Is his hair nicely styled? Is he the perfect height?
Is her makeup just right? Does her body have the perfect curves?
This is packaging, it's irrelevant.
American, Pakistani, Mexican, Egyptian, Bengali, Indonesian, black, white, brown, this is a veneer. It's unimportant in the long run. When you're sick and battling to recover, it's not an American who holds you and tells you that it will be okay, who makes you chicken soup with lemon and ginger… It's a human being, a husband or wife who loves you.
We must get beyond superficial and meaningless classifications like race and nationality.
Does he wear Armani suits cut just right? Are his shoes sleek and shiny? Does her clothing drape elegantly on her figure?
You know what? That Armani suit can't stand on its own. It needs a hangar just to stay upright. That elegant clothing can't raise your children right.
We must learn to look beyond appearances. I'm not saying that appearance is irrelevant, but how much of our attraction is based on true human beauty, and how much is based on distorted standards and poisonous imagery pumped into our brains by TV, movies, advertising, magazines and billboards? In other words, to what degree have we been brainwashed?
The world of advertising teaches us to focus on the wrong things. Consultants are paid millions of dollars to design the perfect package for a box of cereal or an energy drink, just the right shape and bright color to catch your eye and entice you to buy. Meanwhile, the product – as often as not – is actually bad for you, consisting of empty calories, sugar, chemicals and dyes. They are teaching us to make choices based on packaging and image, and what they are teaching us is entirely ruinous and wrong.
Human beings, however, are not consumer products. We're not disposable. When you marry someone you're in it for the long haul. You're with them when they wake up in the morning with crust in their eyes and hair stuck to one side of the their head; when they get laid off from their job and you don't know how the bills will get paid next month; when they're depressed, tired, sick; when they make mistakes, when they say and do the wrong things, when they lose their temper, when they're afraid or insecure…
This is as serious as it gets. This is life, and the right package won't get you through it, won't help on you the path, won't hold you up when you're weak, or put a smile in your heart when you're down. The package can't do that. Remember that when you buy something, the package ends up in the trash. If you choose someone for the package only, you may be bitterly disappointed when the storm comes and no one is there to keep you safe.
These are lessons learned through heartache and disappointment. These are lessons I have learned.
Look deeper. Find a gentle heart, a strong backbone, a striving spirit. Look to what the person does, how they live, how they treat people, how they relate to the Almighty. Look to that shimmering soul inside, and discern whether it's a selfish and bitter soul, or loving and true. Look beyond the packaging to the person inside, and trust your fitrah-based instincts, and you'll find yourself a rare happiness, and a precious partnership.
The most beautiful, powerful things in the world don't come in packages. Mountains, trees, ocean, sky, stars… their true attributes are bared to the world. They don't need packages because they are beautiful and profound in their essence.
By basing your life choices on matters of substance, you'll avoid social and financial traps that ruin so many. You'll build friendships as real and solid as mountains, with people you can trust with your honor, your heart and your life. You'll do work that matters, and leave a legacy that improves people's lives in unforgettable ways.
The Noble Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
"A woman may be married for four qualities, for her property, her rank, her beauty, and her religion (piety); so get the religious one and prosper."
(Hadith Bukhaari (5090), Muslim (1466) )