Monday 23rd of May 2022
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Importance of Family in Islam

Certain animals such as ants, bees, termites and several ©species of monkeys are social, that is they live in communities. The social life of some of these gregarious animals is characterized by some very significant and interesting systems.
Man is also a social and gragarious animal that has the most varied and the most interesting social life that we know.

Society and its kinds
Social life usually originates from a set of natural or acquired ties which join together a number of individuals and turn them into a coherent community. This coherent community is called a society.
There are many kinds of society and from different angles it can be divided into various classes.
Some of these classes are limited and small, like family, and some of them are big and vast, such as tribe, clan; community, nation etc.

The simplest, the smallest and the oldest form of human society is family which is comprised by wife, husband and children. A number of bonds and ties join the members of a family to each other.

When the children of a family are grown up, they normally marry and produce children. Thus gradually from one family several coherent and inter‑connected families are formed. They trace their descent back to a common ancestor and form a bigger social unity called `tribe'.

In certain parts of the world we come across another kind of relationship between the ‑individuals and the families. It originates from a mythical tie and these families, instead of tracing back their genealogy to a common human ancestor, attribute their descent to an animal, plant or something else of that sort and consider themselves attached to it in a mysterious way. This fictitious ancestor is called `totem' and the people attached to the same totem are known as a clan.

In more advanced societies we come across a bigger social unity called nation. A nation consists of a large number of individuals, families and tribes united by a common race, country, language and culture.

Other social groupings
There are various other kinds of social ties from which social groupings have originated, such as those of sex, class, religion and ideology.

Dogmatic and ideological society
One of the most progressive social ties is that of doctrine and dogma. The people who believe in one religion or one ideology are united by it and form one community, that is a society having a common goal and a common policy. An ideological tie may be so powerful and effective that it may overshadow all other ties. We will further elucidate this point later.
Out of all the social ties which we have mentioned Islam gives basic importance to two, namely the ideological and dogmatic tie and the family tie. We propose to discuss first the family tie.

Nature has so arranged that man and woman are attracted towards each other. This natural attraction binds them together and leads them to live a common life and form a family. This natural tendency or the instinct of sex, like any other instinct, should be guided to the right direction so that it may be utilized in the service of humanity.
Though common life of husband and wife originates from sex instinct, yet gradually it develops into a sort of deep spiritual and sentimental and social and economic relation‌ship. That is what we call conjugal union or matrimony.
In the wake of keen desire to establish conjugal relations between themselves, man and woman enter into a contract known as marriage or matrimonial contract.
This contract has great importance in human life, for it unites the existence of two persons in many ways. It lays the foundation of the life of a human infant, and deeply influences his body, life, thought and future actions. That is why a marriage contract is regarded as sacred by various nations and enough attention has been paid in different legal systems to the questions connected with it.

Importance of marriage from Islamic point of view
Islam has also attached great importance to the question of marriage in its social system. In the holy Qur'an and the sayings of the holy Prophet and the Imams we find that marriage has been greatly encouraged. The holy Prophet has been reported to have said: "No institution of Islam is liked by Allah more than that of marriage".

Basic object of marriage
The basic object of marriage in Islam consists of:
(a) Securing comfortable atmosphere for husband and wife
(b) Producing a new generation and bringing up healthy, faithful and virtuous children.
With regard to the first object the Qur'an says:
"One of His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own species, so that you might find comfort with them, and He put mutual love and affection in your hearts. Surely in this there are lessons for the thinking people. " (Surah al‑Rum, 30:21).
A Muslim husband and wife who follow the Qur'an should always be a source of comfort to each other. Their mutual relations should be far above mere sexual enjoyment and should reach the stage of cordial friendship accompanied by mutual benevolence and fellow‑feeling. (Ayatullah Ali Mishkini's "Marriage in Islam" published by ISP).
On the basis of this verse the object of marriage should be the same as that of the creation of mates, that is husbands and wives. From the Islamic point of view marriage is not merely an instrument for legalizing sexual relations, but .it is an agreement which unites the very existence of the husband and wife and gives a new colour and a new rhythm to their life. It brings them out of real solitariness, turns them into a couple instead of single individuals and makes them complementary to each other.
With regard to the second object the Qur'an says:
"He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has given you partners from among yourselves, and (similarly made) the cattle (also) males and females. That is bow He multiplies you. Nothing can be compared to Him. He is the All‑bearing, the All‑seeing". (Surah al‑Shura, 42:11).
The Islamic traditions regarding the choosing of wife stress one point viz. the proposed wife should be capable of producing children and should not be sterile. According to a well‑known hadith of his, the holy Prophet said: "Marry each other and produce new off‑spring so that your number may increase".
Selection of a spouse one of the most critical questions connected with marriage and formation of a family is that of choosing the spouse. In this connection attention should be paid to the following points:
Freedom in the selection of wife or husband.
Equality between husband and wife, viz. each of them should be generally suitable to marry the other.
The criteria which should be kept in view to deter‌ mine such suitability.
Persons between whom marriage is forbidden.
Seeking the hand of the spouse in marriage.

Freedom in choosing husband or wife:
Freedom in choosing husband/wife is a principle to which Islam has paid much attention, for satisfactory conjugal life depends on intellectual, spiritual and moral compati‌bility between the two spouses. This compatibility can exist only if both the parties are free in their choice and choose each other of their own free will after careful study and without any coercion. Otherwise their conjugal life cannot be expected to be smooth and satisfactory.
According to the Islamic canon law the first condition of the validity of a marriage contract is that it should be proposed by the woman and accepted by the man and both of them should act freely in the matter.
The Imams on various occasions, especially when they were consulted about the selection of a wife or a husband, emphatically stressed that the main condition of the validity of a marriage is the free consent of both the parties. No imposition is allowed in this respect.
A young man complained to Imam al Sadiq (P) that his parents were compelling him to marry a girl whom he did not like, whereas he was interested in another girl. He then asked the Imam what he was required to do in that case.
The Imam said: "Marry the girl you like".
In this connection it may be remembered that the parents must not compel their children to marry against their will.

Consent of father to the marriage of a girl
The teachings of Islam recommend that the daughters should marry with the consent of their fathers. Many of the Muslim jurists consider this consent to be an essential condition of the marriage of the girls. In this connection the following points may be noted:
(1) As a marriage establishes social contact between two families both the boys and the girls have been advised to consult their parents in regard to the selection of their future wives and husbands. Such consultation means showing respect to the parents and the recognition of the trouble taken by them in bringing up their children. It is also conducive to better understanding among the relatives of both the sides. Above all that, this is an appropriate way of benefiting from the personal experience and social knowledge of the parents, in regard to the selection of the life partner and appropriate conjugal behavior.
(2) The parents have been urged that while guiding their children, they should take into consideration their real requirements and the new conditions in which they will have to live. They should understand that marriage in the first instance, concerns their children and the future life of theirs and not themselves (i.e. the parents).
Hence at the time of such consultations, they should, in the first instance, pay attention to the basic and noble qualities, which the spouse of their child should possess, and not to those of the second or third degree, and should not be influenced by fictitious considerations like the wealth or the social position of the family of the bride or the bridegroom.
(3) The jurists who consider the consent of father to be an essential condition of marriage, hold this view only in respect of the virgins. Evidently they give importance to this condition only because in their opinion the inter‌vention of a loving and experienced father is of great value.
(4) Even in the case of the virgins they hold that the consent of father is essential only so long as he tries to safeguard the interests of his daughter and does not impose his own will on her even though it may be against her interests. If it is found that father is bent upon imposing his will against the interests of his daughter, it is the duty of the authorities concerned to take notice of the case and, by virtue of the powers vested in a just Muslim ruler, to take proper action to safeguard the interests of the girl.

Equality or general fitness for matrimonial alliance
The holy Prophet said: "Marry your equals; choose your partner in life from among them; and select best mothers for your offspring".
In the societies having a tribal system usually every tribe asserts that it has certain distinctions and on their basis it claims to be superior to others. These fictitious claims sometimes assume the form of racial discrimination, just as the whites believe in their superiority over the blacks or the red‑skinned people and sometimes that of nationalism as found among certain nations of the modern world. In societies having class distinctions such claims are made by certain classes, such as the clergy, the military personnel, the businessmen, the politicians, the bureau‌crats etc. One of the effects of such a claim is that the members of a family, a trade or a class are always restricted to marry only within their own circle, the other party must belong to one of the prominent and well‑known families. Marriage between a white and a black is forbidden. A son or a daughter of a cleric or a military officer, a businessman or a bureaucrat cannot marry a daughter or a son of a worker or a farmer. This undesirable practice is still more or less prevalent among the so‑called noble families. Such families are severely opposed to the marriage of their children to those belong‌ing to low‑income and under‑privileged families not having a so‑called high profession.
Islam denounces such discrimination. The holy Prophet is reported to have said: "The believers are equal to each other".
Imam al Sajjad (P) chose a woman to be his wife and married her. He had an Ansar (a descendant of the Madinite companions of the Prophet) friend, who felt uneasy on account of the Imam having married a woman not belonging to any prominent family. But when on inquiry he found that she belonged to a respectable family of Bani Shayban, he was relieved of his worry. He came to the Imam and said:
"I felt unhappy and dejected on account of your having married this woman and said to myself: `The Imam had married a woman who was not respectable'. The other people were also saying the same thing. At last I had to make investigations till I found that she belonged to the tribe of Bani Shayban".
The Imam (P) said to him in reply:
"I had been under the impression that you were more intelligent than I find you now. Don't you know that Islam has come to uplift the lower classes of society and to remove all inequalities. Now no Muslim is mean or low".
As such in Muslim society descent, nationality, family position and similar other factors are no bar to the marriage between two Muslims who are otherwise fit to marry each other in accordance with the standards men‌tioned below.

Criteria of selection of a spouse:

(1) Faith
The first criterion of the selection of a husband or a wife is his or her faith ‑ faith in Islam and the way of life to which it has called humanity. Islamic society is an ideolo‌gical one. In every such society faith in its ideology is the main orbit of its life. It is the motivating force which pushes that society toward the goals which it has ‑set before it. That is why while devising any social system or law it has to take into consideration all the factors which may strengthen or weaken faith in its ideology.
In our foregoing study we said that from the point of view of Islam the object of marriage is not merely sexual enjoyment, but is also the formation of a healthy family atmosphere so that:
The husband and wife may live in mutual love, affection and understanding;
They may create an appropriate environment for the birth and growth of the children who may prove more mature and active members of the ideological society of Islam.
It is evident that these two objectives can be achieved if both the husband and the wife believe in Islam and practice its teachings to the maximum extent.
Sometimes it is seen that some people tend to maintain in the name of broad‑mindedness, liberality and tolerance, that disparity in religion should not be an obstacle in the way of marriage between a man and a woman. According to them why should there be an objection if a Muslim believer marries a woman who does not believe in Allah or in the Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam, or alternatively a Muslim woman marries an atheist or one who does not believe in Islam and the Qur'an?
Such questions instead of being a sign of broad‑mindedness and liberality usually show that the people who raise them have no idea of the significance of marriage which we mentioned above, nor are they aware of the real import of religion, especially Islam.
If religion means, as the word itself signifies, a particular way of life, and if marriage is meant to be a heart‑warming spiritual tie which may create an atmosphere of cordiality and coherence for both husband and wife, then how can it be possible that two persons believing in two different religions and two different ideologies should be able to create such a tie and such an atmosphere?
Practical experience has shown that marriages of this kind gradually end either in the slackness of both the spouses, or at least one of them, in the practice of their religion, or in the coolness and incompatibility of their mutual relations. In either case there is a great threat to an ideolo‌gical society as well as to the happiness of the husband and wife concerned. Besides, there is a far bigger threat to the faith and prosperity of their children.
Really it cannot be expected that the children born and brought up in a bi‑religious family will be true believers in the path of Islam.

(2) Morality
Unity ‑in faith of the husband and the wife is an essential condition of marriage, but is not the only condition. Attention should be paid to other questions also, especially to the moral aspects of the spouse.
One of the companions of the tenth Imam says:
I wrote a letter to Imam Abu Ja'far, asking him some questions about marriage.
In his reply the Imam wrote:
"The holy Prophet has said: As soon as a suitor, who is religious and with whose manners you are satisfied, comes to you asking for matrimonial alliance take action to accomplish marriage with him. If you will not do so, you will have deviated from the right path and may be faced with a great crisis".
Another companion of the Imam wrote to him on this very subject. In reply the Imam wrote back:
"If you are satisfied with the religiousness and uprightness of a suitor, do marry. Otherwise . . . . . . ".
In two other narrations Imam al Sadiq (P) has stressed the chastity and continence of the spouse.

(3) Financial competence
A Muslim man has to provide means of living to his wife and children. Hence it is essential that he should have enough means beforehand to discharge this responsibility.
Imam al Sadiq (P) is reported to have said:
"A suitable husband is he who is chaste and has financial competence".

(4) Compatibility
Compatibility and similarity in the ideas and wants of the husband and the wife is one of the most effective factors in making a marriage successful. With compatibility there is little chance that any serious differences will arise between them. If on any occasion there should be a difference in their views they can sort out the problem easily. As such it can be hoped that their married life will be happy and satisfactory. Otherwise a marriage accom‌panied by permanent clash between the husband and the wife, can ruin not only their life, but also that of their children and close relatives.
Only those husbands and wives live a satisfactory and happy married life who:
Realize the concept of human marriage;
Are not only partners in life, but are also benevolent friends and faithful associates;
Deem it necessary to co‑operate with each other in every respect;
Refrain from every kind of arrogance and haughtiness in their mutual dealings;
Respect their reciprocal rights and try to please each other.

How to select a suitable spouse
There is no doubt that it is essential to make enough investigations about a prospective husband or wife to ensure that he or she is fit in every respect to conclude a strong everlasting contract.
A hasty action impelled by the impact of the emotions of youth or imposed by the pressure of the relatives is likely to cause inconvenience and trouble subsequently. Anyhow, useful and reasonable investigations should not be mixed up with the wanton custom of courtship. Such unrestrained intimacy, howsoever an enchanting name may be given to it, cannot be allowed, for mostly it does not aim at marriage and formation of a family.
In this respect a middle course, removed from the two opposite extremes, must be adopted and that is the course which has been recommended by Islam.
A man asked Imam Ja'far al Sadiq (P):
"Is it permissible that one should see the woman he wants to marry and look at her hair and other charms?" The imam answered:
"Yes there is no objection provided there is no lustful intention".

Persons between whom marriage is forbidden
A person who cannot enter into marital relations with a person of the opposite sex in deference to the relation‌ship already existing between them is called mahram.
Perhaps the idea behind this rule is that family relations at certain level, such as those between brother and sister, father and daughter or son and mother, should be kept absolutely apart from the field of sex.
Mahrams whose inter‑marrying is not valid are generally divided into three categories:
(1) Those having blood relationship are consanguineous mahrams.
(2) Those having relationship in virtue of nursing which is established on fulfilment of some special conditions and is in fact a sort of acquired blood relationship are foster Mahrams.
(3) Those having relationship in virtue of a marriage are mahrams on the ground of affinity.
Rules regarding the prohibition of marriage on the grounds of consanguinity and affinity exist with certain variations
either in the law codes or conventional customs of all nations. Only some communities for certain special reasons, such as maintaining the purity of their blood and preserving their family or racial characteristics, have recommended inter‑marrying among close relatives, but nowadays such instances are extremely rare.

Consaguineous mahrams
Seven categories of persons are debarred from inter‌marrying on the ground of blood‑relationship. The details are as under:
A man cannot marry his:
Mother (includes grand‑mother)
daughter (includes her descendants)
Sister's daughter and her descendants
Brother's daughter and her descendants
Paternal aunt (include aunts of father)
Maternal aunt and mother
A woman cannot marry her:
Father (includes grand‑father)
Son (includes his descendants)
Brother's son and his descendants
Sister's son and his descendants
Paternal uncle including uncles of father
Maternal uncle and mother.

Fosterage under specified conditions induces the same limits of relationship prohibitive of marriage as consanguinity.

Mahrams on account of affinity
Five categories of persons are debarred from intermarry‌ing on the ground of affinity or relationship created by marriage. The details are as under:
A man cannot marry his:
Wife's sister
A woman cannot marry her:
Sister's husband
A man is debarred from marrying his wife's sister only so long as the other sister continues to be his wife. If that relationship terminates as the result of death or divorce, there is no objection to his marrying a sister of his former wife. Hence in this case prohibition is not permanent. That is why wife's sister is not regarded as mahram for the purpose of looking at her or meeting her.

Contracting marriage
According to the Islamic canon law the parties concerned can, in the presence of all other essential conditions, contract marriage direct and exchange the formula prescribed for this purpose, provided they are adult, mature and of good judgment. For marriage it is not essential to appoint an attorney if the parties themselves can contract it properly.
After a complete agreement is arrived at in regard to conditions etc, a marriage contract is normally initiated by the woman. This shows that a Muslim woman is fully free in choosing her husband and it is up to her to contract marriage. Then the man (husband) accepts marriage with the conditions agreed upon. At first the woman proposing the contract of marriage, says to her future husband:
"I gave myself in permanent marriage to you with the dower fixed (according to the conditions agreed upon)". The same may be expressed in Arabic thus:
"Ankahtoka nafsi alas‑sidaaqilma`loom"
"Zawwajtoka nafsi alas‑sidaaqilma`loom"
Then the man announces his acceptance and says "I accepted" or "Qabil tun nikaha" or "Qabil tut tazwija".
As already pointed out, a girl cannot be given in marriage against her will nor can she be compelled to say "Yes" by force, threat or holding out a bait. Similarly a boy also cannot be forced to marry any girl whom he does not like. As a rule any contract concluded through force or com‌pulsion is void.

Financial independence of woman
We know that in the social system of Islam women like men are financially independent. They can earn money by lawful means. They have full control over their property and can dispose off the same as they like.
The Qur'an says:
" . . . . . . . . The men shall have the benefit of what they earn and the women shall have the benefit of what they earn . . . . . . . ". (Surahal‑Nisa, 4:32).
As for what domestic work the women do in the house of their husbands, it depends entirely on their own will, desire and inclination. From religious and legal point of view there is no compulsion.
The Qur'an says in the Surah al‑Nisa: "Give the women their dowry as a free gift". (4:4).
In the marriage contract the husband undertakes to present a suitable gift to his wife. This gift is not to be regarded as a price of the woman's body nor has the characteristic of a recompense for her services in the household, or something to fall upon in future in the case of separation or death. It is just a gift and if she so desires, it may be presented to her forthwith. That is why in the verse quoted above it has been expressed by the word, `nihlah ; that is, free gift. In the Qur'an the word. `Sadaaq' has been used for dower. This expression implied that dower is a sign of man's sincerity in love and in his offer of marriage. The dower is in fact a means of showing man's respect to his future wife.

Lightness of dower
The leaders of Islam have emphatically recommended that the amount of dower should be kept light and the other marital conditions easy. The women who demand heavy dower and are not willing to enter into a marriage contract without stipulating strident financial conditions, have even been described as inauspicious and unlucky (Man la yahzaruhul Faqih)because the moral significance of dower as a symbol of man's interest and love is far higher than its financial and material value.
Note: Immediately on the conclusion of marriage contract whatever has been fixed as dower becomes the property of the wife. If it is a piece of land, a garden or a sum of money, its benefits accrue exclusively to her. Only with the wife's consent it can remain in the custody of the husband and the benefits accruing from it can be utilized for conducting their common life.


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