Primarily, the book sets out to make sense of the age-old Islamic teachings on marriage viz-a-viz our contemporary modern experiences and realities – from an academic viewpoint as well as 25 years of clinical experience in marital counselling in a cosmopolitan city.
From this experience, we know that Islam has what it takes to face these influences, embrace the good and repel the bad. Intrinsic in its teachings are immutable bedrocks which keep us grounded as we navigate the flexible elements of divine guidance to live well and in harmony with whatever society and era we find ourselves in. This proposed book is about identifying which is which as far as guidance on marriage and family life goes.
We know that this is hardly a new discovery in Islamic studies. Yet, mistaking ossified traditions for Islamic canon is an enduring feature exhibited by many dysfunctional couples from the ultra-religious to the progressive wannabes; with some obstinate in defence of these traditions, some determined to assign them to history, while most just trying very hard to figure out what is the right thing to do. So, this book draws upon the principles expounded by modern orthodox Islamic scholars who had already written on contextualizing marital syariah (see “literature research”), re-packages these concepts to a more relatable language and style for laymen readers to illustrate how theory could translate to practice through actual examples of failures and successes drawn from our counselling experience.
In contextualising Islamic ideals in modern marriages, the principal issue to be addressed must surely be the qawamah principle versus the nafaqah dynamics in modern marriages – or in other words, husbandly leadership (Nisa 4:34) versus modern-day single income, double-income, wife-breadwinner and egalitarian family models. The core chapter of the book (Chapter 3) will illustrate the gradation of immutability to flexibility of the qawamah injunction – starting with a theoretical framework to understand this, followed by a thorough illustration of how this could work out in various modern family management models, ending with substantiation of this framework based on the Prophet’s (s.a.w) sunnah in marital management, albeit brief and cursory.
But, the qawamah-nafaqah issue is not the be-all-and-end-all of marriage. So, the book carries a recurring theme of the interconnectedness of marital guidance within itself. So, addressing the target audience of youths preparing for or just starting marriage, we link the qawamah principle to the most rudimentary topics of Islamic marriage, namely its initiation (the wedding), running (roles specification, management, financing) and termination (divorce).
Yet the interconnections run deeper and wider than that. So, the book invites readers to appreciate the marital institution viz-a-viz its position in the overall message of Islam. Throughout, it calls for a wholistic understanding and implementation of marital guidance drawing on our clinical experience to illustrate how being selective led many couples to relational dysfunction. Particularly, it urges readers to snap out of this prevalent over-fixation with the syariah, fiqh, halal-and-harams and such of marriage and balance it with a greater comprehension of the impact of “marriage” to our aqidah and its effect on our akhlaq as Muslims; and vice-versa.
The end goal is to place marriage in the overall message of Islam. The strategy is by illustrating its contribution to the holistic development of Muslim individuals and society, specifically in the aspects of iman, amal and ihsan.