Thursday, 6 June 2013

Sisters Speak: Marriage Proposals

     Here we go. Diving into some unventured territory...

     So apparently the world is obsessed with marriage nowadays. It seems to be all we talk about. So I decided to monopolize this obsession. Don't get me wrong, marriage is important and I can tell why people are so sensitive and worried about it. But personally I believe we've taken the focus away from other aspects of our deen like character building etc.. and focused an unbelievable amount of time and energy into marriage. I can only guess that this is due to the difficulty of marriage nowadays due to material reasons and high expectations. Not to mention, the increased amount of fitnah our younger generations are being exposed to. May Allah make marriage easy on us all ameen.

  I am hoping to bridge worlds and offer insights with this entry. We will present a Sisters Speak on a frequent basis and anyone is welcome to send topics and questions of interest (you may comment anonymously). These women speak from their experience and they come from a variety of backgrounds and ages. The purpose is to present aspects of proposals that are agreed upon and other variable ones that differ from person to person. We presented questions from followers and I added some more to broaden the scope a bit. If you're wondering, I did not include my opinion. Just to change things up. 

1. What is the first thing that you consider in a proposal? Order according to importance: personality, education and financial stability, religion and responsibility. 

Sister #1:  I consider Deen and khuluq first. Then the rest. I want Allah to be pleased with him, then I will be pleased with him. 

Sister #2: Personality, religion and responsibility, education, financial stability

Sister #3: Personality, education and responsibility, religion, financial stability.
I was confused whether I should put religion and responsibility first or personality. I chose personality then education because one’s personality and education give an indication of the way they are likely to practice their religion. For example if one trait in his personality is open mindedness, then he is likely to be a normal practitioner of his religion, not a fanatic. So when someone commits a mistake, he would accept that human beings make mistakes and try to change it in a smart educated way instead of using harsh words and reacting negatively saying: “you’ll be in hell forever” instead of advising them in private and showing them the right way. With good personality and education comes good understanding of religion, not vice versa. An educated person makes educated decisions and understands that Muslims should go by their deen, and should care less about their cultural values that go against their deen. Financial stability comes last because it does not exist. One’s financial status is never stable and could be turned upside down in no time.

Sister #4: Religion, personality & responsibility, education and financial stability.
For me religion comes first. And no, its not because it’s the “right” thing to order it that way. Although I have never been in any kind of relationship, I have been through many friendships. I have often found the most beautiful and long lasting friendships are with those friends who are religious, pure hearted, and spiritual. They seem to emit a glow, they always inspire me to be better and I feel a sense of peace and security in their presence. When a person is religious and practising correctly, it also means that they will abide by Allah SWT’s deen, meaning that no matter what happens between you both, even if things don’t work out, you can be sure that they will still be good to you, your family, uphold your rights and be civil, as what keeps them in line is not your love for each other, which is fragile and is subject to change with circumstances, but out of love and fear of Allah SWT, a much stronger and permanent connection. Having a religious partner is also key to not only having a stable partner for this Dunya, but will also be a person who will help you strive for Jannah and keep your Akhira in mind. Personality comes second, as a good, healthy, balanced personality is essential. Responsibility is on the same rank as personality for me after deen, as a guy needs to be reliable and dependable to be a good life partner. Education and financial stability comes last. Not because I don’t see its importance, I definitely do. But because it is the most of these points that is subject to change with external circumstances. If the guy is still studying but possesses all the qualities above, or if his job isn’t great, but he’s looking, I would still go for it and try to make it work. One condition is that he be ambitious. With ambition and drive, anything is possible.

2. Should a man be accepted with some characteristics that you don't like in hopes that you'll change some of them or that he will eventually change?

Sister #1: Yup. No one's perfect. 

Sister #2: It is really up to the individual, personally I would accept a person with some characteristics that I do not like, as long as I can live with them and tolerate them, as people do not change that easily.  And like I expect the other person to accept some of my characteristics that he may not like, it is only fair that I ask the same of myself, bottom line, nobody is perfect.

Sister #3: Absolutely not. If you notice certain characteristics that you don’t like in him, test it a couple of times to make sure that your observation is right then make up your mind. If you think that the good characteristics in him are way more than the ones you don’t like, then give him a chance to fix them by telling him what you think and being honest in evaluating him. If he resists change or even if he tries his best but it’s still not satisfying, then the best solution is to not accept, because if u accept then get married and he is still not changed, there is no one else to blame but yourself. This in no way means that he is a bad person, NO, it just means that you two aren't well suited for one another.

Sister #4: It Depends. There are some major characteristics that CANNOT be compromised and are essential for them to be present for us to be able to start our lives together. They include: Respect, Honesty, Kindness, Mercy, Compassion, and Maturity, to name a few. If there is any doubt in these major ones that influence our lives on a daily basis, I would have an issue there. It also depends on the EXTENT to which the unpleasant characteristic is present. For example, it might be okay if he has a slight temper, but if he flies into rages he cannot control over daily nuisances, that would be problematic. However, I completely understand he is only human, as I obviously also have my share of faults as well. The guy must be aware of his unpleasant characteristics, and must have the ambition to want to improve and change them as well.

3. What is the best way to approach someone for marriage? Should there be privacy between the two or should there always be a third person? 

Sister #1: There should always be a third person involved. More baraqa that way. 

Sister #2: It is of great help to have some friends involved, like a close to friend, to the girl or the boy, I say a very good friend, and hopefully that person would want for this relationship to go forward if it is good for both. Both parties could talk, but avoid privacy, as it conflicts with what God asked us to do.  After an initial consent is achieved, meaning both parties are equally interested in pursuing the relationship further, parents should be brought on board.  As parents should feel they are part of the decision too.  For one reason, parents know their kids really well, they have that instinct about their children, so we need them involved early on, so their opinion could still be considered.

Sister #3: There should be a third person in the first 2 times, then if all goes well and there is mutual acceptance to progress the relationship, they should be given permission by both sides’ parents (if available) to meet and speak privately in a public area or at the girl’s house.

Sister #4: I am old school when it comes to this. The best way to approach someone for marriage is through the parents. It is not only the proper Islamic way, but it shows that the guy is mature and serious about the relationship. I personally respect a guy much more if he asks my dad or brother before initiating anything. This method ensures that you get to know each other in a fair, controlled environment and weeds out the guys that are serious about marriage from those who are just there to “talk”.
There should always be a third person present, a mahram or mature person you trust to help guide the conversation, decrease awkwardness, and give you valuable feedback about the person. Once you have your “katb ktab” by all means, facebook inbox away..

4. What is a respectable way to turn down a proposal? 

Sister #1: Well the only time I would turn it down would be when I don't get a good response from my istikhaara. That's exactly what I tell them. Most of the time, the situation just ends on its own without me having to say anything. It's Allah's way of dealing with it for me alhumdulillah.

 Sister #2: I think both parties need to be very sensitive and honest with one another, and let the other person know as soon as they know that they are not interested.  As long as the refusal is communicated in kind and respectful way, no harm will be done.

Sister #3: “Sorry, there is no chemistry between us. You and I are very good people, but are not suited for one another.” There is zero shame in that.

Sister #4: “Mafi naseeb"; meaning that their is no luck or that the couple are not destined for one another. The parents or the girl’s mahram should very respectfully let the guy know that there is no interest in continuing.

5. When does one know that they have gotten to know the potential guy enough to decide to follow through on the proposal and to take matters further?

Sister #1: If you guys are compatible and have similar likes and dislikes. Then just make istikhaara and go with that. 

Sister #2:  Everyone is different here, that is what makes us unique as human beings.  We need to know ourselves and what we are looking for in a relationship, the more specific we are about what we need, the fastest we can identify our match, and move forward.  I would say take reasonable time, just beware of giving false hope when not ready with the decision yet.  This will help avoid confusion and hurting one another.

Sister #3: A girl should write a list of the most important things she wants in her future husband. When she meets a potential guy and is willing to take the next steps, she should review the list that she made, and really consider it if the man does not fit the list, not just ignore it and say “no this doesn’t matter, I changed my mind” because the probabilities are that yes she did change her mind, but may be because 1) the list is unreasonable or unrealistic or 2) that she is now blinded by love, and this blindness is making her overlook the things that were once very important for her.

6. What was the most awkward proposal you experienced? And what are some ways to avoid awkwardness during this very embarrassing process - or is it inevitable and we should just be prepared?

Sister #1: O.m.g. Having to meet the person on the spot the moment they see you. Having to speak with them with people surrounding you and's just awful! 

 Sister #2: One proposal I had from a Guy that was much younger, and he saw me a few times, and got fascinated and proposed on the spot.  I had to pause a minute, gather my thoughts, and tell him that this will not work, because he is younger, and also, he does not know me well enough to make his decision.  I encouraged him respectfully to reconsider.  We need to be smart about this, and not let our emotions lead us, especially when it comes to relationships that we know will not work for us, we need to be straight forward, honest and respectful in telling the other party our decision. 

Sister #3: It is inevitable. A girl should consult her parents what she should do in such a situation if someone asks her for her contact information for proposal.

Sister #4:  Cringe, cringe, cringe. This guy once cornered me outside of a coffee shop on campus. He was so insistent, and demanding, I was honestly so uncomfortable and intimidated. He was like a leech, wouldn’t leave when I declined to give him my number.
Some ways to avoid it: Go to the parents first if possible at all. However, If you see someone on the spot and are interested (like in my case, on the street), be very courteous and respectful when asking, make your intentions clear, and be understanding that the girl balancing a large french vanilla and textbooks in -40 degrees weather may not be prepared to discuss marriage with you at the moment. No offence.
   Since marriage and proposals are generally very sensitive procedures, they’re bound to be awkward at some point. But hey, more fun stories to tell your kids.

7. What are you supposed to do if a brother confronts YOU with a proposal and doesn't go through your parents/wali first? Isn't this a bad sign?

Sister #1: Well it's not a bad thing, but I would rather he go through my parents if he's that serious about me! 

Sister #2: In this case it really depends on the girl’s level of maturity, for an educated sister this could be fine, as long as she can represent herself and her family well, and with respect, there is no issue with proposing this way.  In my opinion if the girl is mature, it doesn’t really matter whether the guy approach her or her Wali, as they both should be on the same page where this matter is concerned.

Sister #3: It is not a bad sign. Maybe the guy does not want to embarrass the girl if her parents like him but she does not. And maybe he doesn’t want to embarrass himself, what if she was not interested in him? It would be a long process getting parents’ number, parents ask the girl for her opinion then rejecting the guy. However, if it is kind of obvious that the girl is also interested in him, he should ask her for her parents’ contacts to proceed in taking serious steps.

Sister #4: Depends on the circumstances. It has happened to me before, but the guy was a complete stranger and was asking for my father’s number. I would say go through the parents whenever possible, but if the guy meets someone he sees as a potential partner on the spot, and his mother or sister aren’t present at the situation to ask on his behalf for contact information, then its understandable if he asks RESPECTFULLY for her father’s contact information. No declaration of love or poetry on the spot Romeo. Also, If he pokes you on Facebook to initiate a conversation, block him. Just no.

8. How do you feel about arranged marriage?

Sister #2: Arranged Marriage prove to be successful in certain cultures / and individual cases.  It is not for everyone, it works for some people, since we are all different and unique, and there is no general rule that apply to everyone.  As long as people are being treated with respect, and allowed time and space to ask questions, and make the right decision, that is all that count.

Sister #3: 
Not so ‘open book’. The girl and the guy both know that they are going to be meeting their may-be-potential partner, so they act on their best behavior, and are not in their natural behavior. However, if the arranged marriage is by people they trust and know very well, for example: a friend knows them both and thinks that they are suited for one another, and then it would probably be less artificial.

Sister #4: I think a differentiation here is necessary between arranged marriage and forced marriage. I am fine with the former, but against the latter. Arranged marriage is simply when the parents or families of both the guy and the girl are involved in their introductions to one another. With all honesty, if the parents are in favor of the union of their children, there might be some pressure, but arranged marriage is never meant to be forced. I’m completely fine with the idea, as the guy and girl both exercise free will on whether or not to go through with it. I have heard of countless marriages that began off that way, and the couple are doing just fine now.

9. Where do you think men are going wrong with proposals these days?

Sister #1:  Taking too long to get to know the girl. If you really like her, then khalas do it up yo. Man up a little. 

Sister #2:  Men must be very confused these days, especially in our city, where multi-culture is at its best.  It is amazing how when it comes to birth, marriage, or death, we go back to our root culture, and what our comfort zone is.  So it must be really difficult and confusing for a guy to propose to girl, and say and do the right thing, since culture is a big factor here.  And what is accepted by the girl sometimes is not accepted by her culture, or her family etc.  If we were all abiding by the Islamic way of doing things, it would be much easier, as Islam has rules and guidelines around the proposal that are unique, and pretty much standard.  But when culture is added to the mix, it definitely adds a twist of confusion.   Men really need to educate themselves on the culture of the girl they are interested in, before they approach, as knowing about the culture and keeping an open mind is a key.

Sister #3: They might not understand the idea that your wife is your “life partner”. They have to fully understand that: You have to protect and care for her like your sister. Love her, be merciful to her and appreciate her as if she is the most expensive gift you have ever received.

10. Advice to women handling proposals?

Sister #1: Have faith in Allah. He has someone for you. I'm sure that person is awesome iA. Just have patience, if it hasn't happened for you yet. Remember Allah is Lateefun Khabir. He knows what is in your heart even before you know it. Have trust in him and pray to him sincerely. iA it's happen for you soon! ps: If you're already in a relationship/commitment, honestly make it halal because a good/halal beginning will lead to a halal and happy end.

Sister #2: First thing expect the proposal, accept the fact that the proposal may come at any time and from anyone.  This will help prepare you.  The 2nd thing, be honest in your feelings, and if there is no chance from one of the proposal, let the person know, in a kind and respectful way.  Simply put yourself in the other person’s position, and treat them like you would to be treated.  Stay objective and keep the emotion aside, as getting emotional will cloud your thinking, and confuse the matter at hand.   The more realistic & objective we stay, the better and easier it will be.   Do not be afraid to seek advice and support from a close friend, or relative, someone you trust to hear you out, and provide objective advice.

Sister #3: Think wisely. Test him on different occasions, and make sure you solve all the puzzling questions you have in your mind. Be 100% honest with the man and with yourself. You have to be 100% sure that this is the man that you want to live your whole life with. You have to have the intention of doing your best to make your marriage work and don’t think “if it doesn’t work out, it’s ok we’ll just get divorced”. NO, you have to be fully willingly committed. And if you expect the man to do his best, so should you.

Sister #4:
1. Listen to your parents and value their opinion. Remember, they love you and are on your side. Also, as they are much older than you, they have more experience with people, and may catch certain qualities or characteristics about the person that you might be blind to.
2. Try your best to be logical. Yes, I think its important to listen to our gut feelings and we may understandably be overwhelmed with emotions, but we should also try our best to be as realistic and objective as possible.
3. Pray Istikhara, and pay very close attention to your feelings. If you experience a sense of calmness and “Sakeenah,” and all other factors seem to line up, then you should put your faith in Allah SWT and proceed.
4. Do NOT blab about every proposal you get to all your friends. Be very careful about who you tell, as news are often exaggerated when passed around, and rumors and unnecessary drama can occur, leading to some very awkward situations..

11. What is the make or break of an approach? If it exists.

Sister #2:  Being sincere in our feelings towards ourselves & the person we are dealing with is a key.  Simply let us treat them at a human level, whether we intend to pursue the relationship with them or not.  Stay objective, as much as possible, during the decision making stage, as you need all the logic you can get to help make the decision.  Rely on sincere friends, relatives, to help keep you on track, everybody needs somebody sometimes, do not be shy to seek help.   Being insensitive to others feelings even if we do not intend to have a relationship with them is not right, and should be avoided.  We also should not give them false hope, we need to be realistic, and in touch with ourselves, as to what we want, so may make the right decision.