Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: A man from Al Ansar (the Supporters) asked the hand of a woman from Al Ansar in marriage. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Did you look at her?” He said: No. He (the Prophet) said: “Go and have a look at her, for there is something in the eyes of the Ansar.” (1)
The Hadith is a proof to the permissibility of looking at one’s fiancée.
Ibn Qudamah said in Al Mughny: (There is no disagreement among the scholars to the permissibility of a fiancé to have a look at his fiancée).
The proof to the desirability of looking at one’s fiancée is the command of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and because he linked between looking and intimacy as was reported in the Hadith of Al Mughirah ibn Shu`bah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I asked the hand of a woman in marriage at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Look at her for it is worth to have intimacy among you." (2)
In another narration (it is better) and both are the same (3). The meaning of the Hadith is: It is better to find things in common to build your marital life on. (4) A fiancé may look at his fiancée without her knowledge and before proposing to her if he thinks that she might agree because there is no condition in the Hadith for asking for her permission. However, he should neither stay alone with her nor look at her lustfully.
Scholars have differed about the spots which are permissible for a fiancé to look at. It was said: He should not look except at her face and hands because the face is an indication to the beauty or ugliness and hands are a proof to the fertility of the body. And it was said: He may look at the spots which usually appear of her. And it was said otherwisely. Perhaps the most preponderant view (Allah knows the best) is looking at the spots which usually appear of her.
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: (The proof to the permissibility of looking at the spots which usually appear of her is: the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave permission to look at her without her knowledge. Therefore it was known (by intellect) that a person will look at the spots which usually appear of a woman because it is impossible to have a look only to the face without looking at other parts which are usually appear, so they have taken the same ruling of the face. The second proof is: It was permissible to look at her by the leave of the Law-giver, so it is permissible to look at her like the unmarriageable relative women.) And Allah knows the best. (5)
Written by Dr. Ilham Badr Al Jabiry
PhD. in the department of Sunnah and its sciences
(1) Reported by Muslim, book of marriage, chapter on the permissibility of a fiancé to look at her fiancée's face and hands 9/209 - with the commentary of An-Nawawy.
(2) Reported by An-Nasa'y, Book of marriage, chapter on the permissibility of looking at one's fiancée before marriage, 6/69-3235, At-Tirmidhy, Book of marriage, chapter on Hadiths that were reported in the permissibility of looking at a fiancée 2/275-9093, and Ad-Darimy, Book of marriage, chapter on concession to have a look at a fiancée when asking for her hand in marriage 2/134 - an authentic Hadith.
(3) An-Nihayah fi Gharib Al Hadith 1/375.
(4) An-Nihayah fi Gharib Al Hadith 1/32.
(5) See: Bidayat Al Mujtahid 3/2, Ma`alim As-Sunan 3/168, Fathul-Bary 9/182, and Al Mughny 6/552-554.