By Ghazala Hassan Qadri
Finding a marriage partner can be stressful work at the best of times, but struggling to find the perfect 'Mr. Right' appears to be an elusive commodity. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "When a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half" . Moreover Islam advocates that since celibacy is not recommended marriage is encouraged and highly recommended. “Nikah (marriage) is my Sunnah. He who shuns my Sunnah is not of me” . Indeed marriage is considered the fundamental cornerstone of society, the building blocks from which communities will build safe and cohesive societies.
However finding that perfect partner has become a difficult struggle- one that many sisters in particular are facing. There are scores of sisters who are practicing conscious Muslims, adhere to the basic tenets of the faith, dress according to the Shariah and are looking for a life partner that will match their outlook on life. A partner that considers Islam as his identity, practices his faith in his actions, his inner and outer self reflecting these qualities as well as having the trappings of solid finances and reasonably decent to look at. (A sense of humor, kindness and compassion hoped for too!) Yet they are unable to find 'Mr. Right'. Although there are several reasons for this phenomena, this article will discuss one aspect of this problem faced by many Muslim women. This is not an exhaustive discussion on the subject, rather focusing on one issue pertaining to it.
As mentioned earlier, there are a great deal of sisters who would make a perfect wife yet her suitors are not forthcoming. Having talked to many of these women who are actively looking for a husband, there is certainly not a shortage of eligible Muslim bachelors. Rather, those that have had many suitors say their own lack of 'beauty' was a highly probable cause for 'rejection' by the male party and its many elements. No matter the manner of the meeting - the excruciatingly painful interview by a potential mother-in-law upraising herself of the vital bodily statistics of the sister or of a more subtle nature - meeting a potential candidate through a third party; the general consensus appears that appearances play a major factor in the decision making process, particularly amongst those from the Indo-Pak Sub-continent. The fairer, slimmer and prettier the sister the more likely she is to obtain a suitor. The darker, plumper and unconventional looking sister will get very less or virtually no offers. Indeed there are many sisters who are articulate, well educated and practicing yet are turned downed consistently, causing disillusionment and pain. The mass media has become one of the main sources of popular culture in modern society. It not only entertains but also transfers stereotypes, beliefs and values of that society which are reproduced within the existing order of social life. It is a sad fact that its obsession with beauty and weight has infiltrated down to our Muslim societies governing our choices. Moreover although many of us will deny overt racism, covert racism exists in many forms, portrayed by a lack of cross-cultural marriages. Indeed the increase in whitening creams, facial bleaches is testament to the fact that many women feel a huge pressure to conform to traditional norms of beauty. Not all of course do so for marital purposes yet the trend is still there.
So who is to blame? Although I am sure there are many brothers who will argue they are not so shallow and will consider factors other than attractiveness when selecting a marriage partner, they appear to be in the minority. It would also be naive to solely blame brothers for this and it is not the purpose of this article to have a good 'rant' against them. Although some brothers do need to re-asses their criteria for a marital partner, family pressure plays a pivotal role. More importantly some of us sisters are part of the problem. We make up those families who perpetuate these values. Often, when we are helping parents search for suitable partners for the male members of our family we too look at material factors - is the sister tall enough, fair enough and pretty enough to qualify consideration? We will sit down and analyze photographs in detail, pointing out particular features and discussing in length the pros and cons of her face. In short how many of us try to persuade our parents and relatives to follow the advice of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he stated: "A man marries a woman for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character). So marry the one who is best in the religion and character and prosper" .
Although the first three reasons have not been ruled out of consideration, a sisters commitment to the deen and character are given precedence. If she fears Allah Almighty and does her best to be the best possible person at all times, when problems arise she will look to the Qur'an and Sunnah for a resolution and be less inclined to be swayed purely by emotion. She will also be aware of her duties as a wife and mother, her responsibilities to the family and extended family and how to cope when problems arise. Piety and taqwa have been stressed manifold times. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: "If Allah grants a Muslim a righteous wife, this helps him preserve half of his religion (faith). He should, therefore, fear Allah as regards the other half."  He further stated: "Four things bring one joy: a righteous wife, a spacious house, a pious neighbor and a comfortable riding animal." 
Take for instance the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his first wife, Sayyidina Khadjia (rad). It is well documented that she was not only 15 years his senior but a widow with children from her previous marriage; an astute businesswoman with character and strength. The entire life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), from his birth to his demise serves as a lesson for us all, even in this day and age. A message perhaps to brothers that youth, beauty and a slim figure should not take precedence over character and personality. That we should step away from the stereotypes of the media and look beyond physical attributes and delve deeper to see what defines the personality of the sister. Does she love Islam and posses taqwa? Is she aware of her accountability to Allah Almighty in the hereafter? These are fundamental factors that influence behavior. Often, no matter how perfect a couple may appear on paper, every marriage can go through a bad patch - where disagreements and heartache occur. However a sister who truly believes that her every act will be made to account, every word spoken made to be justified, will often be the one who will make the first step to reconcile and compromise, even if she believes she was in the right and her partner was wrong. A sister who is aware of her nafs, and the battle that rages between the soul and the ego will try and placate the soul through compassion and understanding as opposed to anger and rage.
So brothers, it is important to remember when the chips are down, especially during uncertain economic conditions, will your wife still demand her Swarovski studded abaya and matching clutch bag or remember Sayyidina Khadija's (rad) sacrifices when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his family were banished in the valley of Bani Shayba. Despite being forced to endure hunger, extreme poverty and other hardships she still supported her husband both financially and emotionally.
If you are both blessed with children will she allow them to sit endlessly playing with their Wi-Fi games while she surfs e-bay whilst gossiping with her friends? Or will she remind them again and again to do their wudu, pray their salat, doge the rush hour traffic and take them to the best mosque with the best tajweed classes and then tuck them up at night re-telling them stories of Imam Hassan and Hussain's (a.s) playful antics with the Holy Propjet (peace and blessings be upon him).
When your mother comes to stay and fuss over your food and clothes, commenting that your shirts do not appear to be ironed to her perfection, will your wife huff and puff wishing the big bad wolf come and blow your mother away - or worse do it herself? Or will she grit her teeth, smile pleasantly with patience whilst serving tea, samosa's and baklava whilst being watched over with eagle eyes, remembering like a mantra that paradise lies at the mothers feet.
Remember brothers, when you marry, you are in it for the long haul. It is a lifelong commitment, full of hard work and compromise with good times and tough times. What is important though, with the right partner, that struggle can turn out beautifully. Choosing a sister who understands her responsibilities as a wife, partner and lifelong friend - one who strives to be the best Muslim in this life surely outweighs more material considerations of outer beauty. As the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: "The whole world is pleasure, and the best pleasure of the world is the righteous woman.” 
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