What makes a perfect home? Must it be designed and landscaped by a renowned architect and interior decorated in line with the principles of Feng Shui? Should it be located in idyllic surroundings or must it be in an upscale suburb with easy accessibility to health and education facilities?
The man, as Ameer of the family, must provide for a suitable accommodation for his family. Physical comfort, social status and budget constraints dictate our choices, but as a Muslim, we need to consider the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah when building our home and laying the foundations of a harmonious family life and thereby a stable society. As a wise saying goes: “A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.”
Proximity to the Mosque
We tend to consider our physical and emotional well-being when locating a house, ignoring our spiritual needs. For a Muslim household, proximity to a mosque where the Imam has a sound knowledge and understanding of Islam is essential. The male members of the house must perform obligatory Salah in the mosque; this interaction with fellow Muslims of the neighbourhood leads to strengthening of the bonds of brotherhood and unity. Whatever they learn from the mosque and the Khutbah of the Imam, they are likely to convey and implement amongst their family. Living away from a mosque puts our Deen in danger of succumbing to the numerous Fitnah of this world. Likewise, given the current situation of the Muslim world, a misguided prayer leader is likely to lead astray the youth of his neighbourhood towards incorrect ideologies.
This is often difficult to judge, but it is important to choose a locality that is well organized and maintained and where the families seem educated and interact with each other. The community in which your family will mingle will greatly influence their speech, interests and manners. Neighbours can be a source of great comfort and support, especially in times of need. According to a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa), one of the blessings (Khair) of this life is a good neighbour.
Physical comfort and beauty are never everlasting, but the effects of strong Iman on our personal relationships and ensuing good deeds can be felt across time and generations. A house can never be a home- if it is not a source of love, comfort and solace to its dwellers. As Ameer, the man must endeavour to be an exemplary husband and father. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi) Avoid parental confrontation in front of the children to your utmost, since it undermines the children’s self confidence; and shatters their trust in you to protect and nurture them; besides setting a bad example of argumentation and display of temper.
The Ameer is also answerable to Allah (swt) for those placed in his care and trust. He is enjoined to spend for their Halal needs and wants. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best Dinar is the one a man spends on his dependants.”(Muslim)
The Prophet (sa) was gentle and loving not only towards his wife and children, but also towards his relatives, his in-laws and his slaves. From the Seerah of the Prophet (sa), we find countless incidents where people not only altered their behaviour and changed their habits, but also accepted Islam due to his patience, leniency and sympathy towards them. As the Ameer of the family, the man should be easily approachable; willing to listen to the daily achievements and problems of his family in a way that helps build a relationship of mutual trust and affection. He should ‘use soft words but hard arguments’ to convince and cajole his family. Communicate and play with your family- this was what the Prophet (sa) did with his wives and children.
The glittering world beckons us and leads us astray without us even realizing how far we have deviated. Take out time for your family and establish routines that build and sustain your Iman and beliefs. The most important is to develop a routine for congregational prayers even at home. Set aside one time when your entire family prays together. Children learn by example- and especially, in places like Pakistan where women rarely, if ever, pray at the mosque- it teaches the rules and etiquettes of praying in congregation. There is a family that prays Fajr together. And then on a turn basis, each child is assigned learning and then explaining a Hadeeth. They learn a Dua each week, with the elder children helping the younger ones learn; and during holidays, they are encouraged to prepare and deliver short sermons.
The Prophet (sa) has said that the best thing a man can give his children is to teach them good manners; and one of the most enjoyable ways of doing this is by story-telling. Sharing Ahadeeth and success stories of the Prophets, his companions, and other eminent Muslim men and women will help inspire and motivate impressionable minds. Also, it will be a wonderful means of encouraging them to question, and share their own ideas and experiences. Read extensively and encourage your entire family to do so too. Remember, a book is a man’s best friend- especially if he is hemmed in by people who can act as negative influences.
Likewise, it is the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah for women to have a weekly religious gathering at their own houses. This helps bond the community and brings the Barakah of knowledge to each house, for it is the women who play pivotal role in educating and character building of children.
One of the most common problems of households is the unchecked frequency of visitors. As Ameer, you may find it difficult to achieve the fine balance between being hospitable and maintaining your family’s privacy and routine. Convince your wife to limit socialization so that her own responsibilities and pursuits are not affected. Most importantly, though, is the need to discourage non-Mehram male relatives and friends from visiting your family in your absence. Try to deal with the servicemen who come to your door yourself; and try to set appointments for maintenance or repair at a time when, either you or your grown up son, are home to interact with them yourself.
TV is The Virus
The television has become more than just an entertainment tool. It acts as a babysitter, masterchef, an opinion-maker, and tends to occupy a central position in our family rooms and bedrooms. Assert yourself as Ameer, and monitor what and how long everyone watches the television. Break your one bad habit of ‘unwinding’ in front of the idiot box. Twenty-four hour news and endless talk shows on politics, and current affairs rarely offer anything a half hour perusal of newspapers will not divulge. Encourage your family to seek entertainment through outdoor sports in the evenings if possible, and through board games. If you can’t chuck out the cable, then at least limit the screen time.
The internet, smart phones and other handheld devices- such as the iPad and PSP are ‘terminators’ of family peace and unity. I have often noticed at family gatherings that each individual is wrapped in his or her own ‘bubble’ of communication gadgetry. Fingers itch to keep checking that message or sharing statuses. In fact, family members living in the same house often interact via social media, instead of sharing anecdotes and exchanging news or thrashing out arguments in person. Face-to-face interaction lets us judge, and thereby, alter our communication through non-verbal signals too, and this often prevents misunderstandings. Our physical beings are a gift from Allah (swt); and the human ability to talk is one of His greatest signs. But successive generations are losing the art of conversation, and also their memory skills because of greater reliance on artificial intelligence.
Hence, curtail the use of all such gadgets yourself and lead by example. Set aside time slots for internet surfing, and carefully monitor your child’s usage. Discourage the use of laptops in bedrooms, and think hard before handing over a smart phone or iPod to your child. Peer pressure does create problems, but try to develop a social circle where you socialize with like-minded families.
Finally, we need to remind ourselves that children are a trust from Allah (swt). In the Quran we have been commanded to save ourselves and our families from Hellfire; and the best way of ensuring this is by trying to provide an ideal Muslim home.
“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)
‘The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.’- Jean Paul Richter
(Adapted from a Peace TV lecture by Abdul Azeez Umari Madani)