I have been tasked to speak on a very crucial topic today; one that affects everyone’s life in one way or the other, yet very vast that it is often hard to do justice to it. I pray to Allah that He grants me the ability to present today what He deems most fit and appropriate for this blessed gathering.
I would like to start my presentation by sharing some interesting statistics that are crucial to remember as I proceed through the rest of my discourse.
In the society we live in, in the United States of America to be specific, research has shown that the vast majority of the people cohabitate i.e., they live with one another in a relationship before marriage: On average, 68% of married couples have lived together outside marriage with one or more partners before they finally agree to get married.
Yet, irrespective of such an alarming rate of premarital relationships, the statistics of divorce equally startles a curious mind.
Further research has shown that in the United States, the rate of divorce is 41-50%. In Europe, 72.3% of all marriages end up in divorce. And within celebrities, the divorce rate is 52%.
Majority of us, if not all, look forward to getting married eventually, InshaAllah. However, there is a major challenge in finding the right spouse, a challenge which we all face sometime in our lives.
In the society we live in, we have been made to believe that marriage is impossible without first cohabitating; or to put it nicely, it is believed that marriage cannot be successful without dating the person we intend to marry “so that we may know them better”.
The question which needs to be answered regarding this belief is, ‘does knowing someone deeply before marriage, as often argued, guarantee a ‘happily ever after’ marriage? Does it guarantee how strong and unbreakable that marriage would be?’
Professor Ben-Ze’ev, founder of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions, a man considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in the study of emotions states,
“many studies have found that premarital cohabitation is associated with increased risk of divorce, a lower quality of marriage, poorer marital communication, and higher levels of domestic violence.”
Reflecting over this statement and the statistics presented earlier, I believe, has given us a different view of what we see on the surface, and what the reality is. Therefore, if knowing someone deeply before marriage is the key to the success of all marriages, the western nations would’ve been the most successful nations in maintaining happy and lasting marriages. However, we find the contrary to be the case.
We live in a society where premarital relationship is looked upon as a norm; so normal that those who desist from such acts are labelled as abnormal, and backward.
Young people are heavily challenged and influenced by what is presented to them on a daily basis from movies, social media, and the entertainment industry. What we see fills our hearts with emotions, desires, and a heightened urge to experience what we are exposed to.
Dr. Fred Nour, a neurologist in Mission Viejo, California, has been quoted regarding his thoughts on such feelings, saying:
“Movies try to convince us that we will feel this way forever, but the intense (infatuation) has an expiration date for everyone.” It continues saying, “after that, clarity about reality tends to emerge. Continuing to love someone is likely to depend on how suitable that person is as a partner in the project of living.”
Life is surrounded by series of cycles, each of which gives us the chance to make decisions that may affect our lives in major ways. For a young person, one of the biggest challenges we face in the cycle of life is the point of deciding to get married, and determining who the right person is.
The magnitude of this decision often leaves us perplexed, fearing to choose the wrong person. A wise man once said to me:
‘in marriage, there is always one of two regrets; you either get the right spouse, and you regret why you delayed getting married, or on the flip side, you get the wrong spouse, and you regret why you ever got married.’
Inasmuch as choosing the right spouse may feel like an act of luck to many, we have actually been blessed with the ultimate guidance in this matter by the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) in a famous hadith wherein he said:
تُنْكَحُ الْمَرْأَةُ لأَرْبَعٍ لِمَالِهَا وَلِحَسَبِهَا وَلِجَمَالِهَا وَلِدِينِهَا فَاظْفَرْ بِذَاتِ الدِّينِ تَرِبَتْ يَدَاكَ
A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers. (Sahih Bukhari 5090).
Ultimately, the physical and superficial things we pursue fade away with time and become meaningless. At such a point, it is the beauty of the Imaan [faith] we find in one another that keeps the bond of marriage stronger by the day.
Very often we hear the hadith that speaks about the qualities men should look for in a woman for a successful marriage, but I would like to present another hadith that speaks specifically about what should be sought for in a potential male spouse.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) said:
إِذَا خَطَبَ إِلَيْكُمْ مَنْ تَرْضَوْنَ دِينَهُ وَخُلُقَهُ فَزَوِّجُوهُ إِلَّا تَفْعَلُوا تَكُنْ فِتْنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ عَرِيضٌ
“When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks to marry your daughter, comply with his request. If you do not do so, there will be corruption and great evil on earth. He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, even if he falls short with regard to wealth and compatibility?” The Holy Prophet(sa) responded, repeating himself three times: “If there comes to you one with whose religion and character you are pleased, then give (your daughter) to him in marriage.” (Tirmidhi 1084).
For both men and women, and of course for parents, who have been specifically addressed in the above hadith, we have been reminded to give precedence to religion and good character during our search for a Rishta [spouse], when searching for the right person. Otherwise, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) warned that the consequences of ignoring such qualities will lead us to a heavy loss, and eventually we will be regretful over our decisions.
Financial expectations are an integral part of many marriages. This has always been a concern raised since the time of the Holy Prophet(sa). However, supplementing the guidance given by the Holy Prophet(sa), Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I—Hazrat Hakeem Nurudeen(ra) had asked a rich man to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to a young poor man. The rich man refused, raising objections regarding the young man’s financial status, questioning Huzoor how their daughter would survive.
To this, Huzoor(ra) gave a remarkable response, which makes one’s heart tremble. He said to the man,
“if fate has provisions ordained for your daughter, then an empty house will fill up on her arrival, but if fate has not ordained provisions for her, then a full house will become empty should she go and live there.”
This response reminds us that provisions, health, and status are all under the control of Allah the Almighty. And Allah has commanded us as believers that: وَعَلَی اللّٰہِ فَلْیَتَوَکَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُوۡنَ ‘And in Allah then should the believers put their trust.’
Then, we ask about ‘love before marriage’. Undoubtedly, love is of utmost importance, and a fundamental pillar in the success of every marriage.
Alain de Botton, a non-Muslim British philosopher and author spoke about love in the following words. He said:
“…many people believe that love is just an instinct, but it’s not. It’s a skill, and it’s a skill that needs to be learnt, and it’s a skill that our society refuses to consider as a skill. ‘We are meant (to believe that we need only) to follow our feeling’ he said, but if you keep following your feelings you will almost certainly make a big mistake in your life. We start off with idealization and we end up often with denigration. The person goes from absolutely marvelous to being absolutely terrible (in our estimation).”
Then again he said
“we’ve been told that the way to find a good partner is to follow our heart and stop reasoning and analyzing. The problem is that we live in a romantic culture that privileges impulse (over rationalizing what is right and what will be harmful in the near future).
In essence, this philosopher reminds us of what we have been told time and again, that true love is learnt, developed, and nurtured in marriage; infatuation on the other hand is the surge in emotions we feel when attracted to someone. However when that infatuation dies down, and I assure you that it will, then will true love be born.
In addition to the direct impact of our choices on our individual lives, very often, one thing that we do not look forward to is ‘what type of spouse would raise my children the way I would be pleased with?’
The spouse we choose will highly influence the life and future of our children. A spouse who believes in, and acts upon our beliefs, will be the only one who will raise our children according to the teachings of our faith. This however, is a right that we owe our children.
On one occasion, a young boy approached the second Khalifa of Islam – Hazrat Umar(ra) and asked him: Maa hakkul ablaa, ‘alal aabaa? ‘what right does a child have over his father?’
Hazrat Umar(ra) responded, “An-yakha taara Ummah” ‘to choose a good mother for the child, preferring the righteous woman’, wa an-yuh-sina isma ‘to give him a good name, and finally said, wa an-yu ‘allimahul kitaab ‘and to teach him the Qur’an.’
Therefore, let us give our children their due rights, and choose for them parents who will get them closer to Allah, not ones who will make them regretful in this world and the Hereafter.
These rights we owe our children eventually benefits us in the long run, even when we pass away. We learn from the Hadith that when a person dies, all his deeds seize except three, and one of them is: أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ ‘A righteous child who prays for him.’ (Sahih Muslim 1631).
Thus, whatever good investment we put into our children by first giving them the right father or mother, and together teaching them their faith, such children will in turn benefit us, be merciful toward us, and eventually, even when laid in our graves, they will be of benefit to us.
But then let us remember that in addition to the blessings that a righteous spouse would bring us, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) gave us glad tidings in the following words:
الدُّنْيَا مَتَاعٌ وَخَيْرُ مَتَاعِ الدُّنْيَا الْمَرْأَةُ الصَّالِحَةُ
“The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman.” (Muslim 3465).
Huzoor-e-Anwar(may Allah be his Helper) beautifully shed light on this subject when he said:
“The home that operates on righteousness, and which the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) has defined and has prayed mercy for, is a home where the husband wakes up to offer optional (Nawafil) prayers at night and also awakens his wife… Similarly, if the wife wakes up first, she should adopt the same method to awaken her husband. Such homes, where husbands and wives awake at night to seek the pleasure of Allah will certainly be heaven-like.”
They will be, as beautifully described in the Holy Qur’an:
ہُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّکُمۡ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ لَّہُنَّ
“They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:188)
When the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) said that“Whoever Allah provides with a righteous wife, Allah has assisted him in half of his religion. Let him (therefore) fear Allah regarding the second half.” (al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 992), this is what he meant, as the purpose of our spouse is to help us attain success not only in this world, but in this world and the hereafter, to help cover our faults and weaknesses from others, and to safeguard our dignity and integrity. For true love is one which is desired in this world, with the hope of continuing to be together in the hereafter through joint righteous efforts.
We are beings created with natural stimuli, urges, and needs. These haven’t been created in us only to suppress them. Allah has provided for us with avenues, in the best and most honorable ways, to satisfy our needs. Therefore O young people, heed to the admonition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) when he said:
“O company of the youth! he who can afford to marry should marry, for it keeps the eyes cast down and keeps the man chaste; and he who cannot afford to marry should take to fasting for it is a means of controlling one’s desire. (Sahih Muslim 1400 a)
O young people! Just as a sensible person wouldn’t jump on others to snatch their food from them due to hunger, but rather goes through the right channel to satisfy their hunger; in like manner have we been given the means to satisfy our basic needs in the most appropriate way, and one fundamental way of doing that is through marriage.
Remember that no practice is most beautiful than that found in Islam. We have a pearl that the world would wish to have, but we ourselves many a times look low upon the gems we have. The teachings of Islam are so beautiful and complete that Allah said in the Holy Qur’an:
رُبَمَا یَوَدُّ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا لَوۡ کَانُوۡا مُسۡلِمِیۡنَ
“Often will the disbelievers wish that they were Muslims.” (15:3)
They would look at the life of a true Muslim and marvel at the beauties of his attributes, the purity of his life, and the unwavering level of morality that he introduced to the world.
Let us please remember the admonition of the Holy Prophet(sa):
“Marriage is part of my Sunnah, and whoever does not follow my Sunnah has nothing to do with me…” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1846)
This mate, our life partner, and our shield from evil and indecency is a means of purity for our souls, and an elevation of our status in this world and the hereafter.
Let us remember that “that man will have nothing but what he strives for” (53:40), as Allah clearly outlined in the Holy Qur’an: وَ اَنۡ لَّیۡسَ لِلْاِنۡسَانِ اِلَّا مَا سَعٰی . What we desire is what we will be given. Allah will respond to us according to our intentions, and the outcomes of our marriages will be dependent upon the seeds we sow from the very beginning of choosing who to tread the path of matrimony with.
The ultimate goal is to be blessed with a family that will be the delight of your eyes, the joy of your heart, and the peace of your days. This, as we are told in the Holy Qur’an, is the righteous family, whose attributes will be so beautiful that their radiance would captivate the hearts of others.
To the parents, upon your shoulders lie a great responsibility in his matter.
What are your expectations regarding your son in-laws or daughter in-laws? What do you desire for your children, their future, and their connection with Allah? Do you desire for them spouses who would take them closer to Allah whether they are rich or not, whether they have trophy-like professions or not, or would you be pleased with affluent in-laws who would take our children away from Allah and His love?
In the previous Jalsa Salana of USA, a respected speaker had made mention of how research has shown that marriages with the most expensive diamond rings tend to break up more easily than those with less expenses. This is perfectly in line with the following statement of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) that:
“The best of marriages is that which is most affordable.” (Abu Dawood 2117)
When young people bring forth reasons for not getting married early, one of their biggest concerns is how much financial success is expected from their ‘to-be’ in-laws before they would give their children’s hand in marriage. This unfortunately, often leads young people to delay marriage, waiting to first become Master’s degree holders and fully settled before attempting to get married.
As we strongly encourage our young people to get married within our Jama’at [community], and encourage them to get married early, let us therefore facilitate it for them and make it easy for them, as narrated from ‘A’isha(ra) that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) said:
“One of the signs of a woman being blessed is that the process of proposing to her is made easy and the dowry is made affordable…” (Ahmad ; Ibn Majah ).
Let us therefore focus more on the religious commitments than the material success. Otherwise we will be going in circles without ever getting the marriage problems of our youth resolved.
To facilitate this process, and as hard as it is to find a suitable match, the Promised Messiah(as) has directed the Jama’at in the following words:
“I have made arrangements that in the future, a book must stay with me with complete secrecy and total confidentiality, wherein the names of girls and boys of the Jama’at are entered… And everyone should feel confident that we shall, with true sincerity and compassion for the parents, do our utmost to find the most suitable match for their boys or girls… High priority will be given to their good conduct, character and potential for progression towards goodness… Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who show their allegiance to us that they submit a list of their children with names, ages, and nationality, so that it can be recorded in the book”. (Majmua Ishtaharat” Vol. III, pp. 50-51 by Hazrat Masih Maud [as]).
This, my dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of the department of Rishta Nata in our Jama’at. To many, this department is a new invention, and to many, it is a department only for the desperate ones, but the facts are contrary to both assumptions.
When we look for jobs, we design our resumes, put in our best qualifications and all our achievements, and post them or send them out to various jobs openings, hoping that at least one of them would contact us back. Some of us have applied to tens or even hundreds of jobs before we could get one offer. But we trust and believe that no matter how long it takes, eventually, someone will find our resumes attractive and contact us for a job offer.
For some of us trying to get very strong networks online, we sign up for sites like LinkedIn. We beautify our profiles with attractive information and send requests to series of high profile people, hoping that they would accept our request and we would eventually get some strong networks that will attract recruiters and scouts to eventually get promising offers. This also takes lots of trial and errors before we finally get what we truly desire from signing up.
We only therefore require members to trust this system established by the Promised Messiah(as). Just as our resumes do not always get us an instant job, nor does our online sign-ups on professional sites get us instant recognition.
Let us therefore also trust in our system of Rishta Nata and work with the team, giving the process some time to find us potential spouses. Getting the right spouse is much more of a challenge than getting a job or online recognition. If we can therefore be patient with the other processes, I humbly urge everyone to sign up and be even more patient with the Rishta Nata department and pray for the success of its endeavors so that we can reap the fruits of this blessed institution of the Promised Messiah(as).
To those seeking their life partners, my final words are, get your criteria, and I can assure you that whatever good criteria you desire in this world, this Jama’at of the Promised Messiah(as) has it all. You need not taste the waters; rather put your trust in Allah, and He will give you an ocean of the best water you could ever dream of.