In the name of God, compassionate, merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم
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.
Bismillahi'Rahmani'Raheem. In the name of God, entirely Compassionate, especially Merciful.
Through the ages various psychosocial 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 either not 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 x 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 ready for marriage yet.
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:
→ 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 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 forgive the sagging, we CAN be forgiving. 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 beautiful character you can 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 as immediate families wish the best for their daughters, asking 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. 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)Please click to Read more : What Muslim Women Look For In A Husband | Zaufishan
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