Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan
From Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If one of you proposes marriage to a woman, if he can look at her to see that which will encourage him to go ahead and marry her, then let him do so.’ I proposed marriage to a young woman, and I used to hide where I could see her until I saw that which encouraged me to go ahead and marry her, so I did so.’” According to another report he said, ‘a young woman of Bani Salamah. I used to hide from her until I saw that which encouraged me to go ahead and marry her, so I did so.” (Abu Dawud)
Is it ok for a man to look at the shape of his potential spouse’s body (obviously while clothed), in order to see if he would be satisfied by it?
The reason I ask this is that I live in the west, and we are constantly shown women with certain features that make us eventually want to be with that type of woman that possesses those physical features.
May Allah bless you.
There are two considerations regarding your question. The first relates to the legal ruling of what may be viewed of a potential fiancee and the second relates to western indoctrination.
The Viewing of a Suitor
The suitor may only view the hands and face of a lady he wishes to marry. This is based on Quranic verse where Allah, Most High says, “… And they (the believing females) should not expose their beauty, except that which appears thereof.” [Quran, 24:31]
Note: One may not deduct the ruling of the niqab (face veil) from this verse.
The majority of commentators stated that the hands and face is from that beauty that a lady may expose.
The hadith which you quoted allows the suitor to observe her hands and face without her permission in public spaces; it does not allow for him to closely try and observe the form of her body. What is permitted however, is for him to send a female relative such as a mother or sister, to observe aspects of her, that he may not view himself. Consequently, this female may describe those aspects to the suitor. The jurists deducted the permissibility of a female describing the potential bride to the suitor from the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) sent Umm Sulaym to go and view a potential spouse, and said to her, “view her ‘urqub (Achilles tendon or the area above the ankle)…” Thus, the female sent to observe, may describe beyond that which is permissible to view. [Shirbini, Mugni al-Muhtaj]
You mentioned that the west have influenced what we like or dislike in females. This is a reality and extremely sad. In many societies, including that of the early Arabs, plump women were desired. This answer is not here to discriminate between different size women, or to suggest what you should be finding attractive in a female, but to impress upon all brothers the need to move away from an unrealistic standard – in most instances – that the west wishes to impress upon all. Many women today go through extreme difficulty to try and maintain a body shape that resembles an image that the western male has been brainwashed to like. If you were to give this some thought, you may discover that size doesn’t necessarily matter to you or for the very least is not a deciding factor.
Another reality is that there are other more important traits one should be looking for in a spouse. Traits that might not disappear after a few years or after the first child. Good character, a beautiful personality and most importantly attachment to Deen. These qualities you will come to learn are way more important than an unrealistic figure that the west has implanted within our minds.
And Allah knows best.
May He grant you a spouse that will be the coolness of your eyes, Amin.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.