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Marriage at the Crossroads: Who to Choose?



Reply Date

Jan 22, 2018


I am a 24-year old doctor. I was in a relationship with my colleague for about five years. He is Sunni and I am Shia. In the naive idealism of youth, we both decided that if our parents agreed we would marry, but if they didn't we would split amicably. His family knew of my existence and never expressed any overt reservations. In my final year, I started pushing him to bring a proposal via his parents which is when he told me that his parents are dead-set against it since I am Shia. We persevered and about 6 months later he came with his family to my house. His mother was very offensive, but my family showed a lot of restraint for my sake. In principle, they were not opposed to the marriage; however they cautioned me that life would not be easy in his household. A few meetings occurred and we were pretty sure things were going smoothly. However, his mother soon changed her mind and said unequivocally that she would not accept me. This led to many fights and frustrations, and eventually I told him we are finished. We have been kept in touch since then, but not as a couple anymore. Short while ago, I met a guy I knew from secondary school. He has moved abroad for his undergraduate degree and now works there, too. We met coincidently when he came to Pakistan for a short visit. To our surprise, we got along like a house on fire and met up many times subsequently. We discussed our general plan for life, what we want in a life partner etc. We both realized we appreciate the other a lot. He knew of my relationship and how it was not going as planned. He was also in a relationship that he knew was not going to work out because of religious issues for the girl. He had made his peace with it, but agreed that it wouldn't be an ideal situation since he wants to settle soon. Obviously, since he is Sunni also, it wouldn't be easy, but he agreed to try. We decided to keep in touch and see how it pans out, but we have not yet discussed if we want to now take each other forward as a serious option. I'm not sure if the time is right for me or him. We did decide to wait till December when he comes to Pakistan again. We do get along well and I genuinely like him a lot as a person, but the physical distance is a barrier to read signals of where this is going. I have debated asking him directly what he wants, but always chicken out that I might drive him away. Meanwhile, I have received a proposal. It's in fact not a proposal I have received as such; he's the brother of my uncle's wife, and has recently expressed a wish to get settled. He is a successful accountant with a very high paying salary, in possession of his own house at a very young age. He's also groomed and good company (as much as I have seen him in social settings), so I generally like him. My parents are pushing me to agree so they can approach him as a possible candidate for me. However, I cannot bring myself to say yes. The pros are obvious. Other than the financially sound standing and good demeanor, he has no parents and no dependents leaving him relatively free to mold his life as he chooses. As a generally very independent-minded person, this can be a plus point for me too. However, since he is my aunt's brother, I see myself open to interference from my family. Much as I know their heart is in the right place, they insist on "guiding" me a lot. Since the connection is so close, I am scared that everything would be known to my family whether I want it or not. So, I am at a crossroads where I can either say yes to a proposal that superficially ticks all the boxes, or wait for a future proposal that my heart pulls me towards, but may not materialize at all. Please help!



Marriage at the Crossroads: Who to Choose?

In this counseling answer:

“It’s important to keep in mind that it may not be wise to continue rejecting proposals while waiting for one that may not come through. Ultimately, trust that Allah is the Best of Planners and will choose the best spouse for you.  As mentioned, make lots of du’aa’ and pray that Allah facilitates the best for you.”

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

Thank you for your question. When it comes to marriage, it is essential to remember the boundaries Islam has set for us in order to consider a partner. If we want blessings on our marriage and in sha’ Allah on our future children, it is important to be mindful of Allah and ensure that we follow the steps laid out for us when getting to know a potential partner. This includes the potential husband approaching the family with a proposal, the two potential partners not being alone (until the marriage contract has been signed), speaking respectfully and in the presence of family members including the woman’s guardian, if possible.

Islam does not permit dating which is ultimately a form of protection and honor for both the man and the woman to ensure their modesty is protected. We are all humans and prone to making mistakes. However, what’s important is that we repent and ask Allah to forgive us, stop the sin and vow not to do it again. If it involves hurting someone else, then seek their forgiveness, and if it is not possible, then at least make du’aa’ for them.

Having said that, in your situation, it sounds like this potential proposal from the brother of your uncle’s wife may fit ‘worldly’ standards in terms of high paying salary, well-liked, etc., which are important. However, first and foremost, when a woman is considering marriage, the Prophet said:

“If someone comes to you whose religion and character pleases you, then marry him. If you don’t, there may be a great fitnah (tribulation) and fasad (corruption) in the earth”.  (Tirmidhi) 

So in fact, the two criteria that the Prophet has laid out are his religion and character. His observance of the 5 pillars of Islam at the minimum should have a direct impact on his character – his patience, his generosity, his good speech, etc.

There was no comment about these two criteria, so it will be up to you to assess these two criteria. Of course, people can grow in their practice of Islam; however, there are no guarantees, and change can be difficult and take a long time.

It is important when considering a partner to remember that they will be the parent of your future children in sha’ Allah. There is no other more important role than the raising of a human being who can in sha’ Allah become a strong Muslim and contribute to the betterment of this world.

Here are four steps you can follow when considering marriage, and for more information feel free to visit or read Dr. Ikram and Rida Beshir’s books on marriage.

Educate Yourself

  • Learn about the etiquette of seeking a spouse; what is permissible to do and what is impermissible
  • Research the type of meaningful questions you want to ask
  • Learn about your responsibilities and rights over each other as husband and wife
  • Find out the Sunnah acts of marriage and romance (there are beautiful examples from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
  • Pay the Islamic Bookshop a visit for reading material on this chapter in life

Decide On Desired Characteristics

  • Make a list of characteristics you want your spouse to have kept in mind that you are not perfect and cannot expect your spouse to be. For men, the Prophet’s character and religion are the most important.
  • Recognize traits and values that he must have, and also areas that you are willing to compromise
  • Review this list and make sure it is realistic and reflect on your own self; what qualities do you have to offer?

Consider a Potential Spouse

  • Consult trusted friends, family, or the local mosque to help you
  • Hold meetings in the presence of your parents
  • Ensure that you and your family speak to this prospective partner’s close friends and family to gain a complete and truthful insight into the person
  • Reflect upon his character traits, values, expectations, goals and dreams, and your compatibility in this respect

Pray Istikharah (The Guidance Prayer)

  • Pray Istikharah for counsel, guidance and make du’aa’
  • Consult family and friends and take good advice
  • Seek your parents’ approval and blessing; a really important factor to ensure they agree with your decision

Finally, having come this long way, place your trust in Allah when you have made your decision, and in sha’ Allah, it will be the start of a productive chapter of your lives.

In terms of your concerns about marrying someone within your family circle and having family involvement, this may sometimes be the case. However, it is important not to worry too much about this. This can, in fact, be something that you discuss with the man you are considering (i.e. the importance of maintaining the privacy of family matters) among other important issues you will discuss, and questions you will ask.

In terms of whether you should wait for the other brother to come forward with a proposal, if a man and woman love one another, they should marry as an intimate relationship outside of marriage in Islam is not permitted. If your heart is really set on this other potential proposal as you mentioned, you could consider sending the message with a friend that you may have another proposal coming through in order to see if the brother is seriously considering marriage. This is, in fact, how our mother Khadijah approached the Prophet with her interest in marriage; she sent a friend to ask him whether he would be interested in marrying Khadijah.

It’s important to keep in mind that it may not be wise to continue rejecting proposals while waiting for one that may not come through. Ultimately, trust that Allah is the Best of Planners and will choose the best spouse for you.  As mentioned, make lots of du’aa’ and pray that Allah facilitates the best for you.

And Allah knows best.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Um Hadi

Um Hadi has BA in Psychology & Education and acquired certifications in Leadership, Life Coaching, Adults Training, and Relationship Coaching. She is currently completing her Masters in Educational Leadership.

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