The family is born in the same way that a child is born, and the period of pregnancy with that new baby might be long or short according to the conditions and possibilities. The expected baby is healthy in proportion to the proper care given to it, healthy nutrition with which it is fed, the parents’ awareness of ailments that might kill it before and after birth, and the suitable vaccinations given to its mother.
From that point of view, the health or illness of the family seems evident during that period of ‘familial pregnancy’, the time before marriage in which its initial image is formed, the different notions are created, and the features become clear, and each one of the couple sees the other from his own perspective, which leads each of them either to have hope in the other or to decide on the failure of the relation.
“Betrothal is a promise of marriage.”
Marriage is the most important partnership that one has in his entire life. The more confidence and clarity there is between both parties, the more chance there is for success, stability and happiness; conversely, the more fraud and deception that exists between them, the more chances there are for failure, frustration and despair.
This fact is taken from a Hadeeth related on the authority of Abu Hurayrah attributing it to the Prophet who said: “Allaah The Almighty Says: ‘I am the third of both partners so long as none of them betrays the other, and as soon as any of them betrays the other, I am out from between them.’” [Abu Daawood]
How beautiful this marital partnership is in which Allaah The Almighty is the third of both partners! And, how miserable that family is which Allaah The Almighty leaves and lets be without His kindness and mercy!
The period of familial pregnancy is laden with strong emotions that are stained with deceptive suspicion, attractive coloring, rosy dreams, blissful living, and velvety nights, during which the different parties, including the fiancée and the suitor along with their families do their best in an attempt to disclose alluring good things, conceal shameful evil traits, and deal with the great difficulties and obstacles in a simple and superficial way. Hence, all parties are driven behind those flowing emotions until the engagement period comes to an end and the family is born. At that point, the newborn family might be hit with the rock of reality and the difficulty of living, with lies uncovered, with emotions withered, true colors shown, dreams shattered, and life turning into an intolerable hell that results in dissension which might lead to divorce.
The wrong behavior of both parties during that period which we have called familial pregnancy, very often, leads to the abortion of that family before birth, or causes it to be born distorted, thereby the family becomes a burden on the community instead of being a strong support in it.
For this reason, that period should be subject to many criteria in order for the pregnancy to be sound and healthy and for the family not to be born crooked.
The criteria to be observed for achieving success during that period are the same general criteria for Muslims to observe in all their life affairs but with some particular attention to certain aspects, including:
1- Good vision and choice: A suitor should look at the woman to whom he is proposing and the woman should look at her suitor. Looking at each other is the key to the hearts of both of them and a means of creating accord between them. This paves the way for a life filled with affection and love. To that the Prophet directed the Muslims as shown in the Hadeeth that is narrated on the authority of Al-Mugheerah ibn Shu‘bah when he asked for the hand of a woman in marriage. Thereupon, the Prophet said to him: “Look at her for this is more likely to foster cordiality and love between you.” [At-Tirmithi] That is, if a man marries a woman after knowing her well, most probably no regrets should be expected.
An-Nawawi said in his commentary on the Hadeeths on this subject compiled by Muslim, “It [i.e. this Hadeeth] supports the favorability of looking at the woman whom one wants to marry.”
Nevertheless, the piece of advice: “Look at her” should be understood as to exceed sensual and physical denotations, for the verb “to look” has many connotations that extend to considering her morals, friends, way of thinking, and notion about life, to the end of those characteristics that are important to know about in the partner with whom one will start a family. That is taken from the Hadeeth narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said: “Win [by selecting] the religious woman lest your hands would get dusty [i.e. lest you lose what is good].” [Al-Bukhaari]
It is important to consider the proposed-to woman from all sides. When a man wants to marry he should carefully look into the characteristics of the woman he is proposing to in order to choose a religious woman.
The same also applies to the suitor. One of the fiancée’s rights is to look at her suitor, and, in addition, to have a general consideration of his character, thoughts, convictions, expectations and ambitions. That is also taken from the Hadeeth:“If there proposes to you [a man] whose faith and morals you approve, you should marry [off to] him [from women under your guardianship]; if you do not, there would be Fitnah [tribulation] on earth and great corruption.” [At-Tirmithi]
2- No courteous considerations should be taken into account when it comes to choosing a spouse. Choosing a spouse by reason of courtesy puts the new family at one of the greatest risks. Sometimes the woman is reluctant to marry the man who is proposing to her; sometimes a man is reluctant to marry a certain woman. However, they get married because, for some reason or another, they were too embarrassed to say no. This leads to the birth of a distorted family that then begins to suffer.
The Prophet placed great emphasis on the principle that no one should marry out of courtesy, whatever the reasons might be. In this respect, it is narrated on the authority of Sahl ibn Sa‘d that a woman went to the Prophet and told him that she was granting herself to Allaah The Almighty and His Messenger (she was offering herself in marriage to the Prophet ). Thereupon he said: “I have no need for women.” [Al-Bukhaari] It is well-known that the Prophet never turned anyone down, and that he was generous, kind and merciful. However, he rejected that woman and did not want to marry her simply out of courtesy. This means that courtesy and equivocation must not be involved when choosing a spouse, only decisiveness and explicit resolution.
3- Clarity: One of the general attributes of a Muslim is clarity, avoidance of ambiguity, and remoteness from fogginess and false impressions in all life affairs and dealings, particularly when it comes to establishing a marital partnership.
Unfortunately, a lot of people make it permissible to tell lies during the period of betrothal, thereby the suitor starts to draw false images of happiness, and gives free rein to his tongue to say whatever he likes. In this way, he overloads himself with dispensable burdens, distorts his material reality with flashes from falsehood fabricated by fancy, and colors his bad behavior with the bright colors of courtesy, commitment and love. On the other extreme, it is not unusual for the girl to talk about herself as if she were talking about another imaginary woman. The result is that both parties are put to confusion and stricken, from the first night, with a bitter reality as if each of them has married the imaginary, and not the real character.
One of the greatest risks which harm the family after marriage is that ambiguity to which one or both parties stick. The words to be said during the time of betrothal turn into real hindrances in marital life. How odious it is when one discovers that he has been deceived and has built his life on ambiguous, foggy dreams.
4- Not to give deceptive promises: Another error that aborts all the criteria set by Islam to improve familial pregnancy is to give false, deceptive promises. A suitor starts to build impossible dreams and give promises which he cannot fulfill. In return, the girl counterbalances him with velvety promises and expectations of a dazzling life. When they are connected, in the thick of life, each of them comes to discover the falsehood of the other and the failure to fulfill his/her promises. Each of them reminds the other of his/her false promises that he/she failed to fulfill; and the result is desertion between them, embitterment of life, and loss of confidence. For this reason, excess in giving promises before marriage overburdens the man, particularly if it is impossible for those promises to come true.
5- To clarify the general methodology of the coming family: Possessed by flowing emotions during the period of betrothal, both parties, very often, forget that they are going to hold an important partnership. But this emotion should not prevent the couple from clarifying the features of the coming family they wish to build, the way it should be built, the desired characteristics, the way to handle problems, and what each party likes and dislikes.
To discuss such subjects during the time of betrothal between the couple opens horizons of dialogue for them, which leads to a better understanding of each other’s character and helps each of them to know their rights and duties.
The time of familial pregnancy is one of the most important times in the lifetime of the family. It is of crucial importance to recognize and show how to care for it and adjust it with the necessary criteria as this contributes to giving birth to an integrated, intact family, by the permission of Allaah The Almighty.