By Sahar Kassaimah
In Sura’tul Al Nahl (Sura 16) in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) says, “And Allah has made for you in your homes an abode.”
What does the home represent to the Muslim family? Is it a place where family members can relate to one another and where they sincerely enjoy being together; where they have a sense of shared beliefs and values, and their behavior is based on Islamic principles? Is it a place where family members are protected, happy and kind to one another?
The home should not be just a place where people eat, rest and sleep; indeed, the home is the place where we spend most of our time, and where families spend most of their time together. It is the place where husbands and wives can be alone together. Therefore, the home is a place where families should worship together, and it should be based on Allah’s (SWT) rules and guidance. It has been reported by Ibn Abi Aldunia and others (Sahih al-Jaami) that, “When Allah loves the people of a household, he introduces kindness among them.”
The question we face now is: “In an age in which the world has changed profoundly, from being a basically pro-family to anti-family society, how many Muslim homes possess these beautiful qualities? It is time to stop and re-examine our family situations to determine to what degree they have been affected by our larger society.
Although it is difficult to obtain statistical information pertaining specifically to the healthiness of Muslim homes, several different sources and the occurrence of certain situations in our community indicate that Muslim families are also experiencing social and personal problems as well.
Consider that there has been a marked increase within our community in the following: 1) separation and divorce rates; 2) the percentage of families headed by a single parent; 3) teenagers; 4) disagreements, tension and conflict among married couples; 5) intergenerational conflict; 6) the rate of depression, particularly among wives; 7) domestic violence involving teens.
Reasons Behind These Problems. What are the real reasons behind the changes that are occurring within Muslim families?
In the past, it was far easier to successfully raise a family because society itself supported our efforts. Parents and children were surrounded by positive role models; the media reinforced family values, and support systems existed to help create strong families. However, over the past thirty years, these factors have changed dramatically, and these changes have produced powerfully negative effects on our families.
Today, almost everything around us tends to minimize positive family values and principles. As our families are a part of an increasingly immoral society, they have been attacked and polluted as well – whether we like it or not. Even though our values and principles may have helped us to resist these changes, like others in our society, we are still vulnerable to the negative influences around us. Those that are weak in their Islamic practice and that lack wisdom and judgment are particularly likely to succumb to the mental poisoning that takes place nowadays.
However, we cannot completely blame the times and the world we live in. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, must accept responsibility for seeking to protect their families from this anti-family society. The occurrence of these problems within Muslim families of all backgrounds and circumstances indicates that the problems are “outside-in.”
When marriage is reduced to nothing more than two married people who live together but act as if they are single, the “spirit of family” disappears from the home! When these couples choose to have an “I, me” orientation of life, rather than a “we, us” perspective, family members will not work together for the sake of the family, or enjoy being together.
When both father and mother are working outside of their homes for economic reasons and the care and education of their children are shifted to childcare providers and teachers, the children are often deprived of having their emotional and intellectual needs adequately met. When both parents don’t understand that their family’s well being must be a major priority and that they must sacrifice to build, protect, and reinforce their family, the family “building” falls down!
When Muslim families forget the importance in Islam of building a strong foundation for family life; when spouses forget the rights that Allah (SWT) has given their mates over them, their love disappears. Instead, anger, disagreements, and conflict take its place. When fathers and husbands do not set aside a special time for their families to talk, laugh, communicate; when wives and mothers spend most of their time caring for young children and inside of the kitchen, tranquility and family success “go with the wind.”
When both forget to exercise and utilize the human gifts that Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon them – patience, kindness, and understanding – the whole family pays a huge price.
How to Solve These Problems. We can return to strong family values and strengthen our homes by spreading the teachings of Islam in regards to family life.
First, we need to keep alive, in our hearts and minds, the sense of hope and the belief that it is never too late to change – even if we have the feeling that our marriage is dying and that nothing seems to be improving (WA LA YAKNAT MIN RAHMET ALLAH ELA ALKAWM AL KAFEREEN). And at the same time, we must remember that the desire to build a strong family is not enough – good intentions and ideas are not enough. We must develop a new mindset based on Islamic principles and practices.
We must strive hard to develop and recognize the gifts that Allah has given to us that will enable us to become agents of change within our families. Everyone knows his or her family situation better than anyone else, and no one can understand what needs to be done within our personal families better than we can.
Marriage requires collaboration, commitment and a sense of responsibility; these things equip us to choose and to work together towards a “we, us” or “together” orientation. We must strive to develop a deeper knowledge of the importance of the family and family values in Islam in order to deal with the powerful forces that surround us.
We must set aside a special time each week for our family members to enjoy one another, communicate, plan, and study Islam together. Husbands and wives need to spend time together talking and striving to have a sense of humor. They need to exercise self-control because when either of them gets angry and loses control, the effects can be wounding. Our tempers can get us into big problems.
Although problems are expected in every marriage, patience and forgiveness are the best gifts that we can use to correct mistakes. We must strive to be patient, kind, calm, and above all, to understand our partner’s point of view.
The only way we can have rich family relationships is through listening and understanding. One of the primary reasons that we must seek to understand one another is that most of our mistakes are a result of misunderstandings and not bad intentions.
Husbands and wives should avoid discussing their personal problems and private matters with others. They also need to encourage each other in their obedience to Allah, and to raise their kids according to Islamic values, because there is no doubt that a child who grows up without Islamic values suffers long-term.
Children get much of their sense of security and tranquility from the way their fathers and mothers treat each other; hence, the greatest thing we can give to them is through our loving and being kind to one another. By building strong marriages, Insha’Allah, we will create a powerful effect on the entire Islamic society.