Almost as soon as they convert, new Muslimahs will find people trying to get them married. They will be told that marriage is half of their deen and so they should get married quickly.
The one thing that will be common to all of them is that when a new Muslimah considers getting married, they are stepping into unfamiliar territory. The rules and the customs will all be very different from that they have grown up with.
For a few sisters this turns out to be a wonderful journey of discovery with someone they feel is their soul mate, for most sisters it’s a journey that contains many challenges and adjustments, but for some it can be a very sad journey that leads them to question their faith.
So I’d like to share some advice that may help to ease some of those journeys and help them to result in happy and fulfilling marriages:
Take Your Time
The period after accepting Islam is a period of learning, growth and adjustment; not only in terms of learning about Islam and the practical application of it to daily life, but also in terms of learning about the Muslim community and its cultural practices.
Having grown up in a non-Muslim community, it can take a long time to understand the subtle nuances of your new faith and community.
It can take at least a year or so for you to start growing into it and discovering what works best for you. So it is better to take your time and wait until you have settled into Islam before looking for a husband, as this will help you to choose one who has a similar understanding of the deen to you.
Many new Muslims have a bit of a halo effect about the Muslim community and want to perceive them as being from the same mould as the early companions.
They come to Islam, because of its perfection, but as Muslims are human beings, they can’t always meet this standard. And this is one of the biggest challenges that most new Muslims face; understanding the dichotomy between their expectations and the reality of the Muslim community.
They also want to do everything in the best way and to follow Islam to the letter of the Sunnah, but as they don’t always take into account the current situation of the Ummah, this can leave them vulnerable and sometimes taken advantage of.
So it is advisable for you to be patient and take time to settle into Islam before you start to consider marriage, rather than rushing into it and regretting it later.
Select a Trusted Wali (Guardian for Your Marriage)
This is probably the most challenging part of the Islamic marriage process for a new Muslim, but in my opinion, it is the most important step.
Western women these days aren’t used to the concept of having a Wali, a guardian or a trusted man involved in the early stages of a relationship; western fathers are usually just told nowadays that the decision to marry has already been made.
But there is a lot of wisdom in having a guardian, especially as most converts marry men from cultures where this is the norm.
Having a guardian not only acts as a protection for a new Muslimah from those who would seek to take advantage of her lack of knowledge of the Muslim world, it also increases the respect that will be shown to her by her future husband and his family as it shows that she was cautious about this important decision.
A guardian should be chosen carefully; he should be someone who will actually be able and willing to protect the woman’s best interests, in the way that he would protect his own daughter. I have ‘sacked’ previous guardians of mine, as I didn’t feel that they had done that for me!
It’s often suggested that the local imam should be asked, but unless they know you reasonably well, it would be better to choose a friend’s husband or someone else from the community you can trust.
The guardian’s role is crucial in the very early stages. He will be more able to spot subtle signs about a potential groom’s suitability, or lack of it, that might escape a new Muslimah who is unfamiliar with different cultures.
He should make sure that the brother is able and willing to support a wife and that he doesn’t have an ulterior motive for marriage, such as seeking a passport, money, property or a temporary marriage of convenience.
He should also help to check out the brother through his friends and acquaintances, and check his family’s background and acceptance of the match. This may seem unnecessary or strange to a new Muslimah, but as it is common practice in the Muslim world, it won’t seem strange to a man who is genuine in his intentions.
Meeting the Man and His Family
It’s not always easy to get this balance right, however, as dating is not permitted in Islam, and that is the way most westerner women are accustomed to getting to know a man, you need to work out how you will be able to get to know someone well enough to know whether they would be a suitable match for you in a lawful way.
I have often been told that Islamically, I should just meet someone two or at most three times and then, after making Istikhara (prayer of seeking guidance), I should make a decision whether to spend the rest of my life with the prospective groom.
I have also been pressured to make a quick decision, because the man was apparently keen and willing, and nearly ended up in some very nasty situations.
Somehow, you need to strike a balance between the two ways. I have known sisters who have made very quick decisions and been very happy with the result, but for most sisters, it will be necessary to meet over a period of time in different settings and to meet the man with his family to see how they are together and for him to meet your family.
While doing this you need to make sure that you retain your modesty, you aren’t alone with them at any time and of course that you avoid any physical contact.
Look out for Red Flags
It is very easy, if you meet someone who sounds suitable and who appeals to you, to overlook things that could cause potential problems in the future.
Once you have started to form a relationship with someone and develop feelings for them, the tendency is not to want to hear anything that could spoil things, and this is where the guardian’s role becomes most important.
Although the decision about a marriage is yours, it is his role to help you see the red flags that could indicate a potentially dangerous situation.
Some of the most obvious red flags that should make you wary are:
– If the brother doesn’t want to meet your family and friends.
– If he asks you to keep the relationship a secret.
– If he doesn’t want you to meet his family or see where he lives.
– If he asks you to travel long distances alone to meet him, especially if that is at your expense or means going overseas to see him.
– If he asks you for money, or is unable to support you financially or provide a home for you.
– If he asks you to have just an ‘Islamic marriage’, i.e. one that isn’t registered or legally recognized, and not a civil marriage.
– If he doesn’t have a valid visa to stay in your country.
– If he asks you to agree to a temporary marriage contract.
– Or if anything he says or does makes you feel even momentarily uncomfortable.
If any or all of these things happen, they can be signs of a potential problem, because on the whole they would be unacceptable ways for a man to treat a woman he respected and wanted to marry in most Muslim communities. There are always exceptions to these flags, but they should be discussed and resolved with your guardian and your family and friends first, before proceeding forward.
Perform Prayer of Seeking Guidance
Before any decision is made about marriage, you should of course perform Salat-ul-Istikhara (prayer of seeking guidance) and sincerely ask for God’s guidance.
It isn’t necessary to see a dream after you have done this, as that doesn’t always happen. What you should be looking out for is whether God makes the path ahead easy for you or whether He shows you signs that may be indicating that you shouldn’t proceed. You may have to do this several times before your heart feels at peace to make the decision and to feel that this is the path that God has written for you to take.
There are many good Muslim men out there and I know many sisters who are in good marriages, I pray that yours will be one of them too!
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)