Supporting the religious and moral growth of women and children, assisting their education in the ways that will bring them eternal happiness, are among the most significant duties of men.
Q – What things does a man most need to pay attention to in his family?
The happiness of a family depends on a righteous father’s strength of will. To be a righteous father means to be a father who provides his family with sustenance, discipline and protection. All these require a man to be intelligent, experienced, skilled and especially to have strong faith and good morals.
Q – Could we clarify this point with more details? What does a father have to provide for his family?
When a man decides to marry, before everything else he needs a lawful source of income in order to support his family in an ethical fashion, since Islam assigns the responsibility of providing a family’s sustenance to the father. (It is because of this responsibility that the Qur’anic laws of inheritance allow men to inherit larger shares than women.) Only when a man has the means to support his prospective family may he take the rest of the steps necessary to get married. Marriage is simply not appropriate for a man who cannot even support himself, let alone a whole household. On the other hand, if those who are not financially very strong hope to get married in order to better their practice of Islam, then Allah will surely help them. As the verse says:
And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.(24:32)
As may be understood from this verse, those who have financial means enough to get married should marry and those who do not have the means should be helped to get married. This is the responsibility of a Muslim society. Such help is a perfect opportunity to gain spiritual rewards. In that way, the chastity of society and of individuals are both protected.
Chastity is a distinctive virtue, given to human beings alone. Chastity cannot even be considered for other creatures. However, if humans lose this quality, they descend to the level of the other animals.
Undoubtedly, intelligence, strength, capabilities, qualities and inclinations are created in each person in varying measure. Because of different temperaments, different occupations have emerged. All these occupations and professions are needed for the continuance of the social order. Society as a whole needs and will always have butchers, street cleaners, doctors, scholars, and many other functions and roles. This being the case, everybody should try to get married according to his means and the prospective husband should seek a socially compatible wife.
For a husband and a wife to have similar financial status is certainly important, but there are other matters of interest, too. Similar knowledge, manners and customs are also important. If this sort of resemblance can be achieved, the family will be free of disputes rooted in differences of social status. For instance, if a man cannot provide the standard of living that his wife is accustomed to, the resulting embarrassment and discontent might well cause the destruction of their family. Mutual love can sometimes prevent this, but it is rare. Therefore marriages between members of families from similar social levels are usually the right choice and more beneficial. All these means is that people who share world views, spiritual values, goals and wishes can get along with each other more easily.
In any case, family expenses and lifestyle must be regulated according to the father’s level of income. It is not right for a mother and her children to ask more from a man than he earns. But the father is fully responsible to provide their “housing, food and clothes” to the extent of his income.
Housing, be it rented or owned, must be big enough for the size of the family and should be located in a good neighborhood. To persist in living in a bad, unhealthy neighborhood when there is enough financial means to move elsewhere, is unfair to the members of the family. This mistake can eventually result in the moral decline and destruction of the family.
Meals should also be regulated according to the income level of the father. In pursuit of subsistence, fathers should neither show laziness nor force themselves to work beyond their physical strength. A husband’s responsibility is to provide food within the limits of this balance. The same balance must be observed in other expenditures, too.
Both extravagance and stinginess should be avoided. Unfortunately extravagance is one of the greatest problems of our world today. Many people are neglectful when it comes to wasting resources. The habit has become widespread – yet men should protect themselves from unnecessary expenditures even if they are wealthy. Otherwise they will eventually be crushed under the heavy burden of extravagance.
Eating at least enough to live is obligatory; eating as much as needed is permitted; but eating more than that is not allowed. The Sufis have looked at the habits of eating like this:
“According to the law of Sharia, to keep eating after you are full is extravagance.
According to the path of the Sufis, to keep eating until you are full is extravagance.”
Fathers should be sensitive and alert about the fruits and vegetables that their children like. Children who are not able to ask for what they want because of shyness, especially girls, must be given special care.
Guests require generous service as Islamic hospitality advises. This is both a moral virtue and one of the honors of being human.
The father of the house must provide at least two sets of clothes, one for winter and the other for summer, for every member of the family. There is nothing wrong with having an extra suit for special occasions. Islam encourages us to beautify ourselves within certain limits; however wearing clothes that are too showy and bragging about it, or looking down on people, are prohibited by Islam.
Silk clothes and accessories made of gold, like rings or watches, are prohibited for men. These materials are for women’s use and their usage by men leads to moral degeneration. This principle must be observed in choosing clothes and accessories for boys. Letting our daughters wear revealing clothes or boys’ clothes, relying on the excuse of “letting her satisfy her childhood desires,” is a great mistake. In time, such clothes will turn into a habit and getting rid of that habit will not be easy. Ultimately, the child’s future may be lost. Therefore, girls must become accustomed to an Islamic standard of dressing and taught its significance. Otherwise, there is always the danger that early wrong directions and mistaken actions will damage our daughters’ dignity as grown women. Let us particularly remember that observing Islamic standards of dress is not just a way of protecting our daughters, but also a means of fostering splendor and grace among Muslim women. Women who dress according to Islamic principles will always be manifestations of dignity and virtue. Such a presence evokes only feelings of respect in the hearts of others.
Q – What is a man’s responsibility towards his family’s moral education?
To support the religious and moral growth of women and children, assisting their education in the ways that will bring them eternal happiness, are among the most significant duties of men. The Qur’an states:
O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones …(66:6)
The full scope of this task encompasses the members of our families, our relatives, our neighbors and ultimately everybody in the country according to their positions and potentials; because just as families shape their greater environment, so also does the greater environment shape our families.
A father should pay attention to his family’s Qur’anic education and inspire them with a love for worshipping Allah. At the same time, it is necessary for him to teach his family the manners and customs of society. To address both needs, when children reach at the age of primary school, it is wise for a father to send them to summer schools for learning Qur’an. Later, when they graduate from primary school, full-time Qur’anic school is an excellent idea. This is important especially for girls. We should never forget that the most valuable legacy that parents can leave for their children is a happy life in the Hereafter. How happy are those who help their children to memorize the entire Qur’an and adorn them with the beauties of the Qur’an! According to a hadith:
If anyone recites the Qur’an and acts according to its teachings, on the Day of Judgment his parents will be crowned with a crown whose light, if it were among you, would be better than the light of the sun in all the dwellings of this world. So imagine the light of the person who acts according to the teachings! (Abu Dawud, Witr, 14).
Today people make great efforts and pay great amounts of money to learn foreign languages and draw comparisons among colleges based on their success in teaching languages. On the other hand we have come to ignore and even belittle, our Qur’anic schools. Yet leaving our children deprived of the spirit of the Qur’an is a very sad situation. And we forget that the greatest success, which may well save our lives in the Hereafter, is to be able to leave behind good children, who will pray for us.
Our children should be raised aware of the Qur’anic spirit and its blessings. They should particularly be taught the parables of the prophets in the Qur’an and their messages. In the contemporary world, supporting our children’s faith is a necessity if we are to protect them from the dangers of atheism. Besides offering them Qur’anic education, we should also teach our children the life and Sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), since he is the living interpretation of the Qur’an. In order to properly learn the meaning of his life and to harmonize with it, we need to follow in his footsteps and try to be like him.
If parents neglect their tasks and do not give their children proper religious education, those children will grow up under the influence of the media and the materialistic life styles they promote. Television will turn into their mother. It will feed them, condition their imagination and thinking and even shape their physical appearance. Once this state of affairs takes hold, there is only one job left for parents to do and that is to fulfill their children’s requests.
It is even more unfortunate for parents when children fall into the traps of immoral websites and TV programs. Ignoring them is a signal for the punishment of the parents. The simplest illustration of the danger is that today’s children know the names and lives of many sports figures and celebrities and try to be like them. Yet they do not even know the names of their own prophets, let alone their exemplary lives! This means that the children are actually being raised by football players and movie stars. Parents now get the trouble of feeding their children’s physical bodies, but the children’s spirits are fed by strangers. How long can a society and a culture survive under these conditions? If we are to succeed in the battle of cultures, we must be very careful about our children’s education. We must educate them according to Islamic principles. Our children must grow up from their own roots.
Islam promotes certain standards of dress; they are proper to human dignity. One of them is the prohibition of wearing tight and transparent clothes that reveal the body. When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) saw Aisha’s sister Asma’ wearing a transparent dress, he turned his head away.
He said, “O Asma’, once a woman reaches puberty, it does not suit her to display any of the parts of her body except this and this,” and he pointed to her face and hands. (Abu Dawud, Libas, 31)
These are basic Islamic principles formulated to prevent behavior which is not appropriate to human dignity. Men and women must act together to observe these principles.
Even before children reach the age of puberty, parents must separate the rooms of their daughters and their sons. This is something that needs to be done in order to mature them spiritually and shape their personalities.
Q – What are the responsibilities of men for the protection of their families?
A man has to protect his family from all kinds of negative influences. A father should keep children away from friends and places that may spoil their religion and morality, from the immoral shows on television, from vicious and worthless books and magazines. In short, protecting the family from attacks arriving both inside and outside the home is the responsibility of men.
Q – Is there anything else which men should be particularly careful about in the guidance of their families?
Men should observe the religious limits. Unless it is absolutely necessary, they should stay away from places where men and women work together. If a man has to work in such a place, he should control his eyes and his acts; he should always observe the manners of our religion. If he is an employer, he should arrange the working hours and workplaces of male and female employees so as to eliminate the necessity of working in a mixed environment. If he needs to work privately with someone, staying alone together far from the eyes of others, he must choose that person from among his male employees. Such a condition is called khalwat al-sahiha, “true seclusion,” which is forbidden between unrelated men and women according to Islamic law. Because of the risk of true seclusion, a male employer should not seek to employ female secretaries, whatever the excuse. Unfortunately, today many families are destroyed just because these principles are not followed.
A wise man leaves his business life out of his home. He does not bring his problems home.
An intelligent and insightful man forgives his family members’ worldly mistakes and approaches them with mercy and compassion. He keeps his wife’s secrets and deficiencies from everybody.
However, he does not ignore his family’s faults in religious matters. He seriously confronts errors when they occur and heads off in advance mistakes that might be committed because of laziness or ignorance. He meticulously does everything possible to support the religious education of his family. He teaches his children himself as much as he can and when necessary, he also gets professional help from effective scholars. These things, too, are among the responsibilities of the father.
A husband should speak pleasantly and gently with his wife; he should not alienate her by approaching her rudely and harshly. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) says:
The best of you is the one who is best in his treatment of women. (Tirmidhi, Rada, 11. See also Abu Dawud, Sunna, 15; Ibn Maja, Nikah, 50)
A man should consult with his wife in family matters and should not give her responsibilities heavier than she can handle. He should help his wife with child care and discipline, because both child care and housework may exhaust her. Helping women in their work will increase mutual love and strengthen family ties.
A husband should pray for the welfare of his wife. He should not go on long trips without telling her in advance. He should also not bring guests home without getting her consent first. He should never insist that his wife go out in front of strangers to serve them. He should keep his family away from mixed environments as much as possible.
Q – If men follow the aforementioned principles and properly perform their responsibilities, what rewards do they receive?
In a sense, Islam entrusts the family to the father. Our tradition assigns him both particular rights and also the particular responsibility of providing for all his family’s material and spiritual needs. That is the meaning of the leadership position is given to a father.
A father is like the sun in the sky of a family; a mother is like the moon, covered with veils of chastity; and the children are like the stars.
A father who devotes his entire energy, power and intelligence to his family’s welfare, discipline and education of course deserves to be respected, loved and obeyed. It is a great mistake to rebel against, disobey, or talk disgracefully to such a father. This is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:
Allah’s pleasure is hidden in a father’s contentment and Allah’s anger is hidden in a father’s anger.(Tirmidhi, Birr, 3)
Mother and children alike need to obey and respect the father, who is the leader of the family. A father’s significance can be felt especially when he is gone. This is why family members should know a father’s value before it is too late and try to get his good prayers while he is alive. They should follow his lawful orders and should not fail in respect for him.