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What Muslim Men Look For In A Wife

Monday, 18 July 2011

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

What Muslim Men Look For In A Wife
What do Muslim men really want from a woman? What do they look for? What are they attracted to? ...Why don't they listen?

Insha'Allah we shall try to understand what exactly Muslim men look for in potential wives, and why, very often, they don't get it.

*Disclaimer: much of the following is from various Islamic studies and a result of research. This is not definitive nor applicable to all men, but it is a standard. All subheadings are to be taken as general guidelines. Some content is adult material. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Bismillahi'Rahmani'Raheem. In the name of God, entirely Compassionate, especially Merciful.

Beginning with Prophet Muhammad's ﷺ famous marriage criteria, he said:
"A woman is married for four reasons, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her piety. So you should marry the pious woman otherwise you will be losers (your hands will be covered in dust)." Narrated by Abu Huraira, in Sahih Al-Bukhari (Book 62:27, Marriage)
{Read more of the Holy Marriage Criteria on MUSLIMNESS}

Let's break this hadith down.
1) WEALTH » It is acceptable and encouraged in Islamic culture to marry somebody with the same socio-economic background. People marry rich daughters of businessmen all the time. Although it is common to hear that in South Asian/African countries men pressurise prospective wives and their families for high dowries etc, it is very unlikely a Muslim man will marry purely because his future wife is filthy rich. Wealth is a great turn-on; it's power, opportunity, intimidating for some (for example if a wife earns more), but real wealth is not tangible. However much a woman or her family earns does not really alter what Muslim men are really looking for.

2) STATUS » During the Prophet's ﷺ time status was categorised into two.
1) "Nasab", which means heritage and lineage. Just as women hope to marry into 'a good family', Muslim men love the idea of marrying into a 'religious family' - being connected to a woman whose family have ethical commitments and she herself is morally upright.

2) The other type of lineage is "Hasab", which is what the ancestors have done that distinguish the potential partner. "Status" for contemporary Muslims can mean respect, famousness or achievements. We may deny that social ranking means nothing to us but there is a difference between marrying the daughter of a farmer and the daughter of a professor, or a woman who is a farmer and another who is the professor. Most Muslim men do not use status as a measure of success for potential wives but they do tend to look into it for reasons of prestige and influence. Men will look at a woman's current work in terms of how she may behave in their marriage or raise their future children. IQ and personality is involved. This is explained better further below (see: Personality).

3) BEAUTY » Now, for men, marrying someone for her beauty "jamali ha" is basically love at first/second/third sight, and it happens - a marriage based on looks, I mean. Or it can be a deeper attraction which transcends into her "inner beauty", and this happens too, cliché though it may be. Basically what attracts a man most is a woman's femininity. But the problem here is that Muslim men do not know how to articulate this very personal criteria appropriately.

In the above hadith Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is telling men that it's o.k. to be captured by outward attractions but to not fall in love with the ephemeral nature of beauty. Initial attractions will be lost with ageing and if there is no or little appreciation of a woman's other non-sexual assets, that marriage will breakdown pretty easily. This is why women are drawn to a mans' character first (inner beauty) while most men require a visual beauty, that's packed with stimulating contents.

4) PIETY » When men say they are looking for "religious" wives they each refer to very different attributes. They might mean simple women who don't wear bright colours or follow fads; it may be directed at women not orientated towards the material world, "dunya", but the events after death "akhirah"; it may mean a woman who has already completed her 5 basic pillars of faith or just one who wears the full H'N'J combo: Hijab-Niqab-Jilbab. Or it may mean all of the above.

Realistically, men don't know how to clarify their pious wish-lists. Still, they hope for a woman who is connected to God in her daily life outside of prayers, as well as being aware of the nature of life's challenges. Men tend to tick off a woman's deen straightforwardly but it's not as black and white as it seems, which comes back to outward beauty. The package may look religious, but without a conversation on worries and ambitions, you may later find she's all about the wedding day and shoes.

Be blessed - Imam Suhaib Webb, The Lesser Of 2 Evils, 2013*
'You see, we often misunderstand the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ where he said, “Marry a woman for four reasons…” This also means, “Marry a man for four reasons…” Unfortunately no one tells the sisters this, so they sometimes think men get to choose and they don’t.

The four reasons the Prophet ﷺ mentioned were beauty, wealth, family and deen (religion). The Prophet ﷺ then said, “Choose the one with religion, may you be blessed.”

Many people think that this hadith means that a person must only marry a person who is religious, and everything else doesn’t matter. This is not the correct understanding of this hadith. It means if you can find a woman/man who is religious that’s good. If you find a man who is religious and handsome, that’s better. If you find a woman who is religious and beautiful you have two out of four good qualities. And if you find someone with all four qualities, you’ve hit the jackpot! That’s why the Prophet ﷺ didn’t marry anyone when he was married to Khadijah (ra). She was beautiful, she came from a good family, she was wealthy, and she had deen. She was the epitome of the complete woman.'

A note from sh. Yasir Qadhi,
"Understanding the facts of life and things that men do may gross you out. Guys are very simple; they don't worry like women, they don't analyse or think too far ahead. He will take a relationship for granted. For men it's more about 'what can she do for me?' Men want physical services from woman and there are key differences - he says it's the 'things she does for me' whereas women will say it's 'how he makes me feel.' To Muslim women: don't be insulted or upset for it is by Allah's creation that men are way more simple and want basic needs. Of course there is a a need for complex love, but it is not an overriding yearning."

The 3Ds: Drive, Determination & Disposition
While it's not high on their list, it is clear that men find a woman's drive, determination and energy attractive qualities in a life partner.

1) DRIVE. A woman with a zest for life tends to have a more exciting presence than one who is reserved or afflicted with sloth. Men see women's drive as a chart of their mood. It's action, it's motion, it reminds them of themselves. And not surprisingly, men prefer a woman in a generally positive frame of mind.

2) DETERMINATION. Determination is an admirable quality which shows this woman will not give up no matter what Allah throws at her. She will fall. But she will get up. With natural instincts to problem-solve themselves, men can tolerate complainers (mild "nagging") but not a person who gives up at every obstacle.

3) DISPOSITION. A pleasing disposition overlaps with sound mental health and an easy-to-get-along-with personality. Is your wife-to-be a worrier or a warrior? Is she unhappy and moody? Does she get along with everyone? As the hadith above suggests, a pretty face and religious background are excellent, but they will not necessarily indicate whether she gets easily abusive or jealous.

And now, onto the check-lists.

• Looks
→ What Do We Mean By looks?
For men, looks are incredibly important and most will openly and shamelessly say they want someone they are physically attracted to. Saying that though, men are not as concerned about looks or as worried as women can be.

→ Dress Sense
Women don't expect a service through a man's appearance - his good looks are a bonus. Men on the other hand need visual solace, eye-candy (whatever you want to call it) from a Muslim wife. A ladylike and dignified presentation is reassuring. Similarly, a woman that can 'work it' in pj's, an apron or less brings a needed stimulation. Men look forward to showing off their elegantly sophisticated wives, as well as keeping the simpler beauty to themselves. If men could, they would say: clothing should show your confidence. It's a case of believing in what you wear.

→ Fertility, Stability & Purity
Visual attractions are a primary factor for men yet this appearance isn't just about how voluptuous a woman's shape is are or how large her eyes are. Appearances give a sense of fertility, stability and purity. Men do analyse a woman's dress sense somewhat subconsciously and they do like stylish women, even when they deny it (keyword: 'simple'). Make-up, that is, face paint, only covers up the natural beauty a man desires: the smiles and sweet perfumes which men like to 'feel'. Of course it is a sunnah (prophetic tradition) to dress fantastic for your partner in crime, but in a woman's daily single-life attire, men pick up important information at the outside to see whether there's natural femininity on the inside.

• Experience & Age
→ Why Age Is A Factor
Now that women are receiving more college degrees than men according to the US Census, and outperforming in the UK's employment sector, men are looking for women who are both intelligent and educated. Id est: interesting and accomplished.

Age is a direct correlative to sexuality and fertility. While estrogens (primary female sex hormones) impel women to choose men who are assertive and powerful, androgens in men ensure they look for youthful women and their apparent childbearing abilities.

It is true that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ wanted us to have many children. "Marry loving (passionate) and fertile women," he encouraged his Companions, "because I want to compete with other nations (in size)." Thus sex for procreation has a reward and an impact on the community unity.
Ibn al-Jawzi said, "Sexual intercourse (of two pious Muslims) brings the likes of Imam Ahmad and Imam Shaf'i [...] By Allah! Sexual intercourse that produces such is better than a 1000 years of worship."
Eager to continue their lineage, Muslim men look for women who are ready to share those parenting roles. They see a woman's biological make-up as something that benefits the Ummah, that can take the responsibility of nurturing a little Muslim, and provide the sex to create them.

→ Personal Baggage
In addition to age and youth, and this is something to note for women - men look for dependable character. Men want a life partner who will be reliable and faithful. A wife who will stand by their side and defy divorce rates. Experience explains whether a potential wife is capable of being a man's rock and this comes down to assessing baggage.

Everyone has baggage. Everyone is affected by past experiences or problems with family or friends or relationships; it is the burden of the human soul. If someone claims to be totally unscathed, they are living in la-la land. The question is not whether a person has baggage, but how a person handles their baggage. If a woman is crippled by her experiences, it's not good. If all she can talk about is her horrible childhood, poor relationship track record, traumatic divorce - she is trapped in the past. She isn't carrying her baggage, she's lying underneath it. Men look for a woman who is comfortable with her history.

Men want to know certain things that have shaped the woman she is today, however there's a Muslim etiquette to sharing personal information prior to marriage. New Muslims in particular will face probing. Although there is a necessity to share medical history and traumatic events that could affect the marriage, there is no obligation to spill the bitter truth about everything. Everyone lies. Men lie, women lie, whether Muslim or not. As a man you cannot take an absolutionist position to a woman who admits a few mistakes. Honest women admit their imperfections.

Men do not want to babysit their wives. They want someone who's lived a life and knows how to support him. Guys: she should be interested in your struggles and strivings. She should be your biggest fan and waving your flag.

• Personality
→ Intellectuality Verses Education
For men, intellect and playfulness are two highly desired qualities in women. Every man likes to have an intelligent wife who can advise and support him in day to day matters. Education and intellect aren't the same thing. All deep thinkers don't have degrees and lots of PhD graduates don't think at all (!) A man is attracted to the woman who appreciates his thoughts, who is actually listening. Intelligence comes in different forms - a logical skill, emotional intelligence, a creative talent, or a scientific imagination - there are many areas of intelligence. Men look for a woman who can meet him on his intellectual level. A woman who is exciting, who can challenge and engage him but not overpower every conversation.

The best way for a man to test whether personality meshes is to make observations when interacting. Check how rigidly you define masculinity and femininity. Some men expect women to live tradition stereotypes of feminine roles. If she violates your code of womanhood or she's offended by your vision, look for a different woman or recheck your ideals. Rigidity is a sign of insecurity.

→ The Funny Bone
Humour is far more important than most think it is. A man doesn't look for a 'funny woman' or one with a 'good' sense of humour. He looks for a woman who laughs at the same things he does. Some people cannot stand sitcoms, others have a crude collection of jokes for the mosque after-party. It can be alienating when a group is gripped by hilarity but you don't find that thing funny. Instead of feeling like a pariah, you want a sense of belonging. Humour is a very basic response, unique from person to person yet recognised the world over. A man will say "I love to laugh", to which a woman will respond, "to what? do you find everything funny?" And vice versa.

• Wealth
→ Women, Perfume And Prayer
The wealth of a woman is not in what she has, it's in what she protects. Islam motivates men towards marrying women with taqwah (piety) because that is what lasts. However, it's difficult for Muslims to find the middle ground.

More often than not Muslim men fall into extremes. One says, "I don't care how she looks, I only want a religious woman.' The other extreme says, "I want my hijabi supermodel." The unnatural media portrayal of women has a part to play in this. Television and print vomits out beauty whores who are paid to look super-skinny with surgery and Photoshop. Even Cindy Crawford said "I wish I looked liked Cindy Crawford!"

Brother, no matter how beautiful your wife is, you will desire something else. Trapped in a world where temptations do not cease and every eye wants the forbidden fruit, 'Imaan (faith) in Allah and control is the only thing that will keep a Muslim grounded. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ recognised this unquenchable desire, saying to anyone attracted by another woman, "Go to your wife! She has what she has!" (A note for polygamy, perhaps)

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also said:
“Beloved to me from your world are women and pleasant scents, and my greatest pleasure is in prayer.” (Ahmad)

In Islam, women are not sexual objects; granted they are sexual beings, but their sexuality is not for sale or public property. Men desire women more than women desire men (read that again). Created with "Rahm", Compassion, and carrying "ar-rahm", the womb, women are naturally more family orientated, closer to Allah and more loving. There is no shame in being the woman Allah pre-ordained - unpretentious, dignified, chaste.

When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said he loved women, perfume and prayer, he was not separating one from the other. He included their qualities and their effect upon one another. A man who marries a woman with taqwah will be inspired to pray, and therein lies the "greatest pleasure" because it builds another bridge towards Allah - hence, "half your deen". By marrying, men therefore gain a means to protect and express themselves lawfully,
"The Creator requires men to make more effort to reach (women's) degree of fitra." - Abdal-Hakim Murad

• The All Important Connection
When you're motivated by Allah, things fit into place. The Prophet ﷺ said, "The best enjoyment is a righteous wife (or husband)." There are some things in this world which, when benefitting us, we love them. The best coolness for eyes though is salat (prayer). Following up from the point above, when two people marry with the correct intention and attitude, it becomes a rewarding act and brings a peace similar to prayer. Men being the simple creatures they are however, will forget what they're doing.

Three things mistaken for compatibility
1) Sexual attraction - the trouble with sexual attraction is that couples need it to succeed, but it is not enough. As its the most powerful it can seem to be enough. At the beginning of a marriage you're caught up in the dance of desire and you "click" physically. Five years later you're sat silently staring at each other across the dinner table making du`a Allah gives you something better. Why? Because that relationship was based on sexual attraction alone. If you dive in just because you're excited, you might ignore the red flags. Such as...

2) Falling in love - as the ultimate drug trip, falling in love is dangerous especially for men in that when you fall for someone, you don't care if they love you back. You persist in this madness and feel they should love you back. If the love isn't returned, it isn't a tragedy. Lust is about 'me', it's selfish; love is about 'us'. But a Muslim marriage is ultimately about Allah - receiving love. Love for dunya and people seems to carry an approval from the universe: "this person is perfect for you, she's right in every way possible. MARRY HER NOW." But you need to think with a clearer head to avoid a broken heart as too often we fall in love with the wrong people. That feeling of 'love' makes us forget what we're looking for = a partner in crime. For life.

3) Ideals - Another aspect men mistake for compatiblity is a dream relationship for himself and his future wife. He wants a type of relationship based on Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and Khadija's marriage, but he doesn't know what type of woman he wants. If we analyse the beautiful personality of Khadija we see she carries three top characteristics of many working Muslim women: Financial independence, a managerial position and a previous marriage. That is not the type of relationship most men look for - but it is the type of woman our beloved leader Khadija (ra) was. That's the difference.

• What Muslim Men Really Need
It's a large reality bite to swallow but at the crux of the marriage, a man is looking for what his wife can do for him, and 4 particular services she can provide. *Women ma women, put your feminism away, take it as empowerment.

(4) Maintaining a home - Men look for and need a woman who is adept at household chores. Washing, cooking and cleaning. These are basic mothering services. Being able to cook delicious food is what he really expects from his lady love. If he loves your food, he will love you more. As the saying goes, the way to a man's heart is his stomach. Note that for women, the exact same applies with different effects: men washing dishes is like foreplay for women. He's at home, maintaining the house together, pulling his weight, women love that effort. Men, get your apron on!

(3) Men look for admiration - They want to be number one, admired by their wife, respected. A man wants love from a nagging-free woman. He will hate being told what to do and what not to do. Respect has to be earned, nonetheless, Muslim men expect their wives to hold a high regard of them. (And not mention their shortcomings and mistakes - men's egos are so large they have postal codes).

(2) Being left alone in solitude - Men need alone time to think by themselves, to reflect, to not expose everything. Just as the Prophet ﷺ spent time in a cave, Muslim men have a mental cave in which they retreat to figure out a problem or recharge. Women talk out their issues, while men want solace to find a solution.
"Men don't think too deep. Feed them, love them, give him what he needs and he'll be your slave." - Sh. Yasir Qadhi.

And the number one thing Muslim men look for in a wife. The number one thing?

→ Halal sex ←
Shocking, isn't it.

(1) Halal sex - Intimacy is the only unique thing a woman can provide that men are powerfully dependent on. If you look to the dating culture, a man's aim is to get her into bed. He will fulfil her material wants, show signs of adoration, all the things to get her to comply, but this is just foreplay that leads to the end goal. Sex. The maxim changes: the way to a man's heart is slightly below his stomach. But our Muslim culture is not like "theirs". We do not date, we do not give up our "services" with flowers and a wink.

• Sex, Sex, Sex... Yawn, Sex, Sex
In a wholly Muslim marriage, both men and women's primary need is catered to. Men crave intimacy while women crave emotional care. Men's first need is guaranteed in marriage as Allah stipulates it for a wife, and financial comfort, love and support is obliged on men. What one spouse needs, the other has to give. A woman with this knowledge is in a powerful position, since technically all she needs to "please" her husband is meet this one need. These huquq (rights) are from Islamic Shari`ah and unfortunately an area which Muslims haven't educated themselves on.

The consequences of this mean that women freak out at the realisation of their husband's sex drive, and men wonder why their wives aren't on an equal level. By the age of 18 most Muslim men are aware of their sexuality, most Muslim women are not. And so the limits, permissible methods of expression and being aware of one's body, is muddled up and too sensitive a topic to discuss.

More on gender differences later insha'Allah.

A note for our brothers - sex is good, but sex is not god. 'Good sex' is not enough, and a woman will enter a marriage with a different agenda altogether.

Sex is the number 1 cause of tension in most marriages. The reason being that the couple has a different take on what to expect and give. Thus, men are searching for a woman who is aware in this department, a woman who knows and will learn how to treat a man. Sisters: that's you.


Love is action. You start 'in love' but you need to be 'loving' in your relationship. All too often men expect to receive bedroom thirlls without starting the fire as it were, (for want of a better expression). As soon as you as a husband feed the needs of your wife - even if it's housework - you'll see the increase her attention towards you. It's an amazing circle of love which only existed because of Allah.
"And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought." (Qur'an, 30:21)

• Looking For Your Missing Turban
Clothing protects us from external elements, the sun and cold. "Like a garment", spouses protect one another from haram elements in society. Pornography, illicit relationships and degrading behaviour. Allah mentions the act of intimacy literally as one spouse covering the other, a metaphor for a type of beautification, without which, you are naked. And while the magic of marriage and eternal sakoon (tranquility) feels far-fetched in our grey days, the bond is incomparable to any other pleasure.

'Aisha (ra) said,
“I heard the Prophet ﷺ saying: ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers; those whom they recognise, they get along with, and those whom they do not recognise, they will not get along with.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Finally, a powerful quote to end with a grin:
"Marriage is the price men pay for continual sex. Sex is the price women pay for marriage."

Understand this to empower yourselves and your marriage.

Image: Zaufishan

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
© 2011 Like A Garment.
Please credit link appropriately when sharing (Source: www.zaufishan.co.uk © Like A Garment)
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Aneebaba said...

Ma'sha'allah, another great part in the series. As usual, it was educating, to the point, eye-opening, educational and well worth the read. Jazak'Allahu Khairan for covering this topic so honestly and openly. It will everyone, no matter what stage of the process they find themselves.

whereartthoumuslimo said...

Great points!... I think the one you left out and it's the one that all my married women always saying is important to their husband is that they like a wife that listens to them when they ask her to do something. I think to alot men that denotes the respect they have for them.

Zaufishan said...

The aspect of men desiring obedience from their wives comes immediately after marriage, as both consenting adults are hopefully trained in their respective rights (obedience is a man's right pertaining to his rights only - a woman can say no to other requests lawfully and kindly). Here we're focusing on the basic qualities men look for in women. 

ps. Languages of love to follow, courtesy of one Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and the books we all read. (: Jazakallah khairan & Ramadan duas.

Miriam Ramsey said...

I love this piece!!!!
i like how ur not patronising and not saying to waomen "U HAVE to do this fo rur man" bla bla bla

well done!

Zaufishan said...

Alhamdulillah, well Allah subhanahu wa ta`la, in all His glory, does not speak down to us, nor does His law, Shari`ah belittle each of us. Islam gives us dignity regardless of what we are, it elevates us. That was one reason why I compiled this with help. Jazakallah khairan for reading, I hope you've learnt something and make du`a Allah keeps your safe.

Phillord76 said...

Hi, I came across this site quite by accident.  As a non Muslim I must say that this is a really excellent, very well written and very informative insight into Muslim culture and beliefs, that makes the Muslim faith appear very 'real' and attractive.  

Zaufishan said...

Great to hear from you Phil. Glad it shed some light onto the Islamic faith and its followers.  Be back soon. Peace & love from England.

Gueststar said...

No.Women want men more then men want women.  
"Almighty God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one part to man." - Ali ibn Abu Taleb.

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Lhusain said...

Hi, I only just came across this website today, am a teenage Muslim girl living in a non-Muslim country where Muslim men are portrayed as cruel and judging by the media I can see why people would think that. I really want to truly understand Islam. Therefore I have some questions and I hope you will be able to answer them:
Firstly, Islam claims to be a religion all about equality and fairness, since this is true why is it that I keep hearing muslims say "men have more rights over women" and why is it that if a Muslim husband dies the wife gets the least of his wealth where as his parents (who are probably old and have children to take care of them) get a lot more?In my opinion this is far from fair :(
Why are men allowed to beat their wives? And women can't even smack their husbands??
Why is it that women in Saudi arabia ( a country that should properly portray Islam) women have few rights, for example they only just got the right to vote? This is all wrong and to my understanding not supported by Islam
Why is it that psychotic terrorist groups go round killing people and doing suicide bombings claim to be Islamic? Why would they even think that was right??
I'm sorry for all these questions I just really want to strongly believe that Islam truly is a beautiful religion but all these things are confusing me and making me question this. I'm scared as well because your articles describe the perfect Muslim husband but where I come from originally (Egypt) I do not know of many muslim men that actually treat their wives like this :(
I'm just so frustrated with different scholars saying different things about everything so please if you do answer could you please do the same that you've done in this articles (that are really really good btw I love that you sound casual too:)) and put in Hadith etc to proove points.
Thank you so much and sorry for this being so long!

Nikah Explorer said...

Well there is many stuff which is applicable for many men but not all men, although i like this article. Good job Zaufishan.

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