Praise be to Allaah.
If you want to look for a wife for someone, or a husband for a woman, then
you can ask him about his wishes, such as the desired age, level of education, employment
situation, country and origin and position of the family, and whether he has any
preferences about her general appearance, such as skin colour, height, etc. The most
important characteristic to ask about is a person’s level of commitment to Islam.
This kind of useful question is fine.
But asking for details of a person’s past and wanting to know what
sins they might have committed when they were ignorant about Islam – this is not
right at all. Allaah covers people’s sins and loves to see them covered (i.e., not
dragged out into the open). So long as a person has repented, his sins have been wiped
out. Islam deletes whatever came before, so why should we ask questions that will only
embarrass people? Allaah accepts people’s repentance without their having to confess
or expose their sins to any other person. A number of the Sahaabah had committed adultery
and murder repeatedly, or had buried infant girls alive, or stolen things, but when they
entered Islam they were the best of people. No one needs to be reminded of a shameful
past; it is over and done with, and Allaah is the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. What
matters when considering a person for marriage is how that person is now: is he righteous
or not? Has he cut all ties with his past and his wrong deeds, or not? If he is clearly
living a good and righteous life now, then it is wrong to dig up the past. If there is any
fear of anything that could have future implications, such as certain diseases and so on,
then there are medical tests which can give the answer and put your mind at rest.
As far as giving a detailed description of a prospective wife to someone
is concerned, this can be done in writing: one of her mahram relatives (i.e. a blood
relative to whom marriage is permanently forbidden) or a woman who knows her can write
down a description, then a trustworthy person can deliver it to one who is seriously
considering a marriage proposal. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: “No woman should describe another woman to her husband as if he can see
her.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4839)
The wisdom behind this prohibition is the fact that a
husband might like the sound of what he hears, so he may divorce the one who described the
other to him, or there may be temptation to do wrong. (Commentary on the above
hadeeth in Fath al-Baari).
We ask Allaah to help us all to do that which He loves and
will earn His pleasure. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.