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Sultana's Dream
April 2012

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The Family in Islamic Culture

The word family ā’ela in Arabic comes from the root āla , ya’ōlu which carries the meaning: to support, to maintain and to protect. Accordingly, each member of the family supports, maintains and protects the others, financially, emotionally and physically. The family in Islamic terms is compared to the human hand: a unit in itself with individuals (fingers) which is strongest when they all unite for any purpose. The relationships and obligations are very strong because the sharing envelops everything: the joys, the sorrows, the ups and downs.

Mutual respect is a valuable quality in the Muslim family and responsibility is shared amongst all members of the household. According to a saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): ‘A man is a king in his home, he is responsible for all its members; a woman is a queen in her home and is responsible for its members;  even a servant is responsible for protecting its assets and valuables.’

Justice and equity are also recommended by the Prophet who emphasised just and equal treatment of children even when allocating hugs and kisses: no favoritism is to be shown. When he was asked: ‘Who of your children is closest to your heart?’ he answered: ‘the youngest until he matures, the sick until he recovers and the traveller until he returns.’

To build a healthy, functioning society with well-balanced individuals, great emphasis is laid on the importance of the family as the nucleus of society; also the importance of adults setting a good example to children, the ‘qudwa hassana’. Again, the dignity of each member of the family is paramount, and decisions have to be arrived at by consultation with each and every member. Parents are respected and revered because, according to the Qur’an, love, respect and mercy towards them follows after love and respect to Allah (swt). Children are admonished not to utter a word of discontent or  rebuke to their parents, but to always speak kindly, even in disagreement, and to remember that their parents have nurtured, cared and supported them when they were helpless babies. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and every elderly person in the family are also treated with great respect for they are often fountains of wisdom and the protectors and maintainers of traditions and cultural values.

In the past the family extended to grandparents, great uncles and great aunts and cousins etc. Nowadays, especially in the cities, the family has shrunk to include only parents and immediate offspring, but maintaining healthy, loving and close relationships with the extended family is still a healthy Islamic tradition.  Sharing Ramadan iftar (breaking of the fast), Eid prayers and festivities, religious and individual celebrations as well as the exchange of loving messages and gifts are greatly valued. All this should be maintained and nurtured for happy or sad occasions that would help increase our happiness and alleviate our sufferings and cement the institution of FAMILY.

Aziza Abdel-Halim AM


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