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Role of the family

January 10, 2013

ISLAM recognises the importance of the family. It is a natural and fundamental unit of society. If all families of a given society are conscious of their roles and responsibilities in creating and developing healthy, righteous members, then society and subsequently the nation will benefit.

We all belong to a family and our nurturing, growth, mindset and character revolve around our family traditions. According to medical science, every child is a carrier of genetic factors of its family. Similarly, it is also evident from social history that many children prefer the vocations of their parents.

If a child is born in a politician’s or sportsman’s family, then it is probable he may become a politician or a sportsman in future to continue the family tradition. Also, if a family is educated with a strong inclination towards a particular religion, then the child is likely to pursue the same tradition. Thus the child is a reflection of the parents and carries forth family traditions.

Parents are always concerned about their children. Even prophets have expressed deep concern for their offspring. The Holy Quran refers to Hazrat Ibrahim, who wished that his children may be steadfast on the straight path and be regular in their prayers. He prayed, “My Lord! Make me one who performs prayer and also from my offspring….” (14:40). When Allah granted him leadership (imamah), he asked for the same position for his offspring (2:124).

Families in modern times face numerous challenges. Modernisation and urbanisation have totally changed the traditional patterns of family life. People are more conscious and in a hurry to earn more money to improve the quality of material life. No doubt in the present age when the cost of living is high it has become necessary for everyone to contribute towards the family income. But one must not forget the traditional values which are considered essential for family harmony.

In an ideal family setting, children get enough attention, quality time, love, guidance and patronage from their elders to build their future lives and similarly, grandparents enjoy respect, good healthcare and financial protection. Nowadays, many parents are busy in their jobs for long hours and children as well as grandparents are often neglected. They feel alienated and some youngsters can develop behavioural problems.

Islam does not prohibit the legal ways of earning money, but it does underline a sense of responsibility towards family, society and the ummah at large. The Holy Quran directs believers to “…Ward off from yourselves and your families a fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stone….” (66:6).

Every family wishes for its children to achieve the best in their careers. But certain eternal values whose roots are to be found in all civilisations must be adhered to. For example, the first and foremost requirement of every child is to have his mother’s milk at the start of life.

Nowadays, many mothers, due to a number of reasons, avoid breastfeeding their children, which results not only in physical weakness of the child but also intellectual and spiritual frailty. The Quran says that mothers should suckle their children for two whole years (2:233).

The second requirement is to provide the right environment that makes a child curious, imaginative and ethical. The home should be made a centre of Islamic values where future leadership is nurtured. The parents, as well as other senior members of the family, must avoid abusive language, violence and other unethical practices in the home environment. They should keep their home environment free from unhealthy activities like smoking, drugs and other abuses.

At a tender age, many children do not listen to their parents, but they do try to copy them. If the parents are sincere towards their religion, practising it daily and have a positive attitude towards their neighbours, kith and kin and humanity their children will also acquire the same traits later in life. If parents solve problems by creating understanding through mutual discussion, the children will develop the same method.

Another important aspect relates to schooling. It is incumbent upon parents to make sure their children get quality education.

Schools are supportive in the overall nurturing of a child, but the main responsibility lies on parents. Children spend a few hours in school, but the majority of their time is spent at home. In the Quran, our worldly life is likened to a sport (6:32); all sports require the spirit of sportsmanship. Likewise, our life is demanding, littered with challenges. Its competitive nature requires consistent and persistent efforts. It is a jihad in Islamic parlance.

In other words, one needs exercise to stay healthy, reading and reflection to stay fit intellectually, positive attitude in social interactions to command respect, savings and prudent living to meet economic exigencies and above all the regular practice of religion to strengthen the faith.

A cursory look at the present society indicates the alarmingly low level of the ethical standards of our new generation. The burgeoning gap between parents and children has blighted the social fabric and day-to-day incidents of violence and lawlessness require urgent steps to improve the situation.

The government has a great responsibility in this regard. For example, it needs to revise the curriculum and make relevant changes. The media, educationists and social scientists also need to contribute by suggesting essential changes to improve the child-parent relationship and strengthen the bonds of family life.

The writer is an educationist.