Islam and Family Life
Those who enjoin that which Allah has commanded to be enjoined (i.e. they are good to their relatives and do not sever the bond of kinship), fear their Lord, and dread the terrible reckoning (i.e. abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden and perform all kinds of good deeds which Allah has ordained). (Qur’an – 13:21) Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said, “The person who severs the bond of kinship will not enter Paradise.” (Bukhari)
Home plays a very important role in the civilised life of man. It is a small world in itself. An individual is born, brought up, and trained in family atmosphere and this naturally leaves an everlasting impression on him. His character and habits are developed at home, and in the family, and these factors are responsible for his future career. This is the reason why the Quran has laid so much emphasis on family life, and has touched (for guidance) even the minute aspects of it in most elaborate form. A good family order serves as a model for the society and its people determines future of a nation.
Within a family, role of its head is very important as the entire responsibility of family management rests on him, particularly at the stage when children are in their tender age. He has to protect himself as well as his family members from all kinds of troubles and difficulties. He has to arrange for their basic needs health, care, and educational requirements. The head of the family has to be very carefully while taking decisions in these matters. A wrong decision taken by the head of the family can become the cause of great damage to the entire family. He shall, therefore, prevent himself and his family from the disastrous consequences of choosing a wrong path. He has to see that his family is engaged in productive activity as well as constructive work. This is possible through correct and farsighted planning and its effective implementation.
Family in Islam
The family unit is an important component of Islam, and all elements of a family are given due significance – from parents to children to spouses to kith and kin.
The Holy Quran repeatedly reminds its readers of the duties children have toward parents, particularly in their old age. God says in the Quran:
And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Uff” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Quran – 17:23-24)
Of the two, the mother is given greater importance in Islam. The Quran bears witness to the mother’s travails by stating, “with trouble did his mother bear him and with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months…” (Qur’an – 46:15)
One of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) strongly supports this as well. A companion once asked the Prophet, “Who deserves my good treatment most?” “Your mother,” said the Prophet. “Who next?” “Your mother,” he replied again. “Who next?” “Your mother,” he answered yet again. “Who after that?” “Your father.”
Obeying one’s parents and treating them with respect and affection are greatly esteemed virtues, even if they are non-Muslim. A female companion of the Prophet once asked him how she should treat her mother who was not a Muslim and followed pagan tribal customs and beliefs. Prophet Muhammad told her to be kind and considerate and to behave towards her as was a mother’s due from a daughter.
Yet, one’s obedience to parents does not overlay one’s obedience to God. He says, “…and if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them, to Me is your return, so I will inform you of what you did.” (Qur’an – 29:8)
Islam further advises parents to treat their children with mercy, love, and equality. In addition, parents must provide proper education to their children along with raising them to be morally upright and responsible individuals of society. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said the best gift a father can give his child is good education.
The Prophet (pbuh) also laid great emphasis on proper treatment of daughters and promised the reward of paradise for parents who raise their daughter(s) well.
At the same time, God calls for moderation in the Quran: “O you who believe! Let not your wealth, or your children, divert you from the remembrance of Allah; and whoever does that, these are the losers.” (Qur’an – 63:9)
There have been many definitions and descriptions of the family. For our purpose, we shall adopt the following simplified definition. The family is a human social group whose members are bound together by the bond of the blood ties and / or marital relationship. The family bond entails mutual expectations of rights and obligations that are prescribed by religion, enforced by law, and observed by the group members.
Accordingly, the family members share certain mutual commitments. These pertain to identity and provision, inheritance and counsel, affection for the young and security for the aged, and maximization of effort to ensure the family continuity in peace. As can be clearly seen from this, the foundations of the family in Islam are blood ties and / or marital commitments. Adoption, mutual alliance, clientage, private consent to sexual intimacy, and “ common law” or “ trial” marriages do not institute a family in the Islamic sense. Islam builds the family on solid grounds that are capable of providing reasonable continuity, true security, and mature intimacy. The foundations of the family have to be as firm and natural as to nurture sincere reciprocity and moral gratification. Islam recognizes that there is no more natural relationship than that of blood, and no more wholesome pattern of sexual intimacy than one in which morality and gratification are joined. Islam recognizes the religious virtue, the social necessity, and the moral advantages of marriage. The normal course of behavior for the Muslim individual is to be family oriented and to seek a family of his own. Marriage and the family are central in the Islamic system. There are many passages in the Qur’ an and statements by the Prophet which go as far as to say that when a Muslim marries, he has thereby perfected half his religion; so let him be God-minded and careful with the other half. Muslim scholars have interpreted the Qur’ an to mean that marriage is a religious duty, a moral safeguard, and social commitment. As a religious duty, it must be fulfilled; but like all other duties in Islam, it is enjoined only upon those who are capable of meeting the responsibilities involved.
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find peace in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect. (Qur’an – 30:21)
Husband and wife, particularly as father and mother, are the two significant pillars upon whom the entire edifice of the family rests. It is, therefore essential that their relationship should be cordial as well as harmonious to achieve happiness and prosperity of the family so that the home may serve as model for others in the society. Such relationship creates an impact on younger members particularly the children. From the beginning itself the relationship between these two life partners should be cordial if not ideal.
The main object of married life is that the husband and wife live together honourably and harmoniously in love and affection, and thereby make home a place of peace and an abode of rest and pleasure — a heaven on earth. It will serve as a model for others to follow (Quran – 25:74). This kind of relationship will provide opportunity to both the spouses to make use of their potential and allow their capabilities to grow and develop (Quran – 30:21). Both should respect and be complementary to each other. The relationship between the two should be most intimate. The Quran has so beautifully described the type of their homogeneity when it says that husband and wife are garments for each other (Quran – 2:187).
It has been often reminded that treatment given to wife by her husband should not be harsh in order to appropriate a part of her dower unless she is found guilty of open indecency, the matter will of course be decided by the appropriate authority. When something from the side of the wife is disliked, one should not get annoyed over immediately or diced at once to get separated from her. It is quite possible that such thing may bring about abundant good for the husband.
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good (Quran – 4:19).