Islam has declared piety and good character as the standard for matrimony. There is a Hadith in both Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim:
Translation of Hadith: Women are married for 4 things: First, their wealth. Second, their family. Third, their beauty. Fourth, for their piety. So, you select the pious one, otherwise you will be deprived of blessings.
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) declared piety as the standard, as neither wealth is permanent nor beauty. Beauty is a fleeting shadow and wealth can be lost in a moment. In reality, piety and character is the only permanent wealth, which benefits and provides relief and succor in this world and the hereafter. If the parents are religious, then they will raise their children also in the same manner and their entire lives become blessed.
The Hadith does not mean that parentage, wealth and beauty should not be considered and that matches with these should be rejected, but that the final deciding standard should be piety and character. It is fine if along with piety, the girl is of a high, wealthy family and beautiful as well.
The primary reason for the deterioration in married life at present is that we have ignored piety and taken wealth and mere physical beauty as the standards, due to which many girls are facing many problems. We should try to solve these problems so that life becomes blissful and the problems of the Ummah are solved.
There is a Hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah: The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: For a Momin, the best thing after Taqwa (piety) from which a man draws benefit is a pious wife. When he orders her, she obeys him, when he sees her, she makes him happy, when he gives her an oath (with an order), she fulfills it and when he goes away (for some work, journey, etc.), she desires good for him through her person and his wealth.
There are strict warnings about those who take only physical beauty, parentage, and wealth as the standard for marriage. There is a Hadith in Mojam Tabarani that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Whoever marries a women for her status, Allah Ta’ala increases his humiliation and debasement and whoever marries a lady for her wealth, Allah Ta’ala increases his poverty and whoever marries a lady for her parentage (ignoring her piety and character), then Allah Ta’ala increases his shame and disgrace and whoever marries a lady only to guard his eyes from doing wrong and protect his chastity and treat her relatives, made from this association, nicely, then Allah Ta’ala grants Barakaah (blessings) in the woman for the man and grants Barakaah in the man for the lady.
There is a Hadith in Sahih Muslim that, this world is a place to draw benefit from and the best thing from which benefit can be drawn is a pious woman.
The way the standard for selecting a bride is piety and good character, in the same way, the standard for selecting a bridegroom is also piety and good character. There is a Hadith in Jame’ Tirmidhi:
When such a person sends a proposal to you whose piety and character is well liked by you, then accept it otherwise there will be corruption on the land and there will be great disturbances.
Because of these commandments, the Sahabah would not feel any hesitation or embarrassment in marrying off their girls even to pious Abyssinian slaves and Allah Ta’ala has granted Barakaah in their lineage as well.
The result of not making piety and character the standard for marriage is that both boys and girls are simply waiting for marriage. For girls, dowry is an issue and for boys, the expenses of Valima remain an issue, the gateways of immorality have been opened wide and indecency is rampant, which invites new diseases. There is a Hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah:
Translation of Hadith: The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: When indecency and immorality happens openly in a nation, then plague and other new diseases will come, about which the earlier had not even heard of.