Chapter Summaries


Introduction: Towards Marriage as a Partnership of Equals

The Introduction outlines the themes and framework for exploring how Muslim marriages can be grounded in equality, justice and mutual spiritual growth and well-being.

Section 1 - The Qurʾan

1. Qurʾanic Ethics Of Marriage

Omaima Abou-Bakr, Asma Lamrabet Mulki Al-Sharmani outline how the Qurʾan constructs a holistic ethical vision of marriage that is founded on three interconnected circles of theological and ethical principles. Spouses are viewed as two ontologically equal human beings with the shared responsibility of taqwā. Marriage is seen as a solemn bond – a space for moral agency and spiritual growth – and love, compassion, and tranquillity are the pillars of this bond.

2. Reading The Qurʾan Through Women’s Experiences

Nur Rofiah offers a gender-sensitive, holistic reading of the Qurʾan to identify underlying messages that alleviate the historical marginalization of women; recognize and validate their physical experiences; and chart a dynamic trajectory towards real gender justice that is based on equality.

3. Iḥsān: A Mandate For Beauty And Goodness In Family Relations

Amira Abou-Taleb applies a close linguistic and intra-textual Qurʾanic analysis to establish iḥsān (a fusion of goodness and beauty) as an overarching ethical principle and divine command that can serve as a guiding framework for family relations at both the individual and the societal levels.

Section 2 - Lessons From The Prophet

4. Reclaiming Khadīja And Muhammad’s Marriage As An Islamic Paradigm: Towards A New History Of The Muslim Present

Shadaab Rahemtulla and Sara Ababneh propose that the marriage of Prophet Muhammad and Khadīja can be a model for present day marital relationships built on mutual care, support and love. They focus on two moments in their marital life to show that Khadīja was the more powerful partner (in terms of age, resources, wealth, influence, etc.), and that Muhammad was not threatened by this power dynamic but rather thrived within it.

5. ‘Your Wife Enjoys Rights Over You’ Or Does She? Marriage In The Hadith

Yasmin Amin uses Hadith related to Prophet Muhammad’s marriages to show that in the prophetic tradition, spouses are kind, caring and bring joy to one another, trust and respect one another, share housework, and resolve conflicts with magnanimity. This accords with the vision articulated in the Qurʾan, and stands in stark contrast with hierarchical spousal roles laid out in classical fiqh rulings.

6. Qirāʾa Mubādala: Reciprocal Reading Of Hadith On Marital Relationships

Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir outlines a methodology he developed to interpret selected hadiths as calling upon partners to treat one another justly and lovingly in their marital relationships. His approach is grounded in the Qurʾan’s central principles of the equality of all human beings and their equal responsibility to enact tawḥīd (oneness and unity of God).

7. Rethinking Muslim Marriage Rulings Through Structural Ijtihād

Mohsen Kadivar proposes and applies a bold new approach called ‘structural ijtihād’, in which human reason and intellect play a key role in determining ethics and justice in line with the central values and ethical principles affirmed in the Qurʾan. Within this new methodology, he holds that all juristic arguments and the validity of all derived rulings should meet the following four criteria: rationality, justice, ethics, and effectiveness – all according to contemporary standards of justice and social realities.

8. Reform Of Uṣūl Al-fiqh And Marriage: A Spiritually Integrative Approach

Nevin Reda proposes an Islamic feminist, spiritually integrative approach to uṣūl al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) that builds an understanding of marriage as a site for spiritual growth in which mutual care and support between spouses are part of their striving towards ethical excellence.

9. Ethics And Gender Equality In Islam: A Constructivist Approach

Mariam Al-Attar explores how different genres of pre-modern Islamic religious sciences tackled pertinent ethical questions, then outlines more recent developments in Islamic intellectual thought and how and why they should be applied to the question of gender and marital relations in contemporary times.

Section 4 - Law and Practice

10. Historicizing Muslim Marriage Practices In Pre-modern Islamic Egypt

Hoda El Saadi examines historical sources from pre-modern Egypt (7th to 16th centuries CE) to help understand gender relations and marriage and divorce in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and in people’s lived experiences. The study shows that diversity and dynamism were integral to fiqh rulings, and that jurists reacted and responded to women’s experiences and needs in ways that supported justice.

11. Muslim Family Laws: Trajectories Of Reform

Lynn Welchman, Zahia Jouirou and Marwa Sharafeldin first explore the complexities and dynamic configurations of Muslim family laws, which reflect the interplay between Muslim legal tradition, human rights, state laws and societal norms. They then shed light on various strategies and arguments used to introduce three broad types of reforms (substantive reform using multiple frames of reference, procedural reform, and indirect reform introduced through other legislation) and their complex outcomes.

12. Justice, Refinement And Beauty: Reflections On Marriage And Spirituality

Saʿdiyya Shaikh considers how to cultivate spiritually nourishing forms of love and marriages of equality, justice and beauty through rituals such as the nikāḥ (marriage) ceremony, the creation of nikāḥ contracts, and interactions and dynamics within everyday marital relationships.