We find two Ahadeeth with criteria for selecting one’s spouse-to-be. In one, Allah’s Messenger (sa) has advised to pick a wife who follows her Deen, and keep other priorities, such as her wealth, status and lineage, on a lower scale. On the other hand, there was an occasion, when he advised a Sahabi to look at the girl he was getting married to. Can we have an explanation for the above two, in order to guide youngsters who are planning to get married?
Answer: We can easily reconcile these two apparently contradictory scenarios that are found in the Sunnah.
For marriage, a Muslim man should give the highest priority to a girl’s piety and practice of religion, as you have stated. However, our Prophet (sa) advised looking at her towards the end of the proposal process, when the two families have negotiated other matters, and a positive outcome seems imminent. At this point, the young man may look at the girl, in order to prevent possible disappointment or physical revulsion, when he sees her in person after marriage.
It was narrated that a man wanted to marry a daughter of one of the Companions who was a resident of Madinah. The Prophet (sa) said to him: “Go and look, and then marry. There is something in the eyes of the Companions.” (Muslim)
As this narration indicates, it serves as a safety net to look at the prospective girl in order to identify any deformity or physical defect that can turn off her future husband, or vice versa. Marriage means conjugal relations, for which physical attraction plays an important part. Though it is mostly enough for his female relatives to describe the girl to him, a man is still permitted to look. As to the extent of looking and what the girl is permitted to show, Shaykh Uthaymeen at IslamQA.com gives us the details in Question 102369, where he says:
“It is permissible for the suitor to see the woman to whom he is proposing marriage, but that is subject to certain conditions:
- That he needs to see her. If there is no need, then the basic principle is that a man should not look at a woman, who is a non-Mahram to him.
- He should have made up his mind that he wants to propose. If he is still hesitant, then he should not look, but if he has made up his mind, then he may look.
- This looking should be without being alone with her, i.e., it is essential that she has one of her Mahrams with her.
- He should think it most likely that she and her family will accept. If he does not think it is most likely, then there is no point in looking, because his proposal will not be accepted, whether he looks at her or not.
In this situation, the woman must come out to the suitor looking ordinary; she should not come out wearing beautiful clothes or makeup, because she is not yet his wife.”
The practices of dolling up a girl, asking her to entertain her potential suitor’s family or dressing up to catch public attention for a future marriage proposal are high despicable.
Allah (swt) knows best.