Value of Family in the Life of Muslims: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed made this public address in Nashville, Tennessee on May 26, 1991. From it he has now prepared this article for Muslim Journal's readers.)
"Islam Benefits All"
As-Salaam-Alaikum. That is, peace be on you. We witness that only One God exists and is worthy of worship. And we witness that Muhammed is Allah's Messenger. We pray the peace and blessings be on Muhammed, on his descendants and on his Companions, all. Amin.
The topic is The Value of Family in the Life of Muslims. It is hoped that by addressing this topic with the information we get from Qur'an and from the life of the Prophet himself, we will not be directed to the benefit of Muslims only. "Islam" benefits all people.
The need in the society of America is the need to build strong families. We all recognize that. That is the concern that we are hearing in the south, in the north, and everywhere in these United States. We hear that we have to build strong families.
What tears down the strength of our families is a behavioral departure from the natural orientation that Allah created. We believe, first of all, that the first parent, Adam in Qur'an, is not to be seen as an individual or as one single male or man. But Adam (A.S.) is to be seen, more importantly, as a concept. That concept is to be understood in terms of what the nature of man is as a family creature or as a social creature.
Adam, A Type In One Figure For All People (Group Type)
In my study of the Bible, I detected once the mentioning of our parent Adam in the plural number as well as in the singular number. In the Bible Adam (A.S.) is mentioned as a single figure and also as a plural figure. That really got my attention and I appreciated it so much. That is one of the things that has endeared me to the Christian Bible scriptures, including the Old Testament. Although I am not advising you Imams to study the Bible — Old and New Testament, but that is your privilege.
The concern here is that we understand the beginning of man as a family. It is more important to understand that Adam symbolizes the beginning of man as a family, the family nature of man. That Allah intended for us to be family, and Allah created us and regards us as a family — that is, the whole humanity. Jesus (A.S.) also is presented as a type representing all. This is established in the Qur'an.
As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, we believe that all of us are descendants from Adam. I give you the Qur'an now where Allah Most High says "He created '' all of us from one single person or from one single soul. Allah says again, "We have certainly made honorable all the children of Adam." Each and every one of the children of Adam is honorable by natural inheritance. Our concern is first that we do not depart from the orientation that our Creator has intended for us as family. Allah created humans.
Some of us do not think of the animal world as an example for human beings. But Allah has made everything as instructing signs.
Students of social development in man and of cultural development in man, such students are aware that the animals have been instructing signs for man. Animals have been studied as instructing signs helping man evolve socially and culturally. In some of the animals we find great lessons.
If we would really make a critical study of our social behavior in our homes we might conclude that we are devastated. We know we still have people with excellent family life and excellent social life, but for the whole we are in bad shape. Broken and unconscious family life burdens us and our neighborhoods financially. This burdens our cities financially. We of America do not have the strong organization in our homes that we should have.
We know from our religion that if we keep that discipline that is social and original, we will have a strong foundation. Our religion is a religion that is given as a complement to the excellent pattern in nature that Allah created to evolve man. Our religion does not contradict human nature. "Islam" pays compliment to human nature and complements human nature and, therefore, makes possible the completion of human nature on nature's path of evolution.
The Total Man
Our religion requires that we be concerned in the broader sense, that we not be one-track minded but circumspect. That we be aware of the total man as a family creature or as a social creature. It is natural for man as a focus for family promotion to be devoted to family. It begins with devotion to his mate, a woman, and their devotion to each other.
It is in the nature of the human being to prepare for the future. The future of their life is the future of their children. Their life is extended in their children. I'm not teaching you anything, for I just want to make clear to you what is our concern and how we are to value family.
The life of the children is an extension of the life of the parents. We continue to live on this earth, and our interests will be protected we hope by our children. It hurts us when we cannot have children. If we cannot have children from our own loins, we will like to care for brother's children and sister's children. We have to deposit something from ourselves in those who are coming and who will be responsible after us.
The favored situation is when the male has a son. The male really has a hang up. The male wants a son to look at and say, "Hey, lam not worried a bout the future. That young man will extend my life's excellence. That young man will realize my dreams." We should not be so narrow, however, to want to see our children become carpenters because we are carpenters. But if we have a good carpentry business going, we should want that a child grow into responsibility for it. Somebody should inherit that good business. We cannot stay here forever. There is no problem with such thinking.
In case we do not have a child interested to inherit our good business, we are happy to know that our dreams of family dignity will be inherited. We want that we be given credit for standing up for certain family life principles, for aspiring to certain high family goals, for identifying with the high (noble) family aspirations of the best of people on earth. That is in every man's nature. That is in every woman's nature.
So whether a child is going to inherit our material possessions or not or our material work or not is not the bigger concern. The bigger concern is that we live our lives in such a way that we see our dreams being realized for us as creatures aspiring for a higher and a more valuable self-perception for us in the world. We want a more appreciable self-worth in the world.
Marriage Is Never Purely Romance
Al-Islam requires us to have organization. Our family is to be organized. We are not just to take family lightly and be romantic or mechanical. Many of us will marry a woman for pure romance. In our religion marriage is never purely romance. It is purely "business". This view is missing in the American family. The family that will see marriage as business will have a better future. The birds will have romance and then devote attention to business. We don't know birds for their sexual appetite. We know birds and bees for their social "appetites".
We were talking about the call to prayer, which should be heard on time in every home. We are not obligated to just call the prayer in the mosque. The call to prayer should be made in every home. I was explaining that to a person who was asking questions about the English translation of the term "falah". He stated that falah means success in English. I said that is right, but "falah" means also to cultivate. The farmer who cultivates his land is called "al-falah". You may have heard the term "falaheen" in the news some years ago. It is an Arabic term which means "those who cultivate" — the farmers. These farmers were actually fighters. Their concern was their stolen lands.
We know that families have not evolved on this earth without having material concerns develop naturally. Just as important, it is natural to be concerned about discipline and what kind of ideas and beliefs man is going to respect. It is natural to want life-structuring established behavior. Such behavior means constructive work, profitable business sense. For the group-life man must see to his family's needs — to provide for them food, clothing, shelter, etc. We know that this is natural in the growth and development of man as a family creature.
(To be continued)