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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0009-FAMILY AS A NATURAL SOCIAL UNIT

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

A. FAMILY: STRUCTURE and FUNCTION

FAMILY IN THE QUR’AN

The Qur’an has used the term ahl to refer to the family. The term bayt is used to refer to the home. The term dhuriyyat is used to refer to children or offspring.

FAMILY AS A SOCIAL UNIT:

 

The family is the basic building unit of a healthy community. It is a natural unit that has existed since the start of human history. There is no conceivable alternative to the family. Communities that neglect families eventually weaken and fail. The family is a social unit that facilitates social intercourse and establishes and strengthens social relations. It is the best institution for child-rearing in biological, psychological, and sociological terms. The family provides psychological security for three generations: grandparents, parents, and children. The family is a forum for mutually dependent relations. The family is the best school. It teaches knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes in a friendly non-threatening atmosphere.

 

FAMILY AS A BIOLOGICAL UNIT

The family is both a social and biological unit. The members of the family must have a biological relation either by marriage or parentage. No other method of family-formation is allowed. Legal adoption was prohibited in Islam because it leads to a family relation that is based on neither marriage nor parentage.

 

FUNCTIONS OF THE FAMILY:

The family has sexual/reproductive, social, psychological, and economic functions.

 

Sexual regulation: legal fulfillment of sexual desires protects other families and the society at large. Fulfillment of the sexual urge outside the confines of the family leads to social corruption and social failure. Sexual satisfaction within the family ensures that sex is part of a whole relationship of love and compassion and not just a base animal instinct.

 

Reproduction: The human reproductive function is best fulfilled in the family because the parents stay together and help one another in child upbringing. Human gestation and child-rearing to adulthood take a long period of 15-20 years and require that the parents live together in a long-term relationship.

 

Socialization: culture and norms of behavior in society are learned in the family. It is only within the family that close and intimate contact necessary for teaching the details of life in society is possible. Parents who love and care for their children are the best agents of socialization because they will be careful not to introduce negative experiences to their children.

 

Affection: Every human wants to be loved. The family provides unconditional love that is not easy to find in the general society outside.

 

Status: any family, however humble it may be, gives social status and self-esteem. You are at the least known as someone’s husband, wife, son or daughter. A good, successful family enhances the status of all the members. On the other hand a bad family lowers the esteem and reputation of all its members.

 

Protection: The family provides physical and psychological protection especially for the children. (g) Economic support: the healthy and strong members of the family provide support for others and in turn will get support when they get weakened by illness or old age.

 

B. RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES

Each member of the family husband wife, or child, has both rights and responsibilities. Many families fail because they can not find the right equilibrium between the two. The family will succeed if each member knows their rights and responsibilities. There should be a balance between the two. In a healthy family, members fulfill their obligations and responsibilities before demanding their rights.

 

Both parents are jointly responsible for the upbringing of their children (aqidat, emotional, physical, psychological, and social), both can undertake any responsibility but division of labor is more efficient such that each parent does what they are best at. It is the primary duty of both parents to save the family from hell-fire. This responsibility starts with teaching of religion, character and behavior.

 

Women are emotionally and psychologically equipped for child-rearing. They have traditionally been left to care for children. The traditional roles of the spouses may be changing. Traditionally men were providers and decision-makers. Women were housekeepers, preparers of meals, and caretakers of children. Women are now being involved in many societal activities outside the home. There has been no corresponding increase in men's home responsibilities with the result that the family ends up as the ultimate loser.

 

Each of the spouses has rights and responsibilities to the other. The husband has the right to enjoy the body of his wife. The wife has the right to sexual enjoyment, financial support, nafaqat, and good company, muasharat.

 

C. LEADERSHIP IN THE FAMILY:

The husband is the legal and customary head of the family. His position of leadership, qawamat al rajul (4:34) is based on having more responsibilities. He is a leader and not a dictator. His leadership means carrying more responsibility. His is not a power relationship but a relationship of service, love, and consideration. The husband should not be an overlord high above the rest of the family members. He should partake of domestic work. He must be directly involved in the happiness and sorrow of the family.

 

The husband is legally responsible for the financial up-keeping of the family. He should provide financial security for his family within reasonable limits. Whatever the husband spends on his family is sadaqa. The husband also has the duty to protect his family both physically and emotionally.

 

The man has more legally-binding social responsibilities outside the house. If these were given to the woman the family unit as we know it would disappear because she would then have little time or energy for the family.

 

There are many aspects of the family's life in which the wife's leadership must be recognized because she is the specialist. The prophet recognized this role as a caretaker of the home. The extent of the wife’s responsibility varies by culture and custom for example women of the ansaar played a bigger role that women of the Quraish in Madina. The wife is the primary educator of children. She has more impact on shaping their character and personality. The wife is better suited to assure psychological well-being of the whole family. Breast-feeding and psychological bonding to mother make her a model personality. She has to live up to the expectations in order that the children will grow up well.

 

The wife and children must obey the head of the family in order to keep the family united and orderly. He in turn should listen to and respect the opinions and interests of all members of the family. A family can not survive if there are two equal and competing heads. A wife who wants the success of her family and its happiness will defer to the husband's leadership role.

 

D. HABITS FOR SUCCESS OF THE FAMILY:

There are certain habits that enable families to succeed. They are learned from childhood and experience. A parent need not learn from their personal experiences; they can learn from others' experiences and mistakes. Habits are transferred from one generation to the next. Spouses who come from happy and balanced families are more likely to have good families. Spouses who come from unhappy and broken families are more likely to have dysfunctional and failing families.

 

Inculcation of good habits starts from the formation of the family and continue all through the life of the family. The start is by choosing the right spouse. Efforts must be exerted to correct any defects in a spouse once married. The family must be developed spiritually by remembering Allah often, praying in the home regularly, inculcating iman in the children, following the sunnat and reading the Qur’an regularly especially surat baqara.

 

The family’s education must be taken care of. Both the spouses and children have to be taught. Book and audio-visual libraries must be provided. Good and righteous persons should be invited to visit the home. Visits should be exchanged only with good families. Irreligious people or those known to be involved in sins should not be allowed into the home.

 

The family should be treated as a small social unit. Shura should be established by discussing family matters with the spouse and children. Problems are solved amicably and within the family. Children should not be allowed to see differences or conflicts between the parents. The head of the family must exercise control over family activities with compassion and firmness. He should monitor what the children are doing. Make sure that the family follows fixed meal and sleep times. All members of the family should cooperate in the household work. Members of the family can joke and have fun with one another.

 

Waste and extravagance must be avoided. Waste leads to poverty. What is wasted could have been helpful to some one else in the community. A life of hyper-consumerism is un-Islamic. The family should buy only what it needs. It is even advisable to buy less than what are thought to be the needs, because the needs are often over-estimated. The temptation to always 'want' things should be resisted. Showing off or competing must be avoided. Indebtedness must be avoided. A debt is an instrument of enslavement. A debtor soon finds himself telling lies. He will also take more debts to pay old ones and will not get out of this vicious circle. A few debts are inevitable; most others are a result of unnecessary expenditures.

 

E. HOME PRIVACY AND SECURITY:

In order for members of the family to interact and develop the necessary bonds, they need time together isolated from the rest of the community. This is ensured by maintaining a certain degree of privacy in home. The privacy of the home must be guarded jealously. Family secrets should be kept within the home.

 

All members of the family must feel secure in their home. Involved here is not only physical and financial security but also psychological and emotional security. Members of the family may have to make sacrifices to make sure that their families are secure. The sacrifice may be time, financial or even accepting some inconveniences and humiliations.

 

QUR’AN TEXT

Family relations based on marriage and blood: It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things). Qur’an 25:54

 

Religion is basis for family formation: Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allure you nor marry ( your girls ) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever even he allure you unbelievers do ( but ) beckon you to the fire, but Allah beckons by his grace to the garden ( of bliss ) and forgiveness, and makes his signs clear to mankind that they may receive admonition. Qur'an 2:221

 

Husband as head of the family: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Qur’an 4:34

 

Parity is a basic phenomenon in creation: And of everything we have created pairs; that you may receive instruction. Qur'an 51:49 …. ( He is ) the creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: By this means does he multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto him, and he is the one that hears and sees ( all things ) Qur'an 42:11

 

Marriage is a source of psychological tranquility: And among his signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that you 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. Qur'an 30:21

 

Bond between spouses; mutual need: It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love).  When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed).  When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): "if Thou givest us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful. Qur’an."7: 189 … 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. Qur’an 30:21

 

Resolving marital conflict: If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint ( two ) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: for Allah has full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things. Qur'an 4:35

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. September 2000