Five Essentials of a Happy Family
Briefly I would like to discuss five essentials that would lead to a happy family life. These essentials are not to be confused for exclusive spousal advice but rather the entire family can adopt these maxims. A good way in improving family relations is to be proactive than reactive. It is hoped that the following practices can provide the inspiration of love and happiness:
Let your family know that you love them.
If you have to criticize, do it with love.
Do not reason while angry.
Pray together at least once a day
Neglect the entire world rather than neglecting your family.
Let your family know that you love them:
How difficult is it to say the three magic words that can turn an ocean of tears into gentle heavenly smiles? These magical words never get out of fashion or loose their luster and the right moment to say them is now. Every family member can strengthen the family bond by repeating “I love you”. The Qur’an states that it is Allah who has placed love (mawadda) and mercy (rahma) in our hearts. This specific ayah is memorialized at many weddings. However, once after such talks an elderly woman came up to me and asked, how come within Eastern Muslims families this word is never shared? The phrase “I love you” is only heard in the movies and streets but not at home. There is great undermining of family relations from the external sources. Many people confuse love for lust on Hollywood (and Bollywood). Love is connected to family responsibility and lust is attached to a satisfaction of carnal desires. Islam does not teach people to go to the mosque so they can ignore their families. Historically, after hearing a woman’s complain Caliph Omar would not allow any soldiers to serve more than four months without seeing their families. Think for a moment, when was the last time you said “I love you” to the family members? Love can only take roots when we cultivate it with great care in family relations.
If you have to criticize, do it with love.
Ridicule is sufficed in public advice. Talk to others as you would like others to talk to you. A family is a team working together to attain paradise. What if you see a team quarrelling and bashing one another on the playing field? No doubt, lack of discipline can ruin great individual heroics on game day. A friend regretted about spending 20 years of his prime on Wall Street while ignoring basic Islamic education. I reminded him that lost time could be gained if we can impart Islam to our family and children. Allah exalted describes believing men and women as ‘awliya’ meaning friends, helpers, and protectors of one another. Constructive criticism removes blemish and beautifies the mundane. Giving advice does not mean one is free from receiving advice from others. In addition, family talk is not time to enliven old mistakes or compile a list of wrongs. The Prophet Muhammad said “All of the children of Adam are sinners but the best of them are those who correct themselves”. Let us focus on correcting our mistakes and advising others in loving manners with a gentle smile.
Do not reason or argue while in a state of anger.
The Prophet said three times to a man seeking advice ‘la taghdab’ meaning do not become angry. The Qur’an talks about the slave of the Merciful as ‘those who swallow their anger and they forgive people and overlook their faults’. Interestingly, when we swallow or eat something we seal our lips unless we want to look absurd to others. In addition, parents are models for children. As a teacher I have seen that children’s behavior is a reflection of their parents. Students who showed generosity, care, altruism, and respect brought it from their home. On the other hand, students who shout at others, throw things, and disrespect others have also brought the baggage from their home. We have to be role models to our children and spouse. The Prophet gave us advice on anger management. If you are standing, sit down, if you are sitting, recline, seek God’s protection from the accursed devil, drink a glass of water and cool down. We should uplift everyone in the family by becoming the best example for them.
Pray together at least once a day.
Allah says to the Prophet in the Qur’an ‘command your family to pray and be steadfast on it’. The congregational family prayer should be part of the daily routine. The Prophet performed supererogatory prayers with his wives, children and close companions at home. Today TV and internet have entered the house as a third parent. All efforts should be made to bring extended families together in a monthly or weekly halaqa where they study the Quran, sirah, Islamic etiquettes or listen to a scholar in person or on a CD. Be mindful of joining or initiating a halaqa that ignores younger family members. The statement “go play in another room” can be very dangerous in the long run for our children. If they do not learn family interaction at home where else they will learn Muslim traditional values? Praying together brings much needed peace of heart at home.
Neglect the whole world but not the family.
Family comes first. Allah says in the Qur’an ‘O you who believe protect yourselves and your family from the fire of hell’. On a list of priorities, the first obligation is family. This does not mean we ignore our obligations to our neighbors, friends, in-laws, and others but unless a family stands on a solid foundation, our relations with others will remain shaky at best. Remarkably, some people attend jumuah prayers, lectures, congregational prayers at mosque, study or teach at the mosque but they do not share it with their spouse and children. They are on an iman-high but their families are busy surfing the TV channels, making friends on facebook, downloading new apps for cell phone, or finding new movies on Netflix. We need to come down from the clouds and live with people. How can the family be our priority when we are too busy saving people on the other side of the planet? The youth should also pay heed to the words of Allah ‘show parents excellence in manners’. Love and respect are intertwined with the mercy of Allah. Let us remember to pray for our family members and recommit to living family first so we can build a better society