For Muslims there is no better example or precedent of an ideal husband than the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was the most loving, kind, humble, merciful, compassionate, loyal, trust-worthy, and generous husband to ever have existed; indeed his example in every facet of life is perfect and the list of his attributes are far too many to enumerate, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him. For this reason, he is the standard every Muslim woman should use when looking for a spouse. For Muslim men, the standards of what to look for in an ideal wife are found in the prophetic tradition: “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 a loser.”
In addition to learning from the perfect example and advice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), when considering prospective suitors it’s helpful to outline specific qualities and issues to think about. We’ve provided four important tips for you to keep in mind below:
1. Kindness: When you first meet someone, you may have instant physical attraction, but this should not be confused with love. Love is something you must work on. It has to be created and developed between the two of you. Kindness and giving create love. A love that is giving and kind is based on an internal connection and is more lasting. Physical attraction is an external connection and will fade over time. Love that is based on giving is because you care about the person, not because you want to get something back in return. This giving must go both ways. Both individuals must give to each other from a place of compassion and caring. So look for someone that is able to give to you and motivates you to give back to them. Marry a person you want to give to even if you get nothing back in return.
- How do you know if they are caring, kind, and compassionate? Listen to them. Listen to what they say, watch how they treat others, and listen to how they feel about helping those in need. Pay attention to how they treat you when you need sympathy. Are they so self-absorbed they fail to recognize your needs or do they take in your problem and try to give you empathy? If you really pay attention, you can pick up a lot about a person’s character by how they speak to others and how they speak about others. Do they look down on other people, are they only focused on themselves and their needs; is their reaction towards other people extreme?
- Beware of any type of love that lacks a sense of giving and a sense of caring.
2. Common Goals: It’s very important to know yourself first and then consider whether you share common goals with your partner. Do you both have the same ideals, values, dreams, and aspirations? In essence, you should both be going in the same direction. If your partner has dreams and aspirations that go in the opposite direction from you, you cannot share a life together, even if that person is kind and giving. You might say, “What if they don’t have any goals and are willing to go in any direction I’m going”? Be careful of this type of thinking; being with a person who lacks self-awareness and direction in their life will only complicate your life. They need to mature and develop a sense of self before they can make important life-long decisions. Many couples find themselves on the road to divorce because after the initial honeymoon phase is over, one partner begins to realize their goals in life differ from those of their spouse. It’s important to be on the same page initially. Early on in the relationship, make it a point to discuss issues like how many kids you want to have, how you will raise them, what values you want to instill in them, and what type of lifestyle you want to have, etc. You must know what the other person’s goals are and really objectively consider if those goals are compatible with yours.
3. Consider the Whole Person: Learn to appreciate the whole person which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Realize that the person you care about has all the great qualities you enjoy as well as some you may not enjoy. Many people get into marriages with the unrealistic expectation or idealized sense of what a spouse is supposed to be. They focus so much on the hope that he/she will possess all the wonderful qualities of a spouse without considering the possibility of any negative ones. It’s this idealized expectation which oftentimes leads couples down the path of divorce. Going into a marriage with the realization that people are imperfect will help you see that with all the advantages that come with a wonderful partner, there will also be some disadvantages as well. Knowing and preparing for this in advance might lessen the shock and help you both work together at building the relationship you want. You will never have it all in a relationship. Ask yourself, what is more important to you? Is it more important to have someone you can have a deep and meaningful connection with or someone that will keep a nice and tidy house? You may not get both. Is it more important to you to have a responsible and reliable partner or someone that is fun and adventurous? What areas are you willing to compromise in?
4. Physical Appearance: Last but not least should be looks and physical attraction. Physical attraction isn’t necessarily based on a standard of physical beauty. What you find beautiful may not be what your friends find beautiful but it’s important that you like how they look. They don’t have to be physically perfect but they should definitely appeal to you. And keep in mind that looks alone cannot make the relationship. What matters more is how compatible you are, how giving you each are in the relationship, and how much you care about each other. The fact that you both find each other attractive is definitely important but try to see it as the icing on the cake instead of the main ingredient.
In order for any relationship to succeed you have to have the humility to recognize the limitations in yourself and in others. We are all from God and everyone has flaws and shortcomings. No one is perfect. For this reason, you must be willing to throw out the term “perfect” and compromise for the “good enough” relationship and the “good enough” partner. It’s unrealistic and arrogant to think you deserve perfection. Since you are not perfect you should learn to accept the imperfections of others. The one who thinks the world of himself is usually the one who expects the world from others.
The above article has been inspired by and adapted from a presentation by Rabbi Dov Heller, M.A.