As a wife and mother who is not currently employed, I have had this constant battle raging within me. Constant guilt trips and justifications are the story of my life. Should I get a job? Should I not? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to be there for my family all the time? Why do I have this sinking feeling; this feeling of insecurity and low self-esteem because I don’t go to work like most of my neighbours?
These and many more are the thoughts that go through my mind on a regular basis. Seeking answers to them has not been easy.
I was excited to attend the talk by Sister Calisha Bennet for this reason. I sought answers and hoped to find them after listening to her.
Sister Calisha began by letting us understand that it is an achievement in itself to have a family. She hoped that at the end of her talk, we would walk away with less judgement of ourselves and others as well as have a better understanding of the following:
- The concept of the family in Islam.
- As wives and mothers, what is our role?
- What role do we play in our child(ren)’s future?
- The importance of maintaining the ties of kinship.
- Looking after yourself to be able to look after your family – your health journey.
- Clarifying pursuits out of the home.
- To untangle thoughts and perspectives.
According to her, the Sharia breaks the necessities of life for a Muslim into 5:
- Life (Health)
- Family ties/ relationships
- Mental capacity: A person must be sane for something to be fard (obligatory) on him.
- Wealth and property
What is/ who are your family?
Sister Calisha threw this question to the sisters present and she got various responses including the following:
- Those who take us closer to Allah
- Our blood relations
- Those that give us emotional support
Noting that it is a powerful conversation to have with kids, she said the Islamic family is a meaningful connection and experience which gives us a grateful feeling. It is an incredible and unbreakable bond created by the mother and father. It should be a place of inspiration and a source of refuge. It is love and support- a warm fuzzy feeling. Everyone in the family has a role different from others and in which each individual is unique. Friends come and go but family is forever.
We are however in a time of great family disintegration and divorce is on the rise. The Muslim community is not left out in this and the issue needs to be addressed.
Considering the wellbeing of others and not just ourselves is an Islamic principle. Islam teaches collective care and not just self-responsibility. We want for others what we want for ourselves.
The Muslim family is extended and ripples out. Often spanning more than 3 generations, it has loving, caring and long-lasting relationships with wisdom coming down from the elders to the youth. It provides comfort and teaches reverence and respect for elders. This is very powerful in the formation of the identity and character of Muslim children. The presence of our elders gives us support and we get gems and wisdom from them. Some people are drawn to the Deen when they get a taste of the family unit in Islam.
Family in Arabic means Usrah. The origin of Usrah is derived from unity, closeness and protection. Thus, family refers to a group of people connected through close ties. Family dynamics are different and vary from one family to the other.
The concept of family emerges from the union of a man and woman. This is the first step in building a family. Allah (SWT) refers to marriage as a solemn covenant and as such it should be dealt with care. In choosing a spouse, we must look for someone who is a parenting material; spouses should be soulmates and partners in the struggle of parenting. There should be a marital bond between parents. This plays a role in the child’s character formation. We also need to model good behaviour.
WHY IS THE MUSLIM FAMILY IMPORTANT?
- It helps to bring forth more beautiful productive human beings to the earth. It is our hope for changing the world.
- It is the basic building block of the larger society.
- It shapes individuals and their values.
- We are the Khalifah of Allah on earth and we have a big mission. The family is the intensive training ground for this mission.
Islam places importance on the role of the mother in the family. This is because we constantly nurture the family unit. No matter how grown up our children are, we always remain parents. When they get married, we inherit their spouses and children and become mentors to them as well.
There are a lot of verses of the Quran and ahadeeth about the family dynamics. They provide us with answers to matters including marriage, inheritance, conflicts and so on. In matters of conflict, we should always follow the Quran and not our ego to be guided correctly because it teaches us to quench the fire of conflict and not fuel it as our ego often dictates.
LEGAL OBJECTIVES OF THE FAMILY
- Satisfaction of desire and intimacy.
- Fulfilling/ completing the Deen.
- Bringing individuals to the earth.
- Raising model individuals and establishing families that others can emulate and that will give hope to others. Each family has its own struggles. We don’t have to be perfect but we should strive to be better.
- To raise healthy children who can look after us when we are old and frail and who will pray for us when we die.
According to Sister Calisha, the home should be a sanctuary. It should be a safe place where the kids and even parents are excited to go to. In her words, “Marriage is like a battlefield, just remember that you are one the same side!”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family…”
In the words of Brad Henry,
“Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”
Sister Calisha made us to understand that parents are just as scared as the children of the transformation that happens in the family as the years go by and everyone grows older.
“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”
“Without a family, man, alone in the world trembles with the cold.”
THE FAMILY MODEL
The Husband’s role:
- Support- mentally, emotionally, physically
- Leader and teacher of manners (akhlaaq) and religion
- Role model
- Model of respect for Mum
- Emotional regulation model
The wife’s role:
- Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said “The wife is the guardian over the house of her husband and his children.” – Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
- Creating a warm and loving atmosphere in the home.
- Give time and attention to the marital relationship.
We should choose husbands wisely and not allow or tolerate abuse. It is important to note also that obedience and oppression do not go together. Oppression is not from Islam!
The value of women in the home/ society:
We are honoured as daughters, wives and mothers in Islam. We should not allow the traffic of life, children and the home to be a distraction from pleasing Allah.
Allah (SWT) says:
“O you who believe! Let not your wealth or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that, these are the losers.”
-Surah Al-Munafiqun (63:9)
We also play an important role in guiding our family members away from the Fire.
Allah (SWT) says:
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are (appointed) angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.”
-Surah At-Tahrim (66):6
The Rasul (PBUH) said:
“There is no person whom Allah puts in charge of others, and when he dies, he is insincere to his subjects, but Allah will forbid paradise to him.”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Whoever neglects to teach his child that which will benefit him, and leaves him without any guidance, has wronged him gravely. Most children’s deviance is because of their parents and the parents’ neglect and failure to teach them the obligatory religious duties and the sunnah of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), so they neglected them when they were small.…
How many are the parents who were the cause of their children’s misfortune and suffering in this world and the hereafter, because of their negligence and failure to discipline the child, and their encouraging and helping him to pursue his whims and desires. By doing that, they think that they are being kind to the child, at the time when they are disgracing him, and they think that they are showing mercy to him at the time when they are wronging him. Thus the child will be of no benefit to his parent, and the parent is the cause of the child’s misfortune and of his missing out on opportunities for success in this world and the hereafter…
If you think of the causes of children’s misguidance and corruption, you will see that it is mostly the fault of the parents.”
[From Tuhfat al-Mawdood bi Ahkaam al-Mawlood (p. 229, 242)]
Truly, it is hard work for mothers but Allah rewards all efforts, no sacrifice will go unnoticed. Putting it very aptly, Sister Calisha quoted Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller on Mothers:
“When she has her first baby, she must manage for another life even more dependent on her personal sacrifices. By the second, third, or fourth child, her days and nights belong almost entirely to others. Whether she has a spiritual path or not, such a mother can seldom resist a glance at the past, when there were more prayers, more meanings, more spiritual company, and more serenity. When Allah opens her understanding, she will see that she is engaged in one of the highest forms of worship, that of producing new believers who love and worship Allah. She is effectively worshiping Allah for as many lifetimes she has children, for the reward of every spiritual work her children do will be hers, without this diminishing anything of their own rewards: every ablution, every prayer, every Ramadan, every hajj, and even the works her children will in turn pass on to their offspring, and, so on till the end of time. Even if her children do not turn out as she wishes, she shall be requited in paradise forever according to her intention in raising them, which was that they should be godly. Aside from the tremendous reward, within the path itself it is noticeable that many of those who benefit most from khalwa or ‘solitary retreat of dhikr’ are women who have raised children. With only a little daily dhikr and worship over the years, but much toil and sacrifice for others, they surpass many a younger person who has had more free time, effort, and ‘spiritual works.’ What they find is greater because their state with Allah is greater; namely, the awe, hope, and love of the Divine they have realized by years of sincerity to Him.”
Our intention when raising kids should be to raise them for the best of the Akhirah. We have the responsibility to lead and guide them and not contaminate their innate pure fitrah. Kids need clear boundaries and responsibilities. We should not be distracted by social media and other responsibilities and should always give our kids attention.
We need to model respect for elders to our kids. We should always respect our parents even when they seem difficult. It is important to note that every parent does the best of what they can as they know how to for their kids. Even when they make mistakes, they often have the best intentions. As we realize the mistakes that may have been made by our parents, we should always remember this and show mercy to them.
As mothers, there is the need for regular self- checks to ensure that we are doing right by our kids. This will give us succour when we receive criticisms. Allah (SWT) has blessed us with lots of ayah and ahadeeth to nourish us and give us resilience when we suffer low self-esteem.
To avoid situations of discord and conflict, we need to exercise patience, strive to keep family ties intact and model these to our kids.
As mothers, we are the child’s first teacher, confidant, anchor and so many other things. However, we should not get drowned in being all these so many things to everyone. We should have time for ourselves and take care of our needs.
As Sister Calisha said: “Look after yourself. Self-love and self-care are important. You can’t love Allah if you don’t love yourself.”
Women working vs staying at home:
In Islam, women can work with the conditions that the job is halal, we are safe both physically and in eeman (spirit) and we dress and behave modestly.
As women, we should know what we want exactly and why. Our plans can change and evolve with time. However, we should have aligned values with our spouses and be in understanding over this. We need to decide what we want and can do while considering family dynamics.
We should remember Allah’s commands and let them guide us in what exactly we want. If we decide to get a job, we should ensure that this job is in line with the Deen and suits our physical and psychological nature.
She ended the lecture with these beautiful quotes:
“It [taqwa] mostly comes to someone who does his duty to Allah with loving obedience. Most people if they try to do this neglect their duties to others or only fulfill them partially. These people do not leave time or energy for their duties to their families and the community. To be able to give what is due to Allah, and what is due to people is something which can only be achieved by few special people; they are the true people of taqwa.”
– Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī [d. 795H/1393CE]
You were someone before you became her mama…. and she still matters
You were someone before you became his wife… and she still matters
May Allah reward Sister Calisha for this beautiful lecture and accept all our efforts on HIS Path, aameen.