What is a Family
Some of the definitions of “Family” offered by the Webster Dictionary are as following:
- A group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head or household.
- The basic unit of society traditionally consisting of two parents raising their children.
- A family is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together; all such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family.
With the rise of “single parent families”, “same sex couples” and “live together outside of marriage”, traditional definitions of family are being widely broken in the western world.
A Muslim Family
A Muslim family consists of a legally married couple (husband and wife) and their children. It also includes their parents, siblings and other relatives. A Muslim family comes into existence through two means: blood relationship and marriage.
Allah (SWT) says, “And it is He Who has made man from water: Then He has set up relationships of family and marriage: And your Lord is ever All Powerful (over all things).” [Surah Al Furqaan: 54]
Two fundamental distinctions of Muslim family
The basic family unit of husband and wife (man and woman) is established solely through marriage.
Family members include blood relatives of both husband and wife, whether they live under single roof or not.
The First Family
The first family came into existence with the creation of first man and woman, Adam and Hawa (Eve). Allah (SWT) says, “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels; “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Will You place in there, one who will make mischief and shed blood in there? While we (indeed) celebrate Your Praises and glorify Your Holy (Name)? He said: “I do know what you do not know.” [Surah Al Baqarah: 30]
Then Allah (SWT) created for the first man his pair (zawj) in the form of the first woman. That’s how the first family of husband and wife came into being. The Qur’an says,
“O Humankind! Fear (and respect) your (Guardian) Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from him, He (Allah) created his mate of similar nature, and from both (the two of them) spread (like seeds) countless men and women -And fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and revere (and respect) the wombs (that bore you): For Allah always watches over you.” [Surah An-Nisa: 1]
Allah (SWT) emphatically mentions that He created the first human for His vicegerency of the earth, but initially He placed the first human couple in paradise under one condition.
” And We said: “O Adam! You and your wife live in the Garden; and eat of the plentiful things in there (wherever and whenever) you want; But do not approach this tree, or you will run into harm and transgression.” [Surah Al Baqarah: 35]
When that condition was broken, the first couple was sent to the earth. Again, with another condition:
“We said: “Get you all down from here; And if, surely, there comes Guidance to you from Me; Those who follow My guidance, for them there shall be no fear, and they shall not suffer.” [Surah Al Baqarah: 38]
The point to be made here is, the beginning of human civilization on this planet started through a husband and wife, in an atmosphere of high moral standard, divinely guided knowledge and wisdom. This is in sharp contrast to the hypothesis of Darwinian evolution that is being taught in schools of the western world under the guise of science. Islam categorically rejects this pseudo-science which has also been refuted within the scientific community. For more information on this topic, please consult the book “The Deceit of Evolution” by famous scholar Harun Yahya.
Family values in the west
Muslims living in the west are faced with a tough challenge of preserving Islamic family values in a society that is not conducive towards preserving them. In spite of all the materialistic advancements, the widespread decadence of family values is open for all to see in the west. Divorce is widely prevalent and increasing day by day. Couples end up in divorce over trivial matters and simple disagreements. Lack of trust among family members is high due to prevalence of abuse, extra-marital affairs and incest. Another point to note is, the same couples that can stay together as boy-friend/girl-friend for a long time-cannot stay together as husband and wife and ends up in divorce after a while. It proves that the general western mentality is hesitant to accept the responsibilities of married life and subsequently Allah (SWT) is lifting the blessings of marriage and family up from their lives. Promiscuity and shamelessness are widespread in the form of dresses of both the genders-especially women, free mixing between the two sexes and engaging in behaviors of sexual nature in public. There are established institutions in this society that work under legal protection to promote and provide opportunities for such promiscuity. The whole entertainment industry and popular culture are making billions by selling cheap sex to the public. Just to give an example, Internet porn is a billion dollar industry and so is alcohol. Thus, the very foundations of family are being terribly shaken and shattered in the society where we are living. On the one hand, it is a humongous challenge and on the other hand, it is a great opportunity. The challenge is to preserve our Islamic values and identity and the opportunity is to set role models of successful families before the western world.
Ingredients of a Successful Family
Allah (SWT) warns the believers regarding the possibility of disaster in family and then prescribes methods to prevent such disaster. The Qur’an says,
“O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: So be aware of them! But if you forgive them and overlook, and cover up (their faults), Surely Allah is Often Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah Taghabun: 14]
Allah (SWT) is warning the believers not to let their own family members be their enemies. In order to prevent that- forgiveness, overlooking each other’s minor faults and asking Allah’s forgiveness for each other have to be made a regular practice within the family. The same surah continues to warn us that our wealth and our children are a trial/test/fitnah for us. Along with warning-comes the Qur’anic prescription of how to succeed in this test. The Qur’an calls upon us to give Allah (SWT) a beautiful loan, that is to use our wealth and prepare our children in a way-that they may become Sadaqa Jariyah (continuous charity) for us so that we continue to receive benefit from them after we leave this world and others continue to benefit from them as well. That is indeed, the true success. But how do we do that? If we’re determined to build our families on Islamic values and can instill the right tarbiah (education, training, upbringing, role modeling etc) in our children, we can achieve that success Insha-Allah.
Islamic Family Values
Aim of Life: First of all, a Muslim family must determine its aim and objective. What is the ultimate goal of this family? Our Deen teaches us that the ultimate goal of a believer’s life is pleasure and forgiveness of our Lord and salvation in our real life in the hereafter. A Muslim family should consciously accept that, as it’s ultimate goal.
“Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Lord (and Cherisher) of the Worlds: He has no partners: This am I commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will.” [Surah Al-An’am: 162-163]
Strong Base of Knowledge: In order to determine our aim in life, we need authentic knowledge. We need knowledge not just for the sake of knowing, but also in order to implement in our lives and enhance our qualifications. Seeking knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah has to be a continuous, regular program in the schedule of a Muslim family. By seeking knowledge, we come to know that Allah (SWT) has made His messenger (SAW) as our true role model and that The Messenger (SAW) has encouraged, rather ordered us to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.
Righteous Actions: A Muslim family obeys the commandments of its Lord. Salat, fasting, zakat, hajj, hijaab and other divine injunctions have to be followed with complete sincerity and devotion. A Muslim family makes sure that its earnings and expenditure are all through Halal means. Family members, especially parents keep themselves away from any discrepancy between their speech and their actions because they are the ones who become examples for their children.
Family Education: A saying goes in English, “Charity begins at home”. In Arabic it says, “Al Ummu Madrasa” (Mother is the school). If you want to teach truthfulness to your children, but you make them sleep every night by scaring them of policemen, whereas there is no real policemen around-what kind of message are they receiving? If you want to teach respect to your children, but you and your spouse curse at each other in their presence, how will they learn respect?
Learn your role and responsibility in the family: Whether you’re a husband, wife, parent, child, sibling or relative-learn your position, role and responsibility in the family from The Qur’an and Sunnah. Fulfill your responsibilities to the best of your ability. If all family members strive to fulfill their obligations, they all automatically get their rights and the family runs smoothly. Compare this with an automobile, when all different parts of an automobile do what they’re supposed to do and help each other being connected-the automobile runs smoothly and reaches it’s destination.
Be Satisfied with Little: The Prophet (SAW) who is our true role model, taught us to look towards those who are less advantageous than us in this world and to look up to them who are more advanced than us in Deen. A Muslim family needs to develop the culture of sacrifice and contentment with little (Islamic terminology-Qana’ah). This Qana’ah or contentment with little has been described as one of the characteristics of Taqwa (consciousness of Allah). This will manifest through the attitudes of family members that they will less demand their own rights and strive more to give others their rights. They will sacrifice their own comforts, demands, money, will, opinions and luxuries for each other. The foundation of a happy family is mutual love and sacrifice.
Love and Mercy
Allah (SWT) says, “And among His Signs (Ayat), is this, that He created (your) mates for you from yourselves, that you may live in joy (and peace) with them, and He has placed love and mercy between your (hearts): Surely, there are signs in this for those who think.” [Surah Ar Rum: 21]
Allah (SWT) also says, “And do not forge to be generous between yourselves because Allah is All Seeing of all that you do.” [Surah Al Baqarah: part of 237]
And “They are your garments and you are their garments.” [Surah Al Baqarah: part of 187]
Our Prophet (SAW) said, “The best among you are those who are best to their families and I am the best of you to my family.”
He (SAW) said, “it is only the evil one who abuses them (women) and the honored one is he who honors them”.
Once a man came to the Prophet p.b.u.h. and asked: who is the person who is most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet answered your mother, your mother, your mother then your father. That is why Islam made Paradise under the feet of mothers according to one hadith of the Prophet p.b.u.h.
Mutual Consultation (Shura): Family matters should be decided based on consultation. The Prophet (SAW) himself was asked to consult. If the person who was directly guided by revelation-was commanded to consult, what about us? Shura (consultation) is a basic feature of Islamic way of life.
Help Each other: From the spirit of love and sacrifice, members of a Muslim family help each other. Our Beloved Prophet (SAW) used to help His noble wives in household works besides doing his own chores by his own hand.
Communication: Family members should continuously work on improving the efficiency of communication among each other. This includes honest and open communication between spouses and between children. Family members need to take time to understand each other, be-friend each other, develop closeness and emotional bond among each other and support each other at times of ease and difficulty alike.
Some Examples of Communication
A righteous slave of Allah, by the name of Luqman the Wise (there is difference of opinion about his being a prophet or not) had a conversation with his son. It was full of wisdom and sincere advice. Allah (SWT) liked that conversation so much that He (SWT) included that conversation in His final revelation to humankind and jinn kind that will be recited until the Day of Judgment. Interested readers are requested to study Surat Al Luqman along with meaning and interpretations. As he addressed his son, he used a salutation that is used to express superlative form of love and affection in Arabic language ( “Bunaia”-literally means “O my little boy, O my baby etc”. The original word would be Ya Ibni (O my son), but Luqman made tasgheer (expression of affection) while addressing his son). Not necessarily his son was a little kid, because when one goes through the weighty advices, one feels that those were addressed towards a grown up person-not a kid. But through him, Allah (SWT) teaches us that pre-condition of effective communication and effective advice is strong base of love, affection, care and rapport.
Allah (SWT) mentions the conversation Prophet Ibraheem (A) had with his dis-believing father, more than once in the Qur’an. Among them, interested reader is requested to study Surah Maryam: Ayah 41-50. This conversation is an extreme example of politeness, wisdom, respect, care and sacrifice.
Prophet Ibraheem (A) saw in his dream that he is slaughtering his little son, Ismael (A). Qur’an mentions in Surah As-Saffat : Ayah 102, that Ibraheem (A) consulted with his little boy who just reached the age of running around, about his dream and asked the boy’s opinion. Can there be a loftier example of mutual respect and openness in communication?
There are many other points needed to be discussed that form an ideal Muslim family, but has to skipped for the time being for the sake of the article’s size. In brief, our lives and children and families are Amanah for us in this world. If we can utilize these amanah as guided by our Creator, we succeed and pass the test. Last but never the least, is to continuously seek help and guidance from Allah (SWT) towards that which pleases HIM and grants us success-peace and security in this world and salvation in the next. Ameen.