It has been narrated on the authority of Sahl bin Sa'd As-Saa'ideey that A woman came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, "O Messenger of Allah! I have come to give you myself in marriage (without Mahr)." The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, looked at her. He looked at her carefully and fixed his glance on her and then lowered his head. When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man from his Companions got up and said, "O Messenger of Allah! If you are not in need of her, then marry her to me." The Prophet said, "Have you got something to offer (as a Mahr)?" The man said, "No, by Allah, O Messenger of Allah!" The Prophet said (to him), "Go to your family and see if you have something." The man went and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, I have not found anything." The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said, "(Go again) and look for something, even if it is an iron ring." He went again and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, O Messenger of Allah! I could not find even an iron ring, but this is my Izaar (a waist-sheet which covers the lower half of the body)." He had no Ridaa’.( a garment which covers the upper half of the body). He added, "I give half of it to her." The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said, "What will she do with your Izaar? If you wear it, she will be naked, and if she wears it, you will be naked." So that man sat down for a long while and then got up (to leave). When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saw him leaving, he ordered that he be called back. When he came, the Prophet said, "How much of the Qur'an do you know?" He said, "I know such Surah and such Surah," "Do you know them by heart?" He replied, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Go, I marry her to you for that much of the Qur'an which you have."
This hadith can be found in Sahih al-Bukhari, in the Book of Marriage (Kitaab un-Nikaah) under the following chapter heading: “CHAPTER. The marrying of the poor by virtue of the Statement of Allah, the Most High, "If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His Bounty." (Qur’an Surah an-Nur (24), Ayah #32)”
عَنْ ثَابِتًا الْبُنَانِيَّ قَالَ كُنْتُ عِنْدَ أَنَسٍ وَعِنْدَهُ ابْنَةٌ لَهُ قَالَ أَنَسٌ جَاءَتْ امْرَأَةٌ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَعْرِضُ عَلَيْهِ نَفْسَهَا قَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَلَكَ بِي حَاجَةٌ فَقَالَتْ بِنْتُ أَنَسٍ مَا أَقَلَّ حَيَاءَهَا وَا سَوْأَتَاهْ وَا سَوْأَتَاهْ قَالَ هِيَ خَيْرٌ مِنْكِ رَغِبَتْ فِي النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَعَرَضَتْ عَلَيْهِ نَفْسَهَا
It has been narrated on the authority of Thaabit Al-Bunaani who said, “I was with Anas while his daughter was present with him. Anas said, "A woman came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and presented herself to him, saying, 'O Messenger of Allah, have you any need for me (i.e. would you like to marry me)?' "Thereupon, the daughter of Anas said, "What a shameless lady she was! Shame! Shame!" Anas said, "She was better (khayr) than you; she had a liking for the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, so she presented herself for marriage to him."
This hadith can also be found in Sahih al-Bukhari, in the Book of Marriage (Kitaab un-Nikaah) under the following chapter heading: “CHAPTER: A woman can present herself (for marriage) to a righteous man (ar-rajuli-saalihi).”
With these hadith in mind, let's examine the definition of the word Sunnah. According to Shehu ‘Uthman Dan Fodiyo in his famous book Ihya us-Sunnah wa Ikhmaadul-Bid’ah (The Revival of the Sunnah and the Destruction of Innovation):
وَ السُّنَّةُ مِنَ الْأَدِلَّةِ – وَ هِيَ الْمُرَادُ هُنَا - مَا صَدَرْ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلَّمَ ، غَيْرُ الْقُرْآنِ . مِنْ قَوْلٍ أَوْ فِعْلٍ أَوْ تَقْرِيرٍ. بِهَذَا عَرَّفَهَا بَعْضُ الْمُحَقِّقِينَ.
وَ فِي الْمَنْهَجِ الْمُنْتَخَبِ:
سُكُوتُ سَيِّدِ الْوَرَى مُحَمَّدِ وَ قَوْلُهُ وَ فِعْلُهُ لِلْأَبَدِ
أَوْ مَا عَلَيْهِ قَدْ أَقَرَّ سُنَّة
“The Sunnah, as it relates to proofs or evidence (al-adillah); what is meant here is everything which came from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, (other than the Qur'an) pertaining to words (qawl), actions (fi’l) or decisions (taqreer). It is in accordance with this meaning that the realized ones (al-muhaqqiqeen) explained it. In the Minhaj al-Muntakhib it says, "That about which Muhammad, the master of mankind,  was silent,  his words,  his deeds which were done always, or  that in which he had made a decision - that is the Sunnah."”
In other words, everything that the Prophet did, said or approved of is Sunnah and everything other than that is considered bid'ah (an innovation).
What can we learn from these hadith which have been related to us regarding the affair of a woman who approaches a man and offers herself to him for marriage?
What we have here is the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace sitting in the company of his companions when a woman approaches him and offers herself (proposes) to him for marriage. The Prophet then examined (looked at) her and then remained silent until one of the poor companions expressed interest in marrying her. After ascertaining what this poor man could afford he facilitated the nikah (marriage) between them.
One of the many things that can be learned from this is that poverty was not a barrier which prevented the salaf (the 1st three generations of Muslims) from enjoying the blessings of married life. In fact, marriage was seen as a means by which a person can become wealthy. This is why Imam al-Bukhari connected this hadith with that ayah of Qur’an: "If they be poor, Allah will enrich them out of His Bounty." (Qur’an Surah an-Nur (24), Ayah #32)” This hadith is a tafsir (commentary) of that verse. He quotes this hadith more than once in this collection because it is serves as a proof for many different issues. This is merely one of them. This lesson is merely one of the lessons which can be extracted from this hadith, though it is not the subject of this writing.
As you can see, the Prophet didn't condemn, refute, censor, or object to the woman because she approached him for marriage.
As we have mentioned above, because this was done with the Prophet's knowledge, in his presence and he didn't express any disapproval for this act of hers, it is considered a Sunnah. In fact, this act was even praised by Anas in Thaabit’s narration when he said, "She was better (khayr) than you; she had a liking for the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, so she presented herself for marriage to him."
When this Sunnah - of a woman proposing to a righteous man - is compared to the way women express interest in a man nowadays, it becomes evident that the Sunnah is superior to the modern-jaahili (ignorant culture)!
In this age, when most women want to express interest in a man they play what has been called a "cat-and-mouse game".
In the not-so-distant past, a woman may express interest in some form or fashion. Once the man notices the subtle advances of the woman he may actively pursue the woman. When he begins his pursuit she will cease to show interest. If he backs off, the cycle/game begins again. This will continue until she eventually gives in or he gives up.
Today, a woman may come straight up to a man tell him that she wants to have sex. She will, most likely, do this using some very crude or not-so-crude language. This offer of sex does not involve a relationship - just sex, like wild animals.
During this era where social media plays a prominent part in most of our lives, the method wherein the women takes the initiative in seeking out her mate or spouse has taken a new form. The woman may "like" every single picture that a man has posted online. She may "like" every comment he makes. She may even "inbox" him so that they can speak "privately". The woman who is actively pursuing the man she wants may even send him pictures (sometimes nude) of herself.
Because we (the Muslims) are living in a society dominated and controlled by the non-believers (kuffaar) we naturally take on a lot of their ways. Much or all of what we have just described above - and more - takes place among the Muslims when we are trying to get married.
In many ways this presents a problem for the Muslim community because while all of this "courting" or "cat-and-mouse" is going on the, brother may have wives already. If this is the case, he may hide all of this extra communication with this sister who he is not married to. In most cases the wife finds out about this anyway and the trust is broken between them.
The brother may tell his wife or wives what is going on. In this situation the wife has to sit and watch all of this "extra communication" with another woman who is not even a wife yet. Thus, her anger and/or jealousy are provoked.
Some sisters, during their pursuit of the brother go out of their way to alert the existing wife or wives of their presence. She may even contact her or them directly. Sometimes this is done sincerely, out of the desire to have a good relationship with the sister who will eventually have the same husband as her (notice I didn't say "co-wife"). Other times it is done to provoke jealousy within the heart of the present wife! Sometimes it gets so bad that it seems as if her primary objective is to cause a divorce between the existing husband and wife; and marriage to the brother is only secondary.
There is nothing wrong with a woman who takes the initiative and proposes to a righteous man. The Sunnah supports this righteous action! What is blameworthy, however, are the methods by which this is being done. The way by which most of us go about it is nothing but imitation of the kuffaar; and we are somehow amazed and surprised that our marriages resemble and fail just like theirs!
The Sunnah of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is always better than bid'ah (innovations) and any imitation of customs of the disbelievers!
My beloved Muslim sisters! If you want to marry a specific righteous Muslim man, do exactly what this blessed woman from among the Sahaabah did! Go straight to him, with or without your wali (your wali ultimately must approve) and present yourself to him. He may not even know you exist. And if he knows you exist, he may not know that you are interested. That doesn't make you any less of a Muslimah!
I pray that any sister who does this gets the reward of reviving a blessed Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace:
عَنْ أَنَسٍ رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلَّمَ ((رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَى خُلَفَآءِ)) قِيْلَ: وَ مَا خُلَفَآؤُكَ ؟ قَالَ ((الَّذِينَ يُحْيُنَ سُنَّتِي وَ يُعَلِّمُونَهَا النَّاسَ ، مَنْ أَحْيَا سُنَّتِي فَقَدْ أَحْيَانِي وَ مَنْ أَحْيَانِي كَانَ مَعِي فِي الْجَنَّةِ))
It has been narrated on the authority of Anas (ibn Malik), may Allah be pleased with him that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The Mercy of Allah is with my Khalifahs.” It was said, “Who are your Khalifahs?” He said, “Those who bring my Sunnah to life and teach it to the people (an-naas). Whoever brings my Sunnah back to life, has given life to me. Whoever gives life to me, will be with me in paradise (al-Jannah).”
- This hadith has been related by al-Isbahaani in his Targheeb, reported by Anas ibn Malik; it has also been reported by Qadi ‘Iyaad in his Shifaa’ as well as Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodiyo in his book Ta’leem al-Anaam.
Disclaimer: I have not written this with the hopes that sisters present themselves to me. That was/is not my intention. My only intention was to address one of the many things which I believe are destroying our families and communities.