Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlah,
Wow, that's a big question actually... and my short and simple answer is, the fact that someone has been married before or not shouldn't influence a decision. Let me explain why (and bear in mind, I'm speaking from my own personal experience, and that of a guy... for women I'd imagine some factors might be different)
I got married at a very young age (18) to protect myself from fitnah. At the time, I would not have considered a divorcee because there is a disease amongst young men that makes us believe virgins are magical and amazing, and that alone is sufficient to put someone who's never been married off the idea of someone who's already had that relationship with someone else before you.
However, having been married (twice), I know that the whole "virgin factor" is blown completely out of proportion. Speaking frankly (and considering this is a forum on marriage after all, we shouldn't be shy about the issue), a woman is only a virgin for the first time, and that first time is not even so "amazing" because it's actually a painful experience for the sister concerned. But guys don't know or realise this, until they've done it themselves... so it's a sort of catch-22 situation.
The only other thing that brings me personally a concern is the hadith of Ummi Zar'a
. Some of you may know that I speak of Sheikh Alaa
with consistently high praise. As an expert on family fiqh and matters (as well as many other credentials to his name), I take his opinion with great weight.
In one of his courses (Home Sweet Home
, which is amazing!) he mentions that this hadith highlights a characteristic in that a woman's heart always belongs to the first husband. Now, in speaking to someone else, they further clarified that it's usually tied to children (because in the hadith, Ummi Zara had a child with Abu Zara), and also with the people whom I had asked (divorced women), those that confirmed they had a soft spot for their first husband also all had the characteristic that they had a child with that husband too.
My fear is simply that I would never have my wife's heart completely... that there would always be a part of it reserved for someone else... even a greater part. As a guy, I'm not sure if I could live with that. But I wouldn't dismiss her outright, I'd give her every opportunity to convince me that her previous husband is in the past... and that be that.
That said, there are some good things too. Sisters that have been married before are usually more realistic as to what they expect from marriage, e.g. they're not that bothered about how big or glitzy the wedding itself is, they're much more interested in how the marriage itself will work, i.e. what the roles of each spouse are. They're also not blinded by the glitter that Hollywood usually sprinkles on the idea of marriage (that's it all so perfect and romantic, and the birds sing, and the sun shines, etc, etc). They're ready for the hardship when it comes, and are more patient and perseverant in getting through the tough times.
And most importantly... having gone through the pain and torment of divorce, they're much much more acutely aware of how traumatising it is, and will work that much harder to make sure their next marriage doesn't end in the same way! And they're also much more aware of how men "work", and how best to please a man. Men and women don't realise how the opposite gender think, because it's not obvious (especially for those of us that maintain segregation from the opposite gender). These are things you have to be taught, or learn through painful experience, and divorcees generally tend to have worked it out which makes them better in their second marriage, insha'Allah.
I'm terms of myself, having been through divorce twice myself, it really is a life-changing and humbling experience that makes you realise, no matter what you do and how much you can try, Allah (swt) can change your circumstances in an instant. I learned much more about myself, where my mistakes were, where my shortfalls were, things that perhaps I could have done better, signs of a problem that perhaps I had missed but were glowingly obvious in hindsight, etc. In that sense, I'm better equipped to deal with the next one, insha'Allah, because I now know the pitfalls and traps, especially with regards to my own personality. I can honestly say now that the person I became after divorce is completely unlike how I was beforehand!
If you're considering a divorcee, that's what you'd need to check... what are they like now
, rather than how they were. What have they learned from their divorce, what have they changed about their personality. Did they come closer to Allah, or did they stray further away?
Actually, I recommend this advice for anyone, divorced or not. Another trap people fall into is marrying people who aren't practising on the hope they'll start later... they won't! There's no excuse, they should be practising now, if they aren't... move on! Don't pin your hopes on something that might happen later, make sure they have the qualities you need now.
And of course, Allah (swt) knows best. Make istikhara, make istikhara, make istikhara.. sincerely! I've had marriage proposals break, but in hind-sight I'm glad they did because only afterwards a devastating trait was discovered in the prospective spouse. If you put your complete trust in Allah, you're in the best hands, insha'Allah