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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Muslim Families: Current Challenges and Future Aspirations

By Dr. Alaa Mohamed Al-Saeid, Islam Online

Islam has emphasized the importance of the family unit, and has laid down its governing rules and regulations in great detail in the Qu’ran and in the Sunnah. This highlights the importance of the family with regards to the well-being of the individual, society and the Ummah.

The Holy Qu’ran and the Sunnah have elaborated on the rules governing marriage, the rights and entitlements of spouses, the parent-child relationship, as well as inheritance, legacies and divorce. Tackling all issues pertaining to the family in such great detail serves to accentuate the belief that the well-being of the family affects the individual’s sense of peace and contentment, as well as the stability and security of society as a whole. The provisions set down in both the Qu’ran and Sunnah are directly related to aqeedah and faith in God Almighty.

God Almighty gives us marriage as an indication and manifestation of His infinite wisdom “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”.1

Islam views the marriage contract as the most holy of covenants that is not to be taken lightly, and strongly opposes any deceit or dissemblance. The Qur’an states that: “and how could ye take it when ye have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a solemn covenant.”2

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) further stresses upon the importance of marriage and says: “youth, whosoever owns the means to marry should do so, and if not capable then abstain”3 Islam further refuted both abnegation and monasticism.

Islam establishes the relationship between spouses to be based on mercy, love and goodwill between both partners, to this end Islam gave both partners clear rights and defined duties that they are obligated to abide by, to facilitate their lives and to create a safe and stable society. In this context Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The most virtuous of you are those good to their families and I am the best amongst you to my family.”4

Within Islamic doctrine the aim for setting up a family is the formation of a righteous individual and a society that is capable of endeavor and contribution; this is because the family is the primary social environment that embraces a member from birth onwards. The family witnesses the progression from one stage to the next, and works on forming the life of any individual with its own unique persona. The family provides the surrounding ambiance that shapes the mental, social and moral perspective of the individual, and consequently is the strongest effective conditioning force.

Role of a Family

The vital role of the family in the life of any individual can be seen as:

1. Safeguarding the integrity of the human element

2. Primary core of any society

3. Offering a psychological haven

4. Forming a righteous human being

5. Putting regulations on physical desires

6. Offering continuity to social heritage

7. Achieving social and individual security

8. Supporting the emotional and physical development of the individual

The Status of the Muslim family in Europe

After the immigration of Muslims to Europe, both in groups or as individuals, we began to witness the immergence of generations of European Muslims, and after a time the Muslim presence in Europe stabilized. Muslim families took their place within the framework of European societies, and the effects of the Western- style of life became apparent, we also began to notice an increase in inter-family problems within Muslim families of the West, which have included:

1. An increase in divorce rates.

2. Parental negligence.

3. A decrease in the levels of education.

4. A high level of delinquency.

5. Marital abuse.

6. A rebellious attitude from wives towards their spouses.

7. An increase in marital problems.

8. A large number of cases in the courts, and complaints to the police, regarding problems in Muslim families.

9. Problems arising from Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men.

All these issues, which can easily be noticed by any layman observer, are in fact an alarm, warning of the danger faced by the Muslim family, which is considered to be the safe haven, immortal citadel, primary fortress and source of righteousness for the Muslim community.

We need to take a sagacious stance towards rectifying the path, and a prudent approach to tackling the dangers, and make serious and diligent efforts towards safeguarding the Muslim family from deterioration and destruction.

We aspire to have Muslim families – as God Almighty intended them to be- as entities of compassion, mercy, care and love, and capable of issuing forth righteous generations, who can act as role models to societies in general, proving that Islam places humanity on the right path and offers a life of contentment.

How Can we Achieve This Aim?

Based on the ordains of God Almighty, and on the commands of our True Religion, all Muslims whether individuals, groups, or institutions are obliged to do their duty and take a keen interest in the affairs of the Muslim family, on the grounds that it is the fortress that will guard future generations of Muslims, as well as the Muslim presence in the West. In the words of the Holy Qu’ran: “O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire…”5 and in the words of The Messenger of Allah “You are all shepherds and each one of you is responsible for his flock”.

The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe has launched a campaign heralding 2009 as the “Year of EU Muslim Family”, their belief and motto being that “A Stable Family Forms a Stable Community”, the federation has urged and encouraged all associations and organizations to join the cause. We should all adopt this belief and support this campaign, out of our faith in the crucial role that the Muslim family plays in Europe, in securing and stabilizing Islamic presence, and presenting the true Islamic paradigm of life based on devoutness, compassion and mercy, and in acknowledgment of the dire difficulties facing Muslim families in the West.

We call out to all organizations, associations and authorities, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, that can co-operate with us on this huge project, and put in the necessary effort and commitment, that will benefit the Muslim family, Muslim presence in Europe, as well as the societies in which the Muslim families live.

Let our motto this year in Europe be – God Willing – “A Stable Muslim Family in Europe”.

Let our joint work and aim focus on achieving this lofty goal – with the aid of God Almighty – exerting all our efforts in this regard.

(1) Surat An-Nur (21)
(2) Surat An-Nisaa (21)
(3) Al Bukhary 8/9 Book of Marriage
Muslim 172/9 Book of Marriage
(4) Al Turmozy 394/10
(5) Surat At-Tahrim (6)

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