7.10 Social System of Islam- Place of Family in Islam

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7.10 Place of Family in Islam

 

Host:  What is the significance of the family and how does this tie in with the social system of Islam?

 

Jamal Badawi:

In the first nine programs we talked broadly about the social system in Islam but we have not talked about the corner stone of this system which is the family.  From the Islamic point of view the progress and welfare of society or the disintegration and destruction of society is very much tied with the family.  If we have strong families we would have a strong and cohesive society and if we have broken families then the society will slowly disintegrate.  There are problems that we hear about that are of concern to everyone such as teenage pregnancies, divorce and family problems, drug abuse, alcoholism and juvenile delinquency.  It is not unusual to find that the origin of most of these problems can be traced back to broken homes and families.

 

I am not implying that family is the only institution that can be blames for social malaise because there are usually other economic, political or spiritual problems as well.  The family is definitely one of, if not the crucial element that effects the strength or weakness of society.  The family is the corner stone of the whole social system from a n Islamic point of view.

 

Host:  What are the main topics we will be touching on in the main topic of family in Islam?

 

Jamal Badawi:

There are seven areas that we will cover.  First of all, how we define family and all questions related to lineage and adoption.  Second, the foundation of the family structure is the woman.  The role she plays is much greater than anybody else’s role in establishing a healthy family.  We will look into the history of how women were viewed in the past (in civilizations, philosophy and literature preceding Islam).  Third, we will cover what position Islam accords to the Muslim woman.  In this we will try to cover the position of a Muslim woman from the spiritual, human, economic (rights and property), public life (work or public affairs) and social point of view.  Fourthly, we will cover the structure of a family and how to constitutes a family within Islamic teachings.  We will cover areas such as engagement, the position of Islam with respect to dating or courting and how sex is views in Islamic teachings.  The related issues are could pertain to marital relationships, mutual duties of husband and wife, birth control, abortion and nursing (as a basic right for children).  Fifthly, we will address the mutual duties and responsibilities of parents and children.  Sixthly, we can not deal with the subject of the family without dealing with difficulties that they encountered, family problems and desolation.  We will cover what Islam proposes as ways of dealing with family problems and disputes that may arise between husband and wife, how these disputes can be settled and at what point it would be desirable to go beyond the family and seek outside help to resolve these problems.  Then we will cover issues pertaining to divorce, conditions of divorce, waiting periods, remarriage and related issues.  Seventh, we will touch on the law of inheritance in Islam.

 

Host:  Can you define family from an Islamic perspective?

 

Jamal Badawi:

On one level we can define the family from a Muslim perspective as the entire human race.  In fact, when we talk about the family most people think about father, mother and children.  In one sense the father is Adam, the mother is Eve and the children are everybody else.  In one sense the entire human race is a family as found in the Quran in (4:1) “O mankind! Reverece your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.”  Thus the Quran presents the entire human race as one family in the broadest definition of the term.  In fact elsewhere in the Quran we find that it is common that all of mankind is addressed as children of Adam.  The universality of the way the Quran addresses the whole human race as one family is derived from Islamic monotheism or belief in the oneness of God, one universe and one human family.

 

We can also define family at another level: of those who belong to the family of believers who followed prophets or messengers all the way from Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Mohammad (PBUT).  These followers are considered one family of believers as is found in the Quran in chapter 49.  This chapter describes believers as being a part of one family that extends horizontally across time and vertically across different places.

 

Within these two definitions we are not precluding the more precise and narrow definition of people who are related by blood or marital relationships.  The introduction to the family was not meant to evade this aspect of family but we wanted to show that family can be defined in the sociological sense one should not forget the broader ties with believers and with humanity at large.

 

Host:  Would it be accurate to imply that the Muslim family is an extended family?

 

Jamal Badawi:

The term “family” need not necessarily imply that it is an extended or nuclear family.  Most often sociologists use the term nuclear family to refer to the western style regarding the family as mainly being parents and their children.  Extended family is used by families in other cultures where within the same household one has a family composed of family children, grandparents and in-laws.  The way Islam looks at the family does not mean that it is extended or nuclear but it can accommodate both.  To have one single household that the family resides in does not establish the foundation for having family ties.  This also does not mean that all family members have the same degree of relations with the individual.  In one sense we can say that there are degrees of relationships.  The first degree would be the relationship between husband, wife, children and the grandparents.  These degrees do not mean that the person has no obligation towards relatives who are farther away from the individual.  The difference in the relationship is in degree not in principle.  In Islam the nuclear family have rights which are mainly unequivocal rights and more precise rights.  In Islamic law the rights of people of the first degree are very clear and there are very little differences among Muslim Jurists as to what those rights are.  Even though there are rights towards other relatives they are not to the same level as the nuclear family and Jurists may differ in what these rights are.

 

Host:  Some people argue that family issues and relations should be left to the family as they are not matters that have to do with the society or laws; how would Islam respond to this point of view?

 

Jamal Badawi:

The nature of duties between different members of the family is instinctive and innate.  On the other hand it is important to realize that when society is involved in regulating family relations (when Islamic Law steps in) it doesn’t step in to replace the innate feelings but to supplement them.  The main purpose is to provide protection so that the inalienable rights that various members of the family have on each other is fulfilled with some kind of justice.  In the absence of some of these controls one may run into problems.  If one depends on innate emotions one may find that a parent overly favors children in terms of inheritance which would be based on emotions and could result in taking away the rights of the other children.  For this reason Islamic Law tries to resolve these issues by establishing basic minimum rights to guaranty lack of discrimination.  The basic notion is that a Muslim family does not entirely depend on emotion and the natural sense of duty nor does it entirely depend on enforcement of the Law but it rather works in a balanced of both to achieve this.

Host:  Can you explain the role of lineage in the family structure in Islam?

 

Jamal Badawi:

Lineal identity is very essential and plays an important role in the Muslim family.  On the basis of this lineal relationship in regards to duties, responsibilities, obligation for maintenance, rights of the deceased and inheritance are all related in Islamic Law to the exact lineal identity.  In Islam a person should not mask his true identity.  In (33:4) the Quran responded to two falsifications that the pre-Islamic Arabs fell into: one was that if a man got mad at his wife he would tell her that she was to him like his mother and would not touch her or have relations with her and the second error was that when they adopted a child they simply considered him to be their natural child and they gave him their name.  The Quran says “Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body; nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers: nor has He made your adopted sons your sons.  Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths.  But Allah tells (you) the Truth, and He shows the (right) Way.”  Thus Islam stands against masking or falsifying the individual’s true identity.  This doesn’t mean that one should not have any respect or consideration for the adopted person but rather to give him his proper lineage.

Host:  What happens in the case that the father of the individual is not known? Does it make an exception to the rule?

 

Jamal Badawi:

The next verse in (33:5) says “Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just in the sight of Allah.  But if ye know not their father’s (name, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas,  But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.”

 

Host:  Does Islam view adoption to be lawful or unlawful?

Jamal Badawi:

The problem with this confusion is the an issue with semantics and terminology.  In the Western context the word adoption might have a variety of meanings some fit with Islamic Law and some do not.  What is not accepted: if someone adopts a child and gives him their family name instead of his real name and the text makes this clear when it says don’t mask their identity.  There is no shame in being adopted and having a different family.  Also, it sometimes means that when the adopter dies that his natural children and his adopted children inherit in the same way.  This in Islamic law is not excepted as the natural children definitely have more claim than an adopted child.  But if what is meant by adoption is to look after an orphan or taking care of someone who is left out or abandoned there is no prohibition against this in Islamic Law.  Indeed it would be an act of humanity and compassion to look after those unfortunate individuals.  The Prophet (PBUH) had an adopted son, Zaid Ibn Haritha, and before these verses were revealed he was called Zaid Ibn Muhammad (Ibn means the son of).  Even thought the adopted child does not inherit at an equal level as the natural children this does not preclude the adopter to include the adopted child in his will (within the laws of inheritance).

 

Host:  What are the basic objectives or functions of the family according to Islam?

 

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, Islam views the family as a divinely ordained institution (not an optional or a spontaneous institution).  Islam does not recognize any other institution that can replace the family.  While Islam regards the family and marital relationships as a divinely inspired institution which is noble and sacred it is also a social contract (with certain mutual rights and obligations).  A third element is that family can not be separated from fellowship in faith and that this is essential in the long run for the stability and welfare of marriage.  Fourth it is necessary to clarify that while Islam upholds the basic equality of both sexes this does not preclude certain differentiations in roles, duties and responsibilities which are not contradictory to the equity but are rather needed to provide for the complementary nature of family relations.  The next logical point would be what role does the family play in society.  A good source that summarizes these points in a brief way is a little booklet written by Khursheed Ahmad published in Britain.  Six basic functions are put together.  One, family is in charge of preservation of the human race (procreation).  Second, protection of the morals of society and individuals by providing the only legitimate avenue for satisfaction of the sexual urge through marital relationship.  Third, is socialization where the family serves as a vehicle through which the psychological and social need of children and their value orientation takes place.  Fourth, it provides stabilization of psychological and emotional needs.  Fifth, it provides for social and economic security which is guarantied through mutual rights within the family.  Finally, it is a motivating source for the individual to work hard and learn the sense of mutual sacrifice and beneficence.