Marriage is one of the biggest milestones of our lives (at least in South Asian Society). No matter how much one avoids it, eventually everyone has to tie the knot because the Pakistani society does not let anyone stay single.
Not everyone is lucky in matters of the heart. Everyone cannot fall in love at school, college, university, office or with his or her cousin (the only five options in a Pakistani society to find a life partner as gender mixing is strongly discouraged). If you pass all these stages and still haven’t found anyone then according to custom you will have to take the arranged marriage process and your parents will do the rishta (proposal) hunting for you. Almost all South Asian parents have only this criterion while looking for a spouse for their child: They will look for a gori khubsurat bahu (fair complexioned beautiful girl) if you happen to be a guy and if you are a woman the search will be on for an engineer or a doctor with a good job or someone holding a degree with good earning potential. However, these superficial things can hardly give details about someone’s personality.
This brings us to a very valid question: the generation of today, which is overwhelmed with information and is used to checking countless websites, reading a million reviews before making a decision as insignificant as buying a smartphone, how can they adjust with a random person selected by their parents for their whole lives?
Well, it is not entirely impossible, there are still many couples out there who see their spouses for the first time on the wedding day yet their marriage lasts forever with complete understanding.
The famous Urdu adage that nikah ke teen bol dilo me muhabbat daal detay hayn (the three words of nikah intil love in a person’s heart) is not entirely untrue.
The nikah does instill love in a person’s heart but to be on the safe side it’s better to ensure compatibility before running into any surprises later. In the past I think most of the marriages worked because women stayed silent no matter what happened with them but now with the advent of education and information of their own rights, both men and women have short patience and uncompromising temperaments.
In that case, it is better to communicate beforehand on which issues a compromise can be achieved and what issues are non compromising for both the parties. For example, having a career was very important for me and I stuck to this criterion until I found a man who was willing to let me work. Similarly, everybody has their own dreams and aspirations on which one cannot compromise no matter what.
Keeping these issues in mind, I came across a very detailed, very comprehensive and very important list of questions in the book Bent Rib: A Journey through Women’s issues in Islam by Huda al-Khattab. You may wish to ask these questions when you’re considering someone for marriage, either of them or just of yourself. You may also wish to ask them of an intermediary, who may be able to provide you an unbiased perspective. Some of the questions may seem “unIslamic”, but they deal with the reality of today’s social situation, and not asking a question may ultimately prove to be a bigger mistake than asking it.
The answer to these questions will give a detailed insight into the person’s character, personality, goals and dreams provided the answers are honest and true which they should be as any relationship which starts on lies from the beginning is bound to fail.
- Why are you interested in marrying at this time?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
- Describe three experiences you’ve had that you’ve benefited/learned from.
- What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve faced thus far in life? How has it affected you?
- If there was one thing you would like to change about yourself, what would it be?
- What are your goals for this life? What would you like to accomplish before you die?
- What are you looking for in a spouse?
Deciding Whether To Marry:
- What role do you think parents should play in helping to select your spouse?
- What process do you want to use to determine whether you have found the right spouse? Phone? E-mail? Chaperoned or unchaperoned in person? How much time do you want to decide?
Deen (Islamic Lifestyle):
- What do you do to feel close to Allah (swt)?
- How to you hope to get closer to Allah (swt) through marriage?
- What do you want to improve about yourself Islamically?
- How many times per day do you pray? What about while at work?
- How much Qur’an have you memorized?
- To what extent are you involved in the Islamic community?
- Do you fast during Ramadan?
- How do you determine how to distribute Zakat? How do you give in Sadaqa?
- Have you been on Hajj or Umrah? When would you like to go?
- Are you affiliated with a particular masjid or Islamic group?
- How important do you think it is to only eat Halal meat?
- How important do you think it is for women to wear hijab? What about men?
- How do you like to celebrate religious holidays?
- Do you go for jummah prayers?
Living As a Muslim Minority (In case you are moving to or live in a non Muslim country):
- Do you have non-Muslim friends?
- What do you think Muslims should do on American holidays?
- What do you think parents/extended family’s role should be in making important decisions: wedding planning, child rearing, vacations, where you will live?
- What do you do if there is a conflict between your spouse and your family?
- Are you comfortable living with extended family, particularly as they age? Are other accommodations possible?
- How much time do you anticipate spending with your extended family, in person or by phone?
- Would you describe the character of your family members?
- What have you learned from observing your family that you do or do not want to incorporate into your marriage?
- What career path do you plan on taking?
- Will both husband and wife work outside the home?
- Under what conditions would you be willing to move to further your or your spouse’s professional growth?
- How much time do you spend at work?
- How do you plan to balance time at work and time with the family?
- What kind of business functions will you ask each other to host/attend?
- Would you encourage/support the idea of me going back to school for advanced degrees?
- How would we support ourselves if we both had to be in school?
Interests / Activities:
- How do you like to spend your free time?
- How much time do you spend watching TV?
- What interests would you like to share with your spouse?
- How much time alone would you like to have?
- How do you feel about separate vacations? Business trips? Conferences?
- How much time do you want to spend with friends? By yourself? As a couple
- How would you feel about your spouse having friends of the opposite gender?
Where To Live:
- Where do you want to live? Why?
- Will you want to live near your extended family?
- Do you prefer city? Suburb? Countryside?
- Do you want to live in the U.S. or abroad?
- How important is it to live in a large Muslim community?
- How many children do you want to have?
- When do you think you’ll be ready to have children?
- How will you distribute responsibility for child rearing? Diapering?
- What do you think it is important to teach children?
- What is your view on raising children? Do you spank?
- To what extent would you be willing to utilize family members, friends, baby sitters or day are to watch your children?
- How will you ensure your children have a good Islamic education?
- What would you do if you could not have children?
- Do you want your children to grow up bilingual? In what languages?
- How many personal savings/checking accounts would you want?
- Who should be responsible for paying bills?
- What about prior assets?
- How will you determine how much should be spent on the household? On personal items? On charity?
- How much should either person be able to spend by themselves without consulting the other?
- How much should be paid out in maher (dowry)? Up front versus deferred?
- If we were on an uncomfortably tight budget, and your brother asked you for a generous loan for a third attempt at a start-up when the first two had failed, would you give it to him?
- What would be your top five criteria for developing a financial plan?
- Should the wife change her last name?
- What last name should the children carry?
- How do you feel about cleanliness, neatness and housework?
- How do you feel about knickknacks and artwork?
- Who is responsible for work around the house?
- What are the household chores you are used to doing?
- Have you ever lived alone? Have you ever had a roommate? Have you always lived with your parents?
- How do you feel about pets?
- What are your preferences in terms of food? Mostly from your own ethnic group, or a more diverse palate? Only home-made, or also convenience or from restaurants? Meat or vegetarian?
- If we were both working and we both got home about the same time, would you expect the wife to always be the cook?
- How do you feel about smoking?
- What are your pet peeves?
- How should disagreements be resolved?
- How do you act when you get upset?
- How would you go about making you spouse happy when s/he was feeling down?
- What would you want your spouse to do if you disagreed about something?
- What if the disagreement is over an interpretation of Islam?
- Who would be your choice of arbiters, or how do you feel about arbitration?
- How do you feel about marriage counseling?
- What are your views?
- What is your experience with families with a second wife?
- Will infidelity automatically end the marriage?
- What role does culture play in your life?
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