The Marriage Proposal in the Qur’an

The pearls of the Qur’an never truly fails to amaze the believer. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Qur’an,

إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ
“Indeed in the Qur’an is a reminder for whoever has a heart or who listens while he is present [in mind]. (Surah Qaf; 37)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) only discusses those things in the Qur’an which we need to know in order for us to traverse through this dunya successfully to Him. Many a time, we find Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) going into detail or mentioning something very clearly, and at other times we find that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) simply touches upon a topic without elaborating. This is because the Qur’an is applicable to each and every single instance, and hence, had Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gone into detail regarding specific things, it would have defeated the purpose of the Qur’an; i.e. being a source of guidance for each and every generation.

Furthermore, whenever Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does go into detail, it is incumbent upon me and you to analyze and ponder over those details, as they have been detailed for a reason. The scholars have divided the themes of the Qur’an into three; 1) Rulings, 2) Belief in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and 3) Stories.

Within this article, I want to focus upon the third division, and in particular, the life of a specific prophet who came before our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). But before that, why does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even mention the lives of different prophets in the Qur’an?

Yes, we see that every prophet that came to their people came with one message, which was to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), but was that all? That was the prime objective of their conveyance, but you will notice that the prophets’ lives Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) narrates to us in the Qur’an were also sent with social issues they had to tackle that was linked to their disbelief of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

For example, the people of Madyan for whom the Prophet Shuayb 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent, would cheat each other in business transactions because they failed to realize that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would hold them to account for their wrongdoings. As another example, the people of Thamud were a very technologically advanced people; able to design and carve secure abodes within mountains. When Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent Prophet Salih 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to them, they thought their technical skills would be able to defend themselves against the punishment of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Through these stories, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) shows us that the Qur’an is truly a practical guide. Not only does it help us find Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), it also helps us with those social issues that we have to grapple with in order to live our lives as Muslims.

In this article, I want to highlight an issue from the life of the most discussed Prophet of the Qur’an: Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in his Book, narrates in great depth the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); his upbringing, the optimism his mother embodied, how he became a Prophet, how travelled from Egypt to Madyan, and his dealings with Banu Israel among many other things. However, one of the most amazing things about the Qur’an is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) details for us the marriage proposal of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and how he got married. The timeless institution of marriage needs no in-depth discussion, but nowhere else do we find this in the Qur’an regarding any other prophet of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) except in the life of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions in a passage within Surah Qasas:

وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَاءَ مَدْيَنَ وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِن دُونِهِمُ امْرَأَتَيْنِ تَذُودَانِ ۖ قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا ۖ قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّىٰ يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ ۖ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ

“And when he came to the well of Madyan, he found there a crowd of people watering [their flocks], and he found aside from them two women driving back [their flocks]. He said, ‘What is your circumstance?’ They said, ‘We do not water until the shepherds dispatch [their flocks]; and our father is an old man.’” (Surah Qasas; 23)

فَسَقَىٰ لَهُمَا ثُمَّ تَوَلَّىٰ إِلَى الظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ

“So he watered [their flocks] for them; then he went back to the shade and said, ‘My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.’” (Surah Qasas; 24)

فَجَاءَتْهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَمْشِي عَلَى اسْتِحْيَاءٍ قَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي يَدْعُوكَ لِيَجْزِيَكَ أَجْرَ مَا سَقَيْتَ لَنَا ۚ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ وَقَصَّ عَلَيْهِ الْقَصَصَ قَالَ لَا تَخَفْ ۖ نَجَوْتَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

“Then one of the two women came to him walking with shyness. She said, “Indeed, my father invites you that he may reward you for having watered for us.” So when he came to him and related to him the story, he said, ‘Fear not. You have escaped from the wrongdoing people.’” (Surah Qasas; 25)

قَالَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا يَا أَبَتِ اسْتَأْجِرْهُ ۖ إِنَّ خَيْرَ مَنِ اسْتَأْجَرْتَ الْقَوِيُّ الْأَمِينُ

“One of the women said, ‘O my father, hire him. Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.’” (Surah Qasas; 26)

قَالَ إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُنكِحَكَ إِحْدَى ابْنَتَيَّ هَاتَيْنِ عَلَىٰ أَن تَأْجُرَنِي ثَمَانِيَ حِجَجٍ ۖ فَإِنْ أَتْمَمْتَ عَشْرًا فَمِنْ عِندِكَ ۖ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَيْكَ ۚ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

“He said, ‘Indeed, I wish to marry you one of my two daughters, on [the condition] that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be [as a favor] from you. And I do not wish to put you in difficulty. You will find me, if Allah wills, from among the righteous.’” (Surah Qasas; 27)

Just from these few verses, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) teaches us etiquettes of giving and receiving marriage proposals. Despite our cultures being different on how proposals are given and received, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has beautifully outlined this event in the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show us that the Islamic perspective of the marriage proposal is practical for all times. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in this passage of Surah Qasas, outlines for us an event which took place during the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

When Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) accidentally killed the Coptic Egyptian man, he fled for his life to Madyan where he came across two women who had a flock of sheep but had difficulty controlling their herd. In front of them, there were men who were watering their flocks, and so when Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) inquired as to why they remained behind, the women informed him that the flock belonged to their father and that because of his old age, the responsibility fell on both sisters to water their father’s flock of sheep. Furthermore, as they did not want to mix with men, they waited patiently for them to finish for when they could take their turn.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without questioning, grabs hold of the flock and takes them to the water. He then does not utter a single word and goes to seek shade, supplicating to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for goodness. When those two women return to their father and explain what happened, their father requested one of his daughters to go and call Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in order to reward him for his chivalry.

One of the daughters then goes to invite Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to meet their father. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions that the woman instructed by her father walked shyly towards Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). This is a beautiful characteristic that the believer should embody especially in a time where shyness is frowned upon. In the context of marriage, the true Muslimah is the one who displays shyness as it is a virtue. Do not think that you have to be outspoken and need to be heard in order for marriage proposals to come your way, but rather, the real Muslim believer is the one who desires to marry a woman of shyness as it is innate within the fitrah.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) accepts the invitation and goes back to the father of these two women and explains his situation. One of the women (many scholars say it was the woman who went to invite Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)) requested her father to hire him because of two characteristics Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) displayed; trustworthiness and strength. To this, the father not just offers Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) a job, but he also makes him a marriage proposal for his daughter.

At this juncture, we can see how the daughter was interested in Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), how -through her beautiful etiquette of shyness-, she hinted at her interest of marrying Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). If Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) were to be hired to work for the father, it is only befitting he marries his daughter to him as he will have to work around her.

Many a time we restrict our youth -our sons and daughters- from marrying or we prevent them for marrying whom they wish to marry because we think we know best whom they should marry. In many cultures, it is unfortunately frowned upon if a woman hints her interest respectfully in wanting to marry a man. But if we look at this passage in Surah Qasas, it is completely the opposite.

The Qur’an should be sufficient for the believer above every type of culture. The fact that your daughter approaches you hinting interest in marrying a particular brother like the woman in Surah Qasas is a sign of goodness as she recognises the boundaries of the Shari’ah and the important role the Wali has. Did not our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) receive a marriage proposal from Khadijah after she was impressed by his trustworthiness and beautiful character? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Qur’an:

إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِيِّ

“and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet” (Surah Ahzab; 50)

This verse was revealed pertaining to a woman who came to propose directly for herself to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) looked up at her and informed her that he was not interested in marriage. Did the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rebuke her for approaching him? Did he scold her for not embodying shyness? No, because the woman had a genuine interest in wanting to marry the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and hence, she went the correct way of approaching the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). However, if a Muslimah who shows interest in marrying a man is extremely bashful to approach them directly, they may send a friend, relative, or even their father to give a proposal.

Likewise, if a Muslim brother sees a Muslim sister at work or university and is impressed by their level of Islamic character, he may approach her in order to give a proposal and get into contact with her guardian. Again, if he is shy or feels it may be awkward, he can always send someone to do so on his behalf. If a Muslim man praises you and requests to get into contact with your guardian, then it is a sign of goodness and veneration of the shari’ah of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). By no means does this article endorse free mixing, but rather, the objective of this article is to highlight the beauty and the balance of the shari’ah and the practicality of the Qur’an and how it sheds light on issues we may think are not connected with our religion. When it comes to proposals, the shari’ah is flexible and not rigid, as we find with many other situations, and so acknowledges that every situation is not the same.

That having been said, the key takeaway is to show us that the Qur’an highlights that shyness is a quality embodied by the believer; a quality that is sought for when searching for a partner. For men, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) specifically mentions two characteristics in this passage of Surah Qasas which are desired for marriage; trustworthiness and strength. Being trustworthy in fulfilling your duties, and having that strength and zeal primarily in worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and then physical strength. If these two characteristics can be fulfilled, the path to marriage becomes much easier.

Despite arranged marriages being a part of many cultures, we should not shun proposals brought to the table by our sons and daughters with regards to their marriage. Lastly, if you struggling with marriage and all proposals seem to be rejected, or if you lack the courage to send a proposal, utilize the du’a Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) supplicated with, for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then blessed Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) with a job, a spouse, a family, shelter, safety and security, and the greatest blessing of them all: prophethood. All from a single du’a:

رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ

‘My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.’ (Surah Qassas; 24)

Source