A Difficult but Fulfilling Process
A Muslim's every act is an ibadah (servitude to Allah). What else could be more rewarding than helping create and welcoming a new servant of Allah on earth? Nine months may not be that much, but for a baby in the womb it brings the end of an extraordinary stage of his journey. It is a journey through which an impure 'spurting fluid' (al-Qur'an 86:6) is fashioned in the safe lodging of mother's womb (al-Qur'an 23:12-14) and grows bigger and bigger to become a 'human being'. As the human being is not meant to be confined in a tiny space, he needs a wider physical world in order to go through the process of 'test and tribulation' for which he is destined.
The birth of a baby is a mixture of anxiety, excitement and expectation. For mothers it is a fulfilling experience. Allah has given in them unusual resilience strength and courage to bear the burden and discomfort. A new life in their lap is a dream coming true for both the parents. It is the ultimate experience for a couple of 'togetherness", both working in unison to bring a new creature into the world.
Although parenthood is a matter of preparedness from the time one plans to marry, birth initiates the 'real world' experience of parenting. Labor is a traumatic and painful physical, as well as psychological, experience for a woman. For many husbands it may be hard to watch their beloved one in pain, but their presence has soothing effect on their partners. It reduces anxiety and provides a feeling of security to wives when most needed. The shared experience creates deeper bond between the couple in their common goal to serve Allah.
Islamic Customs on Birth of a Child
The comfort and safety of the baby suddenly shatters in the new unknown world. The new born (al-mawlood, pl-mawalid) cries out. The Sunnah of the Prophet teaches that when a baby is born he needs to be cleansed and dressed. A male adult, father or some one close in the family, should recite adhan (ritual call for collective prayer) in the right ear and iqamah (ritual announcement for starting the prayer) in the left ear. In the world of spirit man declared his instinctive readiness to accept Allah as his Lord (al-Qur'an 7:172). The first sound to reach a baby's ear should thus be the declaration of Allah's greatness, so that the sound always reverberates in his memory and settled in his soul. It is mentioned in a hadith that devil runs away by the sound of the adhan.
The mother of the faithful Ayesha (RA) mentioned, "I saw the prophet give adhan in the ear of al-Hussein ibn Ali when his mother, Fatima, gave birth to him". (Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).
When a child was born in a family, Ayesha (RA) would not ask whether it was a boy or girl, rather she would ask "is it complete and sound?" so, if she was told that it was, she would say, "all praise and thanks for Allah, Lord of all creation". (Bukhari)
It is an excellent practice to give a bit of small chewed date to the baby, so that he starts his life with sweetness.
Ayesha (RA) said "new born children used to be brought to Allah's messenger and he would supplicate for blessing for them and rub a chewed date upon his palate" (Muslim, Abu Dawud).
Muslims parents have instinctive dua (supplication) for their new-born. The supplication by Mariam's (AS) in this regard is unique mother (al-Qur'an 3:36).
Arrival of a child in a family is a glad tiding that needs to be conveyed and shared (al-Qur'an 3:39, 37:101).
Islamic Customs in the first Week of a Child
"Every child is held in pledge for his aqiqa which is sacrificed for him on his seventh day and he is named on it and his head is shaved" (Ahmad and Abu Dawud).
Names should be linked with his father (al-Qur'an 33:5). Names have to be meaningful. Praiseworthy names are those which mean slaves of Allah or His attributes, the Prophets and the pious people.
"The most beloved of your names in the eye of Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent, are Abdullah and Abdur Rahman" (Muslim).
Names should not be such which are disapproved or forbidden by the Prophet.
Whoever has a child born to him and wishes to offer a sacrifice then let him sacrifice two sheep for a boy and a single sheep for a girl. (Abu Dawud and Nasa'i)
With the child there is aqiqa, so spill blood for him and remove the harm from him (Bukhari, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)
When al-Hasan was born, he (messenger) said to her (Fatima): shave his head and give the weight of his hair in silver to the poor. So, she shaved off his hair, weighed it and its weight was a dirham or a part of dirham. (Ahmad and al-Baihaqi)
The fitrah (the natural way) is five: circumcision, shaving the private parts, trimming the moustache, clipping the nails and plucking hair from the armpits (Bukhari, Muslim) Circumcision is better on the 7th day.
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Sons and Daughters to be Treated Equally
The gender of a child should not bother parents. After all, it is divine will. Sons and daughters must be treated equally. In pre-Islamic Arab and some other societies, daughters were the symbol of embarrassment and were treated in shameful manner to the extent that some Arab fathers buried them alive. It is an irony that many societies even today do not welcome the birth of daughters in the same way they do with sons.
Whoever takes care of two girls until they reach adulthood he and I will stay on the Day of Resurrection - and he interlaced his fingers (Muslim). Prophet's behavior with his daughter Fatima was exemplary.
The Demand from the Newborn Babies
The demand from the newborn babies is continuous and tremendous. Mothers should be in the forefront in making sure that the baby is clean, well-fed, loved and protected. Breast-milk is the perfect food for human babies. The physical touch of the baby with the mother during breastfeeding creates exhilarated relationship between the two. This is the root of life-long love between a mother and a child.
Newborn babies are fully dependent on adults. The only way they can communicate is crying when they are hungry or uncomfortable and smiling when they are happy. Their hands and feet participate in their action. Babies like to be rocked and talked to. The excellent practice for parents is to recite the Qur'an for them.
What about other Children?
A newborn baby naturally gets all the attention in a family. Older brothers and sisters can feel a little bit left out. The youngest one, who had probably so far monopolized parental attention, can be confused or jealous. Parents have to be sensitive on this. It is just a matter of time when things settle down and the brothers and sisters learn to accommodate themselves to create a lifelong relationship.
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Passing on the Trust of Faith
Holding a baby in the arms is one of the most emotionally fulfilling experiences in life. Watching a baby grow and thrive is most rewarding. Getting to know a new born baby in the first few days and weeks is also a thrilling experience which reaches far beyond just caring for his daily needs. The baby learns about his parents, the family and the surroundings. It is an unforgettable time for the whole family watching a tiny person making sense of the world around him. In this process parents also get more matured and responsible in life. It is an interactive dynamic process.
Children are a source of vigor to the heart, joy to the souls and pleasure to the eyes. Wealth and children are adornments to human beings (al-Qur'an 18:47) which allure them toward worldly life. Many forget the role of proper upbringing their children because of the intense love for them. Parents are for the protection and physical care of their children. Time is the invaluable gift parents can give to their children. On top of everything, Muslim parents are in obligation to pass on the amanah (Trust) of faith to their children from the very young and tender age, so that they can grow with balanced Muslim personality. Only then they can bear witness to the Truth before mankind in the future.
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That man can have nothing but what he strives for; that (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight; then will he be rewarded with a reward complete. (al-Qur'an 53:39-41)
Parenthood is a creative struggle to accommodate a new-comer in a world where everything needs to be shared in the family. It is a journey through new experience that leads to more maturity and accountability of the parents. The journey is a one-way traffic, full of bends, curves, ups and downs. But it is the sense of consciousness that makes parenting a lively and challenging enterprise. Positive parenting requires a determined effort.
Parenthood is an historic journey that brings in challenge and reward in one's life. At the start of a journey every parent is expected to know two essential things. Where is his destination and how is he going to reach there? Confusion or lack of planning in this process will end up with tragic consequences.
Parenthood could be the most pleasurable and worthwhile engagement in life. But preparation is fundamental for that pleasure. 'If you fail to prepare; prepare to fail'. A teacher, who wants to succeed in providing the curriculum in a disciplined and safe environment, spends time to prepare a lesson plan. Likewise, a parent's long-term plan is absolutely vital for the development of a child's physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual life. We all do some planning in our life subconsciously, but tend to ignore that in our future investment, in bringing up our children. Those who plan for efficient parenthood are rewarded at the end.
The importance of nurturing children, i.e., positive parenting, cannot be over emphasized. The plants in the nursery and the children at the home and school 'nursery' have striking similarities. The culmination of a plant is a healthy tree with flowers and fruits. Parental care here does not simply mean providing children with good food, dress and shelter. It includes proper education and the inculcation of good behavior and attitude toward human beings and other creation. Those who create havoc in the society and become menace to humanity are generally known to have unfavorable upbringing.
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Parenting - Islamic Perspective
Islam wants all human beings to grow up as emissaries of Allah on earth. In that respect, parenting in Islam is a divine responsibility. Parental duty is at the heart of Muslim life. For a sound and healthy continuity of Islamic civilizational legacy every parent has to transfer the spirit and message of Islam to his offspring. If an individual parent cannot cope with this great and demanding task for some reason, the community has to create such network that nobody in the Muslim Nation falls through the net and joins the hapless mob of disconcerted and lapsed 'Muslims'. It also tells of the immense obligation of the guardians of a household. In fact, every one in a Muslim family is jointly responsible according to his role in the house.
Islam's spirit dictates Muslim life in a way that Muslims are prepared even to die for others, rather to live selfishly for oneself. Here lies the root historic reason of Islam's lightning success of winning people's heart in its hey days. Self-centered nature and the concept of 'individualism' has very little to do in a caring and compassionate society. These are departures from basic human qualities and make a society avaricious and dangerously competitive. They are the features of materialistic societies where human beings vie with each other to endure and triumph. (al-Qur'an 3:14).
This gives rise to the rule of the 'survival of the fittest' which makes some super rich and powerful at the cost of the majority. In contrast, Islam advocates for social responsibility, without of course endangering personal creativity and innovation.
It is a balancing act, like walking in the tight rope. Losing balance due to callousness and indifference brings him down to bottomless pit. Only a full consciousness of what Allah has demanded from man can save him from that fate, i.e., a hellish life in this world and eternal hell in the hereafter. All these are great tests of real life. Excessive love for children should not fool the parents in their divinely ordained responsibilities. Disproportionate love for or apathy to the children is the recipe for misfortune. Those who are blessed with children should always weigh out whether their children would emancipate them from or throw them into hell fire. (al-Qur'an 66:6)
There is no room for complacency in parental responsibility. There is also no room for compromise with the basic principles of Islam. Of course, most parents do make little compromises in a real life of living in Jahiliyah (ignorance). But they must be forthcoming and honest with their children. If parents fail in sticking to ideal Islamic solutions for some reasons, they must openly admit them and clarify to the children so that they understand the context. However, they must keep on trying to improve their lot.
Muslims in the past played that pivotal role in the world even where they were insignificant in number, the tiny minority. They were the pioneers in passing on the spirit and message of Islam to their own children on one hand and to the children of Adam on the other. Like a loving mother Islam deals with people's heart with sensitivity. Once that is conquered society brings out its natural transformation.
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Parenting in non-Muslim Environment
Many million Muslims now live in the West in the midst of a culture, often alien to Islamic values. For centuries the world view of the two civilizations, Islamic and western, had difficulties in adjusting with each other. With the decline of religious influence in the West and intellectual stagnation in the Muslim world, the gap has widened. Many Muslims coming from disadvantaged positions and settling in affluent western cities, are finding themselves like 'fish out of water'. Revert Muslims have their specific disadvantages and are finding their life not less difficult in their own homeland.
A highly educated immigrant Muslim professional once told me in a voice filled with resentment and resignation about his two university-going children. His resentment emanated from a long-time observation of the 'unsocial behavior' of his own children and the children of his friends. What is wrong with these young people? The father mentioned that they never came and talked to the family friends, mostly from his country of origin, on their own. Whenever there was any family guest their abode would be their small rooms. He mentioned that he has adjusted himself to the apathy and indifference of his children toward their own 'root'. At the end of the discussion, he sounded a bit philosophical, "we are a displaced people with our roots neither here nor there. Our children are like uprooted plants struggling to survive in a pot".
I am not sure whether his observation is accurate. Even if it is, don't the plants survive in the hostile environment, if proper care is taken? As far as human beings are concerned, they are not only capable of adaptation but also able to influence events in extreme difficulties, if they really want. Of course, not every body or every nation can manage to survive and sustain in unfriendly environment. What matters is the physical and intellectual fitness and stamina.
Here comes the enormous responsibility of the Muslim parents in the western society. They have the twin tasks or mission, which they need to take on board. Or else, they will face the severe consequences in future. On the one hand, they have to quickly improve their adaptability in the new environment of the West without compromising the basic Islamic principles, and on the other, they have to undertake great burdens of raising their children in the prophetic model.
The goal of Islam is to create a world where man is liberated from the clutches of Jahiliyah (ignorance). That includes the liberation of mind before anything. Islam challenges human mind and intellect to come clean with objectivity so that it can think fresh. Contrary to common perception today, Islam promotes intellectual exercise on any area of knowledge, from aesthetics to zoology. Islam's assertive character encourages Muslims to take a pro-active role in the intellectual and social enterprise. It urges Muslims to participate, interact, engage and influence in society's common good. It has an ultimate target of leading humanity toward full submission of Allah.
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Monks at Night and Knights by Day In the decisive battles against the Romans during the time of Caliph Umar (RA), the Muslim soldiers, although always outnumbered by the enemy, proved mysteriously indomitable and strong-willed opponents. The Roman commanders were baffled as to how could the once barbaric and irregular desert army display such vigor and chivalry against a battle hardened regular Roman army. They sent some informers to see how the Muslim soldiers spend their time, especially at night. As wining and womanizing were the common practices of the conquering army, the generals were perplexed and frightened to hear that Muslims were like 'monks at night and knights by day'
Such was the characteristics of the first generation of Muslims who, within a few decades conquered the land beyond Arabia and brought out an extraordinary social revolution in the history of mankind. They made the mountains move, rivers give way in their search for human liberation and, above all, human hearts surrender to one Allah. They were the first "Qur'anic generation", They were the people despised by the then two super powers, the Persians in the east and the Romans in the west, to the extent that neither of them even felt like to take them over.
A Unique World They created a world where a young woman could travel alone between the two distant places of Arabia without any fear for her chastity. They were the people who offered their last sip of water to their fellow Muslim brothers who they thought were more needful. They created a society where sinners, smallest in number a society can think of, rushed to the prophet to be punished in the world rather than suffering from fire in the hereafter. They are the pride for mankind and the role models for Muslims till the Day of Judgment. Allah, the Exalted, lovingly mentions about them, "Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him". (al-Qur'an 9:100)
Sacrifice for the Humanity They were the people who deserved this glad tiding from Allah, not because they were the 'chosen' people, but they earned it through their sweat and blood, firm belief and action, loyalty to Allah and His messenger (pbuh), passion for the Hereafter and maximization of the worldly tools. They made a conscious decision to serve humanity in their physical and spiritual need. They preferred to die for others, rather than to live for their own selves. They were the people who challenged the existing order of the Quraish aristocracy, Arab arrogance and super-power haughtiness of the Persians and the Romans. When success kissed their feet in their missions they used to prostrate before their Lord, as their success was not for their narrow self-interest but for humanity, and above all for the pleasure of Allah.
Love and Compassion their features and characteristics are mentioned in many verses of the Qur'an. (al-Qur'an 48:29) Like compassionate physicians they lovingly cured the diseases of human souls, showing no sympathy for the disease itself. The contrasting nature of their character created in them a consummate personality that pulled everyone towards them except those who were bent on evil. Their glowing face and appearance displayed their tranquil heart and spiritual fulfillment.
Knowledge and Conviction the Muslim personality is rooted in knowledge and conviction - the knowledge that elevated human being to a status higher than other creatures, including angels, knowledge about the world, the creation, about himself, his surroundings. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has emphasized so much on knowledge that one wonders how a Muslim could be so stooped in ignorance as we are today. Knowledge widens horizon, gives conviction and creates tranquility in mind. Conviction moves forward a man for action, gives steadfastness, patience, perseverance, dedication and consistent commitment in life.
All-Embracing Quality the Muslim personality thus has an inner reservoir of strength emanated from Allah's treasure and it has its external manifestations. It is like a strong big tree that has a strong root in the soil and wide branches spread in the sky. Muslims are the people who watch each moment of their life and ask themselves whether they are using their time meaningfully. They utilize their time in self-assured and confident manner to enjoin good and forbid evils. They use their eyes, ears and other senses to observe, learn and educate themselves every moment of the day. They use their knowledge and develop their skills to make sound judgments, honor truth and do justice to all, including themselves. They harness the material and spiritual benefits from each moment's existence through consciousness and feeling of gratitude to the Kind and Merciful Creator.
Muslims are ever vigilant of what is happening around them and the wider world. They read the signs of Allah in nature and learn by looking closely at the technological development of the world and its impact on human life. Muslims are not only fully aware of modern man's latest gadgets, such as internet, mobile telephones and other high-tech tools, but can effectively utilize them for the benefit of mankind. The hall mark of Muslim personality today is to shape their life in the image of the companions of Prophet (peace be upon him), rather than to pander to the whims and fancies of people engrossed in Jahiliyah (ignorance).
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A Distinct Attitude
A Muslim thus has a distinct attitude toward life. This dictates his moral character and external manners. His personality shines through his look and behavior. In fact, they become imbedded in his nature. Everything he does has characteristic features of an emissary of Allah on earth. As he is conscious of his assignment in the world he illuminates himself with the light of virtue and good manners. The prophet's emphatic call upon Muslims to attain and exercise good manners is a weighty one. Here are some of the examples of what he said on this;
Usama bin Shareek narrates: We were sitting in the presence of Allah's messenger so quietly as if birds were perched on our heads. Nobody had the courage to open his mouth. In the meanwhile a person came and asked the prophet, "among Allah's slaves who is the dearest to Him?" The prophet replied; "One who has the best moral character". (Ibn Hibban)
The prophet was asked, "Which Muslim has the perfect faith"? He answered, "he who has the best moral character".(Tirmidhi)
Abdullah ibn Amr narrates: I have heard the prophet saying, "should I not tell you who among you is the most likeable person to me and who will be the nearest to me on the Day of the Judgement"? He repeated this question two or three times. The people requested him to tell them about that person. He said, "he who among you has the best moral character". (Ahmad)
The Prophet has said, "I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting good morals". (al-Muatta)
The Prophet has also mentioned, "my Lord has taught me good manners and He has mannered me well". (al-Sam'ani)
Best Training with best Trainer Building a Muslim personality needs constant and conscious training and practice. It is not merely a collection of do's and don'ts. Effective training requires competent trainers with excellent qualities on whom people can put their trust and confidence in. A trainer possessing exemplary character can infuse emotional attachment to the learning process. Who else other than the Prophet himself possesses this perfect character? The Prophet is the perfect example, the role model, of the good moral character to be emulated till the end of the Day. Allah, the Merciful Himself, has testified his perfect character in the Qur'an. (al-Qur'an 33:21, 9:129) Abdullah ibn Amr says: The messenger of Allah was neither ill-mannered nor rude. He used to say that the best among you are those who are best in their moral character. (Bukhari)
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Rights of Allah and Creation
Religion is a contract between a servant and his Creator. In Islam this contract entails two types of relationship - one between man and Allah, and the other, between man and the creation. This relationship has the essential rights and responsibilities. A Muslim life is essentially a life of continuous effort, struggle, to implement Allah's divine will on earth. A servant's success or failure depends on effective dissemination of that will. He only makes effort to the best he can. Whether he succeeds or fails in the world is immaterial to him. His ultimate gain lies in the Hereafter. That does not mean that he carries his job with lethargy and inefficiency.
The Present Challenge Muslims in the West have probably little chance in the near future to see Islam shaping the life of the western society. Given the extent of Jahiliyah (ignorance) in the western psyche and the weaknesses of the Muslim community it is a near impossible, an arduous and mountainous, job. However, if the Muslim parents become cautious of their present obligations to their children and can focus on a challenging future, there is definitely hope in the new generation of Muslim youth.
But, time is running fast. The Muslims are now running a great risk of being ghettoized or assimilated in the melting pot of a universal neo-Jahiliyah (ignorance). Here comes the crucial role of the Muslim parents who simply can not afford to ignore their obligation toward their sons and daughters. To a Muslim every moment is a gift from Allah and as such a test. The Prophet has mentioned, "He whose two days are equal is a sure loser". (Sunan Daylami)
Features of a Muslim
What are then the features of a Muslim? Among the endless but coherent list, mentioned in the Qur'an and Ahadith (traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him)), there are some the Muslim parents can easily remember and instill in their children. A simple acronym, FEATURES, may prove a useful checklist.
F for Friendliness
E for Efficiency
A for Adaptability
T for Trustworthiness
U for Uncompromising (in principles of Islam)
R for Reliability
E for Expertise
S for Sociability
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Ingredients of a Blessed Family
Family, the bedrock of human civilization, is a sacred institution and as such it needs to be universally preserved. It should not only be defended robustly, but promoted with passion and conviction. In the midst of global 'anti-family' crusade by a powerful group in the developed countries the challenge has become all the more important. The promotion or rejection of family values is linked to the perception of life on earth and the role of man and woman in human destiny. Those who have firm belief in divine revelation can not conceive of weakening the family structure. Happy family brings a sense of belonging, anchor and root that build balanced personality to contribute in the society. Unhappy family creates disaffection, pain and frustration that give rise to broken personality, full of confusion. Distortion in family leads towards 'distorted personality' who could turn to be dangers to society and even to humanity. Unhappy and distorted families have their own root causes.
What are the ingredients of a blessed family?
Love is at the core of family life. It is the gel that produces a rock-solid relationship among the members. Love emanates from heart. Hearts join and create the fountain of love between people. Love is imbedded in human nature and a gift from Allah. Human history has exceptional stories on love affairs. Love for one's own children is obvious. But love between husband and wife, the two grown up people, needs nurturing. Pure physical attraction can not create love or maintain it for long. Attraction before marriage that gives rise to the romance of 'boy-friend, girl-friend' relationship in the modern West most often fails in the test and ends up in changed relationship. People looking for a 'family life' can contribute to permanent love. They have the best chance to succeed in their relationship. An Islamic vision of life in the family makes love exceptionally rewarding. This needs Allah's special blessing without which men and women could be in the pit of fire (al-Qur'an 8:63). Love should not be blind, except for Islam. Islam demands unconditional love for Allah and His messenger, above anything else, including one's life. (al-Qur'an 9:24). Love between parents transmits to children. Children growing up in a family where parents lack minimum level of love may grow up with emptiness. Love has external manifestation and that is natural. This should not be so ostentatious that it creates public indecency. Ostentatious love in public is not consistent with Islamic and human decency and as such deplorable.
Kindness, Care and Compassion
These tender feelings are at the heart of family and social life. Allah, "Most Gracious, Most Merciful" (al-Qur'an 1:2), has created man out of His love and mercy and demands from us the same. Have mercy on those in the land, so that the One in Heaven will have mercy on you. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi) Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all affairs. (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim). He who is deprived of leniency is deprived of goodness. (Muslim) When Allah, the Exalted, wills some good towards the people of a household, He introduces kindness among them. (al-Musnad, Sahih al-Jaami). Allah loves kindness and rewards it in such away that He does not reward for harshness or anything else. (Sahih Muslim) Children deprived of kindness and compassion in their childhood are punished for no fault of their own. Parental indifferences and ill temper kill their childhood and may rob them of their future happiness.
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One who does not respect the elders and show kindness to the young ones is not among us. Human beings are the manifestation of divine will, with Allah's 'spirit in each of them, and as such deserve due respect. Every human being grows up with certain traits of personality. Even the twin brothers or sisters have unique characteristics. Respect for an individual is a natural demand that brings reciprocity. We all learn from each other, even from a tiny baby. Every one has opinion on different aspects of life. Respect for opinion and the freedom of expression give rise to motivation and creativity. Of course, the formulation and expression of opinions depend on family and social environment. Positive encouragement is essential to achieve these. Even though family members live under the same roof, every one has a world of his own that needs to be respected. As children grow older, they need to learn the etiquette of a Muslim house. Islam teaches decency, and family is the first institution where they should learn them. Islam requires members of the household to seek permission when entering into another person's room. Parents, of course, need to know what is happening in their children's world, but they should do this with full honesty and without being intrusive and insensitive.
Allah has commanded believers to conduct their affairs and settle their differences in consultation (al-Qur'an 3:159, 42:38). It is illuminating that Allah discussed with His angels about His plan to create man on earth. This is mentioned in the Qur'an. Consultation is the prophetic way of life, which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) practiced in his domestic and public life. In order to teach the Muslim Nation of the importance of consultation he even decided to go against his own opinion in the battle of Uhud. Consultation produces confidence, trust, interest, mutual respect and team spirit in the family. It enhances creativity and responsible outlook among members of the family. It gives a sense of ownership in everybody's mind, which is essential for any venture to succeed. It helps cure the disease of arrogance and egotism. It is the pillar of successful Islamic social life. Consultation in a family creates lively and dynamic environment. However, consultation needs diligence and relevance. Loyalty has relational aspect and a wider meaning. The minimum requirement in a family is that husband and wife must be loyal to each other in their marital relationship. Infidelity is a grave sin, punishable in harshest manner. While fidelity is rewarding in both the worlds, infidelity brings suspicion, mental torture, frustration and a 'hellish' atmosphere in this world and a real Hell in the Hereafter. In the wider sense, a family blends together through loyalty and trust among its members. In the history of mankind, family loyalty extended to tribal loyalty and created kingdoms and civilizations. 'Asabiya' (or tribal loyalty) was at the heart of pre-Islamic Arab features. Islam refined its dynamic and powerful features with a view to creating a 'global Muslim Nation'. Its potent force held sway and created an unparalleled civilization. Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddimah. Compromise and Sacrifice Family is about generations of close knit people living together, with shared space and other material resources. Sharing itself needs compromise and sacrifice.
Sacrifice has many dimensions. Proper spending of time and wealth for the family is also sacrifice and in Islam this is treated as worship. Sacrificing one's opinion for wider benefit is also difficult for many. Sacrifice starts from the conscious understanding of what it means. It is an inescapable phenomenon in the world of creating human destiny, in Islamic work. Sacrifice is linked to self-surrender to Allah and the fullest conviction for Islam. It is an essential Islamic training that builds an individual's character and personality in order that he plays a meaningful role on earth. Sacrifice of the last Prophet (peace be upon him) and his blessed companions, in the wake of insurmountable barrier, was the stepping stone for the ascendancy of Islam. The history of mankind teaches one single message, e.g., sacrifice is at the core of victory.
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Justice is at the heart of Allah's creative design. The creation of Heaven and Hell is because of this unfulfilled justice on earth. The Arabic words, 'Qist' and 'Adl', are very wider indeed. Justice is inter-twined with Truth. Maintaining proper balance between rights and responsibilities is also justice. Justice in the family does not necessarily mean equal share in everything for every one. In real world, Justice means equitable and balanced dealings. Most importantly, dealings in the family should not be seen as unjust, especially by the children. We may not be fully aware, children are keen observers of what happens around them and what their parents say or do. It becomes all the more important that parents become extra cautious in their behavior and dealings. Family is a mini-state and justice established there has impact on the society. Openness and Transparency When parents are open and transparent in their affairs; they have tremendous positive effect on the children. This may sometimes put parents on the spot, but this is what it should be. Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) personal and family life was in the full glare of history. If parents attempt to hide some of their bad habits from their children, they have serious negative consequences on the children's personality. Muslim parents cannot play the role of Jekyll and Hyde.
Establishment of an Islamic ethos in the house is the parental responsibility. Children do contribute to that, according to their age and maturity. When rituals and spirit of Islam are consciously cultivated and practiced in a family, they create a dynamic and happy environment where each member guards the other from evil. This gives rise to a positive learning atmosphere in the society.
Supplication for children by the parents is rewarding. Allah likes this. This is a prophetic practice. It creates love and respect for each other. The Qur'an and Hadith (traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) books contain many supplications of this nature.
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The Patriarchal Family
Secondly, the family in Islam is a patriarchal family and the patriarch, that is to say, the head of the family, carries a tremendous burden of responsibility. Along with this responsibility he carries the burden of leadership. He acts as a fulcrum around which the life of the family revolves and all the talk about the superiority of men over women is nonsense unless it refers to this leadership role and the responsibility role. It is absolutely essential. Even in the case of the universe, of the cosmos, Allah has said to us in His Holy Book: "But if there were more than two Lords in the universe, one of these Lords would have contested the power of the other and fought to ride over him." In other words, it is impossible to have a management, to have an organization, to have a going concern such as the family without somebody assuming the role of leadership and responsibility. And this is really all that Allah has meant us to achieve and to understand when he established for us the leadership, the family as a patriarchal institution because our Islamic legislation without apology does regard the family as a patriarchal institution. The ship without a captain cannot run for long, nor does the ship without a rudder. Allah has blessed us by imposing this leadership, by vesting the patriarch of the family with it and demanding its fulfillment, in fact, making the question of fulfillment a question of law. A father who is not fulfilling his role as a responsible leader is a father that can be sued under the law, under the Islamic legislation, and he can be sued by any member of the Muslim Nation because the Nation and the Islamic Legislation regard this role as constitutive, it is a public role.
The Social Features
A third advantage which the Islamic family has is the fact that the family is made out of a cement which is social and therefore begins long before the marriage, but the special relationship that we refer to as the love relationship is supposed to begin and to grow only after marriage and not before. Before marriage, there is social affinity between the two families of the couple. After marriage, one enters upon this relationship with a determination to make it grow and, therefore the chances of a love relationship between husband and wife growing and becoming more secure and stronger are better under the Islamic system. In our society, marriage is regarded as the beginning not the consummation; it is not something that is practically finished on the wedding day.
It is something that begins on the wedding day, and has all the future in which to flower and become greater. The determination with which this is entered into by the Muslim spouses allows ample room for adjustment because the commitment has already been made and therefore a Muslim who enters into marriage is determined to make that marriage work, determined to make the love relationship between the two spouses grow, and is therefore more ready for the adjustment that family life demands. If this relationship has grown to its apex before marriage and marriage is looked upon as a consummation of that movement, then the consequence is that the desire to adjust, the preparation to make the necessary sacrifices and adjustments, would be all the more because the interest in it would be on the wane rather than on the increase.
A fourth advantage is the advantage that we talk about in arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are really the coming together of two families. Of course, the individuals are involved, and as we said earlier it is possible for such a marriage to succeed because from the standpoint of the marriage the love relationship begins after and not before the wedding. But then, the relationship between the two families is something that has been cultivated for some time, and so we speak of the Muslim marriage not as a marriage of two individuals but as a marriage of two families. And the two families with all their resources, their human resources, their economic resources, their wisdom resources are at the service of the newly-married couple and there is no doubt that nobody in the world needs more advice, more economic assistance and more support than the newly-married couple and this is provided for them from both sides of the marriage if it is truly a Muslim marriage, that is to say a marriage of the two families.
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Marriage: A Civil Contract
Marriage is a civil contract between two equal parties, between two equal families, not just between two individuals. It is a civil contract that requires the consent of the two parties. The two parties may include outside of the Islamic Legislation requirements, anything that may lead to their happiness and mutually agreeable to both of them. Once the marriage has taken place and the contract has been signed and agreed upon, witnessed not only by the individual spouses, but also by their guardians and their elders, then it becomes a legal and binding document. Now, this creates a constitution for the marriage. Now consider its fate, and the home as a state. It has internal affairs and it has external affairs, it has public security affairs and it has police affairs and jail affairs, sometimes. It has educational affairs and it has propaganda affairs, and public information. All the ministries of government, all the functions of the ministries of government are there to be per- formed in the family, in the home unit.
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