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Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|10/26/05 at 06:54:20|
Family Matters...they really do!
Have you ever had those days, when you feel like going off somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and simply live your life serenely amidst strangers? Those days when you are just so fed up by the many trivial (and not so trivial) family issues, that keep pounding at you. Alas the bliss of individualism ought to be the answer. Where you live in a little bubble, with your spouse, baby(s) at the most and not have to worry about interfering in-laws, annoying siblings, demanding parents, etc.
The west offers the "perfect" solution for this issue...Parents raise their kids to be self sufficient, who then move off somewhere (preferably far); and then they have scheduled visits, showered by intermittent expensive gifts, letters, emails, flowers; occasionally to show just how much they love each other. When the parents get old, they get shipped off to a nice (preferably expensive) nursing home where the stream of gifts, flowers, and scheduled visits continue. Babies do not come in the middle of a woman's career path, for they too can be shipped off to a nice daycare and thus the circle of life is complete. Of course i am being *extremely* stereotypical, for I personally know a lot of "western" (read white) families who choose *not* to send their aged parents to nursing homes (and *gasp* actually live with them); and many women who put their 100 k careers on hold for their children.
I am also being really simplistic, because there are many struggling families where both spouses *have* to work and do not have the means/resources/time to actually care for an ailing parent. For them, it is a hard choice to live with, but they only resort to nursing homes (and daycares) because they do not have a choice. But I digress...
In the midst of family trials and tribulations, I always wonder *why* is it so stressed in Islam to keep the family unit intact? And not simply the elect "nuclear" family (which really has no meaning islamically) but siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Family is such a key cornerstone in our faith, that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said "The person who severs the bond of kinship will not enter Paradise."
This Hadith is extremely harsh and to the point. There are many verses in the Quran that also stress the obedience and care of ones parents, only second to Worshipping Allah alone. Even within the verses dealing with Inheritance the whole extended family is guaranteed to have a portion of the deceased's wealth; and a person is not *allowed* to will more than 1/3 of his wealth to poor people thus dispossessing his own family.
There are other measures that seek to cement family bonds; the adage "charity begins at home" is formalized in Islam by making near relations a category for Sadaqah (charity). Other measures extolling kindness, overlooking other's faults, forgiveness, controlling anger, etc will not have meaning if there was no loved ones involved. It is really easy to be nice, and "wonderful" to strangers or people you meet once in a while, it is much harder to be *consistently* good to people who are so close, and annoying at times...this is where one has to really struggle with their impulses. This is the realm of Jihad-un Nafs (Struggle within one's soul).
What is the wisdom in stressing family relations?
The concept of family only makes sense in the light of our purpose of existence. While we are young, we really have no choice where we are born in, and to what family and even religion we belong to. But once we make a conscious decision to be *Muslim* thus surrendering our will to God, then there are certain expectations of us. To transform our selves, our families, and our societies to reflect the Divine pattern of existence.
The family is a microcosm of the Ummah at large. Islam is not a private, individualistic religion that occurs in the furthest corners of our prayer rugs at home. But a complete transformation of our lifestyles to reflect the universal dictates of Truth, Justice, and a God Conscious Righteousness in everything that we do.
The family is the first unit of society where the young are nurtured, taught and equipped to become better humans; where the elders are cherished, their wisdom acknowledged, and where siblings work with each other to ensure there is no disconnect between the youth, parents, and elders. It is a system of sharing, loving, and ensuring that every person's strength is accentuated; and weaknesses compensated for.
In such intact families, the diseases of loneliness, depression, and emptiness that pervade much of our post modern cultures are not allowed to take root at all. Children are not brought up by strangers *(who may or may not care about them); the accumulated wisdom of elders is not allowed to rot away in some institution; and everyone works together not just to eat, drink and be merry; but to aid in transforming each other and then the society at large.
When this family system ceases to function, the result is devastating to society at large. All the moral ills of society, from drug abuse to rampant illicit sex, can be traced back to a "dysfunctional" family. The price society has to pay when it is comprised of mainly such dysfunctional families, remains incalculable. If the high rate of divorce, teenage rebellion (and in extreme cases suicide), and loss of general control in the Muslim household mean anything, it is that we are not immune from the problems of the "larger" society.
We can't abstractly talk of an "ummah" out there; and what ails us; without first starting with our nearest and dearest. We can't work "hard" in the communities, trying to make public appearances of righteousness when we don't serve our own parents and shatter the bonds with our siblings and close ones. We can't "volunteer" our time *out there*; when our kids are neglected, spouses ignored, and larger families abhorred.
It is really hard sometimes to keep these things in perspective; as it is hard to simply deal with many of life's trials at times. But such is the struggle of transforming humans that are prone to conflict; to become light posts of harmony and peace.
I have much more to say, having grown up in a large family where my mother always had more room for yet another relative; wayfarer; or simply close family friends. We always managed to extend our dwellings a bit more; share our food with one more; and live in a thriving household where laughters, tears, joys and miseries are all spread and life's blows softened by too much love (with all the depths of that word).
My mom's motivation stemmed not from the fact that feeding guests results in your own sins being washed away; and that blessings and sustenance are increased (not decreased) by actually sharing them. She was not conscious of the technicalities within our religion that give inspiration to actually reach out and give more. But she did give nonetheless; and with a largeness of spirit that will remain with me forever.
There is a depth in this kind of existence that can't be translated to one that is content in their own individualistic paradigm of life; and sometimes even for those of us, who have always lived among others, need a reminder…that a little sacrifice of personal space yields too much in return.
In those bad days when I try to envision a life without my extended family; I feel all the harsh winds of winter blowing in my soul. I am really grateful everyday for the blessing of being comforted within the warm embrace of my family. That I am who I am: a little stronger, more compassionate, and a lot more loving because of them. That somehow life is colored more beautiful; and our struggles rendered more meaningful when shared with souls bonded by filial love. Such are some of the innumerable gifts from the Divine.
|10/26/05 at 06:56:34|
|Re: Family matters...|
|10/26/05 at 10:20:38|
jazakiAllah khair for that article maliha. it's good to read when you are frustrated with your family! i think the extended family is extremely important and that the islamic system is based upon that, rather than a nuclear family, but i don't know if ur advocating everyone living together...that gets very difficult and has alot of problems associated with it! I think perhaps because 'western' housing is just not meant for large families, they are not built with like attachments and separate living spaces. like i know in india they have larger homes with multiple floors and sections for an entire extended family to live in. each person has their own privacy space and there are common areas. i think it would be interesting if someone did a study on the differences in architecture.
|Re: Family matters...|
|10/26/05 at 11:14:35|
i am not sure i am advocating living together in the same house either Jannah...but sometimes that may be necessary depending on the unique circumstances of the people involved. For instance, when my mom was sick there wasn't a question on whether or not she would stay with me during the duration of her illness...
In yemen and kenya, the layout is pretty similar in most households. There are separate apartments leading to common areas. It is really ideal, cuz while privacy is preserved to some extent, it frees up young couples from undue financial hardship, women can even work while the elders take care of the younger ones and there is more community involvement since it generally frees up everyone's responsibilities and time...
I don't know having lived in both places, I guess i just appreciate some of the "back home" wisdom now. Although, as people get richer they tend to want to copy the western model too.
but seriously, the american muslim family (on average) does have some serious issues..in the DC metro area, muslim kids are joining the juvenile system in droves, gangs, drugs, and some are on foster care lists. It's just amazing how quickly our families are disintegrating as well...
there are multi-unit houses sold in the states, that could offer some solution. They are like four apartments in one house type thing...i dont' know honestly.
right now, we have elected to live close to each other (my siblings and i), but i am so aware that sometimes life dictates we move away from eachother for various reasons and that really makes me sad and worried.
anywho...didn't mean to write so much..its just this family thing has been on my mind, especially considering my baby and the type of environment i want him to grow up in.
|Re: Family matters...|
|10/26/05 at 11:41:00|
Very nice post Sr.Nur Al Layl (my daughter's middle name is Nur :) )
Just this morning I was listening to a tape about Parents right in Islam, how much rights they have on us, and how they can be our jannah or nar, depending on how we treat them.
I dont know about everybody living together, but I definitely believe in not leaving the parents alone .
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