The Family in Islam III


One of the reasons that the Islamic family works is because of its clearly defined structure, where

each member of the household knows his or her role. The Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy

and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Each of you is a shepherd, and all of you are responsible for your flocks.” (Saheeh Al-
Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)

The father is the shepherd over his family, protecting them, providing for them, and striving

to be their role model and guide in his capacity as head of the household. The mother is the

shepherd over the house, guarding it and engendering in it the wholesome, loving environment

that is necessary for a happy and healthy family life. She is also the one who is primarily

responsible for the children’s guidance and education. Were it not for the fact that one of the

parents assumed the leadership role, then inevitably there would be perpetual disputation and

fighting, leading to family breakdown – just as there would be in any organization which lacked

any single hierarchical authority.

“Allah puts forth a similitude: a (servant) man belonging to many partners, disputing with one

another, and a man belonging entirely to one master. Are those two equal in comparison? All the

praises and thanks be to Allah! But most of them know not.” (Qur’an 39:29)

It is only logical that the one who is naturally the physically and emotionally stronger of the two

parents is made head of the household: the male.

“…And they (women) have rights (over their husbands) similar (to the rights of their

husbands) over them – according to what is equitable. But men have a degree (of responsibility,

etc.) over them…” (Qur’an 2:228)

As for the children, the fruits of their parents love, Islam lay down comprehensive morals

enjoining parental responsibility and the child’s reciprocal dutifulness to its parents.

“And treat your parents with kindness. If one or both of them attain old age in your care,

never say to them a word (suggesting) disgust, nor reproach them, but address them with

reverent speech. And humble yourself out of mercy before them, and pray: ‘My Lord! Be

merciful to them for having cared for me in my childhood.’” (Qur’an 17:23-4)

Obviously, if the parents fail to inculcate the fear of Allah within their children from an early age

because they are themselves heedless, then they cannot expect to see righteous gratitude returned

to them. Hence, Allah’s severe warning in His Book:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is

men and stones.” (Qur’an 66:6)

If the parents do indeed strive to raise their children upon righteousness, then, as the Prophet


“When the son of Adam dies, all his actions have ceased except [three, a continuing charity,

beneficial knowledge and] a righteous child who prays for their parent.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari,

Saheeh Muslim)

Regardless of how the parents raise their children, and irrespective of their own religion (or lack,

thereof), the obedience and reverence that a Muslim son or daughter is required to show them is

second only to the obedience due to the Creator Himself. Thus His reminder:

“And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, (saying): ‘Worship

none but Allah and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and to the

poor, and speak good to people, and perform the prayer, and give the alms.’” (Qur’an 2:83)

In fact, it is quite common to hear of elderly non-Muslims converting to Islam as a result of

the increased care and dutifulness their children gave them following their (i.e. the children’s)

becoming Muslims.

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join

not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children

because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them…’” (Quran 6:151)

While the child is obliged to show obedience to both parents, Islam singles out the mother as

being the one deserving the lion’s share of loving gratitude and kindness. When the Prophet

Muhammad was asked, “O Messenger of Allah!, Who from amongst mankind warrants the best

companionship from me?” He replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Then who?” The

Prophet said: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Then who?” The Prophet repeated: “Your

mother.” Again, the man asked: ‘Then who?’ The Prophet finally said: “(Then) your father.”i

“And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him

with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of

him is thirty (30) months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: ‘My

Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favor which You have

bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds, such as please

You, and make my off-spring good. Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am

one of the Muslims (submitting to Your Will).’” (Qur’an 46:15)


There exists in Islam a general principle that states that what is good for one is good for another.

Or, in the words of the Prophet:

“None of you truly believes until he loves for his (believing) brother what he loves for

himself.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)

As could be expected, this principle finds its greatest expression in a Muslim family, the nucleus

of the Islamic society. Nevertheless, the dutifulness of the child to its parents is, in truth,

extended to all the elders of the community. The mercy and concern that the parents have for

their children is likewise extended to all the young ones. Actually, it is not as if the Muslim has a

choice in such matters. After all, the Prophet did say:

“He who does not show compassion to our young, nor honor our elders, is not from us.” (Abu

Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi)

Is it any wonder, then, that so many people, raised as non-Muslims, find what they are looking

for, what they have always believed to have been good and true, in the religion of Islam? A

religion where they are immediately and warmly welcomed as members of one loving family.

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the east and the west. But righteous is the one

who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Scripture and the Prophets; who gives his

wealth, in spite of love for it, to kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the wayfarer, to those who ask, and

to set slaves free. And (righteous are) those who pray, pay alms, honor their agreements, and are

patient in (times of) poverty, ailment and during conflict. Such are the people of truth. And they

are the God-Fearing.” (Qur’an 2: 177)

Narrated in Saheeh al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim.