Q – A man and a woman build a home and decide to share everything. What are the primary matters they need to attend to together?

We should always remember that there are two great undertakings of life in common that have equal significance: sharing happiness and joy and sharing problems and burdens.

Ideally, sharing is comprehensive, embracing every aspect of life, both spiritual and material. It may seem easier to share happiness, but sorrow and troubles also need to be shared. Husbands and wives should support each other under every circumstance: they should be like two hands washing each other.

Life cannot always be perfect. We should not forget that there are ups and downs, storms, twists and accidents in life. Life is full of unknowns and surprises and destiny is a divine secret. This is why the greatest support for a believer is his or her faith in Allah and submission to Allah’s will.

The second biggest support comes from a loving spouse. It should not be forgotten that when desperate and helpless people do not find the support they need from their families, they are often dragged into bigger problems. On the other hand, if a person in trouble has a spiritually mature and understanding family, any problem can be handled.

The soundness of a family depends on the spiritual maturity and mutual understanding of its members. This is the most significant requirement for attaining good results from a marriage. Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s famous words allude to this reality:

Listen to this truth from the rose, hear what it says:

“Why should I feel sad, why should I bemoan my life among thorns? I won my ability to smile by keeping company with prickliness and through enduring that, I grew able to disperse beauty and emit perfume to the world.”

This rose is telling us, “Be like me!”

Q – What do we need to do in order to establish a sound family structure?

First of all, happiness in a family can only be achieved mutually. The foundations of mutual happiness are:

1. Treat each other kindly;

2. Behave thoughtfully and maturely;

3. Put the other person first.

These habits can easily be attained by people who pursue morality, intelligence, wisdom, sincerity and mutual sensitivity as personal goals. In order to get along with each other, spouses need five great qualities: piety, virtue, love, compassion and fidelity. The importance of these qualities is very obvious in our society now, since we hear of so many tragedies emerging every day due to the lack of them.

Piety and virtue are the basis of all other good qualities in a family, just as they are in a society. Homes where members live according to Islamic principles bestow upon themselves and upon their societies the happiness of both worlds. But when members of a family move away from Islam, not only the other family members but also the entire society is negatively affected.

We do need to properly understand piety. A person cannot be both pious and rude at the same time. Islam is entirely composed of courtesy and grace. As it is stated by a poet:

Manners are a crown made from the light of the Lord

To be safe from all calamities, put on that crown

Rumi says:

My intelligence bent down to my ear and asked,

“What is religion?”

My heart replied, “Religion is good manners.”

The next great necessity, love, is the power connecting family members to each other and strengthening their ties. When love decreases, the foundations of a family start to collapse. Love has to be mutual. A man will be loved by his family exactly as much as he loves them. And love is not just a feeling, it is an attitude: the more love increases, the more hearts should be adorned by grace, courtesy and respect. Love should not turn into thoughtless levity and certain manners should always be observed.

Love, mercy and other similar emotions must be temperately expressed. Excessive love can damage a relationship. Complete lack of love, however, may lead those left hungry for it to search for it in bad places. While excessive, selfish love will lead to overmastering possessiveness and jealousy, lack of love can lead to lack of any care at all about the spouse’s behavior.

Both of these are disasters for a family. One needs to be equally careful about excess and deficiency of compassion. Too much mercy can lead to supineness; it may end in the toleration of disastrous mistakes. This is not mercy, but weakness of heart. Lack of compassion, on the other hand, hardens the heart and leads a person to oppression and violence.

Moderation in compassion gives good results and brings happiness to a family. The most compassionate parents are those who can wake up their children for dawn prayer, thus preparing them for eternal happiness.

As for fidelity, it is one of the most important matters. Both parties must be careful to take it seriously. Fidelity means to be honest and faithful in every aspect of life. Of course, each partner’s avoidance of words and actions that might damage the other’s confidence is very important for the continuity of their marriage. It is also very important for partners to value their faithfulness to each other, so that they vigilantly protect their eyes and hearts from slipping to outsiders.

Spouses should meticulously observe Islamic principles governing the interactions of men and women in order to avoid falling into undesirable situations. Actions and behaviors that run the risk of provoking suspicion, gossip and doubts both damage a person’s honor and reputation among people and endanger a family’s future.

Another manifestation of fidelity and loyalty is to respect and serve the parents of one’s spouse. Both bride and groom should accustom themselves to treating their fathers-in-law and mothers–in-law like their own parents. They will soon enough find themselves in the same position, when their own children get married! If they injure their in-laws, they may very well face similar injury in the future.

Q – You have mentioned that it is a man’s task to provide the sustenance of his family. Does this responsibility necessitate economy?

As we have mentioned before, providing for a family’s needs is the responsibility of men. However, this does not mean that men must immediately provide everything a family member might desire.

Lawful and necessary demands should be responded to according to the family’s financial means. When someone’s every request is instantly fulfilled, it leads to spoiling and spoiling can lead to depravity and rebellion. In time, such a person will start thinking only of his or her private benefit. He or she will come to treat other family members like servants. This is why a believer should control his or her desires, even when the necessary financial means are available.

The moderation of desires is a very important discipline, indispensible if we are to reach spiritual maturity and attain Allah’s pleasure. Patience is more important when we have the means than when we do not, because wealth continuously provokes selfishness.

Divine wisdom provides us with an educational method that will help us to control our desires and to spiritually mature. Allah the Almighty sometimes refuses His servants’ supplications and wishes, sometimes accepts them and sometimes postpones them.

The object is to remind us servants not to attach ourselves to the temporal world and to help us realize that we are always in need of Allah’s assistance. Humans hate leaving this world even when we live under severe conditions of poverty and want. Should we be capable of fulfilling every whim, we would never want to leave, or ever think about the Hereafter!

Such heedlessness drags people into ever-greater mistakes and even into rebellion against Allah the Almighty.Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) made the mistake of not wanting to leave Paradise and, as a result, he was expelled from it. Therefore when our children want something from us, we need to take into consideration not just the possible problems it may cause them in this world, but also what the effects may be for them on Judgment Day.

Of course, restricting expenditures too much, to the level of stinginess and refusing to provide even vital necessities can never be acceptable behavior. An intelligent person follows a balanced path between the two extremes. The Qur’an commends:

… those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor parsimonious and (keep) between these the just mean. (25:67)

The middle path is the balance of life. Stinginess is abominable. Extravagance too is an unacceptable quality for a Muslim. Even a wealthy Muslim is not allowed to waste his or her wealth. Nobody has the right to say, “This is my property and I can do with it whatever I want.” Wealth belongs to Allah the Almighty.

He has only entrusted it to people in this world. On the Day of Judgment, He will question us about where and how we spent our wealth. This is expressed in the following verse:

And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the devils and the devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord. (17:26-27)

Islam prohibits all kinds of extravagance for everybody. It does not matter whether the person it waylays is the family’s father or mother: extravagance in a family is a disease to be prevented. When this disease penetrates into a person’s soul, it is really difficult for that person to live in peace.

Today the disease we call “spending madness” drags many people into dissatisfaction with what they have and makes them treat abnormal expenditures as normal. Constantly changing furniture, appliances, cell phones, cars and other possessions, even though they are in no need of change; buying new clothes merely to follow new fashions; and insisting on buying only certain pricey brands are all destructive effects of this disease.

The result of all this futile expense is nothing other than disappointment and frustration. Those who try to cover their costs with credit cards, submitting themselves to usurious transactions, are doomed to be devastated when their financial means fall short.

Finally the victims of this disease will attempt to blame people around them for not helping out. All this is the result of not using reason and emotion together, in a balanced fashion.

Allah created poverty and wealth to test people’s gratitude and patience. Therefore we should turn to the blessing of patience in order to avoid contracting spending madness. A believer should consider that lack of means can help a servant to come closer to his Lord.

Meanwhile, even the wealthiest and most heedless person in the world will remember Allah and ask His help when in danger. It is when we human beings feel our weakness that we recognize ourselves.

The messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) expressed his own weakness like this:

Dear Lord! I cannot properly know You. I cannot properly serve You.

Friends of Allah have suggested guidelines for dress that are in accord with the varying spiritual states of human beings.

At the level of Sharia, attire must fall within the limits of the permitted and the forbidden. At the level of the tariqah, attire should be governed by necessity. At the level of Haqiqa, concern with dress and appearance is inconceivable. The best principle is to wear clean and simple clothes and then not let the matter occupy one’s heart.

Islam has produced principles to help us understand not only how to earn wealth, but also how to spend it. If we cannot find anything productive to do with our money at home and as a result begin to waste it on pointless indulgences, we should remember the unfortunate people in the world and think about helping them. If we have already been helping them, then it is time to increase the amount of support.

Those who are aware that the poor have rights over their wealth cannot spend it extravagantly. The Qur’an teaches:

And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good. (2:195)

It should not be forgotten that there will be serious questioning in the next world for every single penny wasted. Meanwhile, in this world, there are many impoverished people who are struggling to survive.

All believers should reflect upon the many gifts Allah has bestowed upon us and be thankful for them all. We should recall that we are sleeping with full stomachs, while so many people in the world are hungry and thirsty. We are safe and secure, while so many people live in danger. We are sheltered in warm houses, while there are people freezing in the world.

These are great blessings of Allah the Almighty; however they also place heavy responsibilities upon the shoulders of the believers. This sort of reflection must be a well-established feature of our lives. As a matter of fact, Caliph ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), who is reported to have said,

“Question yourselves before you come to be questioned,” used to reflect upon his responsibilities every night. He said,

“If, during my government, a sheep were to fall into the Tigris and drown, I am afraid that Allah the Almighty will hold me account able for it on the Day of Judgment.”

He regularly asked himself, “O ‘Umar! What did you do today for Allah’s sake?”

We should ask ourselves how many times we have felt such emotions. On how many nights, after a long work day, have we questioned our hearts in such contemplation? Those who achieve this level of reflection attain a new characteristic that gives them spiritual peace and tranquility. It is contentment.

Contentment is the greatest wealth in the world. A person’s level of spiritual wealth can be measured by his level of contentment. Contented people know how to be satisfied what they have. They are not greedy to get more. This leads them to accept their situation in life and eases their minds about it.

However, contentment should never be misunderstood as laziness and the abandonment of working for a living!

On the contrary, contentment with Allah’s blessings only begins to take effect after we have committed ourselves to working within lawful limits. Those who are satisfied with what they have also strive to help others. Those who are not contented always more and instead of helping others, continually demand help for themselves.

We call the Prophetic era the Age of Happiness (`asr al-sa`ada). The community of those days was one in which all these and many other merits were manifested. It was a community that attained the furthest horizons of wusla – spiritual union. It was blessed time of knowing Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) intimately.

In that community, people took worldly expectations and benefits out of their hearts. They viewed their property and their lives alike as means of coming closer to Allah and His Messenger. Faith was a pleasure and mercy was endless. Serving the creation of Allah the Almighty was way of life. To imitate what the Messenger of Allah did was the greatest ideal of the Companions. All of the counsels and warnings of the Prophet were accepted as sacred orders and observed meticulously.

The whole society of that time lived in contentment. Extravagance, luxury, excessive spending, greed and ostentation were qualities that the Companions did not know. They were aware of the fact that, as the saying goes, “tomorrow, the grave will be the residence of our souls.” They placed Allah and His Messenger at the center of all their social relations.

Although they had once been an ignorant community, after they were admitted to the school of faith, they achieved one of the greatest civilizations of history. Their hearts lived with the constant questions:

“What does Allah require of me? What might the Messenger of Allah like to see from me?”

For them, all of life was connected to Allah’s pleasure. Among them, mercy and compassion deepened and sensitivity toward observing the rights of others and doing justice, reached its apex. For the Companions,the most joyful moments of life were the times when they conveyed the message of Allah to others.

Today, we should seek to follow in the footsteps of the Companions in order to reach the same spiritual levels they reached and to live in a peaceful and tranquil society, as they did. Mothers and fathers should seek to embody these beauties and to raise their children according to these principles.

It is particularly important that parents always treat their children equally and observe justice between them. People may not be able to control their inner feelings, but at least the outward expression of those feelings ought not to produce inequality among children.

For instance, when something is purchased for one child, the same thing, or something similar, needs to be bought for the others. When one of them is kissed, the others should not be neglected.

In short, parents should never allow jealousy to take root among their children. People also need to search out residences in good neighborhoods and to be careful in their relationships with neighbors and relatives who show weakness in morality and religion.

They should never put their own children in danger while hoping to correct other people’s faults.