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Spouse Selection

By: Ali Akbar Mazaheri
In the previous discussions, especially the 5th chapter, some of the people for whom these discussion are arranged, would usually ask this question How and by what means should one recognize and select a spouse?
We gave them a short response, saying, please wait until we reach this topic and then we will give a detailed answer.
Now is the time for that.

Time to Act
Now that we have learnt the merits ad excellence of marriage, the time of marriage, the benefits of its early execution and demerits of its delay, the difficulties, hurdles and restraints on its way and their solutions and the standards of spouse selection and with the help of Allah decided to marry, how should we proceed?
Now that we have achieved the knowledge of its criteria, what is the way of identifying the spouse who may be concordant with these standards? and how can we ascertain that our standards have been secured?
Briefly, after getting to know the theory, we wish to practice it. so how must we cross this bridge?
Answer: At a time when the standards and principles are in one's hand and one knows what one wants, then moving on the way is not very difficult (although it is a small thing to do and needs concentration). It is like a traveller, who has a destination and knows which way he is heading and what is his object and goal. But such a traveller must have a guide map to reach his destination, safe and sound.
From the beginning of these discussions up to 5, the aim was described clearly (thanks to God). In this chapter, the guide map will InshaAllah, be illustrated and clarified.

Selection
Just as different standards are set up for handing over various office and posts and individuals are selected according to those standards and specifications, similarly, for selecting the post of spouse, person must be selected according to its criteria (for both a boy and a girl). This selection has a very important role to play in the lives of both.

Perfect Recognition
The girl and boy who want to select someone as their spouse must have a complete and all out recognition of that person.
The attainment of this recognition is one of the unavoidable necessities. In any case, it is not advisable for someone who wants to spend a whole lifetime beside a person and let him share all her belongings, tie up her fate with him and make him and intimate by making an eternal commitment, whilst not having sufficient recognition of that person. Carelessness and indifference in this field is a kind of suicide, which no clever, sane person can commit.
Following the selection of faith and school of thought, there is no other selection and decision as great and important as this one. No one affect our destiny as much as our spouse, following the prophets and divine leaders. (The impacts of parents relates mostly to pre-married age. Right now we are discussing marriage.)
One wonders with what kind of words and expression one must explain this importance. I believe the various dimensions and importance of the role of a spouse in one's destiny, and the essentiality of minute care in spouse selection cannot be defined as they should be.
Even spouses themselves may not perceive and weigh their mutual effects upon each other's destiny in the practical field (because the effects are gradual), but the effect does its work in a continued and permanent way.
The marital world is really a queer and strange world, full of secrets and signals, quite amazing and based upon wisdom.

Ways Of Spouse Selection

First Way: Seeking Advice
The worth and importance of advice is quite clear and vivid, so it is not necessary to discuss it. All that is important here is how to get advice in connection with spouse selection.

A Sage Guide
It is a must for every one to select a sage and wise guide and seek his advice in all the important matters of his life, even though he may have to face a tiresome search to find such a guide. This is because a guide ha s determinant effects upon human life.
For the youth, depending upon self-opinion, not seeking counsel can be dangerous, particularly in the problems of spouse selection. It may even cause inconceivable regrets.
Allah specifies the faithful as those who seek advice:


And their rule is to take counsel among themselves.
So this sag and wise guide must be consulted and counselled on all the phases of marriage and setting up of a joint life.

The Qualities of an Adviser
One cannot seek the advice of everybody, since if the adviser does not posses the characteristics of good counselling, he will misguide and distract the one seeking advice. As a result, the harm and damage will exceed the benefit (if any).
The adviser's qualities are as follows:
1- Religiousness
An irreligious man cannot be confided in. A religious one, besides being worthy of confidence, looks at the matters from an Islamic point of view and he gives his opinion according to Islamic standards.
2- Wits And Intelligence
3- Having Sufficient Knowledge And Awareness About The Problems Of Spouse Selection And Marriage.
4- Freedom and Independence Of Opinion Expression; He may express his opinion and belief freely and fearlessly, short of any wrong consideration. A person who lacks freedom of opinion may take some incorrect policies into consideration, which may harm the advice-seeker.
5- Having Goodwill
6- Trustworthy
Parents can have an important role in this connection and be sympathetic and well-wishing advisers to the youths. They may put their views and experiences at the disposal of their children, not thrusting and imposing those on them.

An Important Reminder
The youth, after having taken the views and advice of others, should make the decisions themselves. The linkage between the advice seeker and the adviser should be like that of the pilot with the 'control tower', that is to say, he may take the information and guidance, but the control and the decision must be in his own hand. Allah says about the Prophet (S):

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And take counsel with them in the affair, so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah;

Second Way: Mediator and Introducer
A person who introduces the boy and the girl for marriage is an introducer or mediator. Sometimes after introducing them, he even extends help and assistance in the process or he does not introduce, but the youth himself or his family turns to him for help in the search of a suitable person or for guidance in this regard. The worth and divine reward of this act ha s already been described.
This mediation and introduction and referring to the introducer or mediator can have a great importance in spouse selection. Therefore, one must be very careful in conducting this affair and must not depend or trust every Tom, Dick and Harry. Instead, the personality of the mediator must have some qualities. The boy and the girl also have some duties in this respect, which must be taken into consideration.

Kinds of Mediators

1- An Aware Well-Wisher
They know the standards and are familiar with the ways and means of this important responsibility and discharge it very well. One can trust confide in them.
The standard for recognizing and evaluating these 'mediators' and 'introducers' is the same as has been described in the discussion about counselling; which means, all those attributes and characteristics described for an advisor stand true and valid here too.
The advisor and introducer may be one person or two different person. That is to say, it is possible that the same man who is being consulted with becomes a mediator and introducer. He might also perform one job; i.e, he may have the capability of being an advisor, but may not know someone to be introduced.

2- An Unaware Well-Wisher
They have good intentions and want to do a good deed and be rewarded, but they do not know the ways and means. They intend to do good, but because they are unaware of the standards and manners of spouse selection, thy may bring damage. The intention is benevolent, but their practice is evil. Trusting them is harmful and the cause of repentance and agony.

A Sad specimen
There was a person who was a well-wisher, having pure intention and lofty courage. Well-wishing and doing good to others and helping them were part of his attributes and he was a success in these deeds. Once, among the numerous good deeds, which he performed, was introducing girl and boys to each others to mediate in marriage. Regretfully, he did not have sufficient experience, knowledge, and vision in this part of his activities, causing the usual failure of those marriages mediated by him.
One of the cases dealt by him is as follows: He introduced a girl named Afsana to a boy named Ghulam, praising her very much. Ghulam's brother who was aware of the nature of his brother and had acquired some information about Afsana as well, said to him, This girl is not suitable for my brother. They are not a match and cannot have a successful life. But the mediator insisted saying, Let then see each other and talk; they may reach and understanding.
Ghulam's brother who knew about his brother's weakness, indecisiveness and witlessness and had gathered an amount of information about the cunningness, glibness and evilness of Afsana, told the mediator, I know my brother very well. I am aware of his mental and spiritual conditions; and if he talks to Afsana, he would lose his heart in love with her and would submit to her will. And then then conventional agreement will take place, but this will not be a real harmony and will be followed by serious and grave results. But the mediator insisted with good will, since he did not have any negative intention.
Anyhow, Ghulam reached the stage of action. The brother talked to Ghulam as well, and told him, Brother, this girl does not suit you, and she is not fit for you. She has some peculiarities, which are not at all proper and proportional to you. If you marry her, your lives will be ruined.
Regretfully, his endeavours did not bring fruit. At last, Ghulam and Afsana met each other, resulting in what the brother was afraid of. Ghulam submitted to her and finally they were married.
As a result of this inauspicious marriage, such turmoil and disturbance took place that I do not remember any parallel to it. That is, I have never heard and seen such negative, unfortunate and adverse results in any marriage like that one.
The brother said to the mediator: See what you have done!
He replied: I had good intentions and never wanted all this.
The brother reflected: Yes I know that, but since you do not have the ability to do this, you happened to bring evil, so never carry on with these good deeds.
This mediator and introducer was the same one who introduced Islmail and Safoora whose story has already been described in the fifth chapter.

3- Persons who have bad intentions and evil cause and promote their own special benefits and profits
These persons have evil intentions and evil practices. They are similar to conjuror brokers who want to achieve their own benefits and secure their impure objectives through fraud, glibness, and a crafty character.
Youth and families must remain cautious and very careful that they are not get deceived by these impostors and hypocrites.

An Important Warning to The Youth
Although the mediators and introducers of the first group are absolutely dependable and trustworthy and are good help to the youth in spouse selection, this is not to say that whatever they say and introduce must be accepted by the youth. No! not at all! The youth themselves are the ones who must take the final decision. That is, the duty of those introducers is only extending help and guidance, but eh final decision is to be taken by the boy and the girl. This point must never be forgotten.

Third Way: Investigation
Investigation is among the important ways and means of this 'guide map.'
One day when I was busy writing this chapter, the agent of an organization who was making an investigation about a candidate for a fob met me. Following our discussion about the candidate, I said to the investigator: Since your job is so important, be very careful in the selection of individuals.
He told me: We investigate a person who wants to join our organization for nearly six months. We contact a large number of people who know him and take and take a great deal of consideration and investigation about him into account. If we do not find he meets our standards, we do not accept him.
After he left, I thought: If it is necessary to investigate a man for six months before handing him over an administrative responsibility, then how long must one investigate for the sake of spouse selection and handing over the charge of a lifelong responsibility of a joint life and the duty of bringing into existence a new generation, and selecting a spouse who plays a fundamental role in the prosperity or adversity of a person's world and hereafter? Moreover, if the person employed proves to be evil, he can easily be replace, but replacing a spouse, if he of she does not come up to be homogeneous, will be too much difficult or impossible!

Acceptance or Rejection Needs Logic
Just as someone must not be accepted as a spouse without sufficient logic and recognition, similarly, he or she must not be rejected without enough justification, logic and recognition. We must have logic for both acceptance and refection. Some people reject a person just because they do not have sufficient recognition of the person in question. It is as wrong as the acceptance short of recognition, because the rejected person may be a pious and suitable one and after losing him, we may not get at another one who is equally good.

The ways of investigation and how to cross them
The standard of investigation is not equal for all. The more the person under investigation is known to you, the less investigation would be required. The more unknown is a person, the more would it be necessary.
Those who want to marry among their relatives and acquaintances, their job would become easier and it may even not be necessary to observe all the problems, which have been mentioned about investigation. However, they too are not independent and free of investigation counselling and seeking advice. In any case, a complete and comprehensive recognition, variant ways should be moved upon and the minute details of the problems must be considered. Different information should be gathered and placed in an even order and considered and contemplated from all aspects to reach a result gradually.
Any information achieved on the way of investigation is a help and guidance toward the destination, whether small or large; since the details of a matter give man access to the principles. But each one of the details must not be depended upon separately to reach a result. Instead, a result may be concluded from the aggregation and collection of them, and a decision taken thereupon.
Now, we consider the ways, means and cases of investigation.

1- Consideration of the Conditions and Qualities of the Relatives of the Person
It has been described in chapter five under the topic 'family nobility' that some of the qualities and attributes spread over a family are common among the members of that progeny, like the branches which are nourished by the common roots. This is a good criterion and guide in investigation. You can, by considering the qualities and conditions of the relatives, strongly presume that such and such attributes, qualities, and peculiarities are present in the person in question.
The Prophet of Islam (S) said in this connection: Marry among so and so group (a person from that group) since they are men of modesty, thus their women too have become modest. And do not marry among such and such group of people, for their men committed immodesty, thus their women too became immodest. 1
In this hadith of the Prophet (S), modesty and immodesty have been described; so this gives us a good standard for investigating.

2-Investigating Through His Relatives
Relatives are aware of the qualities, spirit, morality and character of a person sand one can make and investigation about the person in question through them.

Attention
It is possible that the relatives and associated may not state the facts and may conceal any fault which they are aware of, due to the fear of the displeasure of the person or his family who might cone to know of it later, or on account of their love for them. Therefore, the views of the relatives cannot be a proof; instead, it can be a guide for the other phases of investigation. But if one gets satisfied that the person being counselled is a just and impartial one who does not hide the facts, he can be trusted.

A Safe And Sure Way
If someone has a sincere friend among the relatives of the person he wishes to select, he has an advantage and a benefit, and a safe canal and way to reach his object.

3- Through His/Her Close Friends
Classmates, co-workers and close friends who have been in contact and associated to him for a long time are good for investigation.
All that has been described about the relatives (advisability and concealment) stands here also.

4-Through Teachers, Administrators and Managers
They may know certain point, which even the relatives and close friends do not know. There is less or no chance of the difficulty concerning hiding and concealing and advisability, because neither they are his/her conventional relatives and friends nor do they see any need for concealing things. Besides, these individuals are usually sagacious and wise person.

5- Investigation Through His/Her Enemies
Enemies of a person describe his faults more explicitly. Of course , the view of these people (enemies) is never a proof and must not be practised as a criterion. It is only useful for the sake of collecting informative data and per-awareness. The faults and flaws of the person described by them may not be attended to or become the basis of any practice, unless they are proved by other ways and means too.

Fourth Way: Sending A Messenger
This is among the best means of the guide map and can be practised as follows: The boy, the girl, and their families may choose a number of relatives and acquaintances and send them to the manner and mode of their delegation before actually sending them for the important mission, so that their standards, points of view, and perception, which must be taken in view by them, can be explained to them.

The Peculiarities of a Messenger
Not everyone can be sent for this fate-deciding mission; instead thy must have some peculiarities:
1- Mindful and clever
2- Well-wishing
3- Trustworthy
4- Possessing correct standards and experience
5- Both young and aged ones should be include in the delegation (group),since the older ones will have experiences which the young ones may not, and the younger ones may have standards and insights which maybe lacking by the older ones.
After the return of the delegates from their mission, the boy the girl and their families may take the information and the views and think, take advice and contemplate them from all aspects before deciding what steps should be taken next.

Attention
The information and views of the delegates are a guide and not a final authority, and there is always a possibility of their erring in their opinion.
In this phase too the girl and the boy are the final decision makers, after having studied all the aspects of the matter.

Fifth Way: Writing a Letter
If the ground is levelled after crossing the pervious ways and the boy and the girl come close to a positive decision, then the next step can be letter writing. Here we so not mean those dirty, we mean they may send some people write, instead, we mean they may send letters based upon modesty and religion through messengers, with the consent of their families, wherein they can describe: their aims, objectives, wishes, aspirations and hopes regarding the spouse and their pertaining standards, future plans and programmes and their spirit about such matters, short of any misinterpretations, concealment of facts and wrong presentation.
If written truly and honestly, these letters can be a medium of mutual recognition and can also be effective in making the final decision.

Attention
In these letters, passionate and stimulating matters must not be written in any case, because:
Firstly: these things are anti-religious and prohibited.
Secondly: these things weaken the power of the mind with respect to making correct decision and hand the work over the heart (sentiments).
Thirdly: so far it is not known whether marriage will materialise or not, since they might reach a negative result.

Sixth Way: Photograph
Following the pervious stage, if there is a positive result in hand an the girl and the boy have not seen each other, then seeing photographs can be effective in enhancement of recognition and reaching a decision.
Again, the exchange of photographs does not mean anything against modesty, instead, they must be sent through trustworthy messenger of the family and returned after being seen.
This can in no way be a logic and proof, since a photo can not describe the interior facts of a person, even to the extent that it can not perfectly exhibit the apparent view, but it is a partial guide toward recognition and a short step towards the later steps to be taken.

Seventh Way: Direct Talk
Direct negotiation is among the most important and effective ways of the 'guide map'. Following the crossing of the pervious ways and achieving a positive result, the boy and the girl must definitely have direct dialogue to consider and discuss their problems and views in a comfortable atmosphere without any fear and pressure from others. This talk should take place in an emotion free way with preparation and readiness.
There should be a distance between the decision to talk and its being conducted, so that both may prepare themselves and note down all that they intend to discuss. It is better if these talks are held at interval. As a whole, whatever time is necessary may be put at their disposal.
One of the important benefits of these talks is that both parties can discover and understand a great deal of interior mysteries, qualities and conditions of each other.
The commander of believers Ali (a.s) said:

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Whatever a person thinks about, is revealed by the slips of the tongue and facial expressions. 2
This is a principle of psychology, which Imam (a.s) described in this way. It means that the internal conditions and affairs are sometimes made evident and manifest by the slip of the tongue and expression of the face. It is a good doorway to studying the interior of a human and his conscience.
Mothers and fathers who desire the prosperity and felicity of their children must help and assist them in this important problem and provide the grounds ad the necessary comfort and peace for them. But it is not for them to prevent it and exhibit undue prejudice. This talk is desirable from Islamic and logical points of view.
It is not for us to become more severe than Islam and more Muslim than the Muhammad (S), Many times the girl's parents have been observed preventing this talk in the name of Islam and modesty, whereas Islam and modesty commands us to provide the means to our children's felicity. This talk has a vital role in bringing about the prosperity of the husband and the wife.

The Method of This Meeting
The topics to be discussed in this meeting are different and variant, since person, their beliefs, aspirations, ambitions, aims and desires are variant. Nonetheless, some topics are general and it is essential to discuss them. Therefore, we describe some of these so that the youth may use them as the agenda of the meeting.
1- Describing the Course of Future Life
In other words, they should describe on which foundation they with to erect the structure of life. For instance, a religious youth wants his life to be founded upon the basis of Islamic laws and his/her spouse should also be like that. And both of them should be submissive to Islam in all of life's affairs.
2- Discussing the Future Aims
They should describe their aims, which they want to achieve in their future lives, such as their targets and ambitions in the field of knowledge, morality, social life and job etc.
Also, the probable changes, modifications and transpositions of their future life, which have been described in chapter 5, and which we said it was necessary for the spouses to discuss before marriage, are suitable here (please refer to chapter 5).
3- The True Description of One's Attributes, Morality And Others Peculiarities
4- Description of Demands And Expectations From Each Other
5- Description of One's Views About How To Conduct Relations And Contacts With The Family, Relatives, And Associates of Each Other
6- The Discussion of The Style And Mode of Their Children's Training
7- Description of One's Ailments, Disabilities And Diseases (if any)
If The boy and girl have a disease of handicap, they must truthfully describe them without any exaggeration; because:
Firstly: this work is obligatory, hiding and concealing the flaws and shortcomings is reckoned to be a fraud, cheating, and hypocrisy, and it is prohibited and unlawful.
Secondly: if the handicap and shortcoming is described at the early stage, the party accepts him/her along with that defect or rejects it. If they accept it, then they prepare themselves to endure it and take that man/woman to be a true, straightforward and daring one and so they, start loving him/her. In the future, he/she will not consider him/her self to be cheated. But if it is not made known and the bond takes shape short of the other party's knowledge, then after being made aware of that handicap or shortage, the side not knowing it would consider him/her self as being cheated, and then plenty of difficulties and complications would follow.
And the love of the spouse would finish in his/her heart and he/she would start to bear a grudge against him/her, because nobody loves a cheat. If the incapacity or shortage had been truthfully told earlier, it would possibly have been accommodated. But after marriage, it is quite different.
When the hidden secret are manifest
The faces with make up are disgraced
Cheating and pompous show is a shame
Bad is it although acted nicely.3

Attention
There is no need to describe some of the shortcomings, ailments, and wrongs of the past, which do not have any relation with the rights of the spouse and the future life.
If there was, or is a defect and blemish, which you do not know whether its description pertains to the spouse's rights and future life, consult a wise person as has been described before in chapter 6.

Do Not Accept Any Undue Conditions And Demands
Sometimes, it is observed that the boy or girl present and impose conditions and demands which are unjust and unfair and deprives the other party from its legal and established rights, and negates its discretion or liberty.
These demands and conditions must not be accepted in any situation. The discretion, liberties and rights given by Allah to each man and woman should not be given up by accepting such conditions. Do not tell yourself now I accept it, but I will not implement it afterwards, because the acceptance of a condition brings commitment:

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The believers must practice upon their conditions (commitments).
The discretions of men and women are of two kinds; i.e., the established and obligatory and the non-obligatory. The non-obligatory ones can be omitted, but the obligatory and established right and discretions should not be surrendered to anybody. Allah made them obligatory on account of wisdom advisability, and expedience. Losing them would be against wisdom and expedience, damaging life, and diverting it from its natural course.
In the age of Imam Ali (a.s), a man accepted a condition of his spouse, which had caused the loss of one of his specific rights. Imam (a.s) objected to it, saying, Why do you give away a right, which Allah has fixed for you, through a condition? This condition is not valid and is void. And anything which Allah has fixed can not be changed and transformed by making a condition.4
The obligatory and non-obligatory rights have been discussed in the Islamic problems of jurisprudence and law.

Eighth Way: Seeing Each Other
After all the pervious ways have been crossed and a positive result is achieved and all matters are on the right course with no hurdle on the way to marriage, before taking the last and final decision, the boy and girl should see each other, if they have not done so previously.
Seeing the face and appearance is one of the most essential and necessary problems of the 'guide map'. Every judicious mind decides that two spouses who are supposed to live together for a life-time, must, apart from the homogeneity and harmony in problems described so far, like each other's apparent looks too.
And this liking or disliking involves and necessitates seeing each other.
Howsoever the praise and definition of other may be, it is not sufficient. Instead, the boy and girl should see each other, since their tastes are different.5 Seeing a small portion of the face too is not sufficient, instead, it should be seen completely, openly, and evidently so that no ambiguity is left over.
Let it not be said: We are pleased with everything and since our aims and criteria are secured, the looks and facial features are not important. This is because the liking or disliking of the looks and features of the intended spouses may affect all the previous results.
As a slogan it can be said: If the spouse has such and such qualities and attributes, the other things would not be important; but when one enters the practical stage or comes to face the facts, it does make a difference.

Considering This Topic In The Light of Traditions
A man named Mughaira bin Shoba asked for the hand of a woman in marriage, but apparently he had not properly seen her. The prophet of Islam (S) said to him:

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Had you seen her, there would have been more hope of a prolonged and durable agreement and understanding between you two (during you life). 6
Likewise, the Prophet (S) said to one of his companions who wanted to propose a woman:
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Look at her face and hands. 7
A man asked Imam As-Sadiq (a.s): Can a man who intends to marry a woman see her hair and beauties?
The Imam (a.s) said: There is no problem if he does not have the intention of enjoying it (he really wishes and intends to marry her).8
We have many traditions in this connection which have described more sensitive topics. Here we restrain ourselves to these hadiths.
We turn to the word of Ayatollah Amini in this respect: Boys and girls are advised no to prevent being seen and each one of them should permit the other to see him or her. It is better than marrying without seeing and afterwards being unhappy. And, as a consequence of this, they may reach divorce or be obliged to lead their lives in a state of displeasure, discomfort, frigidity and dispute.9

Caution
The problems concerning seeing and approving, like all selection problems, should not reach the limit of obsession, rather, it should be an average and accustomed amount.
In this case too, minute care, yes, but obsession, no!

Protecting The Girl's Dignity
Particular minute care and delicateness may be exercised in the problem of seeing the girl, meaning the dignity and honour of the girl should be kept in view and not damaged.
It must not be that the girl is shown to whoever comes to ask for her hand in marriage, prior to investigation, advice seeking and attaining sufficient recognition of the boy; This is so that afterwards, it is not discovered that she is unsuitable or the two of them do not match each other and then he walks out and another one turns up and the process continues repeatedly. This manner and style of practice damages the dignity of the girl and has a negative effect upon her morale. The more modest and chaste is the girl, the more she would be pained and hurt.
The correct style of action in this regard is that whenever someone comes with a proposal, at first all the prefaces and the ways of recognition such as investigation, advice seeking, and sending messengers should be moved upon and when all the dimensions of the affair are judged and it becomes clear that the boy does not have any negative intention and they are a match for each other, without any hurdle and constraint on the way to marriage with a strong probability of their marriage, only then would the time be appropriate for them to see each other as a last and final phase of selection.
Approval is limited, confined and specified to a serious intention of marriage with a specifies and fixed person under special conditions and circumstances. One cannot see everybody on the pretext of marriage. Islam has given permission only in this case an for the same specified and fixed matter. And ay sighting and seeing outside this framework is prohibited.
1. Marriage in the school of the prophet's progeny, by Najafi Yazid, p 88.
2. Nahjul Balagha, Subhi Saleh, wisdom 26.
3. Ustad Jawad Mohaddesi.
4. This subject has been described in the previous chapter under the title of beauty.
5. This subject has been described in the previous chapter under the title of beauty.
6. Wasail al-Shia
7. Mustadrak al-Wasail
8. Wasail al-Shia, vol. 14, p 60.
9. Spouse selection, p 114.

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