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What Muslim Women Look For In A Husband

Monday, 30 May 2011

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

We will stay forever
Learn what Muslim women are really looking for in a marriage, understand their biology and definitions of love.

*Disclaimer: much of the following is in note form from various Islamic studies and a result of research. My personal opinions will be highlighted and all subheadings are to be taken as general guidelines. Some content is adult material. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Through the ages various psycho-social theories have arisen in support of one basic scientific fact: men and women's make-up is not the same. They have vastly different agendas for marriage and they think differently. They are in fact complete opposites.

Given that our fitra (natural instincts) and our DNA is from Allah, we must unravel how we are different to create solid Muslim marriages. A catchphrase I have with a twist is 'women are from Madina, men are from Makkah'. We live and think in two separate worlds therefore we won't "get" the other until we cross the border and study one another. And this is how we do that. Insha'Allah.

How Women Fall In Love
Modern biologists have scientifically narrowed down our process of 'falling in love'. It is no more glorious than a chemical imbalance. Because Muslims believe in Allah's perfect design, we always value our connections with people as part of Divine creation. Love is therefore rewarding.

In various cultures the "L" word (no, not that word), is a taboo emotion that is not really understood, is side-swept as something dirty or rarely expressed healthily. Love is different to lust. Lust is a desire that if acted upon pollutes your 'imaan (faith) and well being. Islam tells us love is normal, it is from Allah, it is necessary for any bond to exist and it is part of our religion.


• The Science Bit
Both men and women have 'sex hormones' that are known as 1. testosterone and 2. oxytocin.

Men have up to 20 times more testosterone than women, which primarily promotes the male reproductive organs. Testosterone in men - and this is something to note - also promotes the sexual characteristics in male behaviour and appearance. So, testosterone enhances a man's build, it creates the shape of his jawline, his man-hands or the way he walks and speaks. It is what switches on his high sexuality. Basically testosterone makes a man, a man. Or as I would say, it makes a man, a sexy man. *Preferences and attractions differ.

Oxytocin on the other hand is a women's arena, and I add here for the medical humour, it is known as the "love hormone". Yes, you guessed it, for women it's all about the love.
While there is disputable evidence in support of oxytocin's role in women's sexuality, its primary functions lie in female reproduction and is significantly higher in women than men. Higher levels of oxytocin generally lead to more emotional sensitivity, a positive emotional response and lower stress levels. Recently a study at the University of Switzerland revealed that new mothers with lower levels of oxytocin are more prone to feeling post-natal "blues". Therefore, more oxytocin = more emotional consideration, or a more loving nature.

• "Falling" In Love
When a man falls in love with a woman the normal levels of testosterone which otherwise make a man manly and tough, reduces significantly, and the level of oxytocin increases which turn him into a softer, more bubbly fellow. He's happier, he's filled with energy, he's being 'romantic', he's emotionally charged and he's probably praying harder. (*He may also be dellusional, daydreaming and excited, if you catch my meaning). When you can't think straight and you've contemplated life-threatening events, congratulations, you're in love (!)

Sexual appetite will no doubt increase but now there is a stronger attachment at stake: his wife's welfare is his primary concern, not his own satisfaction. Women are attracted to this loving behaviour because it means men are paying them quality attention, they are being pursued, and I would surmise to say this phase does not last. I'm sorry.

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi has plenty to share on the phases of love. Coming soon.

This is where you need to ask yourself is this really love I'm feeling?

For women, an emotional and sexual attachment follows the same path as men but where the opposite hormones tip the scales. When in love, a woman's level of testosterone increases. This means a woman's sexual energy increases to almost match up with a man's and both are giving and receiving what the other needs. They both show loving signs to one another. Although this biological data and understanding is observed from all human relationships, here we are talking about the intimacy within halal (lawful) marriage between a Muslim man and woman. Therefore love outside of marriage, while perfectly normal and involuntary, is not something to act upon.
'It is here when the Muslims have to step up and realise that marriage was most definitely more than just “falling in love”, eroticism and the short-term. Rather it is for the sake of Allah, it is for the sake of the children, and it’s for the sake of the community at large who need to see people battle it out and suppress their desires for risk, excitement and throwing away stressful responsibility...'
- Imam Abu Eesa Niamatullah.

How Muslim Women Choose Potential Husbands
Generally, Muslim women look for stability and leadership qualities in men. They are attracted to men who have various and successful roles in inter-personal relationships. This is in addition to wanting a severely (1) compassionate, (2) communicative and (3) active friendship. I say severely because often women demand too much from men. And these are traits that most men do not think about too deeply themselves.

Women fall prey to emotional dissatisfaction more quickly than men do (ISNA). W. Bradford Wilcox (director, National Marriage Project, University of Virginia) says:
"While men tend to be more content with the status quo, women now place more of a premium on being fulfilled in their marriages - having their dreams for intimacy, for sexual satisfaction, for challenge, all wrapped up into their marriage. That's a hard order to fill, and these people are likely to end up on the rocks because they learn pretty quickly that no one person is capable of delivering all their deepest hopes for meaning and purpose and happiness".
(Women's Health, March 2010)

It's not enough that he's the masjid imam, a fireman, a skilled public speaker and an avid fundraiser; he has to submit to your entire family, be the most pious man you ever met, be from the most pious family in the country, own a separate house, be superhuman and be willing to share all of his problems with his "soul-mate": You.

That's a nice list to base a marriage on, but that's not how it works in reality.

Allah has designed men and women as a pair that fit. Like jigsaw pieces, both are shaped differently and have different functions. There is not a single pair that will fit perfectly *in every possible meaning, and not every pair will last. This is important to understand and accept before we try to suss one another out.

And for women whose list of 3 top things to look for in a husband includes 1 material (car, money, house), 1 obscure (incredible physique) and 1 impossible (eternal happiness): you are not yet ready for marriage.


So let's get in a woman's mind and break this down. The usual suspects on a Muslim woman's wish-list (in no particular order) includes:

• Looks
→ What Do We Mean By looks?
We say that "looks don't matter", that Allah does not measure our physical dress and appearance. But we do. In our relationships we are attracted to what our minds find beautiful. For women, "looks" could mean how physically handsome a man is, how he dresses or how he presents himself. Women overlook scars and dents, and most women do not even contemplate a man's "package".

→ Beards, Beards, Beards
Many women are attracted to bearded men (preferential). Not a scraggly, unkempt birds' nest but a maintained, neat beard. Most sisters say a beard shows a man's "manliness". A neat beard is linked to good hygiene and a point on the "religious" card, as mentioned below.

→ Do Appearances Matter?
Contrary to the interpretations of Muslim female hayaa (modesty), women are very visual and attracted to men with the same bias and objectification. There is little control over which man a woman is physically attracted to and looks are not usually a deciding factor for marriage. Women love men's bodies as much as men love women's, and this is Allah's design. Education, upbringing and Allah ta`la has simply "encultured" Muslim women to maintain a higher modesty component, which is why they are not as concerned with men's looks. Muslim women DO use physical attraction as an initial hook.

But there is a difference. While men can fall in love at first sight more easily, women tend to look deeper into appearances. They analyse dress sense, smartness and even style. Women are more astute than men. They can pick up complex information just by looking. They see a man's professionalism, attitude, fitness, ancestry, openness, health, uptightness or easy-going-ness... whatever. The average man will think this strange. However, even in Islam, how you present yourself speaks volumes about your lifestyle. And it's the lifestyle that women want and see in how you look. Ergo: smarten up.

→ Real Couples
You see couples come in all shapes and sizes and you can see that that relationship wasn't built on looks (alone). We judge each other mercilessly but we get pudgier as we age, and we can forgive the sagging, we CAN be forgiving when older. We know that looks fade, so after the first 5 years it is what's inside each person that holds a marriage together. As you get older you realise that youth is mistaken for beauty. Yes, they have this and that asset but a wise Muslim knows looks are temporal and if the attraction goes deeper to a mutual love for the whole person, then every freckle, greying hair and imperfection is still accepted as perfect.

• Experience & Age
→ Why Age Is A Factor
When a Muslim women carries out a background check on her potential husband (I'm kidding), she looks at several factors. How old is he? Where has he travelled? What does he do? What was his life's journey? Who was he with? What did he learn? Mark my words that women care about a man's past lives. While a not-as-Islamic past is kindly overlooked (insha'Allah), it helps show who that man is today therefore this area should be discussed with discretion.

Most women prefer older men because they are thought to have a wiser grasp on both the Muslim world and all its affairs, and the secular world with all its affairs. Generally, culture dictates that a husband should exceed his wife in age by a few years (4 years) as a round-about guideline since men mature much slower. Saying that though, a wider age gap is not as controversial as it used to be. More Muslim women choose to marry men a decade older than them, or younger. And this is because of the maturity factor: For example, despite a woman being 35 years old and her husband 25, his maturity as a responsible, independent and considerate person shows that he can reason and behave to her level, or above. This understanding is what is attractive to a woman; a man who has a similar outlook to the world as she does.

• Character & Behaviour
Think about why the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said regarding men:
"Whoever comes to you and you're pleased with their deen and character (khuluq) marry them!"

→ What is character?
Character is the principles you say you have. What is behaviour? Behaviour is the principles you show in action. A man's character is important for women because it affects them more than how much "deen" or "muslimness" he claims to have. Not only is measuring "deen" a subjective variant, it's not a guarantee of a character you can reasonably live with. It should be, but it isn't. You can be a devout Muslim in prayer and charity but if you have a temper, it affects your wife and by extension, the health of your marriage.

Women are all about putting sentiments into action. If you say you want her, show it, if you say you like her family, show it. If you say she's the most amazing person you have ever met, prove it daily and frequently. Women want to see men back up their words with action and this isn't about buying her "stuff", it's about following through your plans with sincerity. This is why years later in a marriage during a heated argument she will yell, "You never keep your promises" (even if you mostly did). She will remember the one occasion you promised to fix some broken appliance and 5 years later, you hadn't. Your lack of action here is very much a small negative on the larger scale of things but it can build up and hurt a woman deeply. She will see it as neglect, inconsideration and *buzzwords* a lack of love.

A man's character backed up by considerate actions shows a woman love. And she wants this type of attentive love from a man.

• Family & Background
→ Do Muslim women take a man's family into account for marriage?
Yes. Sometimes a lot of pressure is put on finding a man attached to a noble family. According to Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ hadith about women, a marriage can take place where the status of the family is a selling point, but the active deen is better. This is because no one person represents his entire flock and no matter how wealthy, "religious" or famous the man's background is, it does not not indicate his real day-to-day character and behaviour.

For many Muslim women though, this is the case because immediate families wish the best for their daughters and ask them to find a "good man from a good family". Adversely, marriages do take place where nobody hears from the man's family and later questions pop on heritage and newly discovered medical conditions. I believe a balance is required from the outset. A couple needs to discuss the interaction they will have with one another's family, what role and level of involvement the "grandparents" will have with their parenting, and who the black sheep is that not everybody talks to (we all have one). Basically, the in-laws are part of the equation for women, but not a deciding factor in getting married to the man they love.

Eventually, after family nasiha (advice) is sought and the decision is settled between a couple, families need to accept their adult choice, as Allah said,
"...Do not prevent them from [re]marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner..." (Qur'an, 2:232)

• Wealth
Let me tell you that real Muslim women do not give a tutankhamun about what a man owns. When women say they prefer men in financially stable situations it means he needs to have some form of regular halal income, since he is legally obliged to provide for the family in Shari`ah (Islamic law). Demanding a new apartment or house is not part of the marriage package but with all the tension newly weds face living with the in-laws, one would advise looking into separate living arrangements as soon as possible. Extra wealth - the man's car, his pool house, his savings, whatever, are not in a woman's list of marriageable criteria. Saying that, it is fair to maintain the standard of life the woman is accustomed to.
{Read about men's Islamic marriage rights on MUSLIMNESS.COM}

• Education & Profession:
For men who feel inferior for being unemployed or not earning a substantial income, rest assured that most women do not ask for or need a luxurious life. A foundation of trust, continuous love and honesty builds a successful marriage, not an accumulation of ching-ching (money) and certificates. Muslim women want real wealth in the form of good treatment, open communication and love.

A man's education will reflect in his mannerisms and attitude, which is why most educated Muslim women today aspire for marrying someone with a similar if not equal pursuit of academia. They want to be able to have deeper conversations, to share household responsibilities, to talk about pertinent (or random) topics that both husband and wife are knowledgeable in. You'd be interested to know that where Muslim families encourage their children to marry into identical professions, for instance, doctors who marry other doctors, the divorce rate is higher. Why?
"Over time, sleep deprivation, working long hours without complaint, and coping with intense patient emotions on a daily basis may cause doctors to become emotionally distant. Marital discord is often the result of work-related stress and the inability to wind down after work - the training years in particular, are not a time for marital growth". (Islamic Horizons Magazine)

When we get down to it, the best of men do not need degrees and secular or Islamic education does not prevent bad character (read above). Thus, it is usually families and not women who place professions on such high pedestals. If anything, I would advise Muslim women to search for man with a PhD in courtesy.


• The All Important Connection
→ What is compatibility and why is it important?
For our parents and grandparents' generation, a marriage was based on family approval, or social honour or cultural balance (i.e., he/she needed to be from the same background). Immigrant Muslim families who inherited these customs meant that future generations were expected to follow the same marriage patterns. While this method of searching and approving a spouse has been successful to some extent, culture has nearly always dominated the Islamic aspects. And Islam says above all, you need to be compatible.
“If it so happens that there is love between a man and a woman, the most effective means of warding off fitnah (temptation) and immorality is for them to get married, because his heart will still remain attached to her if he does not marry her, and that may lead to fitnah..." - Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “There is nothing for two who love one another like marriage.”

Compatibility does not limit itself to having the same background or language. Even if you feel you "click" with one another and you have the symptoms of hardcore love, can you both carry an adult conversation? Can you combine your lifestyles to create a new one?

Compatibility means having shared values. You both need to talk about the important areas of life so you're both on the same page. He needs to understand you as a woman. He needs to "get" you and accept you as you are, not what he thinks you are. This is a connection that's built only when you actually meet one another, which is why the Prophet ﷺ encouraged meeting one another publicly before marriage. It builds compatibility, it builds love. Very often cultural standards prohibit these meetings or families will stamp their approval and rejection without informing the "singletons". Such family customs warrant respect but not to the detriment of Islam's freedoms. As a Muslim woman you NEED to have a connection with your potential husband that will carry decades into your marriage and help overcome obstacles. And here you need to ask yourself: what principles and actions do I value the most which I hope my future husband will also respect?

Most of us believe that opposites attract, and they do to an extent, but familiarity attracts more. Women will secretly want the bad-boy and the danger of a rebel but this is not marriage material. Marrying somebody who is the complete opposite to you also means there needs to be something else that connects both of you; if you're a tree-hugger and he's a corporate worker, when and how will you negotiate activities to avoid getting bored?

Advice To Single Brothers Looking For Wives:
→ When you say want someone who is "pious, modest, smart and caring" you're generalising about the Muslimah population. You need to be specific and you need to know what you would like to see in your wife - in addition to the standard. If you don't know why you want to get married (besides sex, children and food) and you don't know what you're looking for, you need to check what it is you're bringing to your marriage.

→ Avoid putting yourself down, even if it's self-effacing humour. When you say, "I'm not a social guy" or "I'm not that good at talking", this is what we call an EPIC fail. Women like sociable men, confident men, men who know what they're doing and where they're going, with goals and self-awareness. However, there's a fine line between confidence and sounding cocky, a fine line between sharing ideas and taking charge. Women want husbands, a partner in crime, not a manager. In the talks developing before marriage you will be trying to show that you're an all-round easy-going communicator with academic social skills and some degree of open interaction. Saying, "eh, I don't have any interests in life" makes you sound like a bore. And yes, you are worth it, otherwise she wouldn't be talking to you.

→ Make a list of at least 10 specific things you hope to receive from your marriage. Make a list of 10 specific things you hope to bring to your marriage. Trust me, the woman you want to marry has already made that list. And it's longer than yours.

→ Watch out for the 'red flags' in women that show she may not be prepared for marriage - overriding attractions to materialism or the wedding day, childish impatience, a defeatist attitude, emotional instability. Be her support now, encourage her now to make du`a (supplication), and put her trust in Allah. Perhaps more importantly, watch out for the good signs that meet your personal criteria. Don't hang about for the sister to make a move, take appropriate action. Be courageous, don't give up your marriage intentions.

→ READ CAREFULLY: You do not need to be a superhuman. You do not need to buy her the world. You do not need to promise her the world. You do not need to make her life a paradise on earth. I say this because (A) you cannot and (b) you won't be able to maintain it. Eternal happiness is reserved for Jannah, not Earth. Make realistic goals, be pragmatic. Real Muslim women don't expect "happily ever afters" because they don't exist; they want motivation, support and love. The magic three words you need to overuse in your vocabulary are "Allah Loves You". (As well as "I Love You", that'll get you far too, if you know what I mean).

→ Don't joke about polygamy or divorce - this is hurtful in scopes you couldn't comprehend. Do not openly flirt, make references to sex or how effective you will be at procreating - this is embarrassing and crude. Sex is a part of marriage, we get it, but maintain your modesty.

→ You cannot ask for your "perfect Khadija" or "somebody like Khadijah bint Khuwaylid". Khaijda (ra) was perfection for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, an ideal woman. As a woman, Muslims aspire to her roles but "Khadija" is the maximum standard of womanhood, not the minimum. If you set the bar this high, you will be disappointed in a wife who turns out to be human. And your potential wife will expect you to be her "perfect Muhammad". Everyone has flaws.

→ Avoid high expectations of a niqab-wearing saint who has a hermit lifestyle. This isn't to say you don't deserve the best in a wife, or that Muslim women are not worthy but by putting these prerequisites forward you stipulate some form of "religiosity" on a woman. If that were fair, Muslim women would ask men to wear thobes and never marry again in the prenuptial, but they don't out of the understanding that everyone's imaan (faith) is different. When you ask your potential wife to pray regularly, fast and wear a jilbaab - in essence, to CHANGE - is it because you want your wife to come spiritually closer to Allah in ibadat (worship) or because you want to keep her all to yourself? If it's either, you need to highlight this before marriage.

→ Lastly: be patient with your potential wife and her family. Women over-analyse your every move and word and think 10 steps ahead (she's just waiting for you to catch up). Don't try to change this nature of women. Try to go at her pace and understand that she has to sacrifice more to become your spouse. Be the most respectful and considerate man possible to all her family members, irrelevant of what they ask of you. At the initial stages of getting to know one another's family, you need to make the best impression possible. Finally, be a man of action. Women love men who show, who take steps to progress, so the lazy bachelor thing you had is going to have to come to an end.


*In the early years of finding a potential partner in crime a woman's criteria is heavier and longer. A typical list of 50 traits a woman looks for in a man thankfully gets sieved as she matures into things she 'can live without' to things she 'can't live without'. As Abu Hurarya (ra) reported, the Prophet ﷺ said love in a relationship needs to be in moderation, and a Muslim's ultimate dependence should not be with people, but with Allah.

The Series
Part 1 | Introduction
Part 2 | What Muslim Women Look For In A Husband
Part 3 | What Muslim Men Look For In A Wife

Part 4 | 5 Languages of Love In Muslim Marriage

Part of the © 2011 Like A Garment series.
Please credit link appropriately when sharing (Source: www.zaufishan.co.uk ©)
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Sarah said...

I really appreciate the candid nature of this article. Too often the biological aspect of attraction isn't talked about, which is needed to demystify what it is women want!

On a slightly related note, I highly recommend the book "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Right" by Lori Gottlieb. It's a study on how unrealistic women's expectations have become and presents case for 'settling', which is not at all as negative as it sounds. A lot of Muslim sisters today need to understand what it really is that makes a strong marriage. It's not fireworks. It's strong, enduring companionship built on consistency and trust and friendship.

Jazak Allah khayr for this piece.

-Sarah
amuslimahwrites.wordpress.com

Darkernightsky said...

hey yanti  didnt   really think about any of these things.   just thought about me being muslim. 

Zaufishan said...

The book sounds interesting, may be useful. Jazakallah khayr for your feedback, and may we all learn to build our relationships on those things - trust, enduring companionship and friendship. Insha'Allah.

Zaufishan said...

Not every woman is a Yanti now are they? You just got a blessed flower, alhamdulillah. My salam to all insha'Allah. Keep in touch.

Tia said...

That is a lot of info...but I can say, from this Muslim woman's perspective; all I really want is a pious man, who will respect me with honesty and commitment. I think that is what most women want Amazingly hard to find in this day in age...

Zaufishan said...

'Pious', 'respect', 'commitment' - therein lies the problem. Every Muslim has some degree of piety, we all desire to be respected - men yearn for admiration, women require 'attention' of various sorts. Commitment is a big word that brings together patience, loyalty, consideration and compatibility. But talking without action is not going to help us understand the marriage process, divorce rates, loveless marriages and problem-solving in relationships.

There is a man out there for you sister, believe in marriage - whether earthly or heavenly - the challenge is, what are YOU going to do about it?

I should've been a counsellor. *Kidding. May Allah help you remain strong and positive.

Emma said...

Beards? Ew.

Can you post more evidence of your claims? You make many generalizations. I'm just hearing a lot of "most women want this and don't want that".

Zaufishan said...

-- "MANY women are attracted to bearded men (PREFERENTIAL). Not a scraggly, unkempt birds' nest but a maintained, NEAT, sexy beard. Most MUSLIM WOMEN say a beard shows a man's "manliness". A neat beard is linked to good HYGIENE and a point on the "RELIGIOUS" card..." 
Celebs started a beard trend in recent years. Some like the fluff, some don't. Read:: http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/06/save-water-grow-beard/

farah said...

Hi;
     It is a woman right to own her own property in Islam. It is a woman right to live peacefully within her private space and she is not obliged to live with her in laws at all. Its the sons duty to provide for his parents and wife, children. It is a woman's right to a haq mahr. 
I think the problem with today's modern man is that he is not inspired to use the holy prophet Muhammed PBUH life examples of how he treated his wifes as a perfect example of how to behave in a marriage. What a shame!
Today s man is just as fickle as ever. Wanting a stable man is a woman's right so that she can concentrate on her mother and wife duties of raising her children. Nurturing them and living in pardah. A woman's earnings are hers to keep. A mans earnings are for his wife, children and then his parents. 
If you don't agree with the rights that Islam gave to women, then you are challenging Allah and you will never have a happy marriage because you are burdening you're wife with your own shortcomings. 
Be honest and humble. And as our holy prophet Muhammed PBUH said:
        'The best of you are those who treat your women well'

ania said...

The only purpose of hijab (not mentioning niqaab or burqa) is to
dehumanize women and deprive them of their own identity, dignity
and voice in the society. They walk as black ghosts without their
own face and individuality, as if they didnt exist, mere
shadows walking among men. Hijab degrades and humiliates women and
is a symbol of them being property of men and of islam. Instead of
islam teaching men to grow up and mature and control themselves, it
blames women for men's lusts and weaknesses making women awrah
- filthy and punishing women for men's problems...very sad.

no muslim woman would ever wear hijab if it wsnt for islamic
manipulation. islam made the lives of women a living hell even
aisha said that islam for women is only suffering...

Jesus came over 600 BEFORE Muhamad and Jesus said who He is
(God)and what He came to do (die on the cross for humanity. Thn 600
years after Jesus came Muhamad who lied raped killed, was pedophile
and adulterer and denied words of Jesus....

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