Has he graduated? Where does he work? Does he have a good job? How much does he make? Will he be able to support you? Questions like this are not unheard of when a woman receives a proposal.
Does she have any debt? Do I have to help support her family? Does her family expect something extravagant for dowry? These are some of the questions that keep many men up at night before and/or after they propose.
Just a couple of disclaimers:
Culture Practices: There is a discernable variance among differing cultures with regard to practices
involving proposals, costs of weddings, etc. Your cultural subset may have four or five different parties during a single wedding, while others have only one. In some cultures, the wife’s family pays for certain aspects of the wedding, and the husband’s family makes up the remainder. This series of articles is not meant to be culturally insensitive. It is rather to be as broad and universal as possible in order to serve and specifically target young Muslims in the West.
Intended Audience: While it may seem like this article is specifically geared toward a male audience, it is not or, at least, not mostly. A focus on men makes sense since the male is the responsible party in a wedding, but it is also true that wives and fiancés help facilitate this role. Moreover, they help educate men when they are in need of it! Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Messenger of Allah (saw) saying, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and responsible for his subjects; the man is a guardian and responsible for his family; the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Most of us are aware of the famous hadith of the Prophet (saw) in which a woman is described as being married for one of four reasons. One of the four is her wealth. Despite this being true, it is not a woman’s responsibility to be the provider in a household. There is no shortage of circumstances and examples where a wife may be bringing in more bacon [turkey] than her husband. A husband may even be so poor that he is eligible for his wife’s Zakat, as in the case of Abdullah ibn Masud and his wife, Zainab (may Allah be pleased with them). That still doesn’t shift the responsibility for support from the one to the other. At the end of the day brothers, what’s hers is hers, and what’s yours is the whole family’s.
The issue of money is often the elephant in the room of marriage and complicates this sacred bond before, during, and after the wedding.
Some of the most common causes of Muslims incuring money troubles before and after marriage are listed below. Targeted solutions are included as well.
Lack of communication / Discuss money issues.
This, more than anything else, cuts to the heart of why money hurts marriages. Men are often too proud to bring up and discuss the issue of money themselves. When women bring up the issue, responses range in dismissiveness from a simple “I got you” to “you have nothing to worry about.” The fact is that men, especially potential husbands, would prefer not to disclose that their annual earnings may or may not be conducive to a certain lifestyle. This is largely because men feel like their masculinity is tied to what they can or cannot provide for their mate. However, there needs to be clarity as to what one can and cannot afford. A common understanding about the financial state of affairs is essential before marriage.
Putting up a Façade / Keeping it real
“But he drives an Audi.” It’s no secret that many people live far beyond their means. The lack of communication about finances prior to marriage is further exacerbated when the wedding, itself, falsely gives the impression that a man makes more than he actually does. There are stories about couples that got married, moved into some luxury condominiums [In Toronto, some people refer to these as Hollywood.], and then moved back to the projects [no pun intended] after six months.
Inheriting Each Other’s Debts & Responsibilities / Ask and Answer the important questions
This may include student loans, unpaid credit card debt, a car note, or a plethora of other things. A man inherits the debts of his spouse, and he should discuss this issue with her to determine whether he is able and/or willing to take this debt on. Many women who are in debt are employed and are already actively repaying it. Nonetheless, it is the man’s responsibility to at least bring the subject to light. It is definitely something to consider and should be factored into whatever future plans he ultimately has. The opposite is also true. A woman may be expecting a certain type of lifestyle after marriage only to realize that her husband’s pre-marital debts have finally caught up to him. Open up the line of communication on all these issues that could cast a dark shadow on your future if neglected or tossed idly aside.
Discuss whether both of you are responsible for supporting other family members and how this affects your finances. A potential spouse may be responsible for paying certain bills, if not all, for another relative or family member. Make sure everything is clear before marriage. Ask the right questions!
Excessive and Costly Weddings & Mehr (Dowry) / Be moderate.
The dowry is NOT a life insurance plan just in case you divorce but rather a sign of commitment from the other party. Mehr should be set at a reasonable yet respectable amount. Unfortunately, public perception and a need to “keep up with the Joneses” are often the driving force behind mehr costs. Some may even announce a certain figure publicly, while agreeing to another privately. Brides should try to hold their families’ focus on what is just and respectable and not what is popular. Both parties should realize that the dowry is more likely than not being debited from the same account that will be paying next month’s rent. Most people spend months and even years recovering from the costs of a wedding and/or expensive honeymoon.
Opposing Money Habits / Make a plan.
Some people have bad spending habits. Others know how to save and buy only what they actually need. Some people have the ability to give charity without checking how much they have in the bank first. Others don’t, and that’s just life. People are different. Naturally, Allah has created us in all forms and fashions. It is not a flaw, but it can cause extreme marital problems when a couple does not discuss their pre-marriage spending habits. Half of the man’s earnings belong to his spouse. Define what you consider a major financial transaction and consult each other post-marriage. Discuss whether you want to open a joint account, separate accounts, or both.
-Allah Knows Best