Marriage and Sexuality in Islam: A Translation of Al-Ghazali’s Book on the Etiquette of Marriage from the Ihya
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Marriage
Be it known that the ulema’ have disagreed over the virtue of marriage: Some stressed it to the point of claiming that it is preferable to seclusion for the worship of God. Others have admitted its virtue but subordinated it to seclusion for the worship of God, regardless of how much the soul yearns for marriage to a degree that disturbs one’s state [of mind] and causes him to succumb to temptation. Others have said: It is preferable to abstain from marriage in this our age; but formerly it was a preferable virtue whereby the means of earning a livelihood was not illicit and the character of women was not censurable.’ The truth about it cannot be revealed except by first presenting what has been transmitted in the akhbar((Akhbār (sing. khabar, literally “news, report”) is applied to traditions traced back, not to the Prophet, but to other authorities such as his companions, well-known jurists, imams, etc.)) and the athar((Athār (sing. athar, literally “trace”) is applied to traditions relating the deeds and utterances of Muhammad and his companions.))’ regarding encouragement and discouragement of marriage, and by explaining its benefits and shortcomings, thereby elucidating the virtues or disadvantages of marriage as pertains to everyone who has or has not been spared its calamities.
Qur’anic Verses on Marriage – Marriage and Sexuality in Islam
Among the Qur’anic verses: God has said, “And marry such of you” ((24:32)); this is a command. He also said, “Place not difficulties in the way of their marrying their husbands” ((2:232)).((Watt states that this injunction is “usually taken to mean that the relatives should not oppose remarriage to the former husband, but might refer to opposition by the former husband to another husband” (Companion to the Qur’dn, 42))) This prevented abstinence and enjoined against it. God has said in describing and praising messengers: “And, indeed, We sent Messengers before thee, and We gave them wives and children” [13:38 (ʿAli)]. Thus he said this in the context of praise and in pointing out excellence. He also praised his saints for requesting it in supplication saying: “And those who say, ‘Our Lord, grant us of our wives and children the delight of our eyes, and make us a model for the righteous.” It is said of the prophets that God has not mentioned in His book any but those who have families. Thus it was said that [St.] John” married but did not cohabit. It is said that he did that to gain virtue and honor, thereby upholding the sunna. Others said that it was to avert the eye. As for Jesus,* he will marry should he come down to earth and will have children.
[Traditions of the Prophet] – Marriage and Sexuality in Islam
As for the akhbar, we have his [the Prophet’s] sayings: “Marriage is of my sunna; whoever refrains from my sunna refrains from me”; and he* also said: “Marriage is of my sunna; whoever likes my fiṭrah (natural disposition),’ let him follow my sunna.”((This hadith was related by Abu Yadla in his Musnad with an introduction and conclusion from the hadith of Ibn Abbas on the authority of Hasan (‘ʿIraqī).))
He* also said: “Marry and multiply for I will boast about you over other nations on the day of resurrection, even about the least among you.”((This hadith was related by Abu Bakr Ibn Murdawayyah in his commentary from the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar without his including “even if you should fall.” His transmission is weak, and this addition was also mentioned by al-Bayhaqi through his knowledge of al-Shafiti who he claimed had informed him of it (ʿIraqī).))
And he* also said, “Whoever refrains from my sunna, he is not of me, and marriage is part of my sunna; whoever loves me, let him follow my sunna.”((First part conforms with the hadith of Anas: “Whoever refrains from my sunna, -he is not of me”; and the rest was preceded by hadith (ʿIraqī). See also cAbd al-Bagi, Lulu’ wa al-Marjdn, 3:100))
And he* also said, “Whoever refrains from getting married for fear of having a family, is not of us.”“ This is perhaps a reprimand [directed] against abstinence and not a reason for abstinence.
He* also said, “Whoever has the means, let him get married,”((Ibn Majah related this hadith from the hadith of ʿĀʾishāh in a weak (ḍaʿīf) transmission (ʿIraqī).)) for it will avert the eyes” and assure more relief and virtuousness; and who does not, “let him fast for fasting to him is [a form of] castration (wija’).”((This hadith is agreed upon by the sayings taken from the hadith of Ibn Masud (ʿIraqī). See also ʿAbd al-Baqī, Lulu’ wa al-Marjān, 3:99; and al-Bukhari, Sahih, 7:3. The term used here, wijd’un, literally means “bruising of the veins of the testicles until they break, so that it is like gelding” (Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, 292).)) This indicates that the reason for the encouragement of marriage is fear that the eye might become corrupted,” as well as relief.” W ija’ is a form of castration of the male [organs] so that his manhood is removed; it [the term] is used metaphorically for sexual impotence during the fast.
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