Selecting a Wife
The first and foremost vital quality for a wife is righteousness. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) urged the men to seek a woman of faih and piety, and indicated that a man attains happiness through marrrying her.
Abu hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"A woman is sought in marriage for four reasons: wealth, social status, beauty and din (piety). So seek one with din - may you then be successful."
Thawban (radi'Allahu anhu) reported that when Allah revealed the warning in regard to those who trasure gold and silver, the sahabah (radi'Allahu anhum) wondered, "What kind of wealth should we then keep?" And Umar (radi'Allahu anhu) said, "I will find the answer to this." He rode his camel fast until he caught up with Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and he (Thawban) was right behind him. He asked, "O Allah's Messenger! What kind of wealth should we keep?" He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied:
"Let each of you keep a heart grateful (to Allah), a tongue constantly extolling (Allah), and a believing wife who would assist him in regard to the affairs of the hereafter."
Abu Umamah and Ali (radi Allahu anhum) similarly reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"A heart grateful to Allah, a tongue extolling (Allah), and a righteous wife who would assist you in the affairs of your life and religion - these are people's best treasures."
2. Good Character
One should seek a wife who is known to be of good character or who has been raised in a good moral athmosphere. In a hadith similar to the earlier one by Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa'id al-hudri (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"A woman is (usually) married for one of the three qualities:
she is married for her wealth; she is married for her beauty; or she is married for her religion. So take the one of religion and manners - may your right hand then be prosperous.''
A woman of low moral standards should be avoided, even if she has other attractive qualities such as wealth or beauty.
Abu Musa al-Ashari (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"There are three individuals that, when they supplicate to Allah, their supplication is not answered:
A man who has a wife of bad character but he does not divorce her, a man wholends money to another man without taking witness, and a man who gives money to a weak-minded person."
In this hadith, "bad character" pretains mostly to qualities such as looseness and promiscuity, making the woman's conduct dubious and her chastity questionable. A man who keeps such a wife is a daayuth.
Virginity is not a condition for marriage, but it is a recommended quality, provided that one has both options and that the women he is considering are equal in other respects. Virginity then becomes a weighing factor for a number of reasons that will be outlined in the subsequent sub-sections.
Jabir Bin Abdillah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that when his father died, he left behind him nine girls that Jabir had to look after. Soon after that, Jabir married a non-virgin, and when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) met him he asked him, "Have you married, O Jabir?" He replied, "Yes." He asked him, "Is she a virgin or non-virgin?" He replied, "Non-virgin." He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) then said:
"Shouldn't you have considered a virgin who plays with you and you play with her, and she laughts with you and you with her?"
Jabir replied, "Indeed, my father Abdullah died leaving many daughters. I did not want to add to them another young girl like themselves, so I married a grown woman to take care of them and look after them." Allah's messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Indeed, you have made a good decision. May Allah bless that tremendously for you."
4. Ability to bear children
Since one of the important purposes of marriage is reproduction, it is recommended to marry a younger wman who would normally be more likely to bear many children. In turn, this is more likely to apply to virgins than non-virgins.
Abdullah Bin Mas'ud (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Marry virgins, because they have sweeter mouths (i.e., speech) and more fertile wombs, and are easier to be satisfied with little wealth."
Ma'qil Bin Yasar (radi Allahu anhu) reported that a man came to Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and said, "I have encountered a woman of honor and beauty, but she cannot bear children. Should I marry her?" He said, "No!" After asking him two more times, Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Marry a woman who is loving and can bear many children, because I will boast of your numbers (on Resurrection Day)."
5. Loving Attitude
One should seek to marry a woman who is expected to have a loving and caring attitude toward her husband. This is normally possible to sense from her enviroment and family's reputation. The above hadith of Ma'qil Bin Yasar (radi Allahu anhu) alludes to this. Similarly, Abu Uthaynah as-Sadafi (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"The best of your women are those who are bearers of many children, loving (to their husbands), comforting, and tolerant - provided that they have taqwa of Allah.
And the worst of your women are those who display their charms (to other than their husbands), and who walk with arrogance. Such are the hypocrties, and those of them who will enter Jannah are as rare as are the red-beaked and red-legged crows."
Ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)"
"Your women who will be the dwellers of Jannah are those who are loving (to their husbands), bearers of many children, and caring toward their husbands."
An important quality to be sought in a wife is contentment. A dissatisfied wife would make her husband miserable and push him to do anything to please her.
It is easier for avirgin than a non-virgin to be content with her husband's financial situation and with what he gives her. Similar to Ibn Mas'ud's earlier hadith, Jabir Bin Abdillah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Seek (in marriage) virgins, because they have more fertible wombs, sweeter speech, less slyness, and are easily satisfied with little (wealth)."
And Utbah Bin Uwaym Bin Sa'idah al-Ansari (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalla) said:
"Marry virgins! They have sweeter speech, more fertible wombs, and are satisfied with little."
Naivety, simplicity, and innocence of heart are commendable qualities to be sought in aq wife, and are more present in virgins than non-virgins - because of their lesser experience in the ways of life. This is demonstrated in the above hadith of Jabir (radi Allahu anhu)
Beauty, wealth and prestige are all mentioned in the earlier hadith of Abu Hurayrah as being secondary qualities that should not be sought at the cost of rightousness. However, we cannot totally disregard these qualities - especially beauty. Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"The best of women is that who pleases him (i.e., her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he orders, and does not subject her person or money to what he dislikes."
Similairly, Abdullah Bin Salam (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah's Messneger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was asked, "Who are the best of women?" He replied:
"The best of women is that who pleases you when you look at her, obeys you when you order her, and safeguards you during your absence in regard to herself and your wealth."
A Woman's appearance being "pleasing" to her husband applies first to pleasing him when he observes her righteousness and obedience to Allah. But it may also apply to pleasing him with her physical beauty. That is why it has been ordained to look at a woman when courting her.
A man should seek a wife who is compatible with him, and a woman should seek a husband compatible with her. Aishah (radi Allahu anha) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Make a (good) choice for your seed: marry (women) who are compatible (to you), and marry (your daughters) to them (who are compatible)"
The question is in regard to the definition of compatibility. In general, it has two major requirements: din and character. These two qualities are among the required qualities for a wife that we discussed above, and are emphasized in Abu Hurayrah's hadith in the next section regarding the husband.
Din and character may not be compromised and are the focal point for compatibility. A man or woman who is lacking in either of them is a poor candidate and should not be considered.
Other qualities may add to the compatibility between the two spouses, but none of them can be considered mandatory. Among the examples of compatibility factors is age, language, financial status, family status, national background, etc.
However, one must understand that, except for din and character, all of the other qualities are secondary and should not be overplayed, especially if they would be grounds for discrimination based on race, social status, country of origin, etc.
With the above understanding, we can say that age is an important "secondary"compatibility factor. It could become major if the age difference is such to prevent one of the two spouses from being able to fulfill the marital rights of his (or her) partner.
(The Quest for Love & Mercy - Regulations for Marriage & Wedding in Islam - Muhammad Mustafa al-Jibaly)