The reader should note that "The Alchemy of Happiness" is a translation from the Kimiya'e Saadat which was written in Persian, by Al-Ghazzali himself. It was meant to serve as an abridged (condensed) version of his major masterpiece Ihya ulum-id-din (in Arabic). Now, Mr. Claud Field has (or claims to have) tried to further abridge and further condense Al-Ghazzali's own abridgment with his English translation called "The Alchemy of Happiness." By doing so, he has indiscreetly omitted a great deal of essential detail. He has done this in such a manner that the reader is left with the impression that this heavily biased and imbalanced account is the subject matter. The instances of such an imbalanced rendering into English are so glaring in parts of this English translation, and particularly on this subject (women's issues), that one is left with the impression that there could very well have been a deliberate attempt to paint Islamic teachings (relating to women's status, marital life, the treatment of the wife, etc.) in a very negative light. Unfortunately there are so many non-Muslim Orientalists who are known for their attempts to denigrate the portrayal of the beautifully balanced social system of Muslim life, particularly in relation to the female sex. For this reason we feel obliged to tell our readers: Caveat Emptor. For this reason also, we also suggest that our readers go to the more detailed Ihya ulum-id-din in order to get a more balanced and proper understanding of the subject. Readers will also be able to see for themselves just how distorted accounts can be that are given by these Orientalists. Please note that Al-Ghazzali does not denigrate women in any way, shape, or form in his other books, so that makes this translation by Claud Field highly suspect if not extremely unreliable. It is not Al-Ghazzali who is making the mistakes here, it is the translator who is surreptitiously doing this. On top of that Mr. Field has left a great deal out and by doing that he has mislead readers into a very biased (and incorrect) view of Islam. For example click here to see a few examples of some glaring mistranslations given in this chapter.
some examples showing bias in his translation:
The Qur'an never mentions this quote anywhere and Al-Ghazzali could not conceivably make such a mistake. The correct Quranic quote is:
A. Claud Field says: "A third disadvantage of marriage is that the cares of a family often prevent a man from concentrating his thoughts on God and on a future life, and may, unless he is careful, lead to his destruction, for God has said, "Let not your wives and children turn you away from remembering God."
O ye who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. If any act thus, the loss is their own. [Qur'an 63:9]
B. Claud Field says: "In the Koran it is written, "Men should have the upper hand over women,"
The Qur'an does not say that anywhere and Al-Ghazzali would not make such a glaring error. However it does say:
Men are the protectors and maintainers [qawwauma] of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first). (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). [Qur'an 4:34]
Regarding "the upper hand", here is a hadith from Sahih Bukhari (Volume 2, Book 24, Number 508):
Narrated Hakim bin Hizam
The Prophet said, "The upper hand is better than the lower hand (i.e. he who gives in charity is better than him who takes it). One should start giving first to his dependents. And the best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person (from the money which is left after his expenses). And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others, Allah will make him self-sufficient."
C. Claud Field says: "Wise men have said, 'Consult women, and act contrary to what they advise.' In truth there is something perverse in women, and if they are allowed even a little licence, they get out of control altogether, and it is difficult to reduce them to order again."
Comment: This is not in the Urdu translation of Kimiya'e Saadat, nor is it in the Ihya ulum-al-din. Clearly then, Al-Ghazzali did not say this. For some reason, however, Claud Field has inserted this statement into his English translation called "The Alchemy of Happiness." The Ihya ulum-ul-din says:
(3) [The] third harm of marriage is to keep away family members and children from the remembrance of God, to encourage them to hoard up wealth and to search for objects of pride and boast[ing]. Whatever thing diverts attention from God is a cause of misfortune. Ibrahim-b[en]-Adham said , "He who keeps sticking to the waist of his wife gets no benefit. These are the benefits and harms of marriage. [Whether] to marry is better or not, depends on the personal character of [the] man. These benefits and harms are by way of advice and they show [the correct] path. Marriage is good for [the] one who is not diverted from the remembrance of God and from the path of honesty and virtue. In the [opposite] case, marriage is bad for him. If there is [a] necessity of controlling sexual passion, [then] marriage is necessary. Jesus Christ did not marry in spite of his high and lofty position as a Prophet. The Holy Prophet, placed in the highest rank among men, took several wives and yet he did not not forget God for a moment. Even he [received] revelations at the time when he was in the same bed with his wife Ayesha.
From Vol II Section 1 Harms of Marriage: Ihya ulum-id-din by Al-Ghazzali, translated by Fazlul Karim Now .
one could view Field's statement in terms of Nafs . . . i.e. consult your nafs, and whatever your nafs wish, then do the opposite . . . as a means of controlling the nafs. But to use the above statement, which denigrates a woman in such a simplistic and childlike manner, is extremely offensive to Muslims.
D. Claud Field says, "Thirdly, a man should condescend to his wife's recreations and amusements, and not attempt to check them. The Prophet himself actually on one occasion ran races with his young wife Ayesha. The first time he beat her, and the second time she beat him. Another time he held her up in his arms that she might look at some performing Negroes. In fact, it would be difficult to find anyone who was so kind to his wives as the Prophet was to his. Wise men have said, "A man should come home smiling and eat what he finds and not ask for anything he does not find." However, he should not be over-indulgent, lest his wife lose her respect for him. If he sees anything plainly wrong on her part, he should not ignore but rebuke it, or he will become a laughing stock.
The Ihya ulum-id-din says:
Make play and sport with the wife [even] after bearing hardships given by her. This gives pleasure to the wife. The Prophet used to joke with his wives and [take up] their levels in manual labour. The Prophet ran races with Ayesha. One day Ayesha won the race and on another day, the Prophet won it and said, "This is the revenge of that day." The Prophet said, "The most perfect believer in faith is one who is the best of them in good conduct." The Prophet said, "The best of you is one who treats his wife [the best] among you." Hazrat Omar in spite of his sternness said, "Stay in the house with your wife like a boy. When the wife demands things from her husband, he should treat [it like] like a man.".The wise Loqman said, "A wise man should live in his house like a boy and when she stays among people, he should stay like a man." There is a Hadis Qudsi, "God dislikes a man who is stern to his family and self-conceited." The Prophet said to Jaber, "Have you not found a virgin to marry? You could have played with her and she with you." A desert woman described her husband after his death, "By God, he was fond of sports and when there was darkness, he remained silent.
From Vol II Section 3 Rules After Marriage: Ihya ulum-id-din by Al-Ghazzali, translated by Fazlul Karim
There are many problems with Mr. Field's translation, especially with this chapter. We offer this advice regarding Claud Field's translation ... CAVEAT EMPTOR.