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 (SWT) and ensure that we follow the steps laid out for us when getting to know a potential partner which include 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, but 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 (peace be upon him) 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”. So in fact, the two criteria that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has laid out are his religion and character. His observance of the 5 pillars of Islam at 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 long time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said “Make a good choice of who will bear your children. Marry those who are compatible with you.” So, it is important when considering a partner to remember that they will be the parent of your future children in sha’ Allah, and 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 www.findingloveandmercy.com or read Dr. Ikram and Rida Beshir’s books on marriage.
- 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 keeping 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. importance of maintaining 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, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I do not see for those who love each other, except to marry”, meaning if a man and woman love one another, they should marry as any 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 (peace be upon him) with her interest in marriage; she sent a friend to ask him whether he would be interested in marrying Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her).
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 (SWT) is the Best of Planners and will choose the best spouse for you. As mentioned, make lots of du’aa’ and pray that Allah (SWT) facilitates the best for you.
And Allah (SWT) knows best.
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