Over the past few weeks, I happened to read a few different articles or blogs of women complaining about the dearth of available men who fit their criteria for marriage--which was basically a high education and commitment to Islam. After finding themselves set up with some variety of men who failed in either department they were a little frustrated with their predicament.
Now seeing my own engagement kind of go up in smoke (poof!), I'm a little more sympathetic. I still think maybe people's standards are too high. But then again, I don't know them or their situations so it's not really my place to say.
Although, I do know what women are supposed to be looking for in a Muslim spouse. And it might surprise some people, but it's actually not a PhD. Or an MD for that matter, or any assortment of abbreviations which one might append to his name. Okay maybe that's not surprising. It's also not cash in the bank or a ripped set of abs. But two things, only, namely his Islam, and his manners. I actually have notes somewhere with a hadith to this effect, but since the move I haven't found a lot of my stuff.
I remember a few years ago, about a year or so after I officially converted to Islam, I finally admitted (for the first time) that I was willing to get married. Before Islam, marriage was not really a high priority for me (in fact it's not a priority for a lot of girls that age). I was focused on school, and career, and then if I got married it was supposed to fit into that mold somehow. Some of you might know I had a rough go of things for the first few months after converting and wasn't even interested in practicing Islam. In fact, I was on the hadith-rejection path and really didn't have much true respect for our Prophet (saaws). So it was pretty remarkable that after a year I not only admitted that I kinda sorta wanted to get married, but that if I did marry, it would have to be to someone who truly and sincerely wanted to emulate the Prophet (saaws).
Even then, I could see that the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (saaws) treated his wives the best, and that any good man, who would be a good husband, would want to be like him in all respects--not just marriage.
I have, personally, had some bad experiences with Muslim men, and I know others who have as well. I realized that just because a man said he was a Muslim, Islam didn't necessarily have any part in his life. Imagine a Muslim man, for example, who thinks that it's actually okay Islamically for him to sleep around with women, as long as they aren't Muslim women. Twisted, right? I started seeing that yeah, some Muslim men do have a really low opinion of women... but alhamdulillah, I also could see that it wasn't because of Islam, but really a lack of faith in Islam in the first place.
At that time in my life, when I did finally admit that marriage was an option, I knew that a man had to be a good Muslim, and that it meant trying to follow the model of the Prophet (saaws). Because there are even some well-intended Muslims who don't act properly. What was shocking at the time was that I wouldn't consider a man who seemed more liberal or lenient on matters of Islam. There are some of those too--who don't want to be too quickly identified as Muslims, maybe they don't really like the hijaab. But for me, if someone wanted to change Islam at all, if he wasn't happy with it just the way it was revealed, then that was a red flag.
So basically I was looking for these two things--strength in deen, and good manners. The first is demonstrated by taqwa, consciousness of Allah and trying to keep what Allah has commanded and avoid what He has forbidden. The second is through following the example of Muhammad--who said he came to perfect good conduct.
I know of so many brothers who are having such a hard time finding a wife--and they want a Muslim wife!--so they end up marrying a non-Muslim. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are women who are marrying already-married men! I just can't help but think the guys are getting the short stick on this marriage thing. Why all this trouble? I really wonder.
I haven't really given this particular issue too much thought from a personal standpoint, but now I guess I need to. So I ask Allah SWT to make this easy for me, as He has made so many other things easy for me, alhamdulillah.