Peace and Tranquility in the Family
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
When searching in the Qur’an for verses to encourage the peace and tranquillity of the family, many people would naturally turn to those ayat that specifically mention the family, or relationships between men and women. Those passages are gone over many times, and certainly have their own very good advice. However, I have found that another fruitful way of finding help from our Lord is to look also at the many verses that deal simply with our relationships as one Muslim to another. To me, the two prime aspects of Muslim living are to accept the responsibility of being a khalifah towards the planet and all its living creatures, with a particular responsibility towards those living creatures we have been GIVEN, those human beings whom we have not chosen in any way by our own freewill, but with whom we are requested to make our lives; and secondly to accept the noble principle that no Muslim should EVER deliberately cause hurt to another Muslim. Of course, I believe that principle is not limited to just Muslims but to all Allah’s creatures.
Therefore, it becomes clear that any passage dealing with a Muslim’s relationship with his or her neighbour, or even people in general, applies equally – if not very much more so – to our relationships within our family, and especially towards the only member of our family that we are allowed to choose – our spouse. I moreover take it as axiomatic that any passage in the Qur’an that uses the male word ‘he’ is simply due to the quirks of language, and always means both ‘he and she’ unless it specifically states otherwise.
So, then, here is one beautiful passage we can consider as highly applicable to the peace and tranquillity of our family life:
”Whatever you have been given is simply for you to enjoy during this lifetime; that which abides with Allah is better and is everlasting – for those who believe and put their trust in Him, those who avoid the major sins and shameful deeds, and who, when they are angry, still forgive; those who listen for their Lord and keep on praying; those whose affairs are settled by mutual consultation amongst themselves; those who are generous with what We have bestowed on them; those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted upon them, help and defend each other. Just pay-back for an injury is indeed an injury of the same significance, but whoever can forgive and bring about reconciliation receives great reward from Allah.’ (Surah 42: 36-40).
The state of ‘salam’ is not just the absence of violence and aggression, but is active and dynamic, and includes the individual quest for harmony. The establishment of peace, fairness and dignity within the family is absolutely imperative. It does not mean ‘peace at any price’, which is the response of a passive person eager to avoid conflict and get on with a quiet life. That can hardly be Islamic peace, for it implies that the injustices have not been tackled, the injuries are still there and causing hurt. It may well be the response of an unfortunate mother/wife worn down by the inconsiderate treatment of her family, who perhaps is nervous of upsetting the head of the household, or any particularly spoiled and tyrannical member of it (who might be a teenage youngster, or even an over-demanding toddler!). Some women would do well to find the book ‘Women who love too much’, the name of whose author, I apologise, has gone out of my mind at the moment.
Avoiding conflict may have the advantage of evading unpleasant and possibly violent or hurtful confrontations, but its chief disadvantage is that to maintain this peace you sacrifice all your needs, and become frustrated, anxious and depressed. Once a wife or mother gets into that situation, the family is in a serious downwards spin. Eventually the wife/mother feels she is just a martyr, if not a victim, and the more she desires a little appreciation, the less likely it is to be offered.
The offending partner or child may gradually be developing into someone you really don’t like, and the more you try to tolerate and understand them, the worse they become. You get upset with yourself because you have lost the ability to run things as you would like to do, and have lost the control necessary to keep the home and happy place. You become angry at your own weakness. You accumulate guilt, and even start beginning to ‘hate’ your loved one. If they were to leave home, your first reaction would probably be to heave a great sigh of relief.
If this is how it is, then things have gone very wrong. Somebody in that household is not playing by the rules of Islam. I have spoken in the passages above about the feelings of women, partly because that is natural to me since I am a woman, and partly because through experience I am all too well aware that it is women who suffer from domestic unhappiness most. Menfolk generally have far more escape and support from the world outside, and usually avoid domestic unhappiness by simply going out again, avoiding the nagging, and causing even more suffering through neglect and not putting the problems right. However, it is not always that way round, and I wish to make clear that the suffering person could easily be the husband/father, and the tyrant be the wife or mother. Needless to say, tyrants can frequently be the mother-in-law too.
The ten worst things that threaten the peace, tranqillity, fairness and dignity of a household are probably these:
* tyranny – one person always right or in control, everyone else fearful of upsetting them
* abuse – this takes many forms, including physical, mental and verbal cruelty
* selfishness – especially when this means you can’t be bothered to see to the needs of others
* lack of compassion – being too busy to be kind (this could even be with ‘religious business’)
* laziness and dirtiness – domestophobia
* injustice – favouritism, or wanting rights the others don’t have
* cruelty – remember the Prophet (saw) NEVER hit a woman, child, old person or animal!
* neglect – not taking sufferings seriously; not being dutiful towards one’s children/spouse
* disloyalty – breaking trust, revealing secrets, nasty jibes, making people feel small
* irresponsibility – wasting family resources, frustrating planners, making progress impossible.
Let us remember some important words from our Prophet (saw):
‘He is not one of us whose neighbour cannot feel safe from his harm.’ This does not mean the folks next door, or men talking about other men. Our nearest neighbours are those given to us, our families.
‘The best of you are those who are best to your families.’ Note – he did not say ‘the best of you are those who actually neglect your families and duties towards them by selfishly seeking to earn numerous hasanat for yourselves by spending the longest possible time away from them, even if that time is spent in supererogatory prayers or repetitions of phrases!’
What about the words of Allah (swt) Himself?
‘You shall most certainly face trial and be tested in your possessions and your persons…..if you are patient and steadfast against wrong, then truly that is the heart of all things.’ (Surah 3:186).
‘Your possessions and your offspring are tests for you; your wonderful reward will be with Allah.’ (Surah 8:28).
Yes, we all know what trials and tests they can be – but are we taking the words seriously? What is being tested is not how much suffering you can put up with, but how you are facing up towards unIslamic behaviour, tyranny, the need to forgive and put right, and so forth.
‘It is a mercy of Allah that you deal gently with others. If you are severe or hard-hearted they will break away from you. So, pardon them, and seek forgiveness for them.’ (Surah 3:159).
Let us all take responsibility for ourselves, for ultimately, when we face Judgement, we will be faced with it all, and any injustice we have done to another will be put right before we can see any reward. A mother who waited hand on foot on her son, doing too much, might be asked why she spoiled him, and did not train him better? A husband who spent all his spare time at the mosque might be asked why he left his lonely wife with no companionship and support? A wife who nagged all the time might be asked why she was always impossibly trying to change the genetically in-built character of her partner? And so on – I am quite sure that some of our questions will be a surprise to us. Alhamdu Lillah, that He is Merciful and Compassionate with us, and aware of everything, particularly that He created us with all our weaknesses.
Let us take care that WE do not become the tyrants, that we do everything we can to improve and maintain a pleasant atmosphere in our homes and with our loved ones. If we think we have done all we can do and no-one has witnessed or appreciated it, we are wrong – it has been seen and recorded. If we have behaved badly and think we have got away with it, for nobody saw it, or was able to do anything about it, we are wrong – it has been seen and recorded. Let us lend to Allah a ‘beautiful loan’, and strive hard to please Him by loving those He has given to us in a mature and Islamic way, seeking their ultimate good. Let us remember that we have no idea for how long He has given us these household members; the number of their breaths is known to Him but not to us.
If we strive to live each day as if it was our last, and to use every moment we have in His service in one way or another, even if it is to pop a sweet into the mouth of our wives, or to pack a lunch, or wash dirty football gear ready for the next action, then insha’Allah we will be travelling on the right path..
May God bless you,