In a time when values tend to be turned upside down, family life as the very heart of society was attacked just as much as many other handed-down traditions. About ten years ago, when it become fashionable for young torch-bearers of a "Modernism" to live in "communities", share sex and children and earnings, many people feared that this might mean the end of family life. Fortunately, this is not so. In the end, the overwhelming majority of young women still dream of having a wedding ring on their finger, living in a comfortable flat as "Mrs. So-and-so" and bringing up their children in an orderly home, just as young men prefer to introduce "her" with the words" "This is my wife" instead of "this is my mate or comrade". Neither socialism nor any other "isms" were able to uproot what has been implanted into human nature from time immemorial.
If dangers for family and particularly matrimonial life could be overcome successfully in the West, they were the more unable to gain ground in the Muslim World. There, family life with all its aspects concerning not only husband, wife and children, but all other relatives too, is so firmly established by tradition as well as by religious law that it could not be affected seriously.
The Islamic Approach
Now, one may say that a happy and healthy family life cannot be guaranteed by law. It is true that it depends so much upon the goodwill of all concerned that the best laws remain written phrases where this goodwill is missing. Here, however, as in all other spheres of the Islamic Way of Life, the ruling factor is the fact that Islam is not a religion in the Western sense of the word, but truly THE WAY OF LIFE for those adhering to it. Islam means on the one hand the complete submission to the Will of Allah. And on the other, it is the conscious acceptance of man's vicegerency on earth as ordained by Allah.
Submission to the Will of Allah, if applied to family life, means accepting the desires inherent in man's nature and living up to them, mutual confidence, kindness, self-sacrifice and solace; uncles, aunts and and all other relatives whom one can trust and who may either grant protection or be granted protection; the desire for a peaceful and fostering home; the desire for a good education; the desire for help in the hour of need; and the desire for doing good or receiving good, just as the events may demand.
The conscious acceptance of man's vicegerency on earth means seeking the best possible means for a successful vicegerency. And here again family life provides the most promising basis for our activities. A good and healthy family life grants us the right approach to life, helps us to see matters in the right perspective, gives us the most useful education not only as far as our future profession is concerned but also for the handling of life itself. When we are grown up, it gives us a safe home that enables us to take part in society life to its greatest benefit, and when we become old, it grants us our livelihood just as we used to grant it when we were still able to do so.
To people completely engrossed in the way of life prevailing in the West today, this may sound incredible. Why not leave children in the nursery and depend on their education at school --after all, what a lot of taxes are paid for this purpose? and why feel responsible for relatives in need or old family members since they certainly must be insured against troubles of all sorts and there are homes for old people where they are neither disturbed not can disturb... ? There are so many and much more useful and lucrative things to do instead of looking after children and caring for old or sick family members.
Yet, incredible though it may sound--in the Muslim World these responsibilities are still shouldered by the majority of families. This is due to the Islamic injunctions which have not at all become obsolete in the course of modern techno-industrial developments but are taken quite seriously by Muslims up to this very day. And why is this so? I think it is so because Muslims honestly believe in their accountability for their conduct here on earth on the Day of Resurrection, because they are fully aware of their role as Allah's vicegerents and because they feel contentment in fulfilling their religious duties, thus achieving Allah’s good pleasure which is the main aim of their very existence.
Non-Muslims may wonder how a religion can still exercise such a powerful influence over people in modern times that at least in this sphere Western examples are rather shunned instead of being imitated contrary to the usual trend in most other fields.
Structure of Muslim Family
It is the firm structure of Islamic family life resting on the following four pillars that makes these values so enduring and enables them to outlive Western practices. They are based on Qur'anic regulations and the traditions from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), handed down from generation to generation.
1. Family life as a cradle of human society providing a secure, healthy and encouraging home for parents and the growing children.
2. Family life as guardian of the natural erotic desires of men and women, leading this powerful urge into wholesome channels.
3. Family life as the very breeding-place for human virtues like love, kindness, mercy.
4. Family life as the most secure refuge against inward and outward troubles.
An ever valid and never outgrowing aspect of Islamic family life is, however, that the strength of all the four pillars is made up by the system. And it must not be forgotten, that the benefits of family life are extended not only to blood relations but encompass also the world-wide family of Muslims, the Islamic brotherhood.
Let us look more closely now at each of these four pillars.