[First scenario]

You’ve been talking to someone for a while and you really like this person, some months or years down the line he asks the big question; will you marry me? What is your answer? Is liking someone enough reason to marry them?

[Second scenario]

You are summoned to the living room, where your mum and dad are seated with some guests and a young man; he’s too shy to look up. Your father taps the seat next to him, signalling for you to sit down. He explains that the young man is interested in you and has come to ask for your hand in marriage and that it is your right and their duty to inform you of the proposal. You have no idea who this guy is, maybe you’ve heard some things about him in passing. They excuse the room for you two to talk and to get know each other a bit more. Its very awkward but then he starts to open up (aware that it’s the only chance he has to make a good and lasting impression that would hopefully get you to say yes) he answers all your questions and you answered his. You pick some interest and also find him attractive. An hour or so later everyone gathers back in the room and your father turns to you and say “we are all ears, what’s your answer?” All eyes are on you, what do you say?  In such circumstance is an interest in someone a good enough reason to decide your fate?

Right so I painted those two scenarios because it’s more or less in my opinion the best possible situation for each. It’s obvious that if you don’t like someone or have any interest in them, you would not think of marrying them; your answer would be a simple flat NO. I want to address the more difficult option; where you are faced with a proposal and you actually like this person or have some interest in them but you are not so sure or convinced to say yes.

This is more or less something I call the pre-istikhara guide.

Let me put out there that whether the right answer for you to choose is yes, is not for me to decide for you. I just want to mention a number of things I think anybody should consider before saying yes. The points Dr. Nafisa Sekandari & Hosai Mojaddidia gave that I’ve highlighted below are equally useful to men, but instead of men being faced with the option of answering yes or no, theirs is whether or not to make the marriage proposal. If you are a guy and your case is unique and somewhat similar to the story of Prophet Muhammed (saw) and Khadija (RA), wherein she proposed to him then these pointers are equally just for you.

Before I begin, I’d like to say there is a right and a wrong way to get to know someone for marriage (I might make a post on this).  A common myth is that the duration of a courtship is an accurate measure of how compatible two people are; people believe the longer you speak with someone, the better you will know them. I say the problem with that logic is that no consideration is given to how that time is spent.

These days you find a lot of  young muslims engaging in what you call ‘halal dating’ which is basically socialising with each other in the company of friends and/or family. When they hang together (go to the movies, skating, bowling or whatever activity the couple choose to do together) their conversations are minimal & chaperoned. I personally don’t see its point or merit because in the end the limitations they are trying to set on these couples would cause them to fail to have the critical conversations that other normal couples (that practice what they don’t) fail to as well.

If you or someone you know is in the “getting to know someone” phase, then these are some things to consider along the way:

  1. Do not marry potential: What you often find is that men consider marrying a woman hoping she never changes, while a woman considers marrying a man she hopes she can change. Don’t assume that you can change a person after you’re married to them or that they will reach their potential and love them for it. If you can’t accept someone or imagine living with them as they are then don’t marry them.
  2. Choose Character over Chemistry: Chemistry and attraction are no doubt important but character precedes them both. Ever heard the saying “chemistry ignites the fire, but character keeps it burning”? The idea of falling “in love” should never be the sole reason for marrying someone; it is very easy to confuse infatuation and lust for love.  The most important character traits to look for include humility, kindness, responsibility, & happiness. Here’s a breakdown of each trait.
    • Humility: The humble person never makes demands of people but rather always does right by them. They are slow to anger, are modest, and avoid materialism.
    • Kindness: The kind person is the quintessential giver. They seek to please and minimise the pain of others. To know if a person is a giver, observe how they treat their family, siblings, and parents. Do they have gratitude towards their parents for all that they’ve done for them? If not, then know that they will never appreciate what you do for them. How do they treat people they don’t have to be kind towards (i.e. waiters, sales associates, caretakers of the home, etc)? How do they spend their money?  How do they deal with anger; their own anger and their reaction to someone else’s anger?
    • Responsibility: A responsible person has stability in their finances, relationships, job, and character.  You can rely on this person and trust what they say.
    • Happiness: A happy person is content with their portion in life. They feel good about themselves and good about their life. They focus on what they have rather than on what they don’t have.  They very rarely complain.
  3. Do Not Neglect The Emotional Needs of Your Partner:  Both men and women have emotional needs and in order for a partnership to be successful those needs must be mutually met. The fundamental emotional need of a woman is to be loved.  The fundamental emotional need of a man is to be respected and appreciated.  To make a woman feel loved give her the three AAAs:  Attention, Affection, & Appreciation. To make a man feel loved give him the three RRRs:  Respect, Reassurance, & Relief.  It is the obligation of each partner to make sure the other is happy and this extends to intimacy as well. As long as each partner is fulfilled by the emotional needs of the other, the intimate relationship will thrive.  When a man takes seriously the emotional needs of his wife she will feel more encouraged to fulfil his intimate/ sexual desires. Likewise, when a woman takes seriously the emotional needs of her husband he will feel more encouraged to give her the affection, love and appreciation she wants from him. Working together in this way encourages both giving and receiving. 
  4. Avoid Opposing Life Plans: In marriage you can either grow together or grow apart. Sharing a common purpose in life will increase the chance that you will grow together.
    • You must know what the person is into. In other words, what are they ultimately passionate about?  Then ask yourself, “Do I respect this passion?” Do I respect what they are into?
    • The more specifically you define yourself, i.e., your values, your beliefs, your lifestyle, the better chance you have of finding your life partner, your soul mate, the one you are most compatible with.
  5. Avoid Pre-Marital Sexual/Physical Activity:
    • Recognise that there is incredible wisdom in why Allah has ordered us to refrain from intimacy before marriage; they are to prevent great harms as well as to keep sacred what is the most blessed part of a relationship between a man and a woman.
    • Aside from the obvious spiritual consequences, when a relationship gets physical before its time, important issues like character, life philosophy, and compatibility go to the wayside. Consequently, everything is romanticised and it becomes difficult to even remember the important issues let alone talk about them.
    • Intellectual commitment must be established before emotional or sexual commitment.
  6. Avoid Lack of Emotional Connection: There are four questions that you must answer YES to:
    • Do I respect and admire this person?  What specifically do I respect and admire about this person?
    • Do I trust this person?  Can I rely on them?  Do I trust their judgment?  Do I trust their word? Can I believe what they say?
    • Do I feel Safe?  Do I feel emotionally safe with this person?  Can I be vulnerable?  Can I be myself?  Can I be open?  Can I express myself?
    • Do I feel calm and at peace with this person?

    If the answer is “I don’t know, I’m not sure, etc.” keep evaluating until you know for sure and truly understand how you feel. If you don’t feel safe now, you won’t feel safe when you are married.  If you don’t trust now, this will definitely not change when you are married.

  7.  Pay Attention to Your Own Emotional Anxiety:  Feeling emotionally safe is the foundation of a strong and healthy marriage.  When you don’t feel safe, you can’t express your feelings and opinions. Learn how to identify whether you are in an abusive relationship. If you feel you always have to monitor what you say, if you are with someone and you feel you can’t really express yourself and are always walking on eggshells, then it’s very likely you are in an abusive relationship.  Look for the following things:
    • Controlling behaviour: This includes controlling the way you act, the way you think, the way you dress, the way you wear your hair/hijab and the way you spend your time.  Know the difference between suggestions and demands. Demands are an expression of control and if the demands are implied; this means you must do it or there will be consequences. All of these are clear indications of abusive personalities.
    • Anger issues: This is someone who raises their voice on a regular basis, who is angry, gets angry at you, uses anger against you, uses put downs, and curses at you, etc.  You don’t have to put up with this type of treatment.  Many people who tolerate this behaviour usually come from abusive backgrounds.  If this is the case with you or someone you know, get help right away. Deal with those issues before getting married or before even thinking about getting married.
  8. Beware of Lack of Openness In Your Partner:  Many couples make the mistake of not putting everything on the table for discussion from the onset.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to know to be absolutely certain I want to marry this person?” What bothers me about this person or the relationship? It’s very important to identify what’s bothering you, things that concern you, and things you are afraid to bring up for discussion. Then you must have an honest discussion about them. This is a great way to test the strength of your relationship. Bringing up issues when there’s conflict is a great opportunity to really evaluate how well you communicate, negotiate, and work together as a team.  When people get into power struggles and blame each other, it’s an indication they don’t work well as a team. Also important is being vulnerable around each other. Ask deep questions of each other and see how your partner responds.  How do they handle it?  Are they defensive?  Do they attack?  Do they withdraw?  Do they get annoyed?  Do they blame you?  Do they ignore it?  Do they hide or rationalise it?  Don’t just listen to what they say but watch for how they say it.
  9. Beware of Avoiding Personal Responsibility: It’s very important to remember no one else is responsible for your happiness. Many people make the mistake of thinking someone else will fulfil them and make their life better and that’s their reason for getting married.  People fail to realise that if they are unhappy as a single person, they will continue to be miserable when they are married.  If you are currently not happy with yourself, don’t like yourself, don’t like the direction your life is going now, it’s important to take responsibility for that now and work on improving those areas of your life before considering marriage.  Don’t bring these issues into your marriage and hope your partner will fix them.
  10. Watch Out For Lack of Emotional Health and Availability In Your Potential Partner:  Many people choose partners that are not emotionally healthy or available. One huge problem is when a partner is unable to balance the emotional ties to family members, the marriage ends up having 3 (or more) people in it rather than two. An example of this would be if a man is overly dependent on his mother and brings that relationship into the marriage; this is no doubt a recipe for disaster.

I hope these points were helpful. If and after you choose to do the isikhara prayer, I suggest you come back and take a look at these questions again for you may answer differently from before.

Have a fantastic week ^.^

5 thoughts on “Pre-Istikhara

  1. Jazakallah khair. You have highlighted some very important factors that tend to be overlooked. In depth research and an easy read. May Allah keep you firm.


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