muslim blog about how "ugly women" have the least chance of getting married because women are more in number therefore even "ugly men" can find a beautiful wife simply because of the ratio. Seems like they are looking for "trophy wives". SubhanAllah. I wonder how many women will marry a man with such thinking.

Didn't the prophet (pbuh)'s hadith talk of marrying a woman for her religion? And a similar hadith telling fathers to marry their daughters to a man who is good in character and takes care of his religion? A beautiful person will be pleasing to the eyes as long as they do not offend you. I believe a good character is most pleasing to the heart and most essential for a happy marriage and that remains my key point in my search.

Friday, 9 October 2009

When You Actually Like Someone...

[My plan was to write about criterias and then move on to other subjects but for now that'll have to wait...]

Normally, I communicate with potential spouses via email. I find it non-threatening. You can think about what you have to say without feeling nervous and it's a quick way of figuring out if you are compatible with a person. I generally try to ask questions that are most important to me and usually it's done in a very formal way as I feel getting too friendly would not be very Islamic. A few seem to think it makes me sound very serious but marriage is after all a very serious matter and it's not that I do not have a sense of humor and such but in this matter I don't find it appropriate.

However, the problem with me comes when I actually like someone because of what I feel is good character and a possible match. Now that makes me nervous irrespective of whether we are communicating via email or not. It makes me think even more of what I should say and I how I should phrase my sentences and at the same time trying to communicate my real opinions. The whole time I'm doing so, I'm thinking at the back of my mind if the conversation is going to end here because our views don't match. And wondering if it's worth losing out on a possibly good match because of a couple of things. Now these things aren't random things. They are important to me and what's important to me, I feel, should also be important to my husband and vice versa but somehow I've noticed if guys are religious, as in really practicing their deen, they are not too liberal or open to differences in opinion which doesn't really go with Islam. And it's not just having differences in opinion, which all couples will have on certain matters, but is there room for compromise? And will that compromise really satisfy both couples or will they end up feeling this is not what they want?

May be I'm afraid of compromise on some level because of the experiences of couples where it turns out more to be a sacrifice on the part of the wives of their desires and even though husbands originally agreed to certain things, soon after marriage they seem to have a change of heart. And it turns into a battle instead of a companionship. May be it's impossible to find someone who thinks exactly like you and has the same mentality but is it really worth it to go into a marriage knowing you may not really be happy? To me, it's not. And when I really like someone I tend to have an internal debate with myself on whether I can sacrifice what I hope for in case there can't be a compromise.

I think there are a few girls like me who have faced this internal battle and decided to choose to remain single until they either meet someone who is willing to accept them as they are or die in hopes of such a person or give up and marry any person just to end their loneliness. As far as their happiness is concerned, only Allah (swt) is aware of that. Some are satisfied in their decisions and some regret it. It's sad to think that simple things like marriage can become so hard and stressful.

In the event that I really can't decide, I'll leave it to Allah (swt) through istikhara and will consult my parents. But somehow my heart and maybe my gut is telling me that I still have some waiting to do.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Religiousness & Character

With all the hadith which talk about the importance of deen and character, there should be no doubt how important a role faith plays in a healthy marital relation. If he fears Allah (swt) then he will treat you right. If she fears Allah (swt), she will respect you. And they will love each other for the sake of Allah (swt). Therefor, it becomes extremely important for one to use this as their basic criteria for choosing a spouse.
"A woman is married for her deen, her wealth or her beauty. You must go for the one with deen, may your hands be in the dust! (if you fail to heed)" [Muslim]
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said:`The most perfect believer in faith is the one whose character is finest and who is kindest to his wife.' ( Quotes on marriage from Tirmidhi and Nasa'i)
However, the difficulty here is that as the ummah grows, so do the divisions. With such varied opinions, how does one find a person who follows their belief system? Does one sacrifice deen in the process? For me, this is not an option and neither is asking/forcing someone to change his opinions for me. If I find that our opinions do not match, I don't see the point in developing the relationship into marriage. Such differences of opinion can, in the long run, lead to marital discord and displeasure with each other. Either the couple discuss a compromise beforehand or separate and continue their search for the right one.

There's one problem I've faced when it came to differences in opinion. After agreeing that we can't compromise, a few of the men continued to criticize my opinion. I'm not sure what they were hoping for? Maybe they thought needed to get in the last word or believed they could argue with me into changing my beliefs and accepting theirs. In most cases, the argument was not even related to something that is fard. Or maybe it was in their minds simply because they had an idea of what they wanted and expected someone to comply with their requests. I may come off as hard-headed here, but it's not a matter of being stubborn. Just a matter of what you think is best for you. I don't see the point in a marriage where one person is expected to compromise and bend backwards to please another who doesn't make any such effort. I don't expect my husband to change for me except by his will and will not force my opinions on him which is why I've been trying to look for someone who's compatible and comfortable with my faith. I am just expecting the same from my husband. To accept me the way I am and appreciate me for it.

If you decide in your meetings with a prospective spouse that you have extremely different opinions on matters that are utmost important to you, why should you go into an argument over it? End the conversation with pleasantries and get on with your lives. Whenever I come across such people, and thankfully it's only been a handful, I've just said alhumdulillah. If this is their behaviour before marriage, it's a good insight into what's to come afterwards.

There's a beautiful hadith that comes to mind that I shall end on:

Abu Umamah Al-Bahili (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,

"I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannahfor one who has good manners.''

[Abu Dawud]

Friday, 2 October 2009

Criterias Criterias!

If you are one of those people who has been trying to get married then you have either come across a long list of criterias or thought up your own list of wants and desires in your prospective spouse. However, if you are one of those "open-minded" people who have no such list, you may either not be ready to get marriage, not really sure of what you are looking for or not really aware of your criterias. That may be a rather bold statement to make but it's certainly not meant to be offensive. Many people may not even realize that they do have some idea of what they want. They just haven't figured it out yet.

This brings us to the question - are all these qualities and criterias essential? After all, no one is really perfect. However, I feel that to a certain extent criterias are really helpful. It's very important to have some idea of what you would want in your spouse. After all, this is someone you are planning to spend your whole life with which makes it all the more important to choose carefully. Looking at the current divorce rates among Muslims in various countries, it becomes all the more important to look for the right things. Key word here bring - right. I, too, have my own list of qualities that I'm looking for which I will cover in separate posts, inshaAllah.

The problem with these criterias, however, is people tend to go overboard sometimes and possibly look for things that will not matter in the long run. But how does one know what to look for and what to choose? The way I see it. A person that may be right for me may not be right for someone else and vice versa. And in order to understand what to look for, one must understand themselves first.

For eg, a quiet man may want to marry a girl who is more talkative because he prefers to listen. However, a talkative girl may want to find a man who is also talkative because she prefers to have a partner who she can have a good conversation with rather than someone who responds with one word. There's really no right or wrong here. It's just a matter of understanding yourself in order to understand what you want and how important it is to you.