Responses & Solutions For Progress
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Q: What should be the relationship with non-Muslim relatives, especially the parents, in terms of visiting them, offering prayers for them, and attending funerals?
IWDM: According to the Qur'an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and his excellent example, we should keep good company with relatives, both Muslim and non-Muslim relatives. We should respect them, as we are their children. And we should support them as our parents to whom we owe a serious debt of support.
We should pray with them if they want us to, but we should pray as we know to pray. We can pray silently while they pray aloud, if they so chose to.
We should join them if they invite us to a family gathering involving nothing of the forbidden (haram). We should always want to be (close) family to them.
When parents or relatives die and they have service, we shouldn't refuse to attend the service. We should support them in such time of sadness and grief.
However, we should keep out of their religious performances or ceremonies, and do that in a spirit of loving care in regards to the tender moments they and we will be carrying.
Q: What role should scripture, particularly the Qur'an, serve in building the family?
IWDM: Scripture is the number one source of excellent advice and a blessed prescription for marriage and should be in the homes of all couples. If couples don't have the necessary command of its (the Qur'an) use, they should realize that and can carry their questions and concerns to an Imam or to a knowledgeable faithful Muslim.
The scripture (the Qur'an) is the most important help in the life of the married couple. When they have difficulty with each other, they shouldn't try to resolve difficult matters without first looking at what G'd has said about it.
We should ask, has G'd revealed something that can assist us in this situation? Also, we are to turn to the life example of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to find help or guidance for solving problems.
Q: What family tradition (missing today) would be of value to so-called modern day families?
IWDM: The one family tradition I see missing most is the tradition of keeping the useful accomplishments of the family in the family, so that the children will inherit the family's good merits and benefits to keep progress growing with the coming generations.
If the parent was known for being a good baker in the neighborhood, the family would naturally want a son (or a daughter) to care for the business and keep it in the family.
Sometimes it is the female of the family who has to take over the business. Most often her hope is for a male to develop interest in the business and one day assume the management responsibility. Traditionally, it has been the male who has had the business skills and desire to preserve family ownership and good business reputation.
However, we should not insist upon our children being what we are. We should want to see some of our children continue our work. We should want that our acclaim lives after we are dead in our graves. The children inherit us: The greatest traditional loss we face in modern time.
We don't give longevity to our work and accomplishments. There is no longevity for family interests, unless we pass on our work to our children. That tradition has Islamic support.
The moral tradition is of the same spirit with more weight. Missing is the family tradition of wanting to pass on to one's children the responsibility of living an honorable and decent life. My mother passed it to us children.
More than anything else, the responsibility to live decently and honorably in the society contributes to family merits and to the longevity of family establishments.
Q: What are the concerns for parent-child relationships?
IWDM: The desired relationship of parent and child is addressed in Holy Scripture. We have in the Qur'an Luqman's (AS) advice to his son. We have also Prophet Jacob's (AS) advice to his sons. And, we have the living record of Prophet Muhammed's (PBUH) loving care for his children, and the advice he gave to his wife (RA) and daugther (Ayesha and Fatimah).
The concern is for parents to remain loving and supportive. There should never be any "generation gap" (lost communication) between parents and their children. The child should never tell their parents that they are old fashion or out of touch with the real issues. They should respect the value of parents more than that.
G'd wants children to always be open to help that may come from their parents. And G'd wants parents to be open to receive what their children have on their hearts.
The Qur'an: "We bestowed (in the past) wisdom on Luqman: 'Show (thy) gratitude to God.' Any who is (so) grateful does so to the profit of his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, verily Gad is free of all wants, worthy of all praise.
"Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: 'O my son! Join not in worship (others) with God: for false worship is indeed the worst of wrongdoings.'
"And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning. (Hear the command), 'Show gratitude to Me (to God) and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.'
"But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and kind consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love). In the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that you did.
"'O my son!' (said Luqman), 'If there be (an issue) the weight of a mustard seed and it were in a rock, or in the heavens or earth, God will bring it forth: for God understands the finest mysteries (and) is well-acquainted (with them).
"O my son! Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whate'er betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs.
""And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at people, nor walk in insolence through the earth: for God loveth not any arrogant boaster.
"'And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice, for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass."
Q: As the Christmas Holiday begins, what should the Muslim response be in terms of receiving (and giving) of gifts between relatives, classmates, fellow workers and friends?" And how should Muslims respond to greetings of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year?
IWDM: On the holidays of the Christians we shouldn't offend our relatives by refusing to accept gifts from them. However, our Christian relatives should know that we also give gifts on our holidays.
During the celebration upon the completion of the fast of Ramadan and during the celebrating of the Eid day on the completion of the Hajj commemorating Prophet Abraham's sacrifice, his inviting everyone to feast and his charity to the poor directs us to embrace that same spirit. During our spirit of celebration, we should share the goodness with our Christian relatives and friends by giving them gifts in the spirit of the Eid (Muslim holiday).
Q: In a household where the husband is Muslim and the wife is Christian, should there be Christmas symbolisms such as Christmas trees and decorations?
IWDM: We would expect Christian women to embrace or accept the religion of their husband. The least we expect is that the Christian wife of the Muslim man would accept that the house not carry any symbols or emblems that would hurt the religious sentiment or sensitivities of either party in the marriage.
It is important also to note that the history of Christmas decorations (trees, lights, reafs of evergreen branches and the like) were introduced from pagan practices. Hence, many mistakenly take such objects as Christmas trees, lights, wreaths etc., to be a part of Christianity.
Upon him be peace, Christ Jesus never saw such objects neither did his disciples know of such objects. However, these pre-Christian era practices over a long period of time have become important in the tradition of merry making in the Christmas season.
Therefore, there is a respect to be given the inclusion of such objects in the celebration of the Christmas season. The expression yuletide goes back in history to a practice in pagan religions having evergreen trees dragged to a chosen location, pilled high and set afire. The folk of the area would be cheered by the bright fire and the nice aromatic smell from the burning pine needles. Over the centuries this practice was established in Christmas season tradition.