An Introduction To Muslim Family


(part 1 of 2) Description:  The family is one of the central organizing institutions of the Muslim society.  This two part lesson gives insi...

(part 1 of 2)

Description: The family is one of the central organizing institutions of the Muslim society.  This two part lesson gives insight into the core sentiments of family life that define the nature and meaning of this social institution. Part 1: The basics and purpose of marriage, inter-faith marriages and spousal rights.
·       To learn the basics of basics of marriage and family in Islam.
·       To learn the purpose of marriage.
·       To become familiar with the Islamic regulations on inter-faith marriages.
·       To appreciate the rights of husbands and wives on each other.
New Terms
·       Mahr
The family is one of the central organizing institutions of society.  In Islam a family is built through marriage.  Marriage is a legal arrangement in Islam, not a sacrament in the Christian sense, and is secured with a written contract.  Marriage is about stability, loyalty, security, and adulthood.  Marital life is marked by mercy, love, and compassion as Allah says:
“And He has placed between you love and compassion.” (Quran 30:21)
The core sentiments of family life that define the nature and meaning of this social institution are love, nurturance, and dependability where spouses find comfort in each other:
“It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might find comfort in her.” (Quran 8:189)
“They are as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for them.” (Quran 2:187)

Purpose of Marriage

1.    Sexual drive is a normal human emotion.  Islam does not block it or look at it with disdain.  It provides channels to satisfy sexual urges without undermining social responsibility.  It does so by regulating sexuality within marriage.
2.    A single person is too weak to go through this life on his own.  A life partner in the form of a spouse shares the joys and burdens of life.  Marriage provides the social support individuals need.  Marriage provides meaning and a set of personal, intimate relationships against the backdrop of the impersonal, bureaucratized world of modern society.
3.    The family is about continuity and extension.  Marriage concerns raising the future generation and passing on to them the values and wisdom of the past generation.
4.    Marriage safeguards lineage, controls reproduction, and ensures the socialization of children who are born within the family unit.  Islam does not make the mother solely responsible for raising children; rather, it makes the father primarily responsible for them.  Every child should be attributable to his biological father, so lineages do not get mixed up due to loose sexual relations in the society.  Through the institution of marriage, individuals are joined together and given the social and legal sanction to perpetuate their name and traditions through their offspring.

Inter-faith Marriages

Faith is the most important denominator for a Muslim in choosing a spouse.  Muslims are not allowed to marry non-Muslims. The only exception is that Muslim men are allowed to marry Jewish or Christian women with certain conditions. They are not allowed to marry any non-Muslim women, but only those who adhere to the Jewish or Christian faith.  However, chastity is an important condition.  Only a woman who is a virgin, divorcee, or a widow may be married. 
The reason for limiting the permission for marrying people of other faiths is given men alone is essence to protect the Muslim woman’s religion.  If a Muslim husband asks his wife not to dress inappropriately or not to kiss his male friends - an acceptable social practice in the West - she could comply without affecting the teachings of her religion.  But a Christian husband’s request that his Muslim wife buys alcohol, serves him pork, wears tight revealing clothes, or kisses his friends would involve disobeying Allah, and therefore be destructive to her religious practice.  Furthermore, Muslim men are especially discouraged from marrying Jewish or Christian women where the government is non-Muslim and the Muslims are a minority.  If their marriage ends in divorce, or the husband dies, the court will usually grant custody to the mother who will raise them as non-Muslims.

Spousal Rights

Islam clearly sets out the rights and responsibilities of each spouse to maintain marital harmony.  The fact is spelled out in the Quran:
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is well-known, but men have a degree over them.” (Quran 2:228)
In general, husbands have more rights which are due to them than the wife due to their role on the family, just as parents have more rights than their children, and leaders have more rights than the general masses, etc. A husband is in charge of the family.
Leadership however is based on mutual consultation, it is not a dictatorship.  Addressing one of the issues of marital life – the weaning of a child - the Quran encourages mutual consultation:
“But if the couple desire to wean by mutual consent and consultation, then there is no blame on them.” (Quran 2:233)
The Quran encourages spouses to live in kindness and to consult each other:
“And consult together in kindness.” (Quran 65:4)
In brief, the rights of a wife over her husband are:
(1) Mahr or bridal gift given at the time of marriage from the husband.
(2) Financially maintenance, including accommodation, food, clothing, and spend on her according to what is commonly acceptable.
(3) Good behavior and kindness. 
(4) Sexual intercourse.
(5) Divorce: A wife may seek divorce from a man who insists on disobeying Allah. A wife may also seek divorce due to cruel behavior and physical abuse, or non-fulfillment of her rights, or any other valid reason.
The rights of a husband over his wife are:
(1)  Obedience.  A husband has right over his wife that she obeys him in what he commands her as long as it is reasonably within her abilities, and does not involve Allah’s disobedience.  A Muslim cannot obey anyone in a sin, let alone a husband. 
(2)  Husband has a right to good behavior and kindness.
(3)  Sexual intercourse.
(4) Divorce

An Introduction To Muslim Family (part 2 of 2)

Description: The family is one of the central organizing institutions of the Muslim society.  This two part lesson gives insight into the core sentiments of family life that define the nature and meaning of this social institution. Part 2: Childrearing, rights of children and the process of ending a marriage.
·       An Introduction To Muslim Family
·       To learn the importance of childrearing.
·       To learn the basic rights of children on their parents.
·       To learn the process of how marriage ends in Islam.
·       To learn the Islamic concept of ‘waiting period.’
New Terms
·       talaq, khul’, idda

Children’s Rights

Marital bond helps solidify a family unit in which children will be cared for and raised to become socially productive adults.  Families are the proper setting in which children are cared for and raised.  Parents can be counted on to provide long-term care for their dependent children because of the dual imperatives of love and obligation.  Childbearing is viewed as Allah’s blessing, a ‘sign’ from Him that deserves our gratitude:
“And Allah has made wives for you from among yourselves, and has given you sons and daughters from your wives, and has provided you with good things.  Will they then believe in falsehood and deny the favor of Allah?” (Quran 16:72)
Wealth and children are from the ‘adornments’ of this life:
“Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of the world.” (Quran 18:46)
Abraham, the beloved slave of God, prayed to Allah for offspring:
“My Lord, grant me (a child) from among the righteous.” (Quran 37:100)
Zechariah prayed:
“Bestow upon me, out of Your grace, the gift of a successor.” (Quran 19:5)
The Quran tells us of the prayer of the righteous:
“Our Lord!  Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes.” (Quran 25:74)
Thus, children are the product of marriage and childbearing is a major goal of Muslim marriage.  Children have certain rights over their parents.  First, the child must be ascribed to the biological father.  A father can not deny his child.  Second, a mother should breastfeed her child.  If she cannot, the father has to arrange for a wet nurse or another alternative, such as bottle feeding.  Third, a baby has the right on his mother that she takes care of him.  Both parents are responsible for education, religious instruction, and imparting good manners to the children.  Fourth, a child has the right to be treated equitably like the other children.  Fifth, the child has a right to be given a good name.

End of Marriage

Both husband and wife are encouraged to deal with each other kindly and render the rights of the other to reduce conflict and sow love and affection in each other’s heart.  They should be patient with each other to preserve their marriage:
“And live with them in kindness.  Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it.” (Quran 4:19)
Marriage is meant to last a lifetime.  There is no concept of temporary marriage in Islam.  The basis of long, lasting marriage should be affection and compatibility between spouses without which it becomes impossible.  This is why Islam encourages both spouses to be kind and flexible, and try to resolve their differences through family arbitration.  Modern marriages are always at risk of disruption because of a mismatch of personalities or the social forces at work that render them fragile.  In case all measures to save a marriage fail, and affection is replaced by permanent animosity making marital life impossible, Islam permits separation as a last resort.  Both spouses are allowed to go their own way and find a better and happier solution.  The separation can take place through talaq or khul’.
Talaq is what is commonly known as divorce.  Divorce in Islam is different in some respects from civil divorce.  It is of two types, revocable and irrevocable.  Divorce should be pronounced one time after a woman has cleaned herself from the monthly cycle before resuming sexual relations with her.  In this period he pronounces the divorce by saying once, ‘I divorce you.’  After divorce a ‘waiting period’ – Idda - is prescribed in which the husband might rethink his decision, revoke his divorce, and ‘resume’ marital relationship.  Separation from his wife partner might back the better memories of married life and encourage him to reconsider.  Likewise, arbitration from members of both families is also prescribed to resolve the root cause of marital conflict.
“And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace.” (Quran 4:35)
Within the ‘waiting period’ the husband can resume the marriage after revoking the divorce, but after the ‘waiting period’ has passed, he loses his right to revoke the divorce requiring a new marriage contract, ‘bridal gift,’ and assent of the woman for remarriage.


A woman has the right to ask for divorce due to mistreatment or lack of financial support and, in an Islamic system, she may resort to a Muslim judge who can separate the two. Khul’ is a woman seeking divorce from her husband in lieu of returning the ‘bridal gift’ to him.

‘Waiting Period’ - Idda

Prophet Muhammad, may Allah praise him, deemed divorce in any case to be the worst of solutions, to be avoided at almost any cost.  If one must divorce, the process should be carried out over a period of time known as Idda.  This is both to make sure that the woman is not pregnant and, gives the man a chance to reconsider his decision, to avoid the possibility of severing a marriage because of the anger of the moment.  Idda is the period of three menstrual cycles a woman has to wait before the divorce becomes final.  The idda for a widow is four months and ten days.
Idda and family arbitration are two of the mechanisms within the Islamic Law to preserve the institution of marriage.



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Jama Masjid: An Introduction To Muslim Family
An Introduction To Muslim Family
Jama Masjid
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