Building the Muslim Family (Section I)

Building the Muslim Family


By Mohamed Baianonie, Imam of the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, USA


An introduction:

When we look at the situation of Muslims today, we will find many problems that affect family life. This situation is a very dangerous problem, which may lead to the destruction of the Muslim family.


            The deterioration of the family not only affects the spouses, but it inevitably affects the whole family and even the whole community.  This could mean the destruction of society and the failure to pass on Islam to the next generation.


What causes the deterioration of the Muslim family?

The Muslim family deteriorates when its members are ignorant about the Islamic teachings of how a Muslim family should be.


Secondly, the Muslim family also deteriorates when members of the family are influenced by their selfishness, their desires, and when they allow un-Islamic traditions to affect their behavior.


And thirdly, the family deteriorates when Muslims do not take issues seriously, until those issues become so big that they break up the Muslim family by ending the marriage. We should, without delay, deal with all our family problems before it’s too late or before the problem is impossible to fix.


Imam Al-Ghazali, a specialist in the treatment of bad behavior, concluded after long research and experience, that the treatment of misbehavior can be cured with medicine formed from two ingredients. People cannot simply cure bad behavior by wishes; they must cure it using this medicine.


The first ingredient is knowledge, and the second ingredient is applying that knowledge.  If either of these two ingredients is missing, then bad behavior will not be cured.  He also added that because the taste of most medicines is sour, people don’t use it. And if they do use it, they may not complete the dosage.  And whoever does not have enough patience to use this sour medicine; then he will not enjoy the sweetness of the cure.

Definition and importance of the family:

The family is a small unit that consists of a husband and wife, along with any children they may have.  The husband and the wife are the fundamental units of the family, and they play an important role in building, organizing and taking care of the family from the beginning to the end.


The family is the basic unit on which society is built.  If these units are healthy and strong, then the society will be healthy and strong.   If these units are sick and weak, the society will be sick and weak.


With that said, you will find that Islam is greatly concerned over family structure. Islam has a genuine interest in the well being of the family, unlike those who run for office pretending to hold up the slogan of family values. During political campaigns, these people use slogans and raise banners about the family for their own benefit.  But later, when it is time to put that family issue into reality, they take no interest in building families. Today we witness this practice and its impact on society.


However, Islam takes great interests in building the Muslim family with a complete system that runs the affairs of the family.  This system actually begins before a couple gets married and continues on afterwards.  This system clarifies the divine rules and guidelines that clearly map out the rights, duties and responsibilities of every individual in the family including, the parents and children.


The rules and guidelines are divine:

When we say that the rules and guidelines are divine, we should understand that they are from the Ultimate source, and we should understand the following: 


·        The source is from the divine revelation: The Noble Qur’an and the authentic sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).

·        These divine rules are perfect and cannot be false or have mistakes.

·        These divine rules are for all people and address all their needs.

·        They are fixed and cannot be changed or altered because of time and place.

·        Submitting to these rules and guidelines is obligatory without any hesitation, even if they contradict people's desires, minds, or traditions.

·        Not submitting to these rules and regulations and not implementing them is haram or forbidden.  Rejection of Allah's laws, even part of them, leads to misguidance, sorrow, and hardship in this life. And it will lead to regret, loss and punishment on the Day of Judgment.  Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (the Qur’an) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.  He will say: “O my Lord!  Why have you raised me up blind, while I had sight before.”  Allah will say: “Like this Our ayat (verses) came unto you but you disregarded them, and so this day, you will be neglected (from Allah’s Mercy).” [surat Ta’ha, (verses 124-126)]


The Islamic view of the family:

I will try to briefly present the Islamic family system, so that it will remind us and teach us how to correct our mistakes in our family life. This ensures that our families will be Islamic ones, which will please Allah, and will make us happy and successful in this life, as will as in the Hereafter.


Islam made the family one unit in the chain of units. This family relationship is self-collaborating, mutually coordinating, loving and merciful.  These relationships do not know selfishness, oppression, or hard feelings.  Members of the family should not be arrogant, physically or emotionally abusive, careless, or detached from one another. 


This view of Islam for the family comes from the fundamental concepts that the Noble Qur’an presented for the family:


First: The Noble Qur’an puts in the mind of the spouses, the understanding that the male and female are necessary for each other, and that they complement, but not compete with one another.  So it says to the man:  The woman is a vital part of you, and one cannot live without a vital part. It also says to the woman: You came from a man, and he is your origin, and you cannot go on without your origin. Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and then He has created from him his wife (Eve).” [surat Al-Araaf, (verse 189)]


Second: The Noble Qur’an clarifies that a normal marital life is one that has unity between the spouses.  Even though they are two entities, they are in reality one unit in everything: in their emotions, their feelings and their sleeping place.  They are unified when working for the present and share hope for their future.  Allah (S.W.T.) describes the nature of the marital relationship, what can be translated as, “They are Libas (clothes), for you, and you are the same for them.” [surat Al-Baqarah, (verse 187)]


 Imam Al-Qurtubi explains the term Libas: He compares wearing clothing to the relationship of the spouses. The spouses are like clothing for one another because they are very close to each other.  They join together; they mingle, and they stick with each other, much like clothing sticks to the body.


Lastly, the Noble Qur’an emphasizes that this special unity between the spouses is one of the great signs of Allah (S.W.T.) and only one of His many great blessings. Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from yourselves, that you may find rest in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy.  Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.”  [surat Ar-Room, (verse 21)]


Imam Ash-Shawkaani clarifies the nature of this special relationship between two spouses.  Allah says, “…That you may find rest in them…” Meaning that you may feel comfortable with and be attracted only to your spouses. He also says that one cannot feel comfortable but with the other and does not get attracted to anyone but to the other. Allah also says, “…And He has put between you mawaddah (deep love) and rahmah (mercy).” This affection and mercy is because of the marriage. This feeling that couples have, comes after marriage, even without knowing each other before.  This is indeed a great sign from Allah!


What is the right way to start a marriage? This is important because if the marriage starts out right, then most likely, it will be a stable and successful marriage. But if the marriage begins poorly, then more than likely, the marriage will become weak or even fail. Sometimes it is difficult and even impossible to treat a marriage that started out poorly. The spouses suffer many hardships and difficulties, usually ending in divorce. This leaves a bad impact on the children, the family, and the community at large.


 Islam highly encourages us to get married in several verses in the Noble Qur’an and in the authentic sunnah of the prophet (S.A.W.). This sunnah includes the prophet’s (S.A.W.) sayings and practices. Today I will present just some of the Quranic verses, and ahadith:

·        The Noble Qur'an tells us that marriage was the tradition of the messengers of Allah. And Allah chose these messengers to be the best example for all of mankind.  Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “And indeed We sent Messengers before you (O’ Muhammad), and made for them wives and offspring.” [ surat Al-Ra’ad, (verse 38)] The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was not any different from the previous messengers; he also had wives and offspring.

·        The Noble Qur'an also compliments and grants the wishes of Allah’s servants.  These servants supplicated to their lord asking for good spouses and children. Allah says what can be translated as, “And those who say: “Our Lord!  Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes.” [surat Al-Furqan, (verse 74)] Later on, after a few verses, Allah (S.W.T.) grants them their wishes when He (S.W.T) says what can be translated as, “Those will be rewarded with the highest place (in Paradise) because of their patience.  Therein they shall be met with greetings and the word of peace and respect.”

·        Allah (S.W.T.) shows us His blessings and grace when He says what can be translated as, “And Allah has given you wives of your own kind, and has given you, from your wives, children and grandchildren…” [ surat Al-Nahl, (verse 72)]

·        The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) encourages us to marry. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Oh you, young men, if you are capable of getting married, then get married for it helps lower your gaze and protect your private part, and whosoever cannot (get married), then let him fast, because it is a protection for him.” [Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim] The prophet (S.A.W.) said in another hadith, “Marriage is a tradition of mine, so whosoever turns away from my tradition, he does not belong to me.”

·        Allah (S.W.T.) orders us to marry males and females who are single. He (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “And marry those among you who are single and also marry the Salihun (the pious, fit, and capable) of your male slaves and maid-servants.” [surat Al-Noor, (verse 32)] Then He warns us not to let a shortage of money keep us from marrying those who are single. Allah (S.W.T.) alone is the one who guarantees and provides Rizq (sustenance).  He says in the same verse, “If they are poor, Allah will enrich them out of His Bounty.  And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ need, All-Knowing.” [surat Al-Noor, (verse 33)]

·        The Prophet (S.A.W.) strongly condemns those who stay single because they want to increase their worship to Allah.  The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “I am the most fearful of Allah and the most righteous, but I fast and I don’t fast, I pray and sleep, and I marry women, so whosoever turns away from my practices, he does not belong to me.” [Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim]

·        The Prophet (S.A.W.) emphasizes that the best joy of this life is the good wife. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “This life is but a joy, and the best of its joys is the righteous woman.” [Reported by Imam and Muslim]

·        The Prophet (S.A.W.) orders us to get married and he clarifies that the noblest goal of marriage is having children. He said, “Get married and multiply (have children), because I will be proud of you, in front of other nations on the Day of Judgment.”

·        Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal said, “Being single is not from Islam.  The Prophet (S.A.W.) got married to fourteen women, and had nine wives when he died.”  Then Imam Ahmad said, “If people abandoned marriage, they would not conquer and would not perform Hajj; in fact, people of the prophet’s (S.A.W.) time would wake up in the morning only to find that they owned nothing. And although those people were poor, he still encouraged them to marry, and forbade them from being single, so whosoever turns away from the acts (sunnah) of the Prophet (S.A.W.), he is not on the right path.  And the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “I liked, from this life of yours, the good perfume and women.”


Now that we know marriage is highly recommended, we must find out whom we should seek for marriage according to Islam:

1-   The Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim under any circumstance; regardless whether he is from the people of the Book or not. The scholars of Islam unanimously agree on this.  Whoever says otherwise, is either ignorant or changing our deen.  The scholars of Islam support their opinion with what Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “O you who believe!  When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them. Allah knows best as to their faith.  Then if you know them from true believers, do not send them back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them.” [surat Al-Muntahina,  (verse 10)]

2-   The Muslim man is allowed to choose from Muslim women and women who are from the People of the Book because Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “Made lawful to you this day are At-Tayyibat, The food of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christian) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them.  (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time, when you have given their due Mahr (Dowry), desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girlfriends…” [surat Al-Ma’ida, (verse 5)] There is a great wisdom behind allowing Muslim men to marry women from the people of the Book, and that is to give them da'wah to Islam, by giving them a chance to study Islam closely, so that they will know its principles and its reality through family life.  So whosoever wants to marry such women, he should not forget this great wisdom and he should work hard to be a good role model of Islam.

3-   Without a doubt, marrying a Muslim woman is better than marrying a woman from the people of the Book for Allah says what can be translated as, “…And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a free Mushrikah (disbeliever), even though she pleases you.” [surat Al-Baqarah, (verse 221)]

4-   Choosing a wife from the Muslim women should be based on their good deen and good Akhlaq (manners).  The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, “The woman is sought for marriage because of four reasons: her wealth, her Noble family, her beauty and her deen.  Marry the one who has good deen and you will succeed.” [Reported by Imams Bukhari, Muslim and others]

5-   The Prophet (S.A.W.) describes to us the best woman to marry.  He said, “The best woman is the one that if you look at her, you will be pleased, and the one that if you order her, she will obey, and the one that if you swear by Allah on her to do something, she will accept, and the one that if you are away from her, she would keep herself for you and keep her eye on your personal possessions.” [An authentic hadith reported by Imams An-Nisa’i and others]

6-   The prophet (S.A.W.) ordered the guardians of women by saying, "If one whose deen and morals are what you like, and he requested to marry the one under your guardianship, then accept him; otherwise, there will be a big fitnah, (trial) on earth and great mischief.” Both good deen and good manners are needed.  It is not enough to have only one because a marriage will not be successful without both of them.  And if someone underestimates and ignores the importance of these two issues, his marital life will be hardship, torture, and will often end with divorce.  May Allah protect us from this end.


The introduction to marriage: Engagement.  Islam has legislated it before commitment to a marriage contract so that the man and woman can get to know each other.  Then the marriage decision can make with guidance and knowledge.


The first step to take after the proposal of marriage is made from the one whose morals and deen are acceptable is:


Males and females with the intention of marriage should look at one another to get know each other better.  This is not only legislated for the man, but also for the woman, even if the evidences that are related to seeing address men. These evidences address men because normally women are covered and need special permission to look at her.   However, women do not need that special permission because normally men don't cover and therefore, then the man's appearance is readily available.


Based on many authentic ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), the majority of the Islamic scholars say it is recommended that the man and the woman "check out" each other (with the intention of marriage).  Some other scholars said it is only permissible.


Here is some evidence that encourages men and women who have the intention of marriage to look at each other:


Abu Hurairah (R.A.) said: A man proposed marriage to a woman from Al-Ansaar, the native residents of Madinah, and the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Have you looked at her?” the man replied: "No."  The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Go and look at her, the shape of the eyes of Al- Ansar are different.” [Reported by Imams Muslim, An-Nasa'i and Ahmad]


Al-Mugheerah Bin Shu'bah, (R.A.) proposed to a woman for marriage, and the prophet (S.A.W.) said to him: "Look at her; it helps maintain love between the two of you.” [An authentic hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi]


Jabir Bin Abdilahi (R.A.) said: "The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "If one of you proposed marriage to a woman, and he can look at anything that helps him marry her, then let him do that.” Then Jabir said: "I proposed marriage to a woman, and then I used to hide to see what I could see from her to make me marry her, and so I married her." [An authentic hadith reported by Imams Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Hakem, and Al-bayhaqui]


What is the allowed area of looking at the woman proposed for marriage?  The majority of scholars think that the man can look at her face and her hands only.  Imams Ahmad and other scholars think that it is allowed for the man to look at her head, her neck and her legs. This is because Omar (R.A.) proposed to Um Kulthoom, the daughter of Ali (R.A.) who sent her to him.  When she got to Omar, he uncovered her legs to see. She said: “If you were not the amir of the believers, I would have punched you in your eyes.”

It is not allowed for a man to sit alone with a woman to whom he proposed marriage because she is still not a wife.  The prophet (S.A.W.) said, “No man gets alone with a woman, but Satan is their third.” [An authentic hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi]


If the man looks at the woman he proposed to and does not like what he sees, and does not feel comfortable with her, and then decides not to marry her, he should not spread what hurts her and her family.  Someone else may like what he did not like.  The same can be said about her.


It is not allowed for another man to propose to a woman whom someone else has already proposed.  The prophet (S.A.W.) said: ".....and a man should not propose to a woman who is proposed to by his Muslim brother, until he leaves her.” [Reported by Imams Bukhari, Muslim and others] And in another narration, "....until the first candidate leaves or allows him to propose.”


It is not allowed for the guardians to force the women under their guardianship into marriage, if she does not want to marry.  If one was forced, without her complete acceptance, she can break the marriage contract. The prophet (S.A.W.) said, "The previously married woman cannot be put into a marriage until she gives her clear word, and the single woman cannot be put into a marriage until she permits."  The companions asked, "Oh messenger of Allah, what is her permission?"  He said, "Her silence." [Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim] If the girl was silent out of shyness that indicated that she did not object to the marriage.


Ibn Abbas (R.A.) said, "A single woman came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and mentioned to him that her father married her to a man she refused to marry.  Then the prophet (S.A.W.) asked her to choose either to stay with the man or to leave." [An authentic hadith reported by Imams Abu-Dawud and Ibn Majah]


It is not allowed for a woman to get involved in proposals of marriage while she is still in her 'Iddah (the waiting period for divorce or death). She must wait until the waiting period is over until she can accept a new proposal; however, it is permissible to give or receive some indirect hints from a person who is interested in marriage. It is okay to initiate a proposal in an indirect way by saying, "I want to get married," or "I ask Allah to bring me a suitable wife." Allah (S.W.T.) says what can be translated as, “And there is no sin on you if you make hint of betrothal or conceal it in yourself…” then Allah (S.W.T.) says, “…And do not consummate the marriage until the term ('Iddah) prescribed is fulfilled.” [surat Al-Baqarah, (verse 235)]  


If a man or woman propose to each other and decide to leave each other before the actual marriage contract then this is permissible.  This is because engagement is only a marriage promise and not an obligatory contract. After the engagement is broken, any engagement gifts that they may have exchanged should be returned, because the occasion for giving them no longer exists.  If the gifts have been spent, then there is no need to return the gifts. This is according to Imam Abu Hanifah and other scholars’ opinions.


Early Marriage Life:

The two spouses may be, from the beginning of their marriage, compatible intellectually and ideologically.  This compatibility continues in their marriage life and gets stronger and stronger. But in most cases of newly wedded people, this compatibility does not exist in the beginning of the marriage life.  Or it exists to a mild extent, which may lead to conflicts between the spouses. These conflicts and problems may start small and get worse, and instead of it being a life of love, mercy and happiness, the marital life becomes intolerable.


 Because of the seriousness of this situation, I will talk about the nature of these conflicts, the problems between the spouses, and their causes; I will also talk about their prevention and about their treatments, if they occur.


 Conflicts and problems between the spouses are expected because each one of them has lived their life differently before marriage from the other.  This pre-marital life has a deep effect on their concepts, their perspectives, and their behavior. Because of this, each one of them has to make a tremendous effort to adjust to the marital life.  Without this adjustment, marital life will not be successful and happy.


 In this early period of marriage, each one of the spouses will make mistakes. This is because Allah (S.W.T.) created the human being with weaknesses, and because it is a new experience.  And when there is a mistake, it should not be overlooked, or go unaddressed or be blamed on the other person.  On the contrary, the one who makes the mistake should handle it positively by recognizing his or her mistake.  One should stop doing it and admit that they made a mistake. They should apologize to whom they wronged and should promise not to do it again.  This should be done after finding the causes of the mistake and removing them, at the same time, the other person should accept the apology and forgive.  Allah (S.W.T.) commanded us to forgive in the Noble Qur’an what can be translated as, “…Let them pardon and forgive.  Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?  And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”  [surat An-Nur, (verse 22)]


Allah (S.W.T.) describes the nature of the human being that he created what can be translated as, "And man was created weak."  [surat An-Nisa’, (verse 28)]


The prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Every child of Adam is a wrongdoer, and the best wrongdoers are the repenters."  [An authentic hadith reported by Imams At-Tirmithi and Al-Hakem]


So, man is weak in nature, and the happy marriage is not the one that is a hundred percent free of mistakes.  This is impossible in the life of human beings.  On the contrary, the happy marriage is the one where if a mistake occurs; the wrongdoer positively handles the mistake.

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