In a time when values tend to be turned upside down, family life as the very heart of society was attacked just as much as many other handed-down traditions. About ten years ago, when it became fashionable for young torch-bearers of "Modernism" to live in "communities", share sex and children and earnings, many people feared that this might mean the end of family life. Fortunately, this is not so. In the end, the overwhelming majority of young women still dream of having a wedding ring on their finger, living in a comfortable flat as "Mrs. So-and-so" and bringing up their children in an orderly home, just as young men prefer to introduce "her" with the words "This is my wife" instead of "this is my mate or comrade".
Neither Socialism nor any other "isms" were able to uproot what has been implanted into human nature from time immemorial. If dangers for family and particularly matrimonial life could be overcome successfully in the West, they were the more unable to gain ground in the Muslim World. There, family life with all its aspects concerning not only husband, wife and children, but all other relatives too is so firmly established by tradition as well as by religious law that it could not be affected seriously.
The Islamic Approach
Now, one may say that a happy and healthy family life cannot be guaranteed by law. It is true that it depends so much upon the goodwill of all concerned that the best laws remain written phrases where this goodwill is missing. Here, however, as in all other spheres of the Islamic Way of Life, the ruling factor is the fact that Islam is not a religion in the Western sense of the word, but truly THE WAY OF LIFE for those adhering to it.
Islam means on the one hand the complete submission to the Will of God. And on the other, it is the conscious acceptance of man's vicegerency on earth as ordained by God.
Submission to the Will of God, if applied to family life, means accepting the desires inherent in man's nature and living up to them: the desire for a companion with whom one can share love, mutual confidence, kindness, self-sacrifice and solace; the desire for children, the desire for parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and all other relatives whom one can trust and who may either grant protection or be granted protection; the desire for a peaceful and fostering home; the desire for a good education; the desire for help in the hour of need; and the desire for doing good or receiving good, just as the events may demand.
The conscious acceptance of man's vicegerency on earth means seeking the best possible means for a successful vicegerency. And here again family life provides the most promising basis for our activities. A good and healthy family life grants us the right approach to life, helps us to see matters in the right perspective, gives us the most useful education not only as far as our future profession is concerned but also for the handling of life itself. When we are grown up, it gives us a safe home that enables us to take part in society life to its greatest benefit, and when we become old, it grants .us our livelihood just as we used to grant it when we were still able to do so.
To people completely engrossed in the way of life prevailing in the West today, this may sound incredible. Why not leave children in the nursery and depend on their education at school -after all, what a lot of taxes are paid for this purpose? And why feel responsible for relatives in need or old family members since they certainly must be insured against troubles of all sorts and there are homes for old people where they are neither disturbed not can disturb." There are so many and much more useful and lucrative things to do instead of looking after children and caring for old or sick family members.
Yet, incredible though it may sound-in the Muslim World these responsibilities are still shouldered by the majority of families. This is due to the Islamic injunctions which have not at all become obsolete in the course of modern techno-industrial developments but are taken quite seriously by Muslims up to this very day. And why is this so? I think it is so because Muslims honestly believe in their accountability for their conduct here on earth on the Day of Resurrection, because they are fully aware of their role as God's vicegerents and because they feel contentment in fulfilling their religious duties, thus achieving God's good pleasure which is the main aim of their very existence.
Non-Muslims may wonder how a religion can still exercise such a powerful influence over people in modern times that at least in these sphere Western examples are rather shunned instead of being imitated contrary to the usual trend in most other fields.
Structure of Muslim Family
It is the firm structure of Islamic family life resting on the following four pillars that makes these values so enduring and enables them to outlive Western practices. They are based on Qur'anic regulations and the traditions from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), handed down from generation to generation.
1. Family life as a cradle of human society providing a secure, healthy and encouraging home for parents and the growing children;
2. Family life as guardian of the natural erotic desires of men and women, leading this powerful urge into wholesome channels;
3. Family life as the very breeding-place for human virtues like love, kindness, mercy.
4. Family life as the most secure refuge against inward and outward troubles.
Firm and Sheltering Structure of Islamic Family Life
Home and Encouragement
Eros and Children
An ever valid and never outgrowing aspect of Islamic family life is, however, that the strength of all the four pillars is made up by the system. And it must not be forgotten, that the benefits of family life are extended not only to blood relations but encompass also the world-wide family of Muslims, the Islamic brotherhood.
The Family as a Cradle for Human Society
If the family is to be a wholesome cradle for human society, it means that the children as continuators of the human race must find there warmth, patience and every possible advancement in their all-round education. For this purpose, they must have a mother who considers the care for her children not as a part-time job but as one of her foremost duties. And they must have a father who "according to the patriarchical nature of Islam, is an Imam for the family on whose shoulders rests the religious responsibility of the family. He must," as Syed Abul A'la Mawdudi puts it so beautifully, "uphold the tenets of faith and his authority symbolizes that of God in the world. The man is in fact respected in the family precisely because of the sacred total function he fulfills. The rebellion of Muslim women in certain quarters of Islamic society came when men themselves ceased to fulfill their religious function and lost their virile and patriarchical character". This is the noteworthy opinion of a world-wide renowned Islamic scholar.
With a home where mother and father are aware of their important role and realize that the world of tomorrow will be what they make of their children, the foundation of society will remain intact.
As to the education of the children, I think it should consist of the following four phases: the basis covering the period from birth up to the twentieth year, that is the time when the child leaves home, must be the Islamic Milieu created in the family. As modern psychology teaches us, this milieu exercises its most important influence on the child already during the first years of life. It is many small and great things that make up this Islamic Milieu. Foremost condition is that the parents love and respect each other, that they are-according to Islamic patterns-patient and extend cherishing care to the children. But it is also important that the children can listen to beautiful recitations from the Qur'an-there are excellent records nowadays-that they realize when there is Ramadan, the month of fasting, when the great festive days are celebrated, and also that Muslim friends and relatives come on visits or are visited. And they must hear words like Allah and Muhammad uttered in a loving voice. This is what in fact many of us are doing anyway. But for an Islamic Milieu it is also significant that the home where Muslims live is furnished with some Islamic items at least. It doesn't mean the usual sentimentalities but true, undiluted culture. The children should see some really beautiful calligraphies on the walls, perhaps a good carpet here and there and other things which cannot be found in a Western household. And Muslims should at least at home wear traditional dress as used in their homelands and take their shoes off, even if only upon entering the living room. Thus they will keep a close contact to their own heritage and the children will distinctly feel that they are Muslims which will fill them with confidence and natural pride for their community.
The Education Process
The second phase is the phase of telling. We know from our scientists how the consciousness of children is formed by listening at an early age to horror stories and thrillers and how it may, on the other hand, be given wings by enchanting tales. Here lies ahead a wide field for parents endowed with fantasy and much goodwill. They will study again the stories
of the former prophets as told in the Qur'an, read the many beautiful traditions of the last Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the heroes of Islamic history. By, gathering all their love, intelligence and good humor, they can make up the most interesting and inspiring tales of all this and according to my experience it is particularly the period from the second to the fifth year when children are most eager to listen to such stories. The mother may tell them to the child while going about her duties in the home and in most cases very nice discussions will follow since the child has his questions and wants to mention his own views. In this way the child's character can definitely be formed and standards may be established which maintain their validity throughout his lifetime.
It is only natural that a child wants to imitate his praying parents. He is 9iven a small prayer rug and though at first he will be patient for a few minutes at most, in due course he will learn how to pray and get used to a daily rhythm and routine as envisaged by Islam. It will be similar with keeping fast. At first, the child will not stand this for more than a few hours. But slowly he will manage half a day, and even a whole day, Here, it is very important that Sahur and Iftar, the meals before beginning fast and after breaking fast, are really celebrated a bit. How proud the child will be if he is allowed to rise early in the morning for the first time in order to have breakfast with his parents, what a satisfaction it will be for him if he really managed to keep fast for a whole day. I think many parents will have the experience that the child himself will plead to be allowed to keep fast again instead of having to be persuaded to join the grown-ups. Also, there will always be opportunities for giving alms. The child should get the nice bright coin so that he himself can spend it, thus learning that some money should go to the needy or into the collection box of a mosque instead of being used for buying toys or sweets.
With regard to the pilgrimage, the child should be told how Muslims from all over the world gather at the Holy Places for the important purpose of being closely knit together into one brotherhood worshipping their Creator as the servants of the Almighty have done in an uninterrupted chain since the time of Abraham.
The child will now be a conscious Muslim and therefore a broad basis has been established.
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