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The Muslim woman who understands the teachings of her religion has wise and correct standards when it comes to choosing a husband. She does not concern herself just with good looks, high status, a luxurious lifestyle or any of the other things that usually attract women. She looks into his level of religious commitment and his attitude and behaviour, because these are the pillars of a successful marriage, and the best features of a husband. Islamic teaching indicates the importance of these qualities in a potential husband, as Islam obliges a woman to accept the proposal of anyone who has these qualities, lest fitnah and corruption become widespread in society:

“If there comes to you one with whose religion and attitude you are satisfied, then give your daughter to him in marriage, for if you do not do so, fitnah and mischief will become widespread on earth.”
[Tirmidhi / Ibn Majah]

Just as the true Muslim young man will not be attracted to the pretty girls who have grown up in a bad environment, so the Muslim young woman who is guided by her religion will not be attracted to stupid “playboy” types, no matter how handsome they may be. Rather she will be attracted to the serious, educated, believing man who is clean-living and pure of heart, whose behaviour is good and whose understanding of religion is sound. No-one is a suitable partner for the good, believing woman except a good, believing man; and no-one is a suitable partner for the wayward, immoral woman but a wayward, immoral man, as Allaah has said:

“Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure, and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity …”
(Quran 24:26)

This does not mean that the Muslim woman should completely ignore the matter of physical appearance, and put up with unattractiveness or ugliness. It is her right – as stated above – The Muslim woman knows that the man has the right of qiwamah over her, as the Quran says:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers [qawwamun] of women, because Allaah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means . . .”
(Quran 4:34)

Among the great Muslim women who are known for their strength of character, lofty aspirations and far-sightedness in their choice of a husband is Umm Sulaym bint Milhan (RadiyAllahu Anha), who was one of the first Ansar women to embrace Islam. She was married to Malik ibn Nadar, and bore him a son, Anas. When she embraced Islam, her husband Malik was angry with her, and left her, but she persisted in her Islam. Shortly afterwards, she heard the news of his death, and she was still in the flower of her youth. She bore it all with the hope of reward, for the sake of Allaah, and devoted herself to taking care of her ten-year-old son Anas.

She took him to the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, so that he could serve him (and learn from him). One of the best young men of Madeenah, one of the best-looking, richest and strongest, came to seek her hand in marriage. This was Abu Talhah – before he became Muslim.

Many of the young women of Yathrib liked him because of his wealth, strength and youthful good looks, and he thought that Umm Sulaym would joyfully rush to accept his offer. But to his astonishment, she told him:

“O Abu Talhah, do you not know that your god whom you worship is just a tree that grew in the ground and was carved into shape by the slave of Banu so-and-so.”

He said:
“Of course.”

She said:
“Do you not feel ashamed to prostrate yourself to a piece of wood that grew in the ground and was carved by the slave of Banu so-and-so?”

Abu Talhah was stubborn, and hinted to her of an expensive dowry and luxurious lifestyle, but she persisted in her point of view, and told him frankly:

“O Abu Talhah, a man like you could not be turned away, but you are a disbelieving man, and I am a Muslim woman. It is not permitted for me to marry you, but if you were to embrace Islam, that would be my dowry (mahr), and I would ask you for nothing more.”

He returned the following day to try to tempt her with a larger dowry and more generous gift, but she stood firm, and her persistance and maturity only enhanced her beauty in his eyes.
She said to him:

“O Abu Talhah, do you not know that your god whom you worship was carved by the carpenter slave of so-and-so? If you were to set it alight, it would burn.”

Her words came as a shock to Abu Talhah, and he asked himself, Does the Lord burn?

Then he uttered the words:

“Ashhadu an la ilaha ill-Allaah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasulAllaah.”

(I testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah. and I testify that Muhammad is His Messenger.)

Then Umm Sulaym said to her son Anas, with joy flooding her entire being:

“O Anas, marry me to Abu Talhah.”

So Anas brought witnesses and the marriage was solemnized. Abu Talhah was so happy that he was determined to put all his wealth at Umm Sulaym’s disposal, but hers was the attitude of the selfless, proud, sincere believing woman.

She told him:
“O Abu Talhah, I married you for the sake of Allaah , and I will not take any other dowry.”

She knew that when Abu Talhah embraced Islam, she did not only win herself a worthy husband, but she also earned a reward from Allaah that was better than owning red camels (the most highlyprized kind) in this world, as she had heard the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, say:

“If Allaah were to guide one person to Islam through you, it is better for you than owning red camels.”

Such great Muslim women are examples worthy of emulation, from whom Muslim women may learn purity of faith, strength of character, soundness of belief and wisdom in choosing a husband.

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