Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology, and Law in Nineteent-Hand Early Twentieth-Century Egypt

By Omar, Hussein A. H. | Arab Studies Journal, Spring 2019 | Go to article overview

Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology, and Law in Nineteent-Hand Early Twentieth-Century Egypt


Omar, Hussein A. H., Arab Studies Journal


MODERNIZING MARRIAGE: FAMILY, IDEOLOGY, AND LAW IN NINETEENTHAND EARLY TWENTIETH-CENTURY EGYPT Kenneth M. Cuno Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015 (320 pages, 7 black-and-white illustrations, notes, bibliography, index) $39.95 (cloth)

The aging Egyptian politician Fathallah Barakat remembered his wedding in 1877 as "one of the blackest days" of his life. Dictating his memoir from his deathbed, Barakat recalled how, after the wedding procession and ceremony had concluded, he refused to leave for his marital home, to the horror of the celebrants. Even grown men were seen to have tears flowing from their eyes as the groom balked at the daunting task of "entering" the bridal chamber. As if the shame of this spectacle were not enough, when the groom finally did proceed, his bride and first cousin compounded the night's calamity by knocking over a lamp, which set fire to the matted reed rug of the couple's new home. Barakat, the son of a village headman, and a member of Egypt's emerging middle class, belonged to the first generation in his family to practice monogamy. Although Barakat himself does not appear in the book under review, he typifies the generation and the class of people that are its subject, and his life story offers a counterpoint to the insights of Modernizing Marriage.

How and why marriage (and especially monogamy) became so central to the thought of men like Barakat is the topic of Kenneth Cuno's masterful and meticulous Modernizing Marriage, which charts the changing practices and representations of marriage among Egyptians-including the shift to conjugal marriage-in the nineteenth century. In his first chapter, Cuno argues that elite Egyptians adopted conjugal marriage in imitation of the ruling family, whose turn to monogamy was prompted by the family's purchase of the right to primogeniture (and the title of khedive) from the Ottoman sultan in 1866/7. Monogamy was thus inaugurated by the ruling family's bid to obtain dynastic autonomy from Istanbul. This shift also brought about the turn toward endogamy: the newly minted princes and princesses of Egypt ceased the Ottoman practice of marrying men and women of slave origin, and instead married more suitable partners-their own cousins. Cousin marriage made it unseemly for men to take second, third, or fourth wives, or concubines. In his presentation of these changing mores, Cuno is in line with a broader trend in the field, notably in Adam Mestyan's Arab Patriotism (Princeton, 2017) and James Whidden's Monarchs and Modernity (I. B. Tauris, 2013), which seeks to recenter the ruling family in cultural and intellectual histories of the period.

Moving from the monarchy to its Islamic modernists, Cuno examines the attitudes toward marriage of juridically engaged thinkers like Qasim Amin, Muhammad 'Abduh, and Rifa'a al-Tahtawi. He argues that this cohort appropriated thirteenth-century poetry and sixteenth-century marriage manuals to respond to the challenges of the present. In one striking example, Cuno examines an eighteenth-century interpretation by Ibn 'Umar al-Nawawi of a hadith presenting the family as the center of sovereign order. Languishing unpublished for years, the manual exploded in popularity upon publication in 1878.

Cuno thus implies that these intellectuals married older traditions with "Western" Enlightenment ideals. Yet his evidence can support an even more provocative claim, one that decenters the enduring link between the Enlightenment and the West. After all, the manual of al-Nawawi was originally composed in the eighteenth century. Might not the manual's initial composition and subsequent popularity have resulted from the fact that Europe and Ottoman Egypt had been undergoing similar structural transformations? Cuno forecloses this possibility by framing the issue in terms of genealogies of intellectual miscegenation between a stable Enlightenment tradition and a primordial Muslim one. His own evidence, however, suggests that the modernists' purported Enlightenment borrowings were perhaps less central than is conventionally supposed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology, and Law in Nineteent-Hand Early Twentieth-Century Egypt
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.