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THE MAXIMISERS AND THE SATISFICERS

THE MAXIMISERS AND THE SATISFICERS

Moulana Muaadth Allie

Due to developments in technology, especially in the areas of telecommunication and transport, the human race is currently suffering from a very interesting malady. Despite the fact that the individual’s choice of marital partner has vastly expanded – from two or three eligible potentiates to in excess of a billion – there are a record amount of individuals who want to marry yet are claiming that it is difficult to find a suitable marital partner. In essence they are suffering from the modern day problem of too much choice. Had there been only one potential marital partner, they would have probably been married already and happily so. But since they sit with this vast amount of options and since they absolutely must marry the very best amongst them, they are finding it near-impossible to identify said best.

One of the benefits of Islâm is that it both reduces the pool of potential marital partners and shows the way to happiness. Reduction of the pool occurs by way of rendering certain marriages unlawful while the way to happiness in this world is succinctly stated in the following tradition:

((قد أفلح من أسلم ورزق كفافا وقنّعه الله بما آتاه))

((Successful is the one who had accepted Islâm, who has been given that which is adequate and whom Allah had granted contentment with that which He has given him.))

Muslim: 1054

Choice and our ability to exercise it is an important part of human life. It gives us a sense of freedom and of being in control of our destiny. It is however possible to have too much of a good thing. This paradox has been explored by the psychologist Barry Schwartz who has identified two key consumer types: maximisers and satisficers.[1]

Maximisers always seek out the very best. They spend hours, days and weeks wading through all the possible choices. This is because he or she cannot select anything until they have considered all the available options. When they make a selection they often sink into feelings of regret when something better becomes available. Although objectively they may choose better products they are usually less satisfied in the long run. They are also less happy with life in general, less optimistic and more depressed. Maximisers are also less able to make decisions than other people. Research shows that shoppers are ten times as likely to buy jam when there are only six varieties on display as when there are twenty four. Similarly when the number of ways in which people save for retirement went up, the likelihood that they would choose to save at all went down.

Satisficers by contrast settle for ‘good enough’. They stop searching once they have found something that serves their purpose. If all their criteria are met they make their decision. That it is available elsewhere for cheaper or with added options or higher quality, all mean nothing to the satisficer. This is because he aims for the excellent rather than the very best. When he has acquired what he was looking for he is proud of his choice and enjoys the fruit of ownership. As such satisficers suffer less long-term regret than maximisers, waste less time and go home happy.

When maximising enters the area of love it results in:

  1. A tendency to judge on external factors that can be ranked – such as looks, height, figure and wealth – rather than internal qualities like character, trustworthiness, openness and generosity, which cannot. This while as Marshall [2010, p. 13] says: “these internal qualities are ultimately going to be the deciding factor on whether a relationship is a success or failure.
  2. Comparisons between the partner we have and the partner we can potentially have. This makes commitment harder as marriage by definition excludes other partners. Not only does abundance make it harder to choose, it also allows us to discard on the flimsiest of pretexts.
  3. Aspirations to enter into relationships with people outside one’s league. While in and of itself this is not problematic most people suffer from an inferiority complex and frequent rejection ultimately results in lack of motivation.

In conclusion: You will happier as a satisficer than as a maximiser. Satisficers understand what is important and do not waste time on irrelevant trifles and distractions.

People who say the following are all maximisers:

  • All the good ones have been taken.
  • Maybe the one I chose not to take was the better choice.
  • I wonder how my ex is doing?
  • I wonder if … got a better deal than me on ..?

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CONCLUSION OF A VALID MARRIAGE: THE PROHIBITED DEGREES OF RELATIONSHIP & OTHER UNLAWFUL MARRIAGES

For a marriage to be considered valid it must first be considered lawful. Marriage to the following individuals is considered unlawful and as such even should a marriage be contracted it will be considered null and void:

  • Persons already married:[2] a woman with a husband and a man with four wives.[3] It is however generally considered better for a Muslim male to limit himself to one wife.
  • Persons of the same sex.[4]
  • Persons following a religion other than Islâm[5] although a Muslim male may marry a Christian or Jewish female.[6]
  • Persons in the conditions of a) ihrâm (the state of ritual consecration due to Hajj or `Umrah) or b) `iddah (the waiting period a woman undergoes following dissolution of marriage or death of her husband) by another.[7]
  • An ex-wife against whom li`ân (public imprecation) has been performed or whom one has offered three pronouncements of talâq[8] except that in the latter case, should she remarry, engage in full sexual relations with her husband, suffer marital dissolution and her `iddah come to an end, she becomes lawful again to her aforementioned ex-husband.[9]
  • Persons within the prohibited degrees of relationship:
  1. Blood relations [also called consanguinity][10]
  2. In-law relations [also called affinity][11]
  3. Foster relations[12]

BLOOD RELATIONS

Consanguinity (blood relationship) is the relationship between people who by birth have an ancestor in common. It is generally considered irrelevant whether the relationship arose as a result of legitimate or extramarital birth.[13] It can occur in either the direct line or the collateral line. The direct line is where persons concerned are ascendants or descendants of one another such as with a father and daughter or grandmother and grandson. No person falling in the direct line may marry any other person with the line. The collateral line is where blood relations do not occur within the direct line but rather through a common ancestor such as with brother and sister or aunt and nephew. Here a general principle applies: “blood relations in the collateral line may not marry each other if either of them is related to the common ancestor within the first degree or generation.

As such in the illustration, since ‘b’ and ‘c’ are only one degree from the common ancestor ‘a’, they may not marry either ‘d’, ‘e’, ‘f’ or ‘g’. On the other hand ‘d’, ‘e’, ‘f’ and ‘g’ since all being two degrees or lower from the common ancestor ‘a’ may therefore all marry each other.

The following women are therefore unlawful for a man to marry as they fall within his direct line of consanguinity: a) his mother, b) his grandmother and higher up, c) his daughter and d) his granddaughter and lower down.

The following women are unlawful to marry as the fall within his collateral line and are related to a common ancestor within the first degree or generation: a) his sister, b) his niece and lower down and c) his aunt and higher up.

MARITAL RELATIONS

Affinity (marital relations) occurs when people become related due to the conclusion of a valid marital contract. The sole exception to this law is the stepdaughter who only becomes related by affinity upon consummation of the marriage with her mother. Regardless of when it comes into effect, persons related to each other by affinity in the direct line are prohibited ad infinitum from marrying each other. As such a man is not allowed to marry his wife’s – current or ex – daughter, mother, grandmother or granddaughter. In a like manner he may also not marry the wife – current or ex – of his father and higher up nor his son and lower down.

Marriage to persons related by affinity in the collateral line is only unlawful while the marriage which generated the relation remains valid. As such it is unlawful to marry both a woman and either her sister or her aunt. If however he is no longer married to one of the above and the `iddah has expired, then he may marry the other.

FOSTER RELATIONS

Foster relations come about when a child less than two lunar years of age enjoys five complete instances of breastfeeding at the hand of the same woman. The child is then prohibited to marry those whom her offspring and husband’s offspring are prohibited to marry.

RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING

– Andrew G. Marshall, The Single Trap, Bloomsbury, New York, 2010.

– Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice, Harper Collins, New York, 2004.

[1] Apparently this discovery was first done in the fifties by the Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon.

[2] See sûrah al-Nisâ’: 24.

[3] This is based on the Qurânic verse: ((Marry such women as you deem good: two at a time, three at a time and four at a time…)) [Nisâ’: 3] See also the case of Qays ibn Hârith who when he embraced Islâm had eight wives and was told by the Prophet to retain four and leave the rest. [Abû Dâwud: 2241] See also the case of Ghayalân in the Mustadrak of Hâkim 2/192. A further detail is that if he divorces any of his wives and the divorce is revocable [raj`î], he will have to wait till the end of her `iddah before he can take another wife but if the divorce is irrevocable [bâ’in], he may immediately remarry.

[4] See al-A`râf: 81 and al-Naml: 55.

[5] See sûrah al-Baqarah: 221.

[6] See sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 5. It is however considered makrûh [reprehensible] to marry them due to the potential of fitnah [temptation to a life of kufr] for himself and his children. Also she may not perform her duties as a wife and a mother as desired. In the case of dâr al-harb or a country which the Muslims are at war with or where dînî practises are disallowed, the reprehensibility will be even more severe.

[7] See al-Baqarah: 235.

[8] See al-Baqarah: 230.

[9] See Bukhârî: 2639 and Muslim: 1433.

[10] See Nisâ’: 23-4.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] These statements are not universally applicable as in the case of inheritance: a) the unborn child inherits on the basis of consanguinity despite not being born yet and b) the illegitimate child does not inherit from his natural father.