Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Suitability and compatibility (kafa’a) is one of the most important things that need to be considered when looking for a spouse. One of the main ingredients for a prosperous and successful marriage is compatibility. This is the reason why Islam laid great emphasis on it.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said:
“When you find a suitable partner for a widow (non-married woman, m), then conduct the marriage without any delay” (Sunan Tirmizi, 1/206).
Not going into the fiqhi details with regards to suitability (kafa’a), it is generally advised to look for a life partner who is compatible to you. He or she should have the same interests, aims, objectives and aspirations to you. When this is found in a certain person, then there should be no reason from abstaining from conducting the marriage.
With regards to the different casts and the tendency in many to marry within one’s own caste, if this is based purely on pride and vainglory, then it is certainly that is not in line with the teachings of Islam. Many times it is observed that all the other factors (of which religious piety is of utmost importance) are neglected, and only the aspect of lineage is given importance. This is something that certainly needs to be changed.
It should be remarked here that all non-Arabs are considered a suitable match to each other [and for Arabs without a known and established lineage to one of the original Arab tribes, which is rare, as mentioned by Ibn Abidin – F] from a fiqhi aspect. It could be so that a boy/girl from a different background altogether is a suitable match, rather than your cousin brother or sister. Students of sacred knowledge have a lot in common and it would be advisable to marry a fellow student from a different caste rather than your first cousin who does not have a clue what you are studying.
Pride, boasting and vainglory based on ancestry, lineage and origin has clearly been condemned in Islam. Allah Most High Says:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) most righteous of you” (Surah al-Hujurat, 13).
Allah Almighty also says:
“The believers are but a single brotherhood. So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers” (al-Hujurat, 10).
The Messenger of Allah said:
“Verily Allah has removed from you the stupidity of the Jahiliyya and their boasting of their ancestors. Whether you are god-fearing believers or wretched sinners, you are the sons of Adam, and Adam was created from dust” (Sunan Abu Dawud,).
Therefore, basing the search for a suitable marriage partner purely on caste and family origin is certainly something that should be avoided. Parents and elders should be explained in a calm, polite and gentle manner along with complete respect and adab, that this is not something which Islam teaches. The first and primary consideration should be a person’s Deen.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, UK
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