Is it permitted to set up a meeting with someone whom you are considering for marriage? Also, can you please provide me with a list of questions that can be asked of a potential spouse?
It is permitted, rather recommended, to look at a prospective fiancé before marriage provided one is seriously contemplating marriage. This is allowed even if one fears sexual desire (shahwa), given the seriousness of the situation. The Fiqh rulings regarding this were explained in detail in an earlier answer titled “Looking at a Suitor and Showing Hair” which can be found by searching through the archives on this website.
Sayyiduna Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When one of you proposes to a woman for marriage, then if he is able to look at that which will induce him to marry her, he should do so.”(Sunan Abi Dawud and Musnad Ahmad)
Mulla Ali al-Qari, the great scholar of Hadith and Hanafi jurist, states in his renowned work Mirqat al-Mafatih, quoting from al-Teebi, that the meaning of the Messenger of Allah’s statement, “If he is able to look at that which will induce him to marry her, he should do so” refers to her wealth, status, beauty and religion (deen).”(Mirqat al-Mafatih, 6/198)
As such, if one desires to set up a meeting with a member of the opposite gender whom one is seriously considering for marriage, then this is permitted. This will provide an opportunity for both parties to learn about one another, ask questions of one another and generally get a better understanding of aspects related to the wealth, status, beauty, and specifically, religion (deen) of the other person.
The condition, however, is that they must avoid being alone (khalwa), as being alone with a non-Mahram member of the opposite gender is unlawful even with the intention of marriage. Sitting in a room with the door ajar and other family members within the house capable of entering upon the couple at any point would be sufficient to avoid Khalwa.
In terms of what type of questions should be asked of one’s prospective fiancé, this really depends on each individual, what they are looking for in marriage and what expectations they have from their potential spouse. Hence, it is difficult for me to compile a definitive list of questions, since each individual is different. Nevertheless, some general questions that have randomly come to mind are presented below:
1) Are you from the Ahl al-Sunna Wa ‘l-Jama’a?
2) Have you studied Islamic Creed (aqida), and if so, which text have you studied?
3) Do you have any objections to the Ash’ari or Maturidi understandings of Islamic Creed?
4) Do you follow a School of Islamic law (fiqh madhhab), and if so, which one?
5) What is your take on Islamic spirituality?
6) Do you have any problems with taking the path of Shari’a-based Sufism (tasawwuf)?
7) Have you studied the Fiqh of marriage?
8) How well do you know the letter and spirit of marriage Islamically?
9) What is your concept of an Islamic marriage?
10) What are your expectations from marriage?
11) How well do you know the rights and responsibilities of the spouses?
12) What are your goals in life?
13) What expectations do you have from your spouse?
14) How punctual are you with your five time daily prayers?
15) Do you pay your Zakat regularly?
16) How are you with your obligatory and optional fasting?
17) Have you performed Hajj or Umra, and if so, how many times?
18) How much time do you spend in worshipping your Lord?
19) Do you take part in any Islamic activities, and if so, how much time do you spend in such activities?
20) How much portion of the Qur’an have you memorised?
21) How much Qur’an do you recite daily/weekly?
22) Which Hadith book have you studied?
23) How many Hadiths have you memorized?
24) Which book on the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) Sirah have you studied?
25) How much time do you spend in reciting Salawat upon the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace)?
26) Have many supplications (duas) do you know by memory?
27) Have you attended any Islamic courses, and if so, who were the teachers?
28) Which past and present day scholars have the most influence on you?
29) Do you like reading?
30) Which Islamic and non-Islamic book are you currently reading?
31) How do you conduct your business dealings?
32) What is the source of your income, and is your income Halal?
33) How much do you earn or how much do you expect to earn after marriage?
34) Do you have a habit of taking loans?
35) How good are you in repaying debts on time?
36) How do you spend your money?
37) What expectations do you have from your spouse financially?
38) Are you financially responsible for other members of your family?
39) How is your relationship with your family and friends?
40) Do you have any current disputes with anyone?
41) If you wrong someone, how do you apologize?
42) How much time passes before you can forgive someone?
43) Are you easily angered or does it take you a long time to get angry?
44) How do you express your anger?
45) What do you do when you get angry?
46) Do you use foul or slanderous language in your conversations?
47) When there is a dispute in your marriage, how should the conflict be resolved?
48) How is your relationship with your family?
49) What do you expect your spouse’s relationship with your family to be?
50) Will you be living with your family (short term and long term)?
51) Do you have many friends, and if so, what will your relationship with them be after marriage?
52) How do you like spending your free time?
53) Do you like to entertain guests in your home?
54) Do you like travelling, and if so, what kind of places do you like to visit?
55) Which countries have you travelled to?
56) How do you like to spend your holidays?
57) Do you suffer from any chronic disease or illness?
58) Do you want to have children, and if not, why?
59) Do you want to have children in the beginning of your marriage, or would you prefer to practice contraception?
60) If you do not wish to have children in the beginning of your marriage, then when would you like to have children?
61) What kind of names do you like to name your children with?
62) What is the best way of raising children Islamically?
63) How serious are you with Islamic and secular education for your children?
64) Would you like your children to excel more in Islamic education, secular or both?
65) Would you want your children attending public School, or you prefer home schooling?
The above are just some of the questions that could be asked of a potential spouse. The list is by no means exclusive, and as such, each individual may add or overlook questions according to their situation, Insha Allah.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK