Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave some very sound advice to the men in his ummah (nation) about what to look for, and give priority to, when seeking a woman for marriage:
A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So choose the religious one, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may you prosper). (Al-Bukhari)
Sometimes, it really amazes me how timeless the wisdom found in hadiths is. Even though Prophet Muhammad shared these wise words 14 centuries ago, what he said still holds absolutely true today.
We can now look at each of the four criteria he mentioned one by one.
Marrying a wealthy woman, or rather, marrying into a wealthy family, brings with it many social and financial advantages. It results in an automatic and immediate social-class upgrade, and opens the doors to a completely new lifestyle for a man. That is why heiresses to massive fortunes, and the single daughters of wealthy businessmen, tycoons, and industrialists, have no dearth of marriage proposals.
While it is true that a wealthy woman often has a penchant for putting on airs and graces, but with the incessant support of her financially sound clan behind her, there is bound to be no dearth of material comforts for herself as well as her husband and children, once the marriage has taken place.
Therefore, a man who marries a woman for her wealth can sit back and relax about never having to worry about, or struggle too hard for, providing for the basic (and not-so-basic) needs of his wife and children. Instead, he stands to gain more through this marriage in terms of an upgrade of his lifestyle and standard of living.
And that is why the first reason mentioned by the Prophet, for which a women is married by a man, is her wealth.
The Noble Woman
The second reason for which the Prophet mentioned that a woman is married is her lineage or family background (“hasab” in Arabic). It is true that Allah has favored some human beings over others as far as blood line and family nobility is concerned.
It was not just in centuries-old Arabia, but it so happens in every other country of the world, that nobility and royalty is held in higher esteem and regard than the so-called ‘lower’ races. And whilst Islam abolished slavery and equalized all races and ethnicities before Allah, marrying into nobility or “blue blood” is still considered a privilege by most.
A man who marries into a noble family, even if they are no longer wealthy, stands to gain more honor, prestige and respect from society after marriage. He will become related to, and will be able to mingle socially with, people of noble descent: the bloodline descendants of those who achieved worldly, scholarly, royal, or aristocratic greatness.
For example, in the modern day, this scenario can be envisaged by imagining someone marrying a woman who hails from the direct line of descendants of Prophet Muhammad himself. No words are further needed to describe the supremeness of this honor.
The hand of a woman who belongs to a noble and high-class family has a higher value than the one who descends from e.g. a slave tribe, or who was a product of rape or adultery, with the identity of her father unknown.
The third reason for which men seek the hand of a particular woman – and this one is the easiest to understand – is her physical beauty. Men traditionally attach a very high value to physical attractiveness when it comes to choosing the woman they will conjugate with, and who will give birth to their children, for obvious reasons.
In fact, I think that most men today place a higher value on their future’s wife physical beauty, than even upon the other factors mentioned in the above hadith, because of the increasingly superficial, apparent nature of all worldly affairs and relationships today.
In a world that places immense importance upon an individual’s life being outwardly “picture perfect”, on the appeal of “eye candy”, with wedding photos being broadcasted to thousands of viewers in real time with a single tap on a screen, the looks of the woman who will be draped on your arm for the rest of your life carry more worth than even her personal wealth (a.k.a “net worth”) or her family’s social class/status.
The Devout Muslimah
Last but not the least, the fourth reason that Prophet Muhammad mentioned for a woman being sought in marriage, is her Deen or religious commitment. He mentioned it in the end, but empathetically urged all Muslim men to choose their wives for this reason first.
The question remains: why would any man in his right mind give the greatest importance to the faith and religiosity of his future wife?
I mean, wouldn’t he be crazy to do that, knowing that religious women observe much stricter moral standards of actions and behavior, and place many more restrictions upon themselves and their families than the comparatively more easygoing, ‘flexible’ women who have looser morals?
And what man in his right mind would want to be seen with a black burlap-sack in public?
Contrary to popular belief and what is apparent to the naked eye, the religiously-inclined and committed wife is a joy for her husband to be around. I think that the Prophet’s own words should be enough for Muslim men to “hear and obey” them, without requiring explanations and justifications about the “how” and “why”.
That being said, a Muslim man should choose the religious woman when searching for his wife because she will ensure his and their (future) children’s well-being in the Akhirah (Hereafter). She will not give priority to this world at the expense of their Deen, either at a collective or an individual level in their family.
The beautiful and wealthy wives might lose their beauty and wealth, over time or by accident, so the purpose for which they were married will be gone, and this might make the marriage lose its blessings.
The noble woman’s family status might be of temporary benefit only in this world, but it could prove to be a bane if her relatives are debauched and morally corrupt, no matter how blue their blood is.
But the religious wife will always guard her Deen and that of her family with every ounce of will that she possesses. She will take a stand for what is morally right and good, and will push (a.k.a “manipulate”) her husband to do the same. She will refuse to obey him in matters that are haram (impermissible), in effect forcing him to act according to what Islam says, even if he doesn’t initially want to.
Last but not least, she will raise their children upon the Deen as well, leading to ultimate and eternal success for them both in the Akhirah, allowing them to earn good deeds in their graves even after they are dead and gone.
No wonder, marrying such a woman rubs a Muslims man’s hands with dust! There can be no better investment for his eternal future abode than to have such a wife.
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)