Nikāḥ as precondition for paradise? Spiritual corporeality and al-Ghazālī’s theology of marriage in the Kitāb ādāb al-nikāḥ

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Lunds universitet/Centrum för teologi och religionsvetenskap

Sammanfattning: With the 11th century text Kitāb ādāb al-nikāḥ, the “Book on the Proper Conduct of Marriage”, the Islamic thinker al-Ghazālī (1056 –1111/447–504) replies to a contemporaneous debate within Sufi asceticism with a theology of nikāḥ. The text is part of his opus magnum, the “Renaissance of the Knowledge of dīn”, which aims at a renewal of Muslim piety and provides practical guidance to the male audience addressed. Whether to marry or to remain celibate converges to a question, which has been raised in early Sufi apologia: Does marriage distract the believer from God? The assessment of marriage in relation to an ideal of spiritual corporeality, was not only an exigency for an 11th century believer due to its eschatological relevance, but it also carried socio-political connotations. Theological positions, which stipulated a pious ideal in favour of marriage – respectively chastity – protrude into demarcation processes within or between religious communities. The thesis investigates al-Ghazālī’s construction and strategical arrangement of arguments with a focus on Qurʼānic references in the background of its historical context, namely al-Ghazālī as Sunnī scholar at Baghdad´s Niẓāmīyah in the Saljūq Empire and as taṣawwuf teacher and reformer in Tus. It is argued that the text could address converts from Christianity or members of the Saljūq ruling class, which was marked by its Christian Byzantine influence through intermarriage. In the Kitāb ādāb al-nikāḥ marriage is defined as command and as part of the sunnah. The main purpose for marriage is procreation, which enables the God-willed continuation of humankind and Muslim lineage. He argues that marriage does not cause a distraction from worship per se. Marriage is not only ʿibādah, an act of worship, but can help the believer to worship God and even help him to attain a mystical state of sakīna. Against a con-temporaneous conflation of Islamic warriors´ ideals with the valorisation of marital relations and sexual intercourse, al-Ghazālī does not favour martial practice but the marital relationship as equivalent to jihād. While in the beginning of the argumentation al-Ghazālī excluded celibacy as an option, he changes his argument in the course of the text to the preference of marriage over celibacy by relying on an Aristotelian notion of balance (qistās). Thus, his advice is addressing different types of believers. The command to marry is understood as relative, attaining religious knowledge can be reason to refrain from marriage. It is argued that the argumentation for marriage in the Kitāb ādāb al-nikāḥ is not only influential for the Christian author Bar Hebreaus (1226–1286/623–685) as Weitz can show but that a manifestation, modulation and development of al-Ghazālī’s arguments for marriage can be observed in e.g. Kāsānī´s (d.1543/949) text Kitāb asrar al-nikāḥ over four centuries later. Al-Ghazālī’s text contains also cosmological arguments, such as the notion of hirāthah, tillage and the principle of coupling, which have often been attributed only to Ibn ʿArabī (1165–1240/543–618). With the theoretical framework of embodiment, the study provides a new angle on the Kitāb ādāb al-nikāḥ, which highlights the interconnectedness of corporeality and spirituality. To understand al-Ghazālī’s theology, the believers´ embodiment is specifically of eschatological relevance. In order to ensure a proximity to God and to enter paradise in the afterlife, al-Ghazālī instructs his readers in the proper conduct of a plethora of bodily actions, such as prayer, fasting or sex. These instructions allow the believer to develop their spiritual corporeality, that is a complex of bodily practices and actions, which safeguards the spiritual aim. Spiritual corporeality describes a process of spiritual maturation as a way to conduct life. Every day-acts such as marital sexual intercourse need to be integrated into the believers’ spiritual corporeality. Like other elements of spiritual corporeality described in the Iḥyā′, a specific conduct is necessary to transform sex into an act within the spiritual corporeality of the believer. Sexual pleasures are introduced by al-Ghazālī as a potential harbinger of the pleasures of paradise.

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