As its subtitle declares, this book sets out to do something quite bold: to unlock the secrets to ultimate bliss. Think about it. What is the 'ultimate' in 'ultimate bliss'? But hold that thought.
As a scholar and a mufti, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman is well disposed to write a work on marriage, but what makes this a 'handbook' is his years of practical experience working with Muslim couples and seeing first hand the problems and pitfalls they face.
This book reminds us that marriage is not just about legality, rights and 'roles', but about goodness, sacrifice and of course, love. Marriage completes half our religion, and it behooves us – newlyweds and otherwise – to take it seriously and to learn about it as much as we can.
Marriage is not easy, and Shaykh Abdur-Rahman does not sugar coat things. He addresses perennial problems like miscommunication, anger, incompatibility, in-laws, adultery, as well as more modern toxic problems such as pornography.
Towards the close of the book, he takes a long hard look at the problem of divorce and the often disastrously misunderstood talaq system in Islamic jurisprudence. He reminds us that a working knowledge of the rulings of divorce is a requirement for anyone intending to marry, because couples need to understand from the start the gravity of divorce and the dangers of pronouncing talaq in anger (and sometimes even in jest).
As a scholar, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman identifies various Hadith related to marriage that have been taken out of context and used to justify unjust cultural practice. Moreover, the discourse on marriage often veers towards an overemphasis on rules. This is something Shaykh Abdur-Rahman cautions against because:
"rulings are there as fences, as lines that are drawn to ensure certain parameters are kept for the health of the marriage... They are not the foundation... Taqwa is the true foundation of a successful marriage."
The writer makes us come to realise that marriage is an ibadah, and that it is pleasing to Allah. With this frame of reference, marriage is an arena where we purify ourselves from anger, rancour, and ill-will, and gravitate towards charity, compassion, and mercy. The Islamic marriage is all about living with ihsan, with excellence. To be the best that we can be.
And this brings us to the question posed at the beginning of this reflection. What is the 'ultimate' in 'ultimate bliss'? Shaykh Abdur-Rahman says that the Quran makes it clear that in the Hereafter, if Allah by His Infinite Mercy grants us Salvation and admits us to His Gardens, we enter Paradise not with our children or parents, but with our spouses (see Surah Zukhruf, verses 70-72).
Marriage is therefore a natural fitrah disposition that both body and soul call out for; and everybody has a soul mate.
May God grant us Ultimate Bliss.
Handbook of a Healthy Muslim Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets of Ultimate Bliss
Shaykh Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
White Thread Press