Raising a Believing Generation by Habib Umar bin Hafiz: Choosing a Spouse

Raising a Believing Generation

(Two) Making Religion the First Criteria

 By Shaykh Amin Buxton

Children are a trust (amanah) that Allah most High has gifted us with. Raising believing children is a huge challenge and every pious parent passionately prays that they will be able to do so. We are blessed to have such guidance from one of the most illuminated scholars of our time; Habib Umar bin Hafiz. We will explore insights from Habib Umar bin Hafiz on how to raise the next generation of believers.

Habib Umar bin Hafiz is a master of the science of tarbiyah – nurturing of the human soul in the pursuit of perfection. Here, he turns his attention to tarbiyah as it applies to raising the next generation of strong believers. Exploring Abdullah Nasih Ulwan’s work “Child Education in Islam”, he gives important insights and principles that any parent, carer or educator can make good use of. The journey starts with considerations to be taken before embarking on the journey of parenthood and even marriage itself.

Our faith is the most important thing that we have. It is what enables us to have the best of lives in this world and the next. It should therefore be the main concern when it comes to choosing a spouse.

(One) The Purpose and Benefits of Marriage

What is meant by religion here is that both parties have a sound understanding of Islam, a full commitment to the rulings & principles of the Sacred Law, and practically apply its noble teachings & etiquettes. This understanding of Islam is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah as understood by the scholars who are the heirs to this tradition. It does not come from popular culture or custom.

Furthermore, the outward semblance of religiosity is not sufficient. A man once came to Sayyiduna Umar bin al-Khattab to attest to the uprightness of his friend. Sayyiduna Umar asked him: “Are you his neighbour? Have you ever travelled with him? Have you ever been in business with him?”

The man replied in the negative to all three questions so Umar concluded: “In that case, you don’t know him.”

It is in these situations – living next door to a person, travelling with them and doing business with them – that people’s true qualities come out. People are often seen to be ‘religious’ on the basis of a few outward practices, but their character and dealings may be completely contrary to Islamic teachings. The Prophet clarified this when he said: “Allah does not look at your outward appearance or your bodies. He looks at your hearts and your actions” (Muslim).

The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned the things that people generally seek in a spouse: “A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty, and her religion.” Wealth, lineage and beauty are legitimate qualities to seek but they are of course temporal and limited to this life. Religion is mentioned last implying that some people make it the final and least and important consideration. Then the Prophet said: “So choose the one with religion” (Bukhari and Muslim), clarifying that this should be the deciding factor when choosing a spouse.

In another hadith, he said: “If a person whose religion and character you are satisfied with comes to you with a proposal, accept his proposal.” Here the only qualities he mentioned were religion and character. Religion could be understood to be outward practice – fulfillment of obligations and avoiding prohibitions – and character could be understood to be the inward reality of faith. When these two come together in a potential spouse the marriage will be built upon firm foundations. The Prophet went on to mention the consequences of turning down such a proposal: “If you do not, trials will afflict the earth and corruption will become widespread” (Tirmidhi). This is the sincere advice of the Prophet and we have seen the effects in societies where this advice has been ignored and where the main criteria for marriage are financial or social.

In Surat al-Qasas, the daughter of Sayyiduna Shu’ayb says to her father regarding Sayyiduna Musa: “Father, hire him: a strong, trustworthy man is the best to hire” (Qur’an, 28:26). Once he knows Musa’s qualities, Shu’ayb offers him the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. Shu’ayb’s daughter describes Musa as trustworthy or ‘amin’ in Arabic which is of course how the Prophet was known in Mecca in his youth. It was that quality that attracted the attention of Sayyidah Khadijah and led in part to their marriage.

Conversely, it has been narrated that “if a guardian marries a woman who is in his care to a corrupt man, he has cut the ties of kinship with her”. It is as if he has cut ties with her by marrying her to a man who has no taqwa. Instead of that marriage being a means of connection, it is the opposite. Instead of connecting two families to each other and connecting to God, those connections are being severed. It can have disastrous consequences not just in this life but in the next. A man told Imam Hasan al-Basri that several people had asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage and he asked him who he should choose.

Hasan said: “Marry to her someone who has taqwa: if he loves her, he will honour her and if he doesn’t, he won’t wrong her.” It is customary for the father to say to the groom just before contracting the marriage: “I am marrying my daughter to you on the basis of God’s command – to treat her well as long as you remain married and if not, to release her with excellence and kindness.” 

About the Author

Shaykh Amin Buxton was born in London. He converted to Islam in 1999 and read Arabic and Islamic Studies at SOAS, University of London. He also studied the Islamic sciences in a traditional setting in both Syria and Yemen. He has edited and translated a number of books which include Imam al-Haddad’s ‘Beneficial Counsels’ and Umar al-Khatib’s ‘Prophetic Guidance’. Since 2017 he has resided with his family in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is involved in several educational and social initiatives including New to Islam Edinburgh and Rafah International. Shaykh Amin Buxton is producing a podcast for SeekersGuidance and is one of our esteemed internal scholars.