On emulating the four perfect women of all times: Asiya (foster mother of Moses), Maryam (mother of Jesus), Khadija (wife of Muhammad S) and Fatima (daughter of Muhammad S). May God's peace and blessings be upon them all. This chronicles one imperfect woman's vicissitudes on that most ambitious trail.
I probably wouldn't have married my husband had I not inadvertently tuned in to a conservative talk radio station a few weeks before we met.
The host's advice to women on how to find Mr. Right caught my ear. Make a list of three qualities essential in your future spouse, he said, and seriously consider anyone you meet who has those traits.
That seemed like a novel idea considering I (and many other single girls around me) had spent years rejecting proposals for random things ("We didn't click!" "He doesn't have a sense of humor!" "What a FOB!"*). Having gotten mixed messages from American, Bollywood and our traditional cultures, many of us were a mess when it came to figuring out who to marry successfully and how to go about doing it.
Had we worked within God's clear guidelines on spouse selection, we could have saved ourselves and our parents much undue hardship.
Like everything else in life, we are supposed to get married to bring us closer to God.
"And they say: 'Our Lord, let our spouses and our children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous." (Quran 25:74)
"You marry one another with the intention that I will try to bring this person to Paradise with me," says scholar Usama Abdul-Ghani.
Prophet Muhammad (S) taught us not only to have a standard but also what that standard should be.
"It is binding upon you to have a religious spouse," he said.
"A man who marries a person for the sake of her wealth, God leaves him in his own condition," according to the Prophet (S). "One who marries her (only) for her beauty, will find in her things he dislikes (unpleasing manners). God will gather up all these things for one who marries her for the sake of her faith (religiousness)."
While religiousness is the most important criterion, we are also supposed to consider a propective's good nature, compatibility, decent family, reasoning ability and physical and mental health.
The Prophet's (S) daughter Fatima Zahra (one of the four perfect women) and her husband Ali revealed their basis for valuing one another in the following exchange.
The day after their wedding, the Prophet (S) came to visit them and inquired of Ali: "How do you find your spouse?"
"I found Zahra as the best help in worshipping God Almighty," Ali replied.
The Prophet asked Fatima the same question and she said: "He is the best husband."
Spouse selection is not left to personal choice only because the decision's effects are so widespread. When we choose a spouse we are also selecting the father/mother of our future children.
"Islam aims to perfect man even before he is born, before his parents marry, by stating what kind of spouse a man and a woman should choose," says Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. "Why does it do this? Because the husband and wife are the origin of the individual(s) and Islam wants these individuals, who are to be handed over to society, to be religious individuals."
To further help ensure that a girl (who's tying the knot for the first time) is marrying the right person, God has mandated that she make this decision under the guidance and with the permission (not rubber stamp) of no other than her own father.
For those single or married, poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi sums up our end goal beautifully:
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourselves that you have built against it."
*FOB--Fresh Off the Boat, reference to recent immigrants