Khazanah (Treasure) Edition 50
Being A Single Is Not Haram
by: Risma Hikmawati
Title : On Being A Single (Stories of Muslim Intellectuals Made Their
Works Until their Final Age)
Writer : KH. Husein Muhammad
Publisher : Glosaria Media, Yogyakarta
Year of publication : 2015
Number of page : xv+130
Size : 14 x 20 cm
The issue of Marriage, especially in the Eastern tradition like in Indonesia is very interesting. It is considered as an obligation. Those who choose to stay single must be questioned. This is what inspires Kyai Husein Muhammad to write down the stories of 21 Muslim intellectuals, who choose to stay single with several reasons.
On the preface of this book, Husein told about hesitation, anxiety, and various paradigms when it comes to terms “soulmate” and “getting married”. It appears the terms “looking for a sparing partner in life”, “future”, “offspring” can cause a psychological tension, even compromising idea between “life with a marriage” or “life without a marriage” has a gap of stigma. It is getting more complicated when this question is raised: what if I don’t get married for good in my life?
Henceforth, these kinds of questions motivate Kyai Husein to write about “Famous People Who Are Single”. What makes it more interesting is the people he wrote about come from different eras and various schools. Those people represent schools of Mu’tazilah, Salafi, intellectuals, as well as three most influenced female figures: Rabiah al-Adawiyah, Layla (Majnun) and Karimah Ahmad Al-Marwaziyyah. Of course there are stories of Muslim scholars in the modern era too.
Who doesn’t know Ibnu Jarir ath-Thabari, Imam Zamakhsyari, Imam Nawawi, Ibnu Taimiyah, and a figure who is called “The Love of God’s Iconic Female Heroine” Rabiah al-Adawiyah. In the field of Islamic History, they are great people who are known across the centuries.
A friend of ath-Thabari counted sheet by sheet of his works by converting them with his age of 80. It was discovered that Ibnu Jarir wrote around 14 pages a day. So did Ibnu Taimiyah, who mastered Hadith of the Prophet and the narration by his companions.
After tracing down the great life of the famous figures in this book, it is found that these people did not get married. It is not because they did not agree with the Hadith of the Prophet about marriage, but with the intelligence and research spirit they had, a various interpretations on marriage were raised.
The reason not to get married was due to bad experience in someone’s childhood, like what had happened to an Egyptian feminist, Nabawiyah Musa. She said, “One day I was walking around, and I heard a quarrel between husband and wife. The husband said, ‘To me, woman is the right place to spill on my desire.’ The wife explained what his husband meant. I didn’t want to hear the word ‘marriage’ anymore. When I grew older, though I only said, “unwilling to get married’, many people criticized me. There were no more painful words than that.”
Zamakhsyari had a different reason, he had a pessimistic perspective on raising a family. Zamakhsyari thought it was difficult to raise a child, who could be a burdening task for him. Different from the opinion of Islamic scholars, children are “Living Perfumed Garden”, the successors of life. The reason given by Zamakhsyari was similar to Abu ‘ala al-Ma’arri which sounded sceptical, uncertain and anxious. The poem he wrote said:
I inherit to you this message, do not get married.
If you are afraid of making sins, get married, but do not have babies.
Abu A’la was very scared for causing his children or somebody else sorrow, he was regretful to know his father had given birth to him.
The most ironic story is Jamilah al-Hamdaniyah, a very beautiful woman who died tragically after refusing the Sultan’s proposal. She was punished by the Sultan by exposing her to public area and let others harassed her. An attitude did not mean free from risks. At least, Jamilah’s choice made us aware of the vulnerability of risks which could happen to women defending human rights, which must be confronted and anticipated.
Other figures, chose not to get married because of their high enthusiasm in dedicating themselves for religion. They contributed themselves for the good sake of the ummah, as Shaikh Abu Ghuddah said, cited in this book on the motivation behind several great figures in being ‘single’ all the time:
“They spent their whole life for knowledge. They chose not to get married, to control themselves from desire, the most joyful and valuable pleasure which is not forbidden by religion, the pleasure of having sex, having children and a family. There is nothing they could hope and offer, except to explore and spread out the knowledge, to dedicate to their religion, and to share happiness to other Muslim.”
Their stories reflect how these famous figures had their own mind beyond their scientific thoughts. The environment where they lived also affected so much to their life path. As their thoughts constituted their history of life respectively. As Rabiah, she never chose to stay single but to deepen her feelings for God, she didn’t expect to give a try for another love reflected by God’s creatures.
Started by stories of great figures who chose not to get married for the whole life, every chapter provides short quotes to facilitate the readers to enjoy and understand. Kyai Husein gives his own question, which one should be more prioritized, to get married or to devote yourself to God?
In the last two chapters, interpretations of several different Muslim scholars on marriage are described carefully. In the end, we find a moderate saying, as the writer expected, this book will be a reference for knowledge, thought, reflection, discussion altogether.
This book is enriched with the thoughts of famous figures from different era of Islamic schools. It is an enjoyable book to read since it contains unique stories without judging. By reading this book, the readers can broaden their understanding, knowledge and emotional bond with the Islamic historical figures.  Risma Hikmawati, Rahima’s partner in Bandung.
Book of Ijtihad by KH. Husein
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