Family in Islam

The family unit is an important component of Islam, and all elements of a family are given due significance – from parents to children to spouses to kith and kin.

The Holy Quran repeatedly reminds its readers of the duties children have toward parents, particularly in their old age. God (Allah) says in the Quran:

“And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Quran, 17:23-24)

Of the two, the mother is given greater importance in Islam. The Quran bears witness to the mother’s travails by stating, “with trouble did his mother bear him and with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months…” (46:15)

One of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) strongly supports this as well. A companion once asked the Prophet, “Who deserves my good treatment most?” “Your mother,” said the Prophet. “Who next?” “Your mother,” he replied again. “Who next?” “Your mother,” he answered yet again. “Who after that?” “Your father.”

Obeying one’s parents and treating them with respect and affection are greatly esteemed virtues, even if they are non-Muslim. A female companion of the Prophet (pbuh) once asked him how she should treat her mother who was not a Muslim and followed pagan tribal customs and beliefs. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told her to be kind and considerate and to behave towards her as was a mother’s due from a daughter.

Yet, one’s obedience to parents does not overlay one’s obedience to God (Allah). He says, “…and if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them, to Me is your return, so I will inform you of what you did.” (29:8)

Islam further advises parents to treat their children with mercy, love, and equality. In addition, parents must provide proper education to their children along with raising them to be morally upright and responsible individuals of society. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said the best gift a father can give his child is good education. The Prophet (pbuh) also laid great emphasis on proper treatment of daughters and promised the reward of paradise for parents who raise their daughter(s) well. At the same time, God (Allah) calls for moderation in the Quran:  “O you who believe! Let not your wealth, or your children, divert you from the remembrance of Allah; and whoever does that, these are the losers.” (63:9)

Importance of Marriage
Marriage is a blessed social contract between a man and a woman. Like all great religions, Islam also emphasizes the institution of marriage. God (Allah) says in the Holy Quran: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)

In addition, the Quran beautifully describes the depth of a marital relationship by invoking the metaphor of “garments” for the husband and wife: “They are your garments and you are their garments.” (2:187) Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has specifically mentioned marriage to be of his traditions and even equated it to completing half of one’s faith.

References to marriage within the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are unmistakably heterosexual. In fact, homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam. The story of Lot is repeatedly mentioned in the Quran and the behavior of his people is termed indecent, excessively sinful, lewd, evil, and shameful. While Muslims do not discriminate against gays and lesbians as human beings, they detest their homosexuality as something which transgresses the bounds set by God (Allah) from the beginning of time. In this vein, orthodox Christianity and Judaism continue to strongly condemn homosexuality as well.

The Process of Marriage
While the concept of dating does not exist in Islam and intercourse prior to marriage is prohibited, the Islamic notion of marriage recognizes the need to determine compatibility between future spouses.
Spouses are selected in different ways. Other individuals find their own partners through interaction with each at school others on social networks, others even in campus and took a liking for one another. Through it all, the focus is on the immediate goal of marriage. In this way, Islam strives to keep the spirit of matrimony alive: a union not only of two distinct persons, but their diverse viewpoints, their unique backgrounds and their extended families as well; a pledge to interweave their previous independent lives, hopefully successfully, and to continue the legacy onward.

Contrary to popular beliefs, Islam does not admit forced marriages irrespective of the gender; in fact, a marriage is incomplete without express approval by both the bride and groom. In practice, arranged marriages in Islam refer to the process where a third party introduces two families with children of marriageable age.

Weddings are festive occasions involving family and friends and may last for several days, depending on one’s culture. Yet, the essence of marriage lies in the nuptial contract signed by both the bride and groom after verbal affirmation to marry one another, which is overseen by two witnesses. This ceremony is called the “nikah” and it binds the two as husband and wife. An after-marriage feast called a “walima” is hosted by the husband, as was the custom of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Marriage: Related Topic
Interestingly, the convention to change one’s name to their husband’s continues to exist in many Muslim countries, but practicing Muslim women are increasingly choosing to keep their maiden names, understanding that no matter who they marry, they will foremost be their father’s daughters. They take their cue from the following words of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “You will be called on the Day of Resurrection by your names and the names of your fathers…” The women at the time of the Prophet (pbuh), including his own wives, were all known by the names of their fathers, not their husbands. Following this tradition, many Muslim Women decide to keep their last names after marriage without any objections from their husbands.

Although polygamy is practiced by a minority among Muslims, it is by no means the norm. Islam permits men to marry up to four wives at a time and this custom is more common in some cultures than others. If a man chooses to have more than one wife, he must deal with all of them with justice. The Quran states: “…marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…” (4:3) Limitless polygamy has been practiced in a variety of cultures; however, Islam humanizes this practice with a limited allowance, recognizing a variety of factors, such as a higher ratio of women in certain countries, the toll of war and excessive male deaths in a society, and offering a legitimate and protective solution against the social evil of adultery.

Carrying the Legacy Forward
Having children is often the natural next step for many Muslim couples although some choose to wait a few years before conceiving whereas others are unable to do so – as is pretty much the case with people all over the world. Naming the child can become a family affair with the involvement of grandparents at times, whereas some couples opt to name their own children. On the seventh day after the child is born, a religious sacrifice of slaughtering is performed and the baby’s head is shaved, giving the monetary equivalence of the weight of his/her hair in charity. This ceremony, called an “aqeeqah,” for more reading on Aqeeqah refer to our previous posts, under category of Islamic morality.

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