Part One : the Family

1. IMPORTANCE OF A FAMILY CODE

A sensible and well-balanced family system is the very foundation of a happy life. Ineed, it is the root of an advancing civilization. Religion comes to take human beings nearer to Allah. Therefore, it must create an atmosphere conducive to that ideal; otherwise, it cannot achieve its goal.

No religion can be regarded as complete unless it has a well-defined code of family life which expressly shows the exact responsibility and role of each member of the family. The family is a closely-knit unit of human society; and this nearness creates eminent danger of friction and conflict unless every member is told in unambiguous terms what his duties and rights are.

If a religion shuts its eyes to the intricacies of family problems, its followers, sooner or later, will revolt against it, destroying all religious tenets in the wake of that rebellion.

The reason is simple; the prevalent environment and social system would not be in harmony with that religion; and the influence of unharmonious society would gradually push them further and further from that religion. Finally a time would come when the religion would have no more than a ceremonial function with little or no effect on life.

A good example would be Christianity which ignored the claims of human nature, extolling the idea of celibacy. Many zealous people tried to live up to that ideal, Monks and nuns shut themselves in monasteries. For a short period, this scheme worked well. Then the nature took its revenge;

the monks and abbots cultivated the idea that they were representatives of Christ, and the nuns were given the title of "brides of Christ." So with easy conscience they turned the monasteries into centres of sexual liberties.

Nature can be compared to a steel spring which when pressed down jumps back with equal force. When it took its revenge upon Christians, it turned the Christians societies into the most permissive, libertine and undisciplined ones the world had ever seen.

This happens when a religion does not conform with nature and when the leaders of religion think that it is quite enough to say `Love thy neighbour' without telling them how.

2. ISLAM AND THE FAMILY SYSTEM

Islam is the Final religion and has the most ideal shari `ah (revealed law). An unbiased observer cannot help admiring the equilibrium which it has achieved balancing the demands of body and spirit, providing guidance concerning life in this world as well as teachings concerning life in the hereafter.

It is the Leading Light which brightly illuminates every turning in the highway of human life. It is the Perfect shari `ah which did not leave any human need uncared for.

In so far as family-life goes, we see that Islam has unravelled every problem of the family system with such dexterity that one has to accept that it could not be solved in a better way.

One cannot but register astonishment at the attitude adopted by some Christians writers. They seem to be suffering from an inferiority complex when they compare the Islamic shari `ah with their religion which has no shari `ah at all. Therefore, they try to imply that, that perfection of shari `ah is a "drawback" or that the moral standard of Islamic teachings is not as high as that of Christianity.

In any family there are those persons without whom a family cannot be regarded as complete. A human being is born of a father and a mother; the parents look after the child and bring it up. This child in turn attains maturity and is joined to a spouse in the golden link of matrimony. Then this couple start their own family.

Thus we may say that the persons who form pillars of the family are father, mother, child, husband and wife. Some people need help in their domestic chores. Therefore, Islam has added the `servant' also in the list.

4. JOINT FAMILY AND SEPARATE FAMILY SYSTEMS

According to sociologists, there are two types of family systems in the world: "The Joint Family System" and "The Separate Family System".

that all members of a clan:- father, son, brother, sister, uncle, nephew etc., live together. The in come of the individual is not treated as his personal property, rather it belongs to the family and the expenses of all members are met by that `family income.'

Separate Family System: In this system everyone is responsible for his own immediate dependants. His income belongs to him and not to the family.

The Hindu family is a joint family while in Arabia the separate family system prevails. Perhaps it is for this reason that cousins are called 'bro thers' and `sisters' in India, while in Arabia they are just sons and daughters of the uncle or aunt. And, perhaps it was because of this system that Hindus regard cousins as falling within the prohibited degrees, that is, cousins may not marry each other in the Hindu religion. There is no such prohibition in Islam.

However, both these systems are very old, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Joint Family System: Its Advantages and Disadvantages

The Joint Family System is a very good example of humanism, benevolence, mutual trust and co-operation.

Members of a family or clan are branches of the same root. It is only natural that they should remain united in their domestic management and family life. This `togetherness' is expected to create happiness and peace of mind.

Furthermore, this system ensures that those family members who, for any reason, are unable to earn their livelihood do not face destitution and poverty, and thus are spared disgrace and heartaches. This system acts like an Insurance company which accepts all responsibilities at the time of old age, unemployment and sickness, and the family members are saved from the troubling anxiety of tomorrow.

So much about its advantanges. Ironically, these very advantages give rise to its disadvantages. The ease of mind provided by this system some times can be misused by some unscrupulous people. If a member of the family is lazy, he finds it easy enough to live on the fruits of others' labour; he never realizes the importance of earning his own livelihood. Once he acquires such taste, he will find many excuses to avoid work. After all, why should he exert himself when there are other relatives ready to take his burden on their shoulders?

Unless one is made to realize that one cannot exploit others in this way, one will not make real effort to earn his bread. Neither will he fell ashamed of his useless life.

Furthermore, this system kills the initiative to work harder. If a man exerts himself to the furthest limit and thus earns more, his standard of living, naturally, would be much higher than a person earning less. If a man earns twice as much as his brother, common sense says that their standards of living must be different accordingly. But the Joint Family System does not allow it. And the drive to exert onself more, and to earn more, dies.

The most serious defect of this system is that, instead of creating harmony, love and trust in the family (as it is supposed to do), it becomes the chief cause of domestic strife. When a man works hard to meet the expenses of the Joint Family while his brother spends his time in roaming the streets aimlessly;

or when he exerts himself to earn as much money as possible, while the brother throws away his chances of advancement, the resulting ugliness in the family relations is beyond description. Family members begin hating each other, tempers flare on the slightest pretext; suspicion, anger and hatred fill the place of trust, love and happiness. The atmosphere of the house gradually turns into a living hell and then comes a time when separation remains the only remedy.