Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran

By Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
From Celibacy to Companionship

The Evolution of Persian Marriages

In 1877, a discussion on the celibacy of priests spurred debate in the Persian journal Akhtar about marriage as a fundamental social institution. The rejection of celibacy was not a novel concept in Islamic literature. Popular Shi‘i traditions rejected celibacy as well. For example, the renowned Safavid-era theologian Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1698 or 1699), credited with propagating commonly practiced Shi‘i rituals, repudiated celibacy and instead wrote about the wisdom of marriage and procreation.1 Building on these historical precedents, the writer of this article argued that endorsement of a monastic way of life (rahbaniyyah) ran contrary to Islam, as well as to the laws of nature and basic common sense. Restricting marriage was akin to denying the existence of God. Just as there was no difference between “aborting a fetus” (isqat-i jinin) and “killing a person” (kushtan-i adam), so there was no distinction between “forbidding marriage” (man’-i izdivaj) and abortion, for marriage “causes the production and creation of human beings.” By denying the natural desire within them, priests were flouting the wisdom of God and a fundamental human impulse. This writer considered such precepts to be a perversion not only of nature but also of religiosity.2

Iranian marriages had fallen under scrutiny and reassessment in response to shifting public needs and political expectations. The

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