Sunday, October 31, 2010
The importance of family
Last week I was reminded of just how important it is to have family. My sisters and I had to organize a book launch for an Islamic education series we have been working on. The weeks before the launch were gruelling, with all the planning and running around trying to ensure that we got everything done. Finally the day of the launch came and Alhamdullillah everything went really smoothly. This was due to the will of Allah (SWT) but we were fortunate to have the support of our family. Mum was there preparing the snacks and ensuring that the food tables were sorted out, our father and brothers were there, running last minute errands and helping to put up the decor. Our sister-in-law was there to assist wherever we needed her, and after the event brothers-in-law popped in and helped with the tidying up, even the kids were assisting with whatever they could. Having the entire family involved (and we are a very big family- Alhamdullillah) just made everything so much easier. I am so thankful to Allah Almighty for blessing me with a supportive family, this just reminded me of the importance of family. Without family people are weaker and they cannot accomplish as much as individuals as they can as groups.
This reminded me of one of the things I liked when I went for umrah recently. All over the place families could be seen together. Since it was Ramadhaan, families could be seen sitting together at Iftaar time, and at sehri (suhr) time. They could be seen relaxing outside the Haram Sharief after the taraweeh prayers. Children played happily nearby their parents, while adults chatted with each other. The family atmosphere was striking and in contrast to the way it is in a modern “westernised” culture. I can’t speak for every country, but here in South Africa, people are quickly beginning to follow in the footsteps of other countries, and what’s happened is that “the family culture” has been replaced with “the individual culture”. So instead of families spending time together and doing things together, individuals tend to go off and do their own thing. For many people, as soon as children reach the stage of adolescence they begin to see it as something embarrassing to be with their parents and so parents go out alone while children go out on their own.
This move away from the family is very obvious when looking at Western cultures and ideals. The popular idea is for people to become independent and move away from their families. This is regarded as a mark of adulthood. In my opinion, what this does is not only weaken people, but it also weakens society as a whole. Without a solid family structure and support from family, people become more vulnerable, and while it may be true that they learn many things when they are on their own, they also at the same time, lose out in many ways.
The extended family has become mundane, an old and traditional thing and so children see less of their grandparents, aunts and uncles and their idea of family is restricted to parents, and siblings. The size of families are rapidly decreasing, so whereas before it wasn’t strange to find women with 6 or 8 children, even more, now the norm is to have a few children and 3 children families are regarded as big. This may be the modern trend, but I find it very sad.
Growing up in a big family (I come from a family of 8 children) has made me a stronger person and it has also saved me from many things. You constantly had your big brother watching you, or one of the younger siblings innocently blurting out your secrets to your parents, and while this may have been irritating at the time, in retrospect I have learnt to appreciate it.
In these times when people are forgetting the importance of family, I think it’s even more crucial to discuss this issue. It’s easy to be an individual within a family structure, being a part of family doesn’t mean that you can’t be your own person, or that you can’t gain independence, but knowing that you have the support from people who love and care for you, just makes things so much better. It makes individuals stronger!
In many countries it is not a strange thing to see families together. We spent some time in Egypt a few years ago and there it was natural to see families doing things together. Everyone would go to the shopping mall together and while mothers and daughters shopped, fathers and sons would sit together watching soccer matches and discussing things, and thereafter the family would all have a meal together. The entire atmosphere was conducive to family life, and this was beautiful.
The trend of individualism is causing damage to our societies and family members are becoming increasingly isolated from one another to such an extent that parents don’t even know what’s going on with their own children. Husbands and wives live separate lives, sisters and brothers hardly speak to each other and no one listens to grandparents. Perhaps I am “old-fashioned” but I prefer the family culture to the individual culture any day. I just hope that more people could understand the importance of family.
Alhamdullillah, I am so grateful to Allah Almighty for blessing me with a huge family, even if they all make me want to scream sometimes!
My prayer for everyone is that Allah (swt) keeps families together and increases the Muslim ummah by increasing our families. May Allah Almighty unite the hearts of family members, keep love and mercy within families and strengthen the bonds of family,Insha'Allah Ameen!
Image from: http://www.chathamhillgames.com/genealogy.php