The Healthy Muslim Family

A Talk By: Hajj Mustafa

The contemporary western romantic fantasy of marriage: how has it come about, how is it sustained and what does it sustain.

Bismillah er Rahman er Raheem

Before we directly address the way forward towards creating and maintaining a healthy Muslim family, we must set the context of this discussion with the following qualifying principle: 

A healthy or unhealthy Muslim family is a reflection of the parts it contains. If the leadership of the family is truly living, heart fully in action, rooted in certainty that Allah is in charge, then that family has every potential and possibility for health and success. If the leadership of that family is without divine navigation, subjected primarily by the influence of the world around it, then it is a recipe for disaster. 

True inner and outer health as it applies to the human being is the natural result of applying the wisdom teachings of Islam, with enlightened companionship, guidance and enlightened being, all these combine to fulfill the clearly articulated Prime Directive of the creator to know and love Him.

Allah says in a Hadith Quddsi: "I was a Treasure Hidden, Loving to Be Known, the Creation was made for Me to be known”

If we align our objective in life with His Divinely stated purpose, then not only will we be poised to produce healthy families, but the healthy transformation of neighborhoods, cities, countries and the world.

So I would like to begin with a brief look at where we have come, our present situation, and ending with some prescriptions to improving our family lives and ourselves.

In the beginning of this century there came about a rapid development in redefining the role of mankind, and by extension the role of the family and all its members. The industrial revolution shattered the agrarian based socio-economic society and catapulted mostly western peoples headlong into a new paradigm that redefined human worth by the measure of productivity and usefulness in that very same process.

The idea/fantasy of the future and human progress became well defined and universally accepted defying rational analysis to the point of absurdity. Beings with large cone heads, seething with blood vessels, imply an evolution and transcendence beyond our animal nature. We would live in homes that would intuit our every need, work would be limited to a few hours a day and war, disease and famine would be a thing of the past. This fantasy dream of techno-material progress and pseudo-evolution was and still is essentially the carrot at the end of the stick. In this material consumer world it is the consumer that is consumed.

Through time this fantasy becomes modified and coded to fit the changing circumstances that meander through the ongoing development of a material based consumer society. Modern religion, God, and anything that has to do with God, is filtered first through this model. Most all so-called religions, including much of the claimants of Islam have fallen prey to this fantasy-material world dream.

The events of the last few months have born out the utter spiritual bankruptcy of both the Christian West and the so-called Muslim East.

It has molded each of us and has borne out a model of living that has affected the way we perceive and act towards our families, friends and our interactions with the world around us. Its reaches are worldwide, systemic, and have all but poisoned the river of human potential.

For example, the entertainment industry, which includes, movies, television, music and most publications, works in concert with educational institutions to occupy the mind, heart and soul by capturing our consciousness and conditioning it, to conform to a unified worldview. Whatever or whomever it does not entirely take over, it compensates with drugs, alcohol, nationalism, patriotism and whatever isms it may require to sustain the level of control over the hearts and minds of its victims.

We are here today because to one degree or another we have suffered under its influence and are looking for answers and ways and means to save not only families, but also our communities and ourselves. This is the good news and we should all congratulate each other in taking the first steps.

What is that first step?

This first step is to awaken, and bring our hearts to life! We can only do this by first being honest and courageous enough to admit our suffering and that we proclaim that our intention to transcend the prison that we find ourselves in. Next, we seek guidance from Allah and those who we recognize that have light and have saved themselves; living a life that is worth modeling ourselves after. The best of these lives was and remains the Prophet's life and profile of Muhammad (SAWAWS). From him, there are heirs to that living light, through the ever-present chain of transmission through the Imma, and the Awliyya ullah. There is no other condition better than recognizing our neediness and seeking His guidance.

Marriage and family has been designed by Allah in His Infinite Wisdom to be a ways and means to self-knowledge. He places man in the role of leadership, woman in the role of support, and children in trust; together trying, testing, and catalyzing each other into discovering the true nature, balance and purpose of our being.

Allah says in the Qur`an:

And of everything We have created pairs in order that you may be mindful. (51:49)

In contrast the postindustrial model is to utilize each component of the family to optimize its material expansion. This is easily recognized and expressed through observing the way in which its different facets work together, as I mentioned earlier, in propagating and defining a unified picture of modern humanity.

The good news is that it cannot sustain. Built within this system is its own demise. There is only one way acceptable to Allah and that is the enlightened path of Islam. Whatever we see and experience in time, is but a glimpse. Allah is in charge! For the Mu`min this is where he or she takes solace and certainty of the Divine Purpose being served by all creation.

  1. A healthy, nourishing and growth model within the Islamic context.

  2. How do we raise healthy, happy children who are well grounded in Islamic principles and practice.

The Man

A man must lead his home. In taking the role of leadership he mirrors the patterns of universal balance and harmony. But leadership comes only through obedience. A true leader, whether in the home or in any other capacity must be lead. In the context of an Islamic growth model, he must be steeped in the wisdom teachings of Islam; his heart empty of all attachments and full of the divine presence. In this state he is optimized to interact and guide his family in a correct manner. He must be vigilant and aware that all that is coming his way is the book of his life, which can only be recognized and read when all other distractions are put aside. He must remember and be occupied with the Divine purpose and strive to truly be a Khalifa of his Creator.

When a man’s being is steeped in this path, he is illuminated, and then capable of leadership and being an example to his family.

The Woman

In the Allamul Ghaib gathered all the Arwah, which are bil Amirru Rabi. They are by the order of Allah. They came into this Mulk (creation) as Nafs (souls) that became men and women. Their origin and purpose are the same. The only difference is in the manifest wisdom of Allah’s decrees as to how these souls would find their path to His knowledge and submission. It is as simple as that. There are no barriers, only doors. One soul is not above another, in its submission and conscience of the Creator.

A woman is the keeper of secrets, maintainer of the home, solace giver and a barometer for her man to reflect himself, leading him to greater patience and integration of wisdom in the world. She holds in her being keys that make it possible for a man to humble himself in ways that only an intimate can. Like man, she must also be vigilant, guarding her heart and mind from the onslaught of distractions.

Women today are at a greater risk than men to becoming polluted. It is their nature to be more open and compassionate. We have dragged their hearts into the market place of the world and sacrificed their purity in the name of equality and commerce. This misguidance has produced a generation of under nourished children, starved for mothering, and over exposed to the electronic feeding frenzy of television, video games and music media.

The Children

Children are brought into your life as a trust. We must guide and raise them to imbibe manners, develop discrimination and encourage their innate nature to discover, in their own unique way, the open secret of the created universe. They are your children, but they are your brothers and sisters in the journey of self-realization.

They will try you by your own weakness, and yet they look to you to provide for all of their needs. They are the living mythal of Al-Baqi. You have accomplished a vital fitri force, by having children and seeing them grow as true Muslims.

Prescriptions for a Healthy Family Life

Children & General Suggestions

Be a Successful Muslim: If you are not in utter joy and contentment within, enlivened by your practice of the Deen of Islam, do not expect your children to be. And caution! Why would your child want to continue in Islam if you are unhappy? The heart and soul of the
Child inclines towards the Deen, in part, through seeing you as an example of true joyful enlightenment. Put yourself right. Show the success of the Deen in your own life.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAWAWS) said:

Maintaining good family relations increases one’s numbers and wealth, gives life to one’s people, and is a staff for the weak at the time of death.

A Good Marriage: When having children, the first consideration is the strength of your marriage. A solid marriage is the foundation for bringing up contented children. Your children will learn what marriage means from your example; it needs to be a good one.

Manners: There is no greater gift from a parent to a child than that of good manners. Manners, or adab towards oneself, one’s things, and towards others are the road map to easy movement through life.

Sounds of worship: When children are infants and older, expose them to Dhikr, Qur`an and other forms of sound that carry the message of worship and Love of Allah.

Prayer: Establish prayer in the home especially, Maghrib and Isha

Discipline as a Unit: Fathers and Mothers must always support each other, working in concert to discipline their children. Discipline must be consistent, provide meaningful consequences, and be followed by acceptance and affection. If you are inconsistent you will lose credibility. If there are no meaningful consequences, then there is little motivation for change. If discipline is not followed with acceptance and affection, a child will not learn to forgive and accept the faults in himself/herself and others.

Arrival and Departure: As you come and go from the house always greet each other and show affection. Live in recognition that it may be the last time you see your loved ones, and value each opportunity to show you care about them.

Share a meal: Eat together at least one meal a day, preferably the evening meal. Use this as time to share with each other daily events, and practice mutual respect through good table manners.

Show Affection: Kiss and hug your children daily. Tell them you love them. Show them you care in the service of their needs.

Building Character: Give your children age appropriate responsibilities. A two year old can learn to put his shoes and toys away. A five year old can set the table and help in the kitchen. At each age your child must be prepared to take on more responsibilities, as he/she will find ease in taking on the responsibilities that eventually come with spouses and children of their own.

Physical Health: Encourage your children to healthy foods and exercise. Sodas and snack foods should be occasional fare, not daily nutrition. Exercise is equally important to quality food. These habits are established early in life, our children need our guidance.

Modesty: Teach modesty to both Boys and Girls starting at a very young age. It is like salat. If you do not start them out young it will be difficult later.

Islam is the Foundation for Discrimination: Impart from very early on a sense of being different, as illustrated in the Qur`anic ayat of “lakum din akun wali a-din”. Make it a point in every day situations to reflect with your children how the wisdom teachings of Islam contrast with the common prevalent understanding.

About TV: Limit television viewing. When you watch television, watch it together. Openly identify lies and deceptions. Relate stories and dramas to Qur`anic ayats, wisdom teachings and hadith literature. Whatever they witness encourage them to see with discrimination. Do not let the intake flow without qualifying dialogue.

Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (AS) said:

Endeavor to converse with your children, lest others who transgress and disobey get to them before you.

Travel: Move and travel in the way of Allah often. Expose your children to movement outwardly, but always with the same intention to the pleasure and knowledge of the Creator. Movement and travel breaks habits. It helps to impress the child’s soul with the transitory nature of life. It prevents them from accumulating set patterns.

Establish Shahada Parties: When Boys and Girls reach the age of Balagh, invite friends to gather to mark the occasion. The child will say his or her Shahada openly and claim and announce their commitment. It dignifies the child, welcoming the boy to manhood and a girl to womanhood.

Establish a “Big Book”: This is a scrapbook, having the whole family contribute articles and ads that reflect the teachings of the Qur`an and Sunnah. This makes the Qur`an come alive when it is related in everyday experience.

With adolescent young men: Always remember, what I call the “Guerilla. Factor”. They are on their way to becoming adult men. They will naturally challenge your authority as the Silver Back. Do not react with a reprimand.

Closing the Day: Do not end a day with your children, unless there is Peace and reconciliation. If you have made an error with your child, admit your error and apologize. A child gains respect for a parent that admits faults and sets things right. He/She will see that you also hold yourself to the same standard that you expect of him/her.

What to expect: Do not expect your children to express the Deen in the same you that you do. They will have their own flavor. Once you have done your best, the outcome is up to Allah. Allah calls the hearts to himself.

Husband and Wife Relationship

Marriage is a means of Khidmat (service) in the way of Allah.

It is the All Wise that has made access to His knowledge by the means of His choosing. He has chosen the form of Man and Woman to represent access beyond duality to Tawheed (unity). A true Muslim marriage is an outer confirmation of the inner reality. From One comes two, from two comes many, all returning to the One. Marriage is a symphony whose final crescendo is being annihilated in His Tawheed in action.

Allah says in the Qur`an:

He it is Who created you from a single being, and of the same (kind) did He make his mate. (7:189).

And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them. (30:21)

Marriage must be based on the mutual acceptance and understanding that, as it says in the Qur`an:

“Wa ma khaliqnal Jinni wal insi e la li abudoon”

And I did not create the jinn and the human kind except that they should serve (or worship) Me. (51:56)

If marriage is made for any other reason, ultimately it is doomed.

Allah says in the Qur`an:

Wal asr innal insane la fi khusr, illa ladhina amanu wa amallu salahat.

and

Kullu man alayha fan wa abqa wahjuh Dhul Jillali wal Ikram.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib says in his great Diwan:

“Wa kull hubbin bi ghayri Rabbi, Fee he adhabu fee he shaqahu”.

“In every love, other than the Love of Allah, in it is pain, in it is grief”.

Suggestions for the married couple

Marry the right person. If you are not yet married, you must first decide that you will be the right person, for the person you want to marry. Is your deen in order? Are you committed to your path? Marry someone who will enhance your life on every level.

Are you already married? If you are already married, find ways to reaffirm that commitment daily and weekly. If your marriage is not harmonious, find friends or relatives with a marriage that you aspire to have, and council with them. How do they do it?

Have a daily tea ritual. The couple is the foundation of the family. A daily teatime can be established in the late afternoon or early evening, allowing for a quiet time of reflection and exchange, without the children. This is a good time to address any news of the day, or just share company together.

Husbands: Take your wife out for a weekly date. As Muslims we do not date before marriage, therefore we must be deliberate to date after we marry. Setting aside a time with your spouse, to be a couple, to reaffirm your commitment, to pause and reflect on the direction your lives are headed together, is important. Many people feel rushed during the week, teatime may be infrequent, and a weekly date can help to redirect your focus together.

Wives: Be grateful for what you have. While gratitude is a quality both husband and wife should develop, a wife who is content with the provision her husband provides also brings a provision of her own to share. Contentment and gratitude are an immeasurable wealth, ingratitude is a burden of it’s own.

Husbands: Be careful of Pride. While pride is a pitfall for husband and wife, the husband should be careful not to think of himself as better than his wife. The duties and roles of men and women are different, but their values are comparable. A husband should be humble and willing to apologize to his wife when he has been unkind.

Do not leave each other or go to sleep with unresolved issues. This is a daily practice of “cleaning the slate”. If you address problems as they arise then they do not have the chance to become a bigger issue, driving a wedge between you.

In the heat of an argument someone has got to stop and listen. Ladies, that’s easier for you because of your more submissive nature. Weigh it out, is your point more important, or is the harmony of the relationship more important? Then, slow down, sit down and begin the conversation by affirming your love and trust of each other, and wanting to move forward together with Allah’s help.

Share with others: Invite guests for dinner regularly. Establish a dhikr circle and sing Allah’s praises together. Sharing your love of the path with others will enrich your marriage and family life, as well as that of your friends and communities.

In conclusion, for all the different facets of life, whether marriage, family, business or politics, all efforts in any direction must be viewed as secondary realities, which are in service of the one true purpose of our creation; to know and worship the Creator, Allah. Make this the tent pole of your life; where all and everything you do comes under its roof of protection, and you will have success in this world and in the next.

Poem Written for the Occasion

From One, the Soul makes its way
Housed in body, made of water and clay
Risen from the depths of darkness to Light
Has now been gifted the ultimate delight

To know the Lord through His creation
Living-Joy in self-realization

So see the signs on the table spread
For the All-Giving Lord has given life to the dead

In return you worship Him and Him alone
Good deeds and charity the seeds you have sown
That soon the sun will set upon your life
And into the next world, inshah Allah without trouble and strife

You will enter the Garden and say I have tasted this before
A gift of the Beloved who has always been knocking at your door.

So now for those who are left behind
Beware of the waste and your deeds be unkind

For if you do not recognize the preciousness given
The world will turn against you in the way you have striven

So take this as a sign of good news and warning
That soon your family and friends may be mourning

Not only your death and the end of you
But that your soul may not have made it through.

April 2003

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This talk was given at the Academy of Self Knowledge gathering in South Africa in April 2003. To listen to this talk online, please click here.