Ahmad bin ‘Abthar relates the story of his marriage to Raihanah (second wife of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal) in the following words:
” When Umm Salih died, Ahmad said to a woman among them, ‘Go to so-and-so, the daughter of my uncle, and make a proposal of marriage from me to her.’
She said, ‘So I went to her and she accepted his proposal.’ When she returned to him he said, ‘Did her sister hear your words?’
He further asked, ‘And she has only one eye?’
She said, ‘Yes.’
He then said, ‘Go to her and propose marriage to the one who has only one eye.’
So she went to her and she accepted the proposal, and she was the mother of his son, ‘Abdullah. “
[Tareekh Al-Islam by Az-Zahabi (vol. 18, pp.95)]
It was said that Raihanah (wife of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (R)) said to him, a few days after she had taken up residence with him in his home, ‘Do you have any (adverse) comments about me?’
He said, ‘None, except with regard to these shoes which you wear, such shoes were not worn during the time of the Messenger of Allah sallahu alayhi wasalam.’
So she sold the shoes and bought a torn pair*, which she then wore.
[From : The Biography of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal by Salahuddin Ali Abdul Mawjood, pp.17]
[[[Torn pair* : this probably refers to not a a very brand new pair. And Allah SWT knows best whether there’s an error/weakness in translation or whether it was actually a torn pair. -Umm Sulaym]]]
A story that I had read before and I thought I will post it here to re-inforce the idea behind this issue:
Yahyâ b. Yahyâ Al-Naysâbûri reports:
I was once with Sufyân b. ‘Uyainah – Allah have mercy on him, when a man came to him and said, “O Abû Muhammad, I complain to you of so-and-so”, meaning his wife, “I am the lowest and most despicable thing to her.”
[Sufyân] lowered his head for a few moments, then said, “Perhaps you wanted her in order to better your status.”
The man said, “Indeed, O Abû Muhammad.”
Sufyân said, “Whoever goes for glory will be tried with ignominy, whoever goes for wealth will be tried with poverty, but whoever goes for religiousness, Allah will bring together for him glory and wealth with the religion.”
He then started to narrate to him:
We were four brothers: Muhammad, ‘Umrân, IbrâhÎm and I. Muhammad was the eldest, ‘Umrân was the youngest, and I was in the middle. When Muhammad wanted to marry, he desired status and married a woman of higher standing, so Allah tried him with ignominy. ‘Umrân desired wealth, so he married a richer woman and Allah tried him with poverty: [her family] took everything from him and gave him nothing.
I pondered their situation. Mu’ammar b. Râshid once came to us so I consulted him on the situation and told him the story of my brothers.
He reminded me of the hadÎth of Yahyâ b. Ja’dah and the hadith of ‘Â`ishah. The hadÎth of Yahyâ b. Ja’dah states that the Prophet – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – said,
‘A woman is married for four things: her religion, her status (lineage), her wealth or her beauty; so take the religious one and be successful.‘ The hadÎth of ‘Â`ishah states that the Prophet – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – said, ‘The most blessed woman is she who is easiest to maintain.’
Thus, I chose [to marry a woman of] religion and modest dowry, in accordance with the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and Allah gave me status and wealth along with the religion.
[Abû Nu’aym, Hilyatu Al-Awliyâ` 7:289, 290.]
The first hadÎth is recorded by Al-BukhârÎ and Muslim. The second is found in Al-Nasâ’i and other collections but has been graded weak by scholars including Shaykh Al-AlbânÎ. However, scholars point out there is another narration that supports and adds to its meaning. This hadÎth states:
It is from the blessing in a woman that she has an easy dowry, an easy proposal [via her guardian] and an easy womb (i.e. she is fertile and bears children without difficulty).
One of the reporters of this narration, ‘Urwah, said “And I say from myself, one of the first signs of evil from a woman is for her to have a high dowry.”
This hadith is recorded by Imâm Ahmad and others and is graded hasan by Shaykh Al-AlbânÎ.
If you select something due to materialistic reasons, then know that, that is what you’ll get out of it.
If you select something solely for Allah SWT’s Sake with the right intention, then Allah SWT makes your investment and your leap of faith worthwhile.
Notice in the first story of Raihanah (R), she was amazing in that she obeyed her husband in the Sunnah without questioning or arguing because I assure you like how men had same temptations from the beginning of times. Women too definitely had the same temptations, desires and weaknesses from the beginning of time even though there wasn’t any Skechers, Calvin Klein etc. back then. That was the fruit of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (R)’s decision in selecting the right spouse even though she had an eye defect.
In the second story, it’s even more clear. I know I’ve seen unhappy marriages, tons of them. Some are tests while some are fruits of what you put in, in the initial stages. Start off with Haraam and/or with messed up intentions, know that your end won’t be that amazing unless you go back to Allah SWT.
And Allah SWT knows best.