'The Muslim Marriage Guide': A Review
The John Gray of the Muslim world, Maqsood offers candid advice on sex, with a touch of some old-fashioned values.
BY: Hina Azam
Call her the John Gray of the Muslim world.
Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood, an English author and educator, has written a hot little book called "The Muslim Marriage Guide" that is provoking discussion among Muslim couples and flying off the shelves of Muslim book stores. The book offers candid advice on the emotional, spiritual, and sexual aspects of marital life that speaks to Muslim needs--but that non-Muslims might find useful.
Written in an engaging style, "The Muslim Marriage Guide" combines a positive attitude toward sexuality and the body, a frank account of how marriages must function to fulfill both parties, and excerpts from both the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet to support her points. All three elements--positivity, frankness, and religious support--are refreshing and much needed.
"Sex is clean!" she exclaims in a subheading of chapter 9. Not without religious support, either, for she says that treating the human body as unclean or distasteful is tantamount to criticizing the way God created us. So kudos to Maqsood for reminding Muslim couples that sexual fulfillment is part of our religion.
Although the Muslim literary and religious tradition approaches human sexuality matter-of-factly, many Muslims today find it difficult and possibly impious to broach the subject. I have even encountered the occasional religious seminar teaching a message that human genitalia are distasteful, and that for spouses to gaze upon one another1s private parts is to be avoided.
Maqsood will have none of that.
But for all her openness on sexuality, Maqsood also follows many traditional roles set by authors such as John Gray, the relationship guru and author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." In fact, Maqsood refers to the Mars and Venus dichotomy directly, favorably, and--possibly--a little to her detriment.
According to Maqsood, marriage is a relationship between two fundamentally different creatures: Men tend to be more logical than women, more goal-oriented, and less attuned to non-verbal cues. Women tend toward emotionality, are more communication-oriented, and highly attuned to even small bodily gestures. The truly Islamic marital relationship recognizes and celebrates gender differences, and each partner works constantly on improving communication between the two in order to overcome these gender differences.
Yet while this approach of absolute and traditionally defined gender differences may work well for some couples, there are many Muslims whose successful experience of married life is not based on these presuppositions of absolute difference.